Following scripture centers not on legalistic conformity, but on loving reciprocity

When driving through unfamiliar territory, a map guides us. Similarly, during our life-journey, scripture is meant to be our map. But life is much more complicated than traveling, and scripture too can be more complicated than a map.

To live according to scripture, do we need to memorize thousands of verses and process through them to find out which applies to our particular situation? Memorizing scripture as much as we can is helpful; and consulting scripture regularly, and especially when life brings us to crossroads, is essential. Still, scripture-guided living doesn’t demand legalistic conformity. Following scripture doesn’t center on our head’s capacity to function as a high-speed verse processor; it centers on internalizing scripture’s essential message and molding our life accordingly.

This thrust on essence is seen towards the Bhagavad-gita’s conclusion. It (18.63) urges Arjuna to deliberate deeply on its message before deciding what to do. When Arjuna becomes pensive, contemplating the many levels of yogic practices outlined in the Gita, Krishna rescues him from getting caught in scripture’s technicalities. How? By sharing the most confidential knowledge (18.64). Stressing that he loves Arjuna and wants the best for him, he recommends wholehearted devotion (18.65) and promises protection (18.66). Indeed, the most confidential knowledge is that our life is meant for growing in our loving relationship with Krishna.

When appropriate scriptural guidelines seem elusive amidst life’s complexities, we can focus on the essence of loving reciprocity. With devotional sincerity, we can pray: “Krishna, you are my eternal Lord. I want to serve you; please guide me.” Reciprocating with our devotional receptivity, he will point us to the best way through both our spiritual mentors (04.34) and his indwelling manifestation (10.10). That way will be both harmonious with scripture and customized to guide us through our particular situation towards all-round growth.

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