Don’t slip on the philosophical banana peels of scriptural paradoxes
Some of us may be put off by the apparently contradictory statements in the Bhagavad-gita. Several such statements are found in the thirteenth chapter of the Gita wherein, for example, the Absolute Truth is said to have hands everywhere and also to have no hands at all (13.14–13.15).
These statements are like philosophical banana peels; if during our spiritual journey we are not careful while dealing with them, we will stumble, slide and fall.
Dealing with them carefully means not reacting with derision or dismissiveness, but responding with humility and maturity.
- Humility: Humility protects us from succumbing to the temptation of scoffing at such statements. It enables us to pause and consider: “When many of the wisest people in human history have found profound wisdom in the Gita, maybe I am mistaking as absurd that which is abstruse. Maybe I am overestimating my capacity to grasp the Gita’s message.”
- Maturity: Maturity will empower us with the broad-mindedness to acknowledge that perspectives other than our present ones are possible and even valuable. Gita wisdom aims to elevate our consciousness to higher perspectives. To prod us towards that end, it sometimes drops tantalizing nuggets of wisdom that are intuited from those higher perspectives. What seems from our perspective a blatant contradiction is seen from a higher perspective as a brilliant paradox: a statement involving surface contradictions that forcefully stimulates hearers to seek a deeper unifying truth. The Gita uses paradoxes in its thirteenth chapter to convey the reality that the Absolute Truth has a form, but a form radically different from ours.
Therefore, when we encounter incomprehensible-seeming statements in the Gita, we needn’t slip on these philosophical banana peels. Instead, we can see them as pointers to the nourishing bananas of esoteric insights awaiting us ahead on the path.
“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes, heads and faces, and He has ears everywhere. In this way the Supersoul exists, pervading everything.”
“The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of nature, and at the same time He is the master of all the modes of material nature.”