Study pastimes not to swoop down on their meaning, but to be swept up by their emotion

When we come across something intellectually challenging such as a crossword puzzle or a riddle, we feel stimulated and thrilled to “crack” it.

We may seek a similar thrill of intellectual conquest when we study scripture. Such a conquest-seeking attitude can keep us deprived of the full fruit of scriptural study.


Because the purpose of scriptural study and indeed of all spiritual practice at large is to transform our disposition: from domination to submission, from wanting to be enjoyers independent of Krishna to becoming servitors who serve him selflessly and delight in the endless love thereof.

The purpose of spiritual practice is to transform our disposition: from domination to submission.

If we study scripture for the thrill of intellectual conquest, then that motive doesn’t decrease the wall of ego that separates us from Krishna, but instead increases it further. The resulting alienation from him becomes especially evident when we study his pastimes. We find ourselves constantly looking for something symbolic or esoteric behind the pastime – something that we can crack. And we find ourselves unable to rejoice in the simple yet sublime reciprocations of love that are the heart of the pastimes.

The Bhagavad-gita (04.09) reminds us of this purpose when it declares that those who understand Krishna’s pastimes in truth attain his eternal abode, with their hearts attracted to him in pure love.

If we wish to relish this supreme gift of studying Krishna’s pastimes, we need to reverse our position vis-à-vis Krishna. Instead of positioning ourselves above him and his pastimes – a position from which we swoop down on their meaning by the wings of our intellect, we need to position ourselves below, prayerfully begging and striving to be swept up by the power of the divine emotions aroused in the heart by those pastimes.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 04 Text 09

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  1. Thank You. It’s helped me realize how a seemingly innocent tendency to derive intellectual superiority can lead me astray.

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  2. Very true. Although one can study for that “intellectual conquest” without deeming it an “intellectual conquest”. I find that many times, the new realizations that come from scripture, any scripture. The revelations and truths are awe inspiring. And for me personally they give me even more incentive and push me ever more close to God. God is of course love, but God is also Awe. Completely entranced in Awe and inspiration. Boundless and so profound is He. In my opinion one can study the esoteric and hidden meanings for awe and inspiration. There really is no conquest to be had. The truth is already there, it is not like anyone has first found the truth and is now pronouncing it. Simply uncovering that which is already available. So there really is no true attainment, no conquest. Only goal is to love more. I love the part you spoke of about submission. Actually the true Abrahamic tradition was about that completely. The Quran is all about submission. It is in fact a great thing.

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