The Gita is not self-contradictory, but self-revelatory
“That’s self-contradictory.” We may feel thus on reading some sections of the Bhagavad-gita. For example, the Gita (9.4) states, mat-sthani sarva bhutani “All of existence is situated in me.” And the next verse (9.5) states na ca mat sthani bhutani “Existence is not situated in me.”
Is the Gita self-contradictory?
No, it is self-revelatory.
Being the word of God, it is filled with his infinite wisdom. Just as Krishna can be understood only by his grace, so too the Gita. This doesn’t mean that while reading the Gita we send the intelligence on a vacation but that we complement it with devotion.
A defining devotional axiom is that Krishna being infinite is not limited to one manifestation. Though he remains essentially one, he has many manifestations who fulfill different purposes and accordingly manifest varying moods.
Krishna implicitly refers to his different manifestations while speaking different verses. In (9.4), he refers to the Supersoul who pervades and sustains the entire material existence. In (9.5), he refers to himself as Bhagavan, as the transcendental person who delights in loving reciprocations in the spiritual world and is not in the least burdened by the task of managing material existence.
That’s why we need to train ourselves to study the Gita with a devotional disposition, accepting that Krishna and his word are superior to our intelligence. The Gita points us in this direction when it caps the seeming self-contradiction in (9.5) with a celebratory proclamation: pashya me yogam aishvaram “Behold my mystical opulence.”
By the Gita’s gradual self-revelation, what had initially appeared exasperating for the head turns out to be stimulating for the heart. The more we let our head embrace the Gita’s profundity, the more we let our heart enter deeper into the loving embrace of Krishna for a life of endless love.
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.”
“And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My Self is the very source of creation.”