18.55: Familiarity is not understanding

by December 26, 2011

The Bhagavad-gita (4.9) describes that the result of understanding Krishna – his divine birth and his sublime activities – is liberation and reinstatement in his kingdom. This extraordinary result underscores the difference between familiarity and understanding: we may be familiar with Krishna, having heard about his activities through family traditions or entertainment media or pious gatherings, but we need to take this familiarity to the next level of understanding by permeating it with devotion.

The Gita (18.55) further explains that when we approach Krishna with devotion, we will be able to understand him in truth – not as a mythological or historical character whom we have always known, but as a living, loving God whose ever-new glory and ever-fresh beauty makes us feel that we have never really known him. We will discover his ever-available mercy in the flood of love that inundates our heart in reciprocation for every drop of love that we offer him. When we are thus charmed by Krishna, we will relish a sublime fulfillment that will gradually free us from all the worldly desires that bind us to material existence. Thus freed, we will attain the ultimate fruit of understanding Krishna: return to his abode of love to continue our ecstatic love affair with him – eternally.


One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.

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