13.14-15: Philosophical Banana Peels
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, where, 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.
1. Humility: Humility protects us from succumbing to the temptation of scoffing at such statements. It enables us to pause and consider, “If many of the wisest people in human history have found profound wisdom in the Gita, then maybe I am overestimating my capacity to grasp it. Maybe I am mistaking as absurd that which is abstruse.”
2. 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 the underlying, 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, let’s not slip on these philosophical banana peels. Instead, let’s see them as pointers to the nourishing bananas of revealing insights awaiting us ahead on the path.