04.04 – Be curious not superstitious, cautious not suspicious
Superstitious or suspicious – these are the two approaches many people have towards spirituality. Some people adopt an anti-intellectual approach to spirituality, basing everything on feelings, avoiding any serious intellectual analysis and accepting whatever feels good superstitiously. Others adopt a hyper-intellectual approach, relying excessively or even exclusively on critical analysis, avoiding the experiential side of spirituality and treating all assertions by spiritualists of fulfillment suspiciously.
However both these approaches are extremes and are extremely unproductive for sustained spiritual advancement. The Bhagavad-gita (04.04) demonstrates a balanced approach when Arjuna humbly but firmly questions Krishna’s surprising claim (04.01) that he had earlier taught this same knowledge to the sun-god.
Let’s understand two aspects of this balanced approach as is evident in the content and intent of Arjuna’s question:
Be curious not superstitious: Arjuna does not accept Krishna’s claim on blind faith, considering intellectual probing to be unnecessary or undesirable. By asking candidly the pertinent question, “As sun-god is older than you, how could you have given this knowledge to him?” he expresses the curiosity that would be natural in any person and inevitable in any thinking person. By following in Arjuna’s footsteps and exercising our curiosity, we can avoid intellectual atrophy and make the devotional pursuit intellectual stimulating.
Be cautious not suspicious: Arjuna doesn’t let skepticism get the better of him and phrases his reservation with adequate candor and caution: “How am I to understand this?” By resisting the temptation to deride an unbelievable-seeming statement as a bluff, we can keep ourselves open to higher vistas of education and experience.
When we thus integrate the positives that underlie these two attitudes and steer clear of their negatives, we can learn and grow healthily and happily in our spiritual life.
Arjuna said: The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?