05.05 – See beyond divergent ideas to convergent ideals

by October 3, 2013

Some people ask: “How can we find harmony among the many different spiritual paths?”

By looking beyond divergent ideas to convergent ideals, answers Gita wisdom.

The Bhagavad-gita (05.05) states that true seers see the same ultimate destination of the paths of sankhya (analytical contemplation) and yoga (detached action). Sankhya focuses on analyzing the material elements to progress towards the transcendental substance, spirit. In contrast, yoga focuses on action while fixing the mind on spirit and thereby cultivating inner detachment from matter.

People often talk of looking beyond externals to find commonalities. When we consider the paths of sankhya and yoga, not only are their externals different – one focuses on inaction; the other, on action. But even their internals are different: one stresses analysis; the other, meditation.

Gita wisdom helps us understand that there are levels in the internal too – there is the subtle material or mental level, where ideas reside; and beyond that is the spiritual level or the level of the heart, where ideals reside.  To find the ultimate common ground, we need to go beyond not just the physical but also the mental – and there find the spiritual. Though the ideas of sankhya and yoga are different, their ideals are the same: both seek the same Absolute Truth.

Of course, this search for common ground doesn’t license an uncritical acceptance of all spiritual paths as equally valid. The paths need to have convergent ideals; otherwise, the common ground may be more an imagination than an insight. The Gita’s (09.25) delineation of different destinations for those with different ideals reflects a spiritual rigor that refuses to apply a naïve whitewash on all paths.

Still, in a world torn by sectarianism, the Gita’s inclusive spirit of focusing on ultimate ideals is a beacon that promotes authentic harmony.


05.05 – One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are.

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