Q: Gurudev, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that ‘everyone is equally dear to Me’. But then a little later He tells Arjuna, ‘you are most dear to Me’. How is this contradiction possible?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There is a lot of contradiction throughout the Bhagavad Gita at every step, in every chapter. That is why Arjuna at one point tells Lord Krishna, ‘O Lord! Tell me one way only (towards freedom from misery). Sometimes you suggest that Bhakti Yoga (the path of Devotional service) is the best; sometimes you say that Karma Yoga (the path of doing one’s action or duty) is supreme, and at other times you say that Jnana Yoga (the path of knowledge of the Absolute) is the only way. I am very confused with all this, so please suggest one out of all these’.
So Arjuna too says the same thing in the Gita. But that is how the Truth is. Truth is multi-dimensional, and not just one-dimensional or one-faceted. This is why different ways and expressions are needed to say or express that multi-dimensional Truth. So, Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to step on one ladder, and then asks him to set foot on a different ladder and so on. He never tells Arjuna to stay fixed or rooted onto one ladder alone. The Bhagavad Gita reveals the unique art (of the Lord) of leading a person step by step from one ladder through another to the Divine. Now you might be tempted to ask, ‘If you wanted me to step onto some other ladder, why did you ask me to set foot on this one in the first place?’ This is exactly what Arjuna also tells Lord Krishna. But that is not the way. So Lord Krishna makes him step on one ladder, then move to another one.
This is the speciality of the Bhagavad Gita. This is how a mature and profound scripture should ideally be. It is only through one contradiction after another that the final Truth gets unveiled. Though wherever there is no contradiction or conflicting thought to be found, that is also fine; it is knowledge at a primary (basic) level only. In primary education one does not find any complexity or contradictions. For example, you will not find anything confusing or contradicting when you learn the alphabets A B C D etc. But you are sure to find confusion and contradictions in a profound scripture. Why is it so? It is because this world is multi-dimensional. The world is round, like a sphere.
Many years ago, a gentleman from Iran had come here. This must have been some 10-15 years ago. He was an Imam, and a close confidante of the Ayatollah Khomeini (a religious head of Iran), and was second-in-command to him. He was quite old, some 75-80 years in age. In those days I used to stay in the Shakti Kutir in the old Ashram. So, one has to climb the stairs to come up to the Kutir. When the gentleman climbed the stairs and came to me, he said, ‘Gurudev, you are known to be most merciful. You know that there is a question that has been troubling me since many years now. I want to ask you – ‘If there is but One Truth, then there should also be one and only one way to know it, isn’t it? There is only one right answer to a question. There cannot be four or five different correct answers to the same question. So if there is One Truth, then there should also be only one true religion for it. Why are there so many religions in the world? All the other religions should be false. There can be only one true way to the Truth’. I immediately understood what he was trying to convey. He was basically trying to say that Islam is the only true religion and the way to God, while all other religions are fake or false. So basically this is the question that he had in mind, but he was asking me in a different way. He said, ‘Gurudev, people often say that all religions are good and worth honouring, but that is just not possible. It is a common saying that there is One God, but there are different ways to reach Him. But that is not possible. There is only one genuine religion, the rest are all devised by man and are false’. I smiled to him and said, ‘Please have a seat first. Then I told him that to come to the Ashram, there can be different routes or directions. One direction can be to come straight from the Ashram gate and turn right at the end. Then, another way can be to go straight and then turn left and reach the Ashram. Yet another way can be to not turn anywhere but follow a straight road and come straight to the Ashram. Now what do you think? Are all these routes not correct in their own way? They are all correct. When someone is coming from the Bangalore city area towards the Ashram, they would be told to come straight and turn right for the Ashram. But if someone is coming from Kanakpura area, then they would be told to go straight and take a final left turn for the Ashram. So that route is also correct. And if someone is coming from the Bannerghatta area, they would be told to keep coming straight without taking turns anywhere. And that route is also true. So all routes are true. One has to see the way from where one stands in life. In the world, man has been at different stages in life, and different regions or cultures at different points in time. So, according to the position or place one was in, different ways have been shown to reach the Divine. That is what it is’.
Our ancestors, ancient seers and sages knew this very well and so they told all the possible ways (religions) one could take to reach the Divine. The Sanatan Dharma (another term for Hinduism) is so vast and elaborate that it confuses you a lot, but it also shows the way to the Truth. According to the Sanatan Dharma, this is right and that is also right. If there is a religion in which all ways of realizing the Divine are accommodated, it is this ancient tradition (of Sanatan Dharma). That is because it was not created or given by any one particular Rishi (wise sage or seer) or any person in particular. Thousands of wise sages and seers have contributed to this tradition and enriched it with their knowledge and experiences. So all their wisdom and knowledge has come together in this ancient tradition of the Sanatan Dharma. The Imam was very happy upon hearing this and liked it very much. He said, ‘Gurudev, today I have found my answer and I am very content’. Saying this, he took leave and left.
The point I want to say here is that wherever one finds contradiction or apparently conflicting thoughts and approaches, one also surely finds the light of Truth there as well.