A man of true knowledge who has attained enlightenment, has the same use for all the scriptures as one has for a small reservoir of water in a place flooded on all sides (Bhagavad Gita 2:46)
What does the Gita mean by this verse? This verse actually demonstrates some very important points about Hinduism with regards to ‘scriptures’ (Shastras). Scriptures in the Hindu sense are a graded means that can take an individual to obtain experience of the Divine Truth (enlightenment).
However the supreme scripture, the real Word of God(s) or the Supreme Reality can never really be put into human language, which is inherently limited by time, space and culture. The Divine Word is a state of consciousness, open to all, not a mere book that can be pulled off a shelf and quoted. When an individual has connected to this truth as their own first hand experience, and lives this truth in all its vivid reality, they have little use of scriptures.
This is the central point of this verse of the Gita. The Hindu view of scripture is therefore different to the Islamic and Christian view, which lays an overbearing emphasis on every word, and believes that truth is contained only in their book and is not to be found elsewhere.
So if scriptures are not ‘all important in Hinduism’, what exactly are their purpose?
The scriptures of Hinduism provide a means of expanding our consciousness through its teachings, which will take us towards the ultimate goal of Divine Knowledge, which all humans in their heart of hearts desire.
Most of us have many questions regarding God(s) and our existence. What is the reason why the universe came into existence? If a supreme God(s) exists, why did he/she make such a mess off it? What is the goal of human life? Do we have free will or is everything predestined? And so on.
The answer to these questions cannot be known simply by the mind/intellect. The Gita does not shy away from discussing these things in evocative language. However, the normal human consciousness has to be deepened and controlled before one can establish contact with a higher consciousness which holds the key to proper questions and proper answers.
The Gita explains how to deepen the consciousness in a graded variety of ways (called yogas). It is a fallacy to attempt to seek answers to our deepest questions by the intellect alone without the yogas. Sri Ramakrishna analogized this to the salt doll of an intellect which had gone out to fathom the great ocean but got dissolved at the very first dip. That is not to say the intellectual understanding should be ignored, but to say that transcendental knowledge is beyond the mind, can be experienced by our consciousness but not described in the language of the mind/intellect.
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