The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 11: Seeing God Everywhere


By Dominicus Johannes Bergsma – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Krishna is still telling Arjuna about the difference between yoga as theory and yoga as practice.

Just as a reservoir is of little use when the whole countryside is flooded, scriptures are of little use to the illumined man or woman who sees the Lord everywhere (BG 2:46).

I love this metaphor. Even the holiest scriptures do not contain God—they point to an overwhelming, ever-present reality. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” in the words of Gerard Manly Hopkins.

As I said at the beginning of this series, scriptures do not hold the same place of reverence in Hinduism as they do in Christianity. Paul specifically talked about the usefulness of the Old Testament: “Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character” (2 Timothy 3:16). For Jews, the Torah itself was given by God to Moses at Sinai. I do not imagine Jesus would say, “scriptures are of little use,” even for the enlightened person.

But what he was preaching and doing obviously rankled his Bible-believing, rule-following detractors. You can hear Jesus respond to his accusers in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). From Christian perspective, Jesus was the flood, and the scriptures could not contain him.

Christian theologians make a distinction between special revelation (the Gospel) and general revelation. General revelation is God’s character revealed everywhere, including nature: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made” (Romans 1:20). Creation has sometimes been called “the first Bible.”

Evangelical Christians view “enlightenment,” or salvific knowledge, as coming to see God revealed exclusively in the person of Jesus Christ. Special revelation becomes the only kind that matters. Krishna is talking about going the other direction: seeing the Lord of Love (the divine Self) revealed everywhere; the particular becoming universal. I think this was more like the experience of the early Christians. Their understanding of God’s work in Christ was not narrowed, but broadened. It was not the Bible (they wouldn’t have a completed New Testament for hundreds of years!), but Christ who was the Word of God, and the whole cosmos came into being through him (John 1:1-5).

It’s important to note that this insight is for “the illumined man or woman,” because there’s a difference between saying, “God is everywhere” and knowing in your bones that God is everywhere, between “seeing” as an intellectual metaphor and seeing as deep understanding. I suspect that most folks who think they are enlightened and don’t need any particular scriptures to help them see God are groping in the dark.

Word of Life, Word of Creation, Word of Scripture, Word of God, let me hear and see your Word all around me.