Knowledge and Devotion

For many people following traditional paths of evolutionary development, there is a division between the path of knowledge and the path of devotion. The path of knowledge tends towards abstraction, distinguishing the illusions of the “personal” from the reality of the transcendent. Practitioners of the path of knowledge have tended in many cases to look down from their heights of knowledge and treat those who follow a devotional path as following a lesser path, one steeped in illusion. At the same time, those who have followed a devotional path have seen the path of knowledge as one that is dry, abstract and unconnected to life, and thus, itself unreal.

The Gita does not, however, accept either of these positions; rather, it finds that devotion and knowledge are dual strands of development that intertwine and support one another. Knowledge in its truest sense leads to devotion, just as devotion carried through with sincerity must eventually bring knowledge.

In the Gita’s view, the path of knowledge is not dry or abstract: “It is a heart-felt seeking and seizing of the Supreme and the Universal, a pursuit of the Infinite in his infinity and of the Infinite in all that is finite, a vision and embracing of the One in his oneness and of the One in all his several principles, his innumerable visages, forces, forms, here, there, everywhere, timelessly and in time, multiply, multitudinously, in endless aspects of his Godhead, in beings without number, all his million universal faces fronting us in the world and its creatures….This knowledge becomes easily an adoration, a large devotion, a vast self-giving, an integral self-offering because it is the knowledge of a Spirit, the contact of a Being, the embrace of a supreme and universal Soul which claims all that we are even as it lavishes on us when we approach it all the treasures of its endless delight of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 6, Works, Devotion and Knowledge, pp. 313-314