More Than the Sum of its Parts

When the seers say “neti, neti” (not this, not that) they are reminding us that every form that we see, every force we experience, every finite being around us, cannot fully encompass the infinity of the Divine. While Arjuna has been asked to see the Divine in all beings and forms, and Sri Krishna has gone to great lengths to ensure that Arjuna can recognize the Divine in each and every thing, it is important to realize and fully embrace the sense of transcendence, the reality of the infinite nature of God, by ensuring that no matter how many universes, galaxies, stars, planets, beings and finite forms we can experience, see, relate to or imagine, the Divine is “more than the sum of its parts”.

It is difficult for man, the mental being, to hold two apparently “contradictory” concepts at the same time. We tend to go to extremes. Thus, when we say “not this, not that”, we take it to mean that the forms and beings we see around us are not “real” or not “Divine”. If we see the world as “real”, then we try to deny the reality of the infinite divine Being. The Gita asks us to find the balance between these two views, as they are both true. The Divine is immanent in all forms and beings, but not bound or limited by them.

Sri Aurobindo explains: “But the world is only a partial manifestation of the Godhead, it is not itself that Divinity. The Godhead is infinitely greater than any natural manifestation can be. By his very infinity, by its absolute freedom he exists beyond all possibility of integral formulation in any scheme of worlds or extension of cosmic Nature, however wide, complex, endlessly varied this and every world may seem to us,…however to our finite view infinite.”

“Every relative and finite he will see as a figure of the divine Absolute and Infinite, and both beyond all finites and through each finite he will arrive at that alone, see always that beyond each phenomenon and natural creature and relative action and every quality and every happening; looking at each of these things and beyond it, he will find in the Divinity its spiritual significance.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 9, The Theory of the Vibhuti, pg. 354