Contemplation and Knowledge in The Bhagavad-Gita

"Lord of Discipline" says Arjuna to Krishna in the Tenth Teaching of The Bhagavad-Gita, "how can I know you as I meditate on you?" This is a paradoxical question. It would seem the only way to "know" Krishna would be to "meditate" on him. This is even truer for the reader who, by reading, is mediating on Krishna and who, by meditating, is trying to come to terms with his divinity. Inverting the question makes for a more sensible inquiry, at least on the surface: "Krishna," says my hypothetical convert, "how could a man come to know you if he does not meditate on you?" Merely by posing his strange question, Arjuna suggests that, indeed, there is some way to find Krishna without meditating on him. And further, that meditating on him is, somehow, an impediment to knowing him.

If meditation impedes knowledge, then a profounder paradox is raised for the Bhagavad-Gita as a whole. It becomes impossible to understand the story of Krishna and Arjuna simply by virtue of the fact that one is reading it. The work prohibits a knowledge of the work. Or, if Arjuna's question is interpreted as meaning how can he know Krishna at the same time as he is meditating on him, and if...

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