While driving through a fork, we have to choose one of the two roads. We often superimpose this materially useful either-or attitude on spiritual understanding. However, spiritual reality isn’t that simple.
Different people may have different spiritual understandings – and all those understandings may not neatly fall into the right or wrong categorization. Some understandings may be right from one perspective, while seeming to be wrong from another perspective. For example, when one blind person considers an elephant to be like a wall and another considers it to be like a spear, they aren’t wrong. The elephant is like both a wall and a spear – and is more too.
Similarly, the Absolute Truth is far bigger than what any of us can conceive. If we are to grow in authentic spiritual understanding, we need to cultivate “and” thinking, wherein we acknowledge the possibility that others may be right and strive to see things from their perspective.
Illustrating “and” thinking, the Bhagavad-gita first states that all living beings are sustained in the Absolute (09.04), then states that they are not sustained in the Absolute (09.05). Gita commentators explain that the first verse refers to the immanent manifestation of the Absolute as the Supersoul who maintains the material world, whereas the second verse refers to the transcendent manifestation as the all-attractive Supreme Person who doesn’t get involved in this world’s maintenance.
Does “and” thinking imply metaphysical relativism, wherein every notion is deemed right? No, it just implies metaphysical openness, whereby we approach varying spiritual understandings with inquisitive humility, not dismissive certainty.
Pertinently, the Gita (04.11) states that all people are on the path to the Absolute. Even if they aren’t where we are or aren’t looking where we are, “and” thinking helps us create the foundation for interactions that are harmonious and illuminating.