Soon after I joined the Back to Godhead staff in the 1980s, I wrote an article entitled “Won’t You Join the Dance?” It was about my typical day as a Hare Krishna devotee. My inspiration to write the article came from a book on writing I was reading at the time. The author made the point that an aspiring writer must experience life fully, and she quoted the line “Won’t you join the dance?”—a refrain from a song in the book Alice in Wonderland. She said that a writer can’t sit on the sidelines but must take part in the “dance of life.” She mentioned her own willingness to eat a raw oyster—she just wanted to see what that was like. I have to admit that eating an oyster, raw or cooked, is one thing I’ve never experienced, and I’m sure I never will. But I don’t feel that disqualifies me from the dance of life.
The point of the article I wrote back then was that despite what others might think, devotees of Krishna are not sitting on the sidelines. We have full lives; we too are dancing, just to a different song. And we’re convinced, on Krishna’s authority, that we’re dancing in time with the music of reality.
I was reminded of that article recently when I read something about how our brains work. Neuroscience, or brain science, is one of the hot topics of the day, and by now most of us are aware of the discovery that the two hemispheres of the brain serve different functions. The terms left-brained and right-brained are becoming part of everyday language. To call someone left-brained is to say that the person lacks such qualities as creativity, imagination, and the ability to see things holistically.
The right-brain, left-brain concept struck me as an apt, though admittedly limited, metaphor for the Vedic concepts of jnana and bhakti, where the left brain would represent jnana, and the right, bhakti. Jnana is the attempt to understand everything solely through the intellect, while bhakti, or devotional service to God, is a nurturing of the heart that leads to full knowledge as a byproduct of the soul’s loving connection with God. Bhakti takes one to heights of realization far beyond the reach of jnana.
From the perspective of the Bhagavad-gita, we might say that it’s hard to dance with Krishna, figuratively or literally, if you have two left brains.
Bhakti includes jnana. But that jnana is different from the jnana of persons who rely exclusively on their own intellects to attain knowledge, whether aided by traditional Vedic methods or by scientific research. The jnana associated with bhakti comes directly from Krishna, through the scriptures and His pure devotees, and includes knowledge of our relationship with Him, intimate knowledge that the process of jnana can never uncover.
Just as traditional jnanis hoped to get complete knowledge through their speculative intellectual endeavors, the greatest minds in science today are pursuing a Theory of Everything (note: they’re not even close). But for those willing to listen, Krishna has already revealed everything. By taking advantage of His revelations, we can dance happily in this world, in a life of service to Him, and ultimately return to dance with Him in His abode. There, every step is a dance, the music never stops, and our spiritual brains function perfectly in the natural state of loving Krishna.