Western philosophers have always assumed that Truth can be known by dialectics and reason. Immanuel Kant was the first one to question if man had the faculties required to know Truth adequately. The great Sage Patanjali, who lived long before Kant, gave conclusive proof that settled the dispute about the nature of the instruments of man’s faculties required in knowing Truth.
A thirsty man once went to a lake and craved at the sight of it to swallow all its waters. He found, however, that he could not drink more than the capacity of his little stomach. So sits there by the vast lake of Truth many a thirsty philosopher and seeker who aspire to drink all of its waters and hold all its mysteries within themselves. But alas, they know not that this cannot possibly be done. To swallow all the waters of the lake of Truth, one must have a stomach as big as the lake.
Ordinarily a phenomenon is known by the senses, perceived by the mind, and cognized by the inner ego. All human experiences depend for their data on the testimony of the senses. The power of inference comes after and draws conclusions from the material supplied by the senses. If smoke is seen to emerge from a distant hill, John concludes the hill is on fire. Why? Because he had seen fire and smoke together before. But in this case, it was not smoke but a cloud of dust on the hill. John was mistaken in inferring the hill was on fire. Whenever the data furnished by the senses are wrong the conclusion is wrong. Hence, though the power of inferential reason has its uses, still it is incapable of proving the ultimate nature of Reality.
Limitations of the Senses
Our sense radios can only intercept certain rates of vibratory messages of qualities, appearances–not the substance, the thing-in-itself. Our senses give report of phenomena, not of noumena. Look at an orange–you perceive the color, touch, smell, taste; one perception at a time. A combination of these perceptions is called an orange; none knows what the thing, the orange, is in itself. The orange is not the color, nor the taste, nor the softness–but is the force which combines these qualities harmoniously to produce the effect of an orange. A manufactured orange may be produced with a sponge, orange juice, orange scent, and orange skin, to look, taste, and feel like an orange. As our senses only perceive qualities separately, an artificial combination of the color, taste, smell and touch may easily lead the senses and the power of inference to believe a manufactured orange to be a real orange.
None knows what the real orange is. Perhaps it is the intelligent combination of differently vibrating atoms representing color, taste, solidity and smell, around one nucleus. Our senses do not tell us that, but our wisdom does. The vast universe is nothing but an ocean of energy lying about us; high overhead as rivers of the milky way, twinkling stars, solar systems; beneath our feet as solid earth.
The physical body with its ethereal thoughts, the sparkling lakes, heaving oceans, sky, air and fire–all are but the vibrations of the same cosmic energy. Yet the senses differentiate and tell us the delusive story that the solid hurts us, the liquid drowns us, the fire burns us, the sky does not hold us, the gas chokes us. As ice appears from water, steam, hydrogen-oxygen gas–so appears the universe as the solid earth, oceans and vapors. All are the manifestations of one and the same substance. All the ninety elements of which the whole universe is comprised is made of one electronic energy, which in turn is composed of conscious cosmic energy. Our senses tell us only of the most superficial aspect of matter, deceiving us into thinking that ice is cold, heavy and solid and that the steam is hot and fluid, and that the atoms in it are composed of burning luminous electricity.
Our senses do not tell us the truth–that the electrons laden in a small pencil could explode a sky scraper and that the energy released from the electrons constituting a human body could explode a part of Mount Everest. If our senses spoke the truth we would see the earth not as solid, liquid and gaseous, but as rivers and glaciers of electrons. Each speck of dust would appear as a rolling mass of light.
It might be reasoned that though our senses deceive us, our powers of reason can give us new truths. This is true. We must, however, remember that all the knowledge derived from experiments carried on by the help of the microscope, mathematics and fine instruments, has come through the senses. The senses, and the reason working on their testimony, have only told a millionth part of the truth about the nature of matter and all things. But yesterday atoms were considered ultimate–now they are further analyzed to contain the finer materials of electrons. Thus neither the senses nor the power of inference which builds knowledge on sense testimony, can be trusted to tell us the truth about the earth, the universe, the human body or the mind.
Authority is not Proof
Every religion claims its Bible to be of divine origin. Some hypocrites have even buried books, written on old papyrus, underground, grown grass on them, and then led mobs there under supposed inspiration to dig out and recover the “God-given book.” How are you going to find out which book represents truths? The number of believers cannot be the proof.
Galileo, one single man, believed the earth round and suffered prosecution on that account, while all the people of the world believed that it was flat. Hence the belief of the millions of followers of the Christian Bible or the Hindu Vedas cannot establish the immutable universal nature of the principles inculcated in them. Of course by reading and hearing sermons from the Bible and Vedas we can find certain moral advice and suggestions of right human conduct which can benefit all races for all times. But that does not prove the deeper Truths mentioned in them.
The Vedas and the Bible both declare God as a living, kind, responding Ruler of the Universe. But reading those words does not prove it. Has anyone consciously seen Him? Our senses see the color in flowers and our mind perceives the beauty, but who can tell that One Intelligence pervades the Universe? Who can tell that the Vedas and the Bible are infallible? Isn’t there some husk, some crust of superstition in both books? We have to separate the husk from the kernel. We must find the Truth as separated from the language and limitation of expression used by its propounder.
Therefore the sage Patanjali, the founder of the Yoga system in India, who flourished several centuries before Jesus Christ, says that the authority of the scriptures is not proof of its Truth, because the scriptures, no matter who propounds them, have to be received through the sight, hearing, limited imagination, and the reasoning powers of the reader. All seekers, all denominations, whether Unitarians, Universalists, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Christian Scientists, Swedenborgians, Catholics or Hindu Christians, all interpret the Bible according to their own degree of development and power of reasoning. That is why there are so many cults formed out of the one universal teaching of Jesus Christ.
What Is the Proof?
The proof of applying the laws of Patanjali in finding out the real Truth about the pure universal teachings and Scriptures, undiluted by the limitations of our opinions, is to live it in life. I asked a knave if he had read the Christian Bible. He replied, “I have read it a hundred times, Sir; I know all about it.” “Alas,” I said, “you know nothing about it because you are still a knave.” That is why in ancient India the Vedas and the Hindu Bible of Bhagavad Gita were not printed for centuries. They were handed down through the memories of devout disciples and only some knew all the truth. Others were told not more than they could realize at one time.
Nowadays, any Yoga book or scripture or the Christian Bible can be bought for a few cents and intellectually swallowed. Swallowing one’s own ideas about the scriptures without digestion only creates a greed for more books and more new ideas, but chronic indigestion and spiritual non-assimilation will result.
Everywhere we see Pundits, living, moving dictionaries, crammed to the brim with intellectual knowledge. But have they the ability to put all that wisdom they have memorized into practical achievement and manifestation in their life and character? If not, then their knowledge is vain and is really ignorance.
This is happening in the West and in the East. Each phase of intellectual study of scriptures must be substantiated by corresponding realization, and then a little more should be read and realized, and so on. Every theory and belief must be practiced and its truth found out. Belief is no safety, for it produces the ignorance of false satisfaction born of dogma. It crumbles at the storm of reason. Skepticism is refusal to investigate further. It is self-inflicted punishment.
The Power of Realization
Sophistry and intelligent belief may produce temporary satisfaction, but they are short lasting, vanishing like soap bubbles before the blast of deep scrutiny. Followers of the Hindu and Christian teachings should build their faith on the unshakable rock of realization. According to Patanjali, any real inner Christ teaching cannot be understood through the testimony of others, or listening to their interpretations, but can be grasped only by testing them directly by the power of intuition.
I know I exist; I am not the body–it is my body. I think; I am not the thought. Therefore, this consciousness of the I-ness in every man cannot be perceived through the senses. What cannot be perceived through the senses cannot be inferred about through the reason. Then how do I know I exist? From direct perception of my intuition and not through the intermediary faculties of sensory perceptions and reason.
Through the ages the red pages of history tell of many religious Inquisitions, burning of martyrs and so-called witches, wars of the crusades, and so forth–brought on by not only the limited interpretation but misinterpretation of Christ’s teachings. Jesus Christ was crucified once, but his teachings suffer crucifixion every day at the hands of men and cults of limited vision. Jesus Christ’s teachings cannot be understood by reading the Bible a thousand times or thru all life and several generations, but can be known only by living and trying out the book in every-day life. What you listen to, what you read in books–try to meditate on that long enough to be one with the thought underlying it. Then try to manifest that realization in practice. Realization comes from constant wide-awake meditation with ever-busy, ever-searching mentality to convert theory into solid knowledge thru practice.
All beliefs must be thoroughly scrutinized. Overstudy must be avoided. Indiscriminative study, especially of religious books written by novices or untried enthusiasts, mostly results in indigestible hashes of imagination, emotional outbursts and diluted realization. Patanjali Yoga Philosophy, the Christian Bible, the Hindu Bible, Bhagavad Gita, and a few other books written only by men of real realization, must be studied, a little at a time and meditated upon for hours or for days together. The best time to read scriptures is after practicing meditation when the intuitive feeling is awake.
My Master, Swami Sriyukteswar [sic] Giriji, once told me one of his experiences in the real studies of the scriptures in a hermitage. His great Savant Guru (teacher of Gita) was sitting surrounded by his disciples. The sacred book was open before them all. They were looking steadfastly at one passage. A half hour passed, then they closed their eyes. A half hour passed again, then the Master explained for a few moments the same passage upon which they were concentrating. They all meditated motionless for an hour–then the Master asked a question. “Have you understood?” One of them answered, “Yes, sir.” The Master replied, “No, you didn’t–let us meditate again.” They meditated for another half hour. Then the Master asked his disciples again, “Do you all now understand what you read?” No one spoke. Then the Master said, “Our study today is over.”
He then turned to my Master and asked, “Have you read the Bhagavad Gita?” My Master replied, “No, sir, although my eyes and mind have run through its pages.” His Guru smiled and with great joy said, “You are the only one of the thousands I have met who said that. But indeed you have read it. When one is engrossed in knowing, he does not have the time to think whether he knows or to say he knows. He is too busy knowing–others are too busy saying they know, that’s why they have no time to make the effort to know.”
Sacred and inspiring books are helpful in stimulating the desire for realization, if a little at a time is assimilated. Otherwise, overstudy of books produces vanity, false satisfaction, that one knows when he does not know at all. Ramakrishna said, “I pity the ignorant. I love the unread man of realization, but I consider a bit of straw the man of book learning without realization. I can blow him away by a puff of questioning about realization. I admire, love and respect a man who has realization as well as the intellectual knowledge of different scriptures.”
Let not love of book reading or ceremonial diversions be the delusion to divert you from realization. God realization first, books and everything else are of secondary importance. Have Him and you have everything. Seek ye the kingdom of God first, and all things will be added unto it–all wisdom, prosperity and beauty. Get the tree of all life, and you shall have each of its fruits too.