What is a valid query and what is a self-evident truth?
By Saurav Sarmah
This article is in the form of a letter addressed to a male devotee, who has lost faith in the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, especially the effectiveness of chanting the Holy Names and has expressed his doubts about the validity of faith in the realization of truth.
Hare Krishna! Dandavats!
Let me present to you a few doubts, which I have; please respond:
1. Do I exist? What is the proof that I exist?
2. Can you prove to me that the basic premises of knowledge are a reality? Let me explain: why do you accept that you are a male or rasagulla is sweet or the sun is bright? Why should I accept that such entities exist, they have stated properties and I can actually know them?
3. Suppose, I axiomatically accept (that does not save you from answering the first two questions) that I exist and what I perceive is reality. However, that does not mean I can generalize my experience. Who decided that the laws of mathematics and logic are self-evident truth? Why should I accept? If you see me with a red face, shouting and banging my fists and kicking on objects around me, why do you presume that I am angry? Why does a doctor presume a disease based on symptoms (I am making it easy for you)?
4. Suppose, you tell me that you got 90% in your test. Why should I believe? What is the proof? Even if you present your mark-sheet and also your academic authority s testimony, how do I know that the documents are not forged or the authority is not lying? On what premise does the law-court decide such cases? Why does the court trust witnesses and documents; even award capital punishment on those evidences?
5. How do you know there is a reality beyond what you perceive (if that is a reality)? Why do you think that there is God? Just because you feel, does it make it a reality? How do you know that the world existed before your birth? May be time itself began with you. Suppose, Krishna Himself comes to you. How do you know He is Krishna, not some demon in disguise or your own hallucination? Suppose, while chanting tears rolled from your eyes and your hairs stood on end, is that the criteria for accepting the validity of chanting? I do not experience, but you do. Prove me that it works.
Actually, from birth, we accept certain self-evident truths and that makes our life simple. All our questions should be based on certain authoritative premises; otherwise, there are no answers.
If you say I do not experience anything while chanting, how can anyone possibly prove that it works. In fact, your understanding is faulty: you are not experiencing what you think you should experience; not that chanting has no effect. Experiment: how long a person chant 16 rounds and masturbate daily? Now, if you say but we already have a previous conditioning about the purity of chanting and impurity of releasing semen; then I can ask if you had no previous conception, why would you chant at all? It is more natural to masturbate than chant. Why? Because we identify more with our physical conditioning. But is not the Bhagavad Gita true that sense enjoyment leads to misery? What you get after masturbating? You feel total waste, an idiot. But after chanting, you do not feel waste. You feel inspired to serve Krishna. Again, you can object on the conditioning ground. That is if you believed that masturbation is helpful to devotional service, then you would actually experience that. I consider such doubts totally unscientific. But they are valid per se. That does not mean they can be answered.
Every question cannot be answered. One or even multiple failures to get results does not disprove a mathematical law. In college, we used to do many experiments with slide calipers, pendulum, electric meters, mixing chemicals, titration, etc. Even if we did not get standard results after repeated failures, we had to stick to the established measurements. The pendulum thing almost always gave wrong results (g has to be around 9.8 and we got anything from 108 to 2 – I do not remember properly), but we never said Newton was wrong and faithfully recorded some fake numbers to get g = approx 9.8 (never exact, that is another story). I still believe Newton s calculation is correct and have no hesitation to admit that its my fault. Why?
Actually, we are not trained to accept the sabda pramanam. It requires training, beginning with practice of brahmacharyam. Why cannot you accept Prabhupada is correct, even if you feel you did not get results? It is difficult because we are not trained. Then someone will raise the question that we are actually brain-washed to accept sabda pramanam or that there are so many scriptures (which is correct). Then you are brain-washed to accept laws of mathematics, logic, grammar, etc., which cannot be empirically verified, if empirical evidence is accepted as reality. What do you say? As far as multiplicity of scriptures is concerned, sabda pramanam is not just about revelation of one person. That is the mistake committed by all the religious sects. It requires a more comprehensive premise, which provided by the Vedic authority. It is not a revelation at a point in history to one person at a particular geographical location. It is about an immemorial tradition of multiple schools with the culture of disputation as well as self-realization through a spiritual process. It is jnana-vijnana sahitam.
Although we have lost lot of gray matter by releasing semen and filling our minds with other garbage, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, his movement and his books, we have got this rare opportunity. Let us utilize it and make our knowledge and realization perfect. You will surely get the stated results by chanting. ceto darpana marjanam… that we can experience immediately. I do. I bet you do too. If not, then you decide. Otherwise, join the sankirtana movement (param vijayate sri krsna sankirtanam).