Getting Over Empiricism


Swami B.R. Sridhar

The Upaniṣads say, “Don’t venture to test the unthinkable plane with your reasoning. That plane really is beyond the capacity of your thought. It is under a different set of laws. Your mathematical calculations and conclusions in this world are acquainted with points, planes, and solids. At present, you are a man in the world of solids, and you have some limited association with planes and points in a somewhat abstract way, therefore how can you calculate about higher things of which you have no knowledge? The customs and laws of that country are all unknown to you, so you cannot try to debate those higher things. That plane is of quite a different nature.”

If your understanding is limited to the laws of water, how can you make calculations about air? Similarly, if you are familiar only with the laws of air, how can you make calculations within the sphere of ether? Therefore, don’t rush to bring within your experimental laboratory those items which are beyond the capacity of your thinking, for that will be foolishness.

Higher things do exist, but the general man in this world has no knowledge about them. We are indeed experiencers and have some knowledge, but only to a particular degree and standard. We cannot venture to calculate what is beyond our reach. But if those who actually have experience of that plane will come to us and give us some information, then we can make some comparison: “This gentleman of a particular experience of ether has written in this way, another gentleman who has experience and has also researched into the nature of ether has written in another particular manner.” In this way, we can gain some understanding from their investigation and their real connection with the subject matter.

In the section of those investigating telescopes, we can make a comparison of their findings. The experience of one researcher with his telescope is of a certain type, and we can also learn about the experience of others with their particular telescopes. With the information available to us from their actual connection with the telescopes and their experiments, we may be able to conclude that perhaps a certain telescope was more powerful, another more powerful in a particular field, etc. So, we have some limited capacity to compare what has been discovered beyond our senses by means of the telescope, even though we ourselves may not have a telescope.

The subject of the higher things discovered by the mental ‘telescope’ or the soul’s ‘telescope’ has been dealt with in the scriptures. Such subject matter is known by the saints, and we have to take their help in order to have entrance into that land. We are not at present in a position to have experience of the higher plane, but later, by the help of the saints and scriptures, when we ourselves have that type of ‘telescope’ vision, we will be able to have such a higher experience.

स्वे स्वेऽधिकारे या निष्ठा स गुणः परिकीर्त्तितः ।

sve sve ’dhikāre yā niṣṭhā sa guṇaḥ parikīrtitaḥ

“Adherence to one’s own plane of qualification is laudable.”

अचिन्त्याः खलु ये भावा न तांस्तर्केण योजयेत् ।

achintyāḥ khalu ye bhāvā na tāṁs tarkeṇa yojayet

Don’t let the argumentative spirit overshadow everything. Argument is not all-in-all. It is not that it must be the resort of every belief. The spiritual realm is achintya, inconceivable; nonetheless, we must try to understand things according to our capacity, faith, and realisation. Above all, we have to accommodate within our mind that sweetness is sweet, and truth is truth, however incomprehensible it may be, but we should not take any standard from here and apply it to that higher realm.

If one has no eyes but another can see, the blind man will naturally seek help from the one who has vision. We are also blind to what is within ourselves, otherwise what is the necessity of consulting a doctor? The doctor can see what we cannot; he will diagnose the disease, and then we will undergo treatment. Naturally, we will have respect for his diagnosis and will give him something for his assistance. It is not unreasonable.

The Guru is the specialist doctor, and we will understand his qualification when we come to see that what he says is real and not imaginary. Such vision will depend upon the degree of awakenment of the eye. If one who is blind is treated by a capable doctor, he will gradually directly perceive, “Yes, I begin to see something. I now have some eye-experience.” From that time on, he won’t care for the speculative opinions of the other blind people, but he will have his own direct capacity to see. With the coming of sight, he can understand that the application of the medicine has some real effect.

Scientific understanding is also similar. In earlier days when Faraday discovered electricity, many people laughed, “What is this? It is mere curiosity. What utility can we have from this electricity?”

I once read an account of Faraday demonstrating an experiment to show the effect of his discovery. He generated electricity with a machine, and then he showed small pieces of paper being moved by that electric current. Many were satisfied to see his new discovery, but then a lady remarked, “But after all this, Mr Faraday, what practical benefit shall we derive from this luxury play of yours?”

Faraday replied, “Madam, can you please tell me what is the utility of a newborn babe?” His point was that when a baby is born, we have to take care of him, then, when grown, his energy will be put to work usefully. Similarly, some consider that God consciousness is only a luxury, a fashion, or a play—that it has no practical application or direct utility. But when God consciousness becomes intense, those who experience it will see that all other activities, however apparently important, have no value. Why? Because ultimately we want to live. We don’t want to die.

To live is the main and general necessity of us all. None can deny that they want to live, and not only live, but live happily, properly, and consciously. Furthermore, we want to avoid all affliction, misery, and suffering.

When God consciousness arises within someone, he can see clearly, “Why is everyone engaged in a wild goose-chase in this material world? Everyone wants happiness, but all are chasing a phantasmagoria.”

Happiness can never be with mortal things. We are making a transaction with the mortal world, but that won’t bring satisfaction; it can only drain our energy. What we gain on one side disappears on another. A wise man should neither accept nor tolerate this sort of waste of energy as the principle of life. Such a wise person can see another plane of life. He can see that he is not a party to this mortal world which is but a playground. He will feel, “I am immortal. I am a member of the eternal world, but I have somehow become entangled in this mortal aspect of existence. So, as soon as I can shake off this connection, I shall then stand in a normal position.” He will find that he himself—the soul, the feeler, the conceiver—is a member of another soil, but he has become entangled within this mortal pain-producing world. This is a miserable world. With the strength of his realisation, he can make advancement in his progress to the immortal plane.

As positive proof comes before us we shall feel, “Now I see these things and hear these things, and this experience is all more real than the world about me. The world is vague, but what I now see and hear is more real than that.”

A direct transaction is possible with the soul, with God, and with God’s land. Where we are presently living is the plane of indirect transactions. Before we can have experience of this world, our senses receive information which is then conveyed to the mind. But in the case of the soul, we can feel everything directly ourselves without the help of any instrument.

Through a microscope we see one thing, and through the naked eye we see something else. There is a difference. Through the eye, ear, etc., we have some experience of this world, but concerning the soul, if we can withdraw from ‘progress’ in the negative side, we shall be able to feel, “Oh! This is the nature of the soul.” We shall directly feel who we are without the help of any instrument.

The soul can see himself; he can focus upon himself, and through introspection he will realise his very nature. Through the process of introspection, the soul will perceive all possible conceptions of himself directly and without the help of any other instrument. He will then understand his own soil. He will gain the conception of a higher type of soil. On that positive side he will discover, “I do not die.”

The material plane is the plane of misrepresentation and misunderstanding, but in the higher plane there is no misunderstanding. Once admitted there, our conception, though it may be partial, will be clear and true. Anyone having that experience will be convinced, and he will be determined to go forwards.

Socrates could feel that the soul was immortal. He was so intense with his feeling that he did not give any value to his own life in this mundane world. He disconnected himself from this world because with great conviction he knew the soul to be immortal. Christ also was so much convinced of his Lord that he did not care for the happiness and pleasures of this world—he rejected it all.

There are many things invisible to this fleshy eye that are visible with the eye of knowledge. We can concede that the eye of knowledge can see many things which the fleshy eye cannot. Similarly, a deep vision exists by which we can see things in a different, more hopeful way. The eye cannot see when it is covered by a cataract, but when the cataract is removed, the eye can see. Ignorance is like a cataract in our eye that causes us blindness. Our vision is only superficial, but deeper vision can see many things. This eye backed by the eye of knowledge can see many things—deeper and deeper.

Our apparent sight has no value. Real value is present in the seer who can see with deeper vision, and all are not equal. There are the wise, the wiser, the even wiser; there is a gradation, and according to his capacity the seer will see.

It is easy to see that at present we are members of this mortal world, but by what are we connected? It is our body that is the member. If we can rise above the bodily conception, we can reach the mind, then on to the intelligence, then to the soul. We will find that the plane where the souls live is eternal, and the soul itself is also eternal. From there, we can go on to search after the Supersoul, the origin of all our thoughts. The Supersoul is likened to the sun which is the origin of all rays of light. Once we find a ray of light, we can approach the sun from which all rays emanate. Similarly, from the conception of our own selves, knowing ourselves to be particles of consciousness, we can seek out a plane of super-consciousness, super-knowledge, and super-existence. In this way, we can progress to the ultimate cause, the source of all. But we cannot go just according to our own whim and freedom; some sort of help from that plane is indispensable. Such help comes in the form of Guru, the Vaishnavas, and other agents of that land. With their help, we can make honest progress towards the goal.

At present we are as monarchs of all we survey, but what we survey is all transient, mortal, and reactionary. If we examine carefully, we will see it is all reactionary. What is pleasing today will later turn into pain, therefore we must seek a good position somewhere else, a good place to build our home elsewhere. In the course of that search, we will find that we do have our own home, and it is all-perfect.

“Home. Back to God, back to home—sweet, sweet, home.” We shall find this sort of feeling within us if we are fortunate enough to be allowed a little participation by the grace of the canvassers of that land, the agents of the Lord. We shall be taken to that proper soil, and we shall gain some solid familiar type of conception of what our real home is like. In this way, we shall progress to that side.

In the beginning, we may think that we shall be going to some unknown quarter: “Innumerable living entities are here around me in my present world, but where I am now trying to go—that is uncertain. It seems imaginary and abstract.” However, when we begin our journey, we will gradually find that almost all existence is on that side, the side where all are truthful. We shall find that this material side is very meager and limited, with only a tiny representation of the truth.

We may think that most of existence is in this world and only a very few special souls such as Socrates, Mohammad, Buddha, etc., go from here to the immortal world. But gradually we will come to understand that the higher world is infinitely greater than the mundane portion that we see. We will gradually come to understand that as in a country a small section is confined to a hospital or prison and are suffering, similarly, it is the minority that are here in this mundane plane as punishment. As this becomes clearer to us, we shall feel more courage to proceed, and with greater speed we shall run towards our home. Let us go home, and as we draw nearer to home, our speed will increase more and more, “Oh, this is my homeland!”

At present, we are outside, and our mind is also focused outside. We are moving helplessly. Our hope lies only in the grace of the divine agents. They come to pick us up and warn us, “What are you doing? Don’t go on that side. It is the land of danger, the land of death. Come along with me. I shall take you to the land of eternal nectar.” Those agents come to arouse us from our slumber, our ignorant madness. They are the Vaishnavas, and they have also given the scriptures which give some history of that nectar-land and of the saints who have gone there. Through the scriptures, our faith will gradually develop, and we will increasingly keep association with the sādhus. In so doing, we shall make ever quicker progress.

One’s own feeling is the guarantee as to whether he is making real progress or not. Hṛdayenābhyanujñāto. He will receive approval from his own heart that he is making real progress. Otherwise, a man may be coaxed in a particular direction only to feel frustration after some time. But such a transaction is not genuine—it is false, a hoax. In the name of religion so many such things go on, like a trade, but that does not mean that real realisation and real emancipation do not exist. Hṛdayenābhyanujñāto—the ultimate guarantee is the approval of your own heart, “Yes. Really this is what I want. From the innermost core of my heart, I feel the desire to dance, to find that such progress is possible.”

(excerpt from ‘Home Comfort’)