Modern society claims to have a firmer grasp on knowledge than past civilisations. We are proud to have access to and control over a vast amount of information—a luxury defining the Information Age. Yet, despite the best scientific attempts, genuine knowledge has escaped us.
The enlightened sages of bygone ages explain that the senses are imperfect—and information gathered through the senses is also imperfect, whether enhanced by technology or not. Humanity’s only hope, therefore, is to access the source of genuine wisdom: the Avatar or the Supreme Conscious Being.
Genuine Spiritual Knowledge
Genuine knowledge is essential to solving the enigmatic questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? This knowledge is about understanding matter and spirit, and the source of both. Such knowledge is not the result of experiments; it is heard from the Avatar, the Supreme Conscious Being, who is the source of all energies and beyond human deficiencies. The Avatar is the origin of everything and is the original seed of genuine spiritual knowledge, just as the manufacturer of a television is also the source of information on how it works.
Experimental attempts at answering these existential questions have provided no satisfactory results, no resolute conclusions. Instead, today we see a mass proliferation of technological innovations, all meant to make life easier. But you may have noticed how many of these “life enhancing” technologies have also increased the rate at which we destroy the environment. Distracted by the pursuit of wealth to purchase the latest devices, we fail to see the need for genuine spiritual knowledge.
Can there be any real happiness and peace for a species that doesn’t know the answers to these crucial questions? There can’t be. As American biologist Edward O. Wilson explains:
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
Lacking genuine spiritual knowledge, we have become less than insects, dysfunctional mammals, confused as to what we are meant for as we rapidly destroy our habitat, planet Earth.
Practically, we don’t know what we are doing. If we could at least acknowledge this, then that would be a step forward to finding real meaning. As Socrates said, To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.
Scientists embrace empiricism as the foremost way to discover reality. Enhancing their sense perception with technology, they think that scientific objectivity— verifiable observation through the senses—will help us understand the origins of life and the universe, and reality in its entirety.
For example, to see an object that is very far away, we use a telescope, and to see a very small object, we use a microscope. These instruments empower the human eye to perceive that which is normally nebulous.
To understand the past, scientists investigate rocks in the earth and interpret these as records of antiquity. Using methods such as carbon dating, they can try to understand what era an artefact or skeleton is from.
The results of such scientific research are published in text books, and taught in schools and universities. Students are expected to accept these findings with faith that the empirical scientists have provided the most vivid understandings of reality—their conclusions are indeed “real knowledge,” confirmed by authority.
But time and time again we see that one scientist contradicts another, and as a result we must completely overhaul our supposed understanding of reality. “That knowledge wasn’t so perfect after all,” we admit. Any honest scientist will not deny the fundamental limitations of empiricism.
These limitations imposed by the senses are recognised in the wisdom texts of India. Here, great sages explain that as minute conscious beings in this world of matter, humans have four flaws that inhibit them from independently acquiring authentic knowledge:
1. We commit mistakes. 2. We are easily illusioned. 3. We are prone to cheat others. 4. Our senses are imperfect.
One such sage, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, explains the fourth flaw:
The process of receiving knowledge through direct perception has no value, because our senses are all imperfect. For example, to us the sun looks like a small disk, but in fact it is many times larger than the Earth. So, what is the value of our direct perception through our eyes? We have so many senses through which we can experience knowledge—the eyes, the ears, the nose, and so on—but because these senses are imperfect, whatever knowledge we get by exercising these senses is also imperfect. Because scientists try to understand things by exercising their imperfect senses, their conclusions are always imperfect. (May 2, 1973, Los Angeles.)
Empirical research is what the sages call the path of ascending knowledge. They call it such because the finite conscious being, with all its flaws and limitations, is trying to ascend to the heights of flawless wisdom without the help of the infallible Avatar. Authentic spiritual knowledge comes from the perfect source.
The bhakti-yoga texts describe the ascending method of acquiring knowledge as an ambiguous path that leads to confusion—one that provides half-truths at best.
Higher Dimensional Knowledge
“If these flaws are there, then how do these sages acquire knowledge?” you may logically probe.
Having long given up on empiricism, sages adopt the path less common—that of descending knowledge.
The yoga texts of India come from a timeless body of knowledge called the Vedas. The Vedas impart knowledge relevant to human civilisation such as agriculture, economics, politics, medicine, and—most revered by the wise—the science of consciousness. Because its knowledge descends from a higher dimension via an Avatar or Supreme Conscious Being, the Vedas are above the four flaws of minute conscious beings. Indeed, the word “Avatar” means “one who descends.”
The Supreme Conscious Being is antithetic in nature to the minute conscious beings of this world. He is never subject to the defects of imperfect senses: cheating, illusion, and committing mistakes. What is the Avatar’s mission? To present and explain genuine knowledge to human society.
Naturally, for the Supreme Person to impart extraordinary knowledge, the students receiving the knowledge must be extraordinarily qualified. They must not change what they hear. Because the knowledge is already perfect, there is no need to embellish it with one’s own ideas. Absorbing what they have heard, and genuinely applying the knowledge in their life, students are then qualified to relay this knowledge to others. In this way, the knowledge remains intact.
We can see this universal system of education in our society. For example, at university, a qualified professor imparts knowledge to students, who eagerly record the discourse. Students who qualify can then become professors and teach others accordingly. Similarly, the Supreme Person speaks, the student eagerly records and applies the wisdom, and may become qualified to share its message.
Sounds simple. But the process is not so easy. Not everyone can become a university professor, and similarly, not everyone is able to fulfil the role of passing on such authentic wisdom.
But it is by this descending path that perfect knowledge from a higher dimension infiltrates this world.
The idea of a higher dimension, or higher reality, seems pretty fantastic. “Do I really believe such things exist?” you may ask. But scientists themselves propose higher dimensional phenomena. For example, Albert Einstein and the Kaluza-Klein theory discuss “supergravity” and “supersymmetry” in fourth and fifth dimensions. Why are such scientific theories acceptable? And what layman understands them?
Only a small portion of the population will ever seriously consider such lofty concepts—while the rest of us rarely flirt with such theories.
Do you want to experience the fourth dimension?
Well, now you can. French mathematician Étienne Ghys claims, “I live in dimension four.” Ghys is also educating others how to live in “dimension four” by teaching them to visualise four dimensions. “You have to practise,” he says. “I’ve been thinking in dimension four for thirty years now.”
If scientists propose that things are higher dimensional, then what is wrong with the Vedas doing so?
Straight From the Source’s Mouth
Descending to the world of matter, the Supreme Being offers the greatest gift of genuine knowledge so that anyone may comprehend the energies comprising reality, and the source of those energies. Happily, the Avatar distributes this knowledge and offers a method for verifying his hypothesis.
Sages expert in Avatar science say Krishna is the Avatari—one from whom all the Avatars emanate. Descending from the higher dimension, the realm of no anxiety, Krishna appeared on Earth and spoke the essence of the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita.
Without understanding Krishna as the Avatari, one cannot appreciate Bhagavad Gita’s paramount importance. At least, hypothetically, we should accept Krishna as the Supreme Conscious Being, aloof from empirical glitches.
Sagaciously, Srila Prabhupada writes: “. . . if Krishna is accepted as an ordinary conditioned soul in individual consciousness, then His Bhagavad Gita has no value . . . .A common man with all the four defects of human frailty is unable to teach that which is worth hearing. The Gita is above such literature. No mundane book compares with it. When one accepts Krishna as an ordinary man, the Gita loses all importance.” (Bhagavad Gita, 2.12, commentary.)
No hypothesis is complete without an experiment. Krishna invites his readers not to remain theoretical. As British philosopher and noble laureate Bertrand Russell said:
“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.”
Comprehensive spiritual wisdom may sound too good to be true. Certainly, empirical knowledge has its place—much of the knowledge in the Vedas can be verified through empirical means because it has practical application in the world of matter.
But with a process to verify the authenticity of spiritual knowledge, why complain? What can skepticism accomplish here?
The path of descending knowledge will be accessible to those who humbly admit their existential frailties as minute conscious beings subject to the four flaws: imperfect senses, cheating, illusion, and the tendency to commit mistakes. Such clarity of our existential situation is the first step in acquiring real knowledge. Such a person can reason that perfect knowledge comes from the perfect source. Any other conclusion is simply mythology.
Bhagavad Gita answers the questions as to who we are, why we’re here, and what our purpose is. When we live in the light of this genuine knowledge, we can experience firsthand, a higher sense of peace and happiness. This knowledge is potential we can realise through its application.