Absolute Truth and Relative Topics

Murari Krsna Das - 7.9 2017

The material world is ever changing. Could the idea of an ultimate conclusion be utopia only?

The whole idea in philosophy is to reach the platform of knowing or perception of the Absolute Truth, in order to achieve liberation. Ultimately, this is a problem of knowing the reality. But, at this point appears the famous One-Many problem of philosophy. How can we regard the reality? As a One or as a Many? Can everything be regarded as a unity, as a single unifying principle? Is the world a One or a Many? At one hand, the "diversity" is a fact of our experience. Anyone can perceive that there are many different kind of things and many different things. At the other hand, there is an innate tendency to reduce the world's diverse phenomena to a single basic kind or a single basic stuff. This is monism. There are also some arguments for monism: (1) ultimately everything in the world is related to everything else, the Absolute being the means of this relatedness; (2) any two things are, in a sense, the same, etc. The characteristic feature is the breaking down of distinctions.

According to the Vedic conception, there are three sources of knowledge (pramanas): perception, inference and testimony. Yet, in essence, the process of knowing is of two kinds: (1) rational and (2) intuitive. In rational thinking or inference, a thought is built up from simpler thoughts, which are in turn built up from still simpler thoughts. In Sanskrit inference is called anumana. This anumana is analyzed thoroughly in Nyaya. Aristotle also investigated systematically the principles of inference or logic in his work called "Organon." He realized that ultimately logic is only a tool (organon means instrument in Greek), a technique of a correct discourse. The reasoning can be analyzed into units of reasoning, called arguments. An argument is composed of at least two statements, one of which (the conclusion) is claimed to follow necessarily from the other statement or statements (the premise or premises). The premises must be logically connected with the conclusion, in other words, the argument is valid if it has a logical form. If the logical form is followed and the premises are true the conclusion is true with certitude. But, in fact, the deductive argument has nothing new to say. The truth found in the conclusion exists already in the premises. The conclusion is tautological. In Logic the only concern is to establish the correctness of the formalism.

On the contrary, the intuition is concerned to establish or recognize the truth. Intuition is a vision (the word comes from the Latin tueri = to see), a process of knowing the truth. In Sanskrit, the term Veda denotes "that which is known", comes from the root vid, "to know." This root is a cognate of the Latin vid, which means "to see," as in the word video. As a matter of fact, the Vedas have been "heard" or "seen" through a kind of 'internal television,' an intuitive process.

Now, rationally the universe is a "many" and intuitively is a "one." But to see the world in both ways at once, as unity and diversity, appears inconceivable. Human logic is unable to solve this. The solution resides in the concept of acintya bheda-abheda tattva of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Absolute Truth as a simultaneous unity and diversity is inconceivable for logic. The Absolute Truth can be seen, perceived, experienced by a higher state of consciousness. This is the experience of Krsna consciousness, as 'part' of a 'unified' Absolute. The meditation process is to move towards a consciousness of Everything. This is done by including more and more of the world in one's field of consciousness and regard it in connection with Krsna's interest. Everything can be used in devotional service by a process of expanding the consciousness. The formula is 'and that too'. By contrast, in the impersonal approach, one strives toward the Void that underlies all things. This involves continually shrinking the field of consciousness towards a consciousness of Nothing. The formula is 'neti, neti.'

The awareness of the direct identity of the individual soul and the Absolute in Krsna consciousness is sometimes misunderstood as being a Mayavada conception. Vedanta-sutra refutes this:

"The Gopala-tapani Upanisad establishes Lord Krsna as the Supreme Absolute Truth. Yet this Upanisad also declares that the devotee should think, 'I am he' (so 'ham). But this does not mean that the devotee should think he is identical to the Supreme Lord. It means one should meditate upon Krsna's pastimes in ecstasy. Devotees who become fully absorbed in meditation upon Sri Krsna's lila sometimes cry out in ecstasy, 'I am Krsna!'" (Vs. 3.3.46 paraphrase by Suhotra Prabhu)

The same is found in SB 6.16.63:

"Persons who try to reach the ultimate goal of life must expertly observe the Supreme Absolute Person and the living entity, who are one in quality in their relationship as part and whole. This is the ultimate understanding of life. There is no better truth than this."

and SB 10.30.3:

"Because the beloved gopis were absorbed in thoughts of their beloved Krsna, their bodies imitated His way of moving and smiling, His way of beholding them, His speech and His other distinctive features. Deeply immersed in thinking of Him and maddened by remembering His pastimes, they declared to one another, 'I am Krsna!'"

Now, regarding the topics under discussion, the reality or truth is only one. Srila Prabhupada says:

"Truth is truth, and that is absolute. You may manufacture relative truths, but the Absolute truth is one. If we have no knowledge of the Absolute Truth, we emphasize relative truths."

"The hard fact is that truth is not accepted by ordinary men. Truth is truth. Either it is in your mind or not; truth is absolute. Only highly elevated persons can understand the truth. Out of many truthful men, perhaps only one can understand Krsna as He is."

"Gross matter, as well as subtle mind, intelligence, and ego are Krsna's separated material energies. The living entity, the individual soul (jiva) is also Krsna's energy, but he is superior to the material energy. When we make a comparative study of Krsna's energies, we find that one energy is superior and that another is inferior, but because both energies are coming from the Absolute Truth, there is no difference. In a higher sense, they are all one. In the material world, everything is created, maintained, and then annihilated, but in the spiritual world, this is not the case. Although the body is created, maintained, and annihilated, the soul is not."

So, there is only one reality, one truth, one soul. In SB 4.22.29, purport, Srila Prabhupada says:

"The spirit soul is one, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is manifested in svamsa and vibhinamsa expansions. The jivas are vibhinamsa expansions. The different incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are svamsa expansions. Thus there are different potencies of the Supreme Lord, and there are different expansions of the different potencies. In this way, for different reasons there are different expansions of the same one principle, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This understanding is real knowledge, but when the living entity is covered by the upadhi, or designated body, he sees differences, exactly as one sees differences in reflections of oneself on water, on oil or in a mirror. When something is reflected on the water, it appears to be moving. When it is reflected on ice, it appears fixed. When it is reflected on oil, it appears hazy. The subject is one, but under different conditions it appears differently. When the qualifying factor is taken away, the whole appears to be one. In other words, when one comes to the paramahamsa or perfectional stage of life by practicing bhakti-yoga, he sees only Krsna everywhere. For him there is no other objective."

This is the awareness of the direct identity of the individual soul and the Absolute in the way of unity. As discussed above, this involves trying to include more and more of the world for Krsna's service in one's field of consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada says: "The Absolute Truth is true for everyone, and the relative truth is relative to a particular position. The relative truth depends on the Absolute Truth, which is the summum bonum. God is the Absolute Truth, and the material world is relative truth. Because the material world is God's energy, it appears to be real or true, just as the reflection of the sun in water emits some light. That reflection is not absolute, and as soon as the sun sets, that light will disappear. Since relative truth is a reflection of the Absolute Truth, Srimad Bhagavatam states: satyam param dhimahi. 'I worship the Absolute Truth.' (SB 1.1.1) The Absolute Truth is Krsna, Vasudeva. Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. This cosmic manifestation is relative truth; it is a manifestation of Krsna's external energy. If Krsna withdrew His energy, the universal creation would not exist. In another sense, Krsna and Krsna's energy are not different. We cannot separate heat from fire; heat is also fire, yet heat is not fire. This is the position of relative truth. As soon as we experience heat, we understand that there is fire. Yet we cannot say that heat is fire. Relative truth is like heat because it stands on the strength of the Absolute Truth, just as heat stands on the strength of fire. Because the Absolute is true, relative truth also appears to be true, although it has no independent existence. A mirage appears to be water because in actuality there is such a thing as water. Similarly, this material world appears attractive because there is an all-attractive spiritual world."

In conclusion, as long as one will see only relative truths, an ultimate conclusion is a futility. This leads to skepticism.