Philosophical Views and Certain Knowledge
gourish at INTERNET1.NET
Fri Apr 23 07:01:53 CDT 1999
Thank you for the encouraging reply. Here is the article:
The Utility of God
[ A dialogue between His Holiness Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswami and
an agnostic Youth ] .
His Holiness was Sringeri Mathadhipati 1912-1954.
H.H. : I see that you have a lot of leisure. May I know how you
Y. : I cannot say that I utilise it; it spends itself.
H.H. : Evidently you are not one of those leisured people who complain
does not pass.
Y. : No.
H.H. : I am very glad to hear it. In fact, knowing how precious every
moment of our lives is,
we must really complain that time does pass very quickly.
Y. : I do not complain about the passing of time either.
H.H. : It is only those who waste time that complain of the passing of
time. Those who feel that
their time is well-spent, never have that complaint.
Obviously you belong to that class.
Y. : I do not think I do. I only know that time has to be spent.
Whether it is well-spent or
ill-spent does not affect the inevitable passing of time.
And, there are no absolute
standards from which we can say that it has been well-
spent or ill-spent.
H.H. : Certainly. But if time is spent in some manner which does not
in any way disturb your
equilibrium or anybody else's, it gives you some mental
Y. : Such a repose is found only in sleep.
H.H. : Quite so. But we cannot sleep always. We seek such mental
repose even while awake.
It is not possible for us to sit vacant-minded. Our mind
has to be given some work.
The least harmful work we can give it is to think, not of
exciting things which disturb
our equilibrium nor of concrete things which may have a
personal relationship to
ourselves and may therefore tend to excite our passions,
but to think of abstract
things, say about the origin of the world and such other
Y. : That will be giving way to mere speculation.
H.H. : What if it is so? You hurt nobody by it and you give your mind
some innocent work. And there
are some of us who think that you will be benefitting
yourself thereby. Whether we are right
or not it does not matter. You cannot say that there is
any harm in such speculation.
Y. : But what is the use of it?
H.H. : It helps you spend time. What more use do you want? If there is
some use, as we say, well and
good. If there is none, you do not lose anything. Why don't
you therefore spend some of your
time in studying philosophy and allied subjects, if only
to pass the time?
Y. : I have read a few books, but I have found them to be mere words.
H.H. : What more can you expect from a book? You must supplement it by
your own thinking. Since
you have read some books on the subject, you must have
formed some idea about such things
as the evolution of the universe and the existence of
Y. : Books do not give us any definite ideas. Each author adopts his
own line of speculation and
wants to make out that it is superior to every other.
Further, in the very nature of things,
it is not possible to form any definite idea about such
subjects. A writer may present an idea
in as definite a form as possible, still there can be no
finality about it, for somebody cleverer
than he can prove it to be baseless.
H.H. : That is inevitable in all intellectual processes. Apart from
minor differences, are the modern
thinkers agreed at least on this point that, if the
world had a beginning, it had a single
undifferentiated cause from which it took its birth?
Y. : I think they are, though they postulate the exact nature of
that cause variously. Some think that
there was at the beginning a nebulous mass of atoms.
H.H. : So do our tarkikas. Were thise atoms at rest or were they
active in the pre-creation stage?
Y. : The scientists now tell us that the atoms are never at rest but
are incessantly active and ever
stored with energy.
H.H. : Are the primary atoms conceived of as particles of gross matter
which are kept in motion by force
outside them or are they conceived otherwise?
Y. : The latest theory is that the atom is itself a gross form of
the infinite energy which is inherent in it.
H.H. : Whatever it be, scientists realise that it is energy or force
which gives substance or existence
to the atom or which rules its activities.
Y. : Yes.
H.H. : They will also have to grant that that energy is common to all
atoms, is homogeneous and is infinite.
Y. : Yes.
H.H. : As energy can be transmuted, is there any reason to suppose
that theprimal energy in one atom
is different from that in another?
Y. : Of course not.
H.H. : Our hypothesis will therefore be very much simplified if we
postulate the existence of a single
energy or force which is infinite in capacity and takes
on the form of atoms under certain conditions.
Y. : The Western scientists also are now approximating to that idea.
H.H. : They will have to, if they are logical. This infinite force
then may be taken to be the prime causal
material of the universe?
Y. : Yes.
H.H. : But the univerese is not mere matter which we can trace to
atoms. You and I exist. Apart from
our physical bodies which are, of course, matter, there
is the spark of intelligent consciousness
in us which cannot come under the category of matter;
and that also has to be explained if a
complete explanation of the universe is attempted. How
do the scientists seek to explain it?
Y. : The scientists proper concern themselves only with the material
H.H. : But there must have been thinkers who have considered the other
Y. : Yes, there are such thinkers, but I do not think that they have
postulated a prime cause for the
intelligent principle in us. They have assumed either
that such principle do not exist independent
of our bodies or that they are eternal and cannot be
traced to another cause.
H.H. : Why did they not consistently assume that the world had no
beginning and cannot therefore be
traced to a cause?
Y. : The variedness of the world requires some explanation.
H.H. : So does the variedness of our souls.
Y. : Bereft of extraneous things, there is no reason for our
assuming that one soul is different from
H.H. : It is equally so in matter. Bereft of extraneous things, there
is no reason for our assuming that
one atom of matter is different from another. In fact,
you traced all atoms to a primary causal
force where there was no variedness.
Y. : Yes.
H.H. : My only point is, why don't you consistently and for the same
reasons postulate the existence of a
primary causal intelligence responsible for the world
of infinite souls?
Y. : We may do so.
H.H. : Then, adopting the method of scientists, we may arrive at the
conclusion that there is a primary
causal force responsible for the universe of matter and
also there is a primary causal intelligence
responsible for the universe of souls. We must also
grant that each of such primary causes
has infinite power of expression.
Y. : Yes, no doubt so.
H.H. : Our hypothesis will be much more simplified if, instead of
assuming two primary causes, we assume
only one and characterise it as force endowed with
intelligence or as intelligence invested with
Y. : Certainly.
H.H. : That is exactly what we do in our philosophy. When we conceive
of the root cause as force endowed
with intelligence, we call it Sakti, when we conceive
of it as intelligence endowed with force, we
call it Chit.
Y. : I see.
H.H. : But even in this hypothesis we have the two independent
conceptions of force and intelligence
subsisting together, though in intimate correlation.
Y. : It is so.
H.H. : We can further simplify our hypothesis if we can attribute to
that root cause a single characteristic
which is common to both force and intelligence and which
can take on the form of force or
intelligence according as we view it from the standpoint
of matter or from that of the souls.
In other words, we may postulate that root cause as
We call that Brahman. As intelligence and force are but
aspects of the same entity, we can
characterise it only by saying that it IS; and we
therefore sometimes give it the simple name of
Y. : But all this is only speculation.
H.H. : It is, if we ignore the stable authority of the Vedas, which
enunciate and proclaim such a fact. Apart
from this, what does it matter if it is only
speculation? As I have already mentioned, it hurts nobody.
Y. : But is that any reason for wasting our brains on this matter?
H.H. : It is far better than wasting our brains on any other matter.
Further, there is a great positive
Y. : What is that?
H.H. : Suppose a man is too feeble to walk. Will he not be happy to
know that he has someone,strong and
willing, to support him? Another man may be very ill;
will it not be some relief to him to know
that there is a kind doctor near at hand to attend to
him? Another still may be sore tried by
poverty ; will not his trouble be alleviated by his
knowing that there is a rich and kind relation
close by who can place him above want?
Y. : Certainly.
H.H. : Every moment of our lives we are face to face with innumerable
causes of sorrow, sometimes
ill-health, sometimes poverty and so on. Will it not
gladden our hearts to know and to feel
that there is somebody else close at hand who can
relieve us of the causes of our sorrow, and
give us comfort, if only we ask for it?
Y. : It is certainly a consoling thought.
H.H. : There is no use in looking up to another sick man when you are
sick or to another poor man when
you are poor.
Y. : Certainly not.
H.H. : We must then think of one who is strong and healthy or who is
Y. : Of course.
H.H. : But do our difficulties end with illness and poverty?
Y. : No. The difficulties to which we are subject are infinite in
H.H. : In every one of our difficulties, it will be a relief to know
that there exists a friend who is free from
Y. : Yes.
H.H. : We must therefore know as many such free persons as the number
of difficulties which trouble us.
Y. : But that is not possible, as the number of difficulties is
H.H. : Quite so. It will therefore be agreat relief to us if we can
find one person who is free from all
Y. : Certainly, but where are we to find him?
H.H. : Death is one of the troubles of this world?
Y. : Certainly.
H.H. : Birth is equally a trouble?
Y. : Undoubtedly; in fact it is the prime trouble which leads to all
H.H. : It will therefore be a relief to know that there is a friend
who is not subject to birth or death and can,
in addition, cure us of both these ills.
Y. : Logically it is so.
H.H. : Ordinarily we are not content with mere freedom from troubles,
for we want our desires to be
satisfied, and our desires are equally infinite in
number. We would therefore like to have some
friend who can fulfil all our wants.
Our desires are not only infinite in number, but are also
unlimited in extent. No rich relation,
howsoever wealthy he may be, can undertake to fulfil
all our desires; even if he had the will,
his wealth would be exhausted in course of time. It
will therefore be well if our hypothetical
friend had inexhaustible wealth.
One of your friends may be very rich, but he may not have
ready cash with him when you want it;
in that case he cannot give you instant relief. Our
supposed friend must therefore be not only
rich but he must be so at all times.
Further, if your rich friend has to await the arrival of
his cashier or has mislaid the keys of his
safe, he cannot be immediately helpful to you. If you
have such a friend at Madurai, you cannot
have him at Mysore unless you take him there with you.
It will certainly be more convenient
if your friend could be at any place you needed him.
Proceeding on the same line of reasoning, we may say that
it would be a great relief to you to feel
that there is a friend ever ready to help you, who can
be verywhere with you; who can do anything
for you, who knows everything, who is himself free
from trouble of any kind whatsoever and
who has the desire and the ability to satisfy all your
wants and to free you from all your troubles.
Y. : But such a friend is a purely hypothetical one?
H.H. : So what? To feel, rightly or wrongly, that such a friend exists
does give us reliref. From the nature
of the numberless characteristics which we require in
sucha friend, we must postulate of him
omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience.
With our limited intellect it is difficult for us to
conceive of such a friend and impossible to visualise
him in actual life. If therefore somebody, who is
deeply interested in us and in whom we place full
reliance, informs us of the existence of such a friend
we shall feel very greatly relieved.
In case we happen to doubt the veracity of the statement
of our informant, we will not be able to
prove it wrong because with our limited intellect we
have no means of doing so. But in case we have
complete faith in our informant, we become secure in
the resultant feeling of the ever-true presence
of that all-powerful friend.
He who has or who acquires such intense faith can have no
fear of despair, believing as he does that
that friend being all-knowing and all-powerful will
relieve him of all sorrows when the time comes.
Even when he does not get any relief, he would console
himself with the thought that perhaps in the
all-wise dispensation of that friend, this sorrow is
itself the best for him under the circumstances.
Therefore, apart from the abstract question whether the
existence of such a friend whom we call God,
can be prioved or demonstrated, there can be no denying
the fact that the belief in such a friend
is of great practical benefit.
Y. : How can we believe in a person of whose existence there is no
H.H. : Do we believe only in those things whose existence is proved?
If we limit our belief to such things
it will be impossible to do anything in this world. We
have to have faith in the words of everyone
that come into contact with us.
If a stranger standing by the road directs you, at your
request, to a house you are searching for,
you do not embark on an enquiry as to his honesty or
as to the correctness of his knowledge;
but, placing immediate and implicit reliance on him,
you go as directed by him. If then you reach
the wrong house, it will be time enough to find fault
If, however, before following his directions you want him
to prove to you that he is right, the only
thing he can do is to take you by the hand and lead
you to the house; even then you must be
prepared to go with him. It will not do if you refuse
to move a single step and yet expect him
to prove the correctness of his statement.
Similarly, when you have absolutely no reason to doubt the
good faith of our ancient seers who
proclaim God, you must be prepared to place implicit
faith in their words. If you follow their
dictates and find at the end they were wrong, then you
may blame them, but not till then.
Y. : The seers were as much human beings as ourselves. How did they
happen to know of God when
we do not.
H.H. : They did so because they had implicit faith in the words of
their teachers and earnestly followed
their instructions for the realisation of God.
Y. : If that is the answer, a further question will arise as to how
those teachers know? And this question
will have to be repeated ad infinitum.
H.H. : Certainly so, if we do not grant the existence of some primal
person who knows the truth without the
need to learn from another.
Y. : Who is he?
H.H. : Our old friend again, the omniscient God himself. The vedas are
his breath and the fountainhead
of all knowledge. Have faith in God, his words and his
servants. You will feel before long an
The thought of his ever-loving presence with you will be a
great solace to you. Once you begin to feel
such a presence, a joy unknown to you ever before will
begin to be felt.
And you will then realise that time is not something to be
merely spent in some pursuit or other, but
has to be intensively lived in the pursuit and
enjoyment of the bliss of peace. There will no more
be any room for pessimistic thoughts nor will life
seem a blank with no purpose to serve.
>From " Dialogues with the Guru ," recorded by Sri R. Krishnaswami Aiyar,
Shankara Vidya Kendra,
Paschim Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057.
This article was printed in Tattvaloka, (Oct/Nov 1997, pp 9-14.) Annual
Centre, USA liaison: Ravi Subramanian
Chennai 600 018, India.
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