by purujit dasa
TWO METHODS OF AQUIRING KNOWLEDGE
To understand a little bit about how we can realize these previously mentioned three truths in our limited situation, let’s discuss a little bit about the process of aquiring knowledge itself. There are two types of approaches to understand any sort of knowledge –deductive process and inductive process.
From deductive, you accept that man is mortal. Your father says man is mortal, your sister says man is mortal, everyone says man is mortal—but you do not experiment. You accept it as fact that man is mortal. If you want to research to find out whether man is mortal, you have to study each and every man, and you may come to think that there may be some man who is not dying, but you have not seen him yet.
The word “seen” is important. Whereas in the first case, you have accepted the information from your father without researching, in the second case you are trying to verify the information by your sight. We might have an illusory feeling of being unlimitedly omniscient, but the reality is that our imperfect sight is actually a great limitation.
We are seeing the sun daily, and it appears to us just like a small disc, but it is actually far, far larger than many planets. Of what value is this seeing?
Sri Isopanisad Introduction
Trying to understand the Whole with our partial perception is just like trying to fit an elephant into a matchbox. Because the Complete Whole is absolute, we can never achieve success via such limited inductive process. If we want to understand the Complete Whole, we have to take it from the Complete Whole. This is the only way.
Yogeśvara: He said, if it were an absolute truth, it would be evident to everyone.
Prabhupāda: Yes. But everyone is not advanced in knowledge. (French)
Yogeśvara: He says the question remains because there are other, very spiritually advanced men who don't accept that idea.
Prabhupāda: No, somebody may be known as spiritually advanced according to the society, but he may not be. So another thing is that what is the way of understanding the Absolute Truth. Let him explain. What is the standard way of understanding Absolute Truth? (French)
Yogeśvara: He says he doesn't have an answer in that kind of a context.
Church Representative: No context, problematic.
Prabhupāda: It may be problematic to some, but Absolute Truth can be understood by śruti, authoritative hearing.
Karandhara: When the Absolute reveals Himself, then... Śruti means the absolute knowledge from the Absolute, from God.
Prabhupāda: Yes, the Absolute Truth is known by the absolute method which is called śruti, hearing from the Absolute. Absolute cannot be imagined or speculated. (French)
Yogeśvara: He says that is a fundamental point.
Prabhupāda: Yes. So therefore we accept Absolute Truth from the Absolute.
Room Conversation with Russian Orthodox Church Representative -- June 13, 1974, Paris
Someone might object now that even if we took the information from the Complete Whole (the Absolute), because we are imperfect we actually cannot understand it and therefore must misinterpret the knowledge. Srila Prabhupada objects though:
That I have already explained, that the child who has heard from his father that "This is microphone" and if he speaks that "This is microphone," then his knowledge is perfect. The child is not perfect, but because he has heard from the perfect authority, what he is speaking, although he is child, that is perfect.
Bhagavad-gītā 3.27 -- Melbourne, June 27, 1974
As mentioned before, we cannot understand the Complete Whole fully, yet that doesn’t mean we cannot understand our position and our relationship with the Complete Whole. If a child uses the microphone properly, how does it matter that he’s not aware exactly how the microphone works? Similarly, if our knowledge of the Absolute acquired by hearing from the perfect authority culminates in service to the Absolute, it is perfect.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, suppose that they acknowledge the fact that they do not know, but they challenge, "How do you know what you believe is right?"
Prabhupāda: Because I have approached the Supreme, the supreme brain, Kṛṣṇa. He is the perfect person in knowledge. Aiśvaryasya, jñāna. Vedāhaṁ samatītāni [Bg. 7.26]. He knows everything. He is conducting nature. Mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ suyate sa-carācaram [Bg. 9.10]. Yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kālacakro. Janmādy asya yataḥ [SB 1.1.1]. So we know from the perfect. Therefore my knowledge is perfect. I am not perfect; that's a fact. But my knowledge is perfect. Just like I am not an electrician. But the electrician has told me that "You push this button. There will be light." So I am doing that. What is the use of becoming electrician? I want light, and the electrician told me, "Just push this button." I am doing that, and light is there. That's all. You cannot say, "You are not a electrician. How you can say the light...?" And I know from the perfect person, and it is acting. This is our position. It doesn't require that I will have to become electrician. The electrician has told that "You push this button," and there is light. That's all. Does it require that I will have to become a electrician to conduct this light?
Room Conversation with Svarūpa Dāmodara -- February 28, 1975, Atlanta
(to be continued...)