Truth: Who Wants to Know?
BY: PRAHLADA MAHARAJA DASA
Dec 15, USA (SUN) Sometimes we ask the wrong questions. What is the use of an answer to the wrong question? I want to go from London to Oxford, what will knowing the path to Paris do for me? What indeed will knowing the answers to questions even more irrelevant to my purpose do? It little matters if the answers to irrelevant questions is right or wrong.
If we manage to be focused on the right question, there is the other issue: How ‘much’ of the answer can we handle? As an example, in mathematics, in solving two simultaneous equations, of two unknown variables, one simple step does not discover the answer. There are several steps. To stop after only the first step will also not help. Each and every step is necessary, and the full and complete answer requires following through with all of the steps. It is the same for answers to spiritual enquiries. Pariksit Maharaja asks the essence of all spiritual inquiries. And the answer encompasses many cantos. Each canto, with their many chapters and even more verses, is necessary for the full and complete answer.
So we have two hurdles to overcome: one, to have the right quest (if the quest does not match, our questions are only academic) and, two, to stay the course for the complete answer. Then there is another. Unlike mathematics, in spiritual enquiry, the answer is affected by ‘who’ seeks it. Even when we phrase our questions like those of Pariksit Maharaja – and observe some measure of patience, our quest and that of King Pariksit may not be the same.
Pariksit Maharaja had been the emperor of a vast, wealthy and prosperous kingdom. He made it a model of Vedic civilisation while still young. Yet he had been unjustly cursed to die in a few days. Unaffected by both, his propitious circumstances and his adversity, he sought to know his duty for the few remaining days of his life. He did so after renouncing his kingdom, wife, family, society and the privileges of a king.
Our circumstances, on the other hand, are a little different. Our indulgence in spiritual enquiries is a little carefree. We are children of the television age. From mild exposure to being completely addicted to the TV, we have all imbibed some acting abilities. To express ideas in words and feign matching sentiments is not beyond the scope of most. Once having been sold on the idea of a purpose in life, we can take on the mantle of a spiritualist. These are all good and necessary steps in uncovering the spiritual purpose of life.
However, what our modern living does not equip us to do is to match the requisite renunciation of designs, schemes and motives for bodily enjoyment. Giving up the desire and thirst for some fruits of success, even if they be pious, is a step beyond the scope of wit and debate. Indeed, there are steps even after renunciation. To better resemble the quest of Pariksit Maharaja, we need to uncover a compassionate interest for all other beings.
Yes, we may seek to know the purpose of our lives, but that is several steps removed from the quest of Pariksit Maharaja.
Our quests, all that we seek in life, is very much conditioned. Every petty happenstance, what to speak of major upheavals, leaves an indelible mark on our hearts. Ever seeking amends, retribution and even vengeance; desirous of satisfaction on so many fronts, over so many issues; ambitious to yet possess and achieve much – our search for answers has many caveats and provisos. Our quests are very much our own – far removed from those of the pious, let alone those of the maha-bhagavatas.
Of all the things we feel and articulate, fathoming and expressing our own conditioning is not amongst those that come easy. Thus, to proclaim the quest of Pariksit Maharaja in a carefree manner is not only cheap, it is a deception. The many other great souls also present in the assembly with Pariksit Maharaja, by their subservient action, did not claim to have had the same query or the same earnestness as Pariksit Maharaja. Despite whatever verbal claims and protestations we make, it is our consciousness that will determine our quest. The quest of a conditioned living entity, as opposed to one who is Krsna conscious, is conditioned by his circumstances, by his karma.
Therefore, all questions for the ‘truth’ are not equal; neither the ability to assimilate such truths. Athato brahma jijnasa is certainly not everyone’s question nor quest. Only when we are done with any and all other quests will we be serious contenders for the Absolute Truth.
As with mathematics, giving up on the first hurdle of spiritual inquiry will not help. All of the hurdles have to be faced until they are overcome. Our material desires and conditioning has to be faced and overcome. Submissive and repeated hearing of the Srimad-Bhagavatam will help us to do that. Whilst it may not immediately place us on the level of Pariksit Maharaja, it will help us to cover all the required steps to get there.