God—An Objective Fact?
Dhananjaya Pandita Dasa
God can be seen, but, as in “seeing” the atom, we must be trained to interpret the relevant data.
Many intellectuals seem to agree with Karl Marx’s statement that religion is the opium of the people. A common misconception in these times is that God is an anthropomorphic projection, a psychological crutch for those who are helplessly bewildered by the problems of life and who haven’t the guts to face reality. This unfortunate misconception prevents people from learning that God’s existence is an objective fact.
To demonstrate that God’s existence is every bit as objective as a brick wall, we will have to define what we mean by objective. According to Webster’s dictionary, the word objective means “of or having to do with a known or perceived object, as distinguished from something existing only in the mind of the subject.” To say that something objectively exists means that it has its own independent existence and is not the product of someone’s imagination. So how do we demonstrate that God’s existence is not the product of our imagination?
“Show me God,” many people say. I hear this all the time. “OK, if God exists, prove it. Show me God right now”—as if seeing something were the only test of its existence. All right, you can see God, but seeing God is not a cheap thing. The problem is that people expect to instantly see God on demand. You can see God as directly as you are seeing this page, but it takes time. You have to become qualified.
Besides, why do we have to see something to believe it? “Seeing is believing,” we say, but actually we believe in many things we don’t see. It’s only when we don’t want to believe something that we make the rules more difficult and say we have to see it to believe it.
If we hear on the radio that there is a raging fire in a chemical factory on the other side of town, we accept it. We don’t say, “Show me the fire.” We accept it because we trust the radio announcer. Besides, we haven’t got time to drive all over town verifying everything for ourselves. The fire is an objective fact even though we didn’t see it ourselves.
Death is also an objective fact. Would anyone dare to propose that death is a product of our imagination? I don’t think so. But on the other hand, none of us has yet seen our own death. So how can we know that our death is certain, if we haven’t seen it? We can know by extrapolation. Everyone in the past has died, without exception. So it is reasonable to conclude that for us, too, death is an undeniable fact.
What about the existence of the atom? Surely nobody would complain that knowledge of the atom is merely one person’s subjective belief. But can we show someone an atom? Well, we can demonstrate that atoms exist, but it takes time. You can’t just walk into a particle accelerator laboratory and right up to a bunch of scientists who are busily adjusting knobs and staring into computer screens and demand that they instantly prove to you the existence of atoms simply by showing them to you.
First of all, atoms are too small to see, even with an electron microscope, so there is no possibility that anyone can show you an atom. And even if the scientists of whom you impudently demanded immediate proof of the atom were to actually give you the proof, which might be some bewildering equations and numbers on a computer printout, you wouldn’t even be able to understand it. You’d say, “Where’s the atom? I don’t see any atom.” You don’t see the atom because you haven’t been trained to interpret the data that demonstrate the existence of the atom. You have some childish idea that for something to exist factually and objectively, you have to be able to see it.
We can perceive the atom only by inference. Because of the behavior of matter under precisely controlled conditions, we can understand that the atom must exist. But without these conditions and without having studied chemistry and physics, we can never understand the proof of the existence of an atom.
So why pull out a double standard when it comes to proving the existence of God? We accept as a fact the fire on the other side of town without having seen it. We accept that we are going to die, even though we haven’t seen our death. We accept the scientists’ declaration that there are atoms, even though the scientists themselves have not seen them. Why then turn around and say that anyone who accepts the existence of God is groping for a psychological crutch because of a weakness of character?
There is a process for understanding everything, and there is an appropriate process for understanding God. You must enroll in an authorized course of study. Use the textbooks that have proven to be the most effective manuals for spiritual education and are recommended by the experts in the field. Follow the proper procedures under controlled conditions, if you want direct perception of God Himself. It is as systematic and predictable as any science.
Yet there is a difference between the process by which we can understand God and the process of understanding matter—because God, Krishna, is a person.
Because matter is not alive, we can shove it around any way we want without difficulty. But who says controlled manipulation is the only process for getting knowledge? Is it even reasonable to assume we can apply to our search for the Supreme Lord the same methods we use to investigate matter? After all, Krishna, God, is a person who thinks and feels and desires just like us. But unlike us, He is unlimited. He knows everything. He is eternal. He controls everything. But He is a conscious person nonetheless.
Now, if you want to know something about a person, the best way to find out is to ask him. If you want to know, say, why a person is wearing a locket around his neck, you’d probably be well advised not to take the same approach we use for examining matter. You probably wouldn’t do well to walk up to the person, and without saying anything to him, grab the locket and start examining it, trying to pry it open. You’d probably get a knee in the ribs if you tried that. With persons, it helps to be personal. You try to please them, and if they want they can tell you all about themselves.
Lord Krishna is a person, and He’s our superior. Why should He immediately respond to our demand that He appear on the spot? If I were to call you up on the phone and say, “I command you to immediately come to my home,” would you feel obliged to do it? I doubt it.
Krishna Himself tells us how to know Him in Bhagavad- gita (18.55), bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yash casmi tattvatah: “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.” The process for understanding Krishna is to please Him. Then, if He wants to, He can give us knowledge of Himself. But how exactly do we go about pleasing Krishna? What do we do? What do we say? How do we know if we are doing the right thing?
As in any field, to learn quickly without getting lost or sidetracked we need a teacher. We need someone who knows the science of God, someone who can guide us through our studies. Don’t just pick any person who “looks spiritual.” We want someone who has been practicing the process for a long time and is an expert. He should know all the standard spiritual texts. And most important, he should love Krishna above all else. A person obsessed with love for Krishna will have no interest in catering to the demands of his body. He is not looking for pleasure from his tongue, his eyes, his ears, or his genitals, because he is absorbed in a higher pleasure. A spiritual teacher must also be free from anger and attachment—no fits of rage because someone dented his fender in the parking lot. And even if his house burns down, his wife runs off with another man, and he inherits a million dollars—all in one day—still he should be calm and peaceful, because one who knows Krishna is with Krishna, beyond this world. A tall order for you or me. But these are the qualifications of a genuine spiritual master.
Yet even if you find such a spiritual master, you as a student also have to be qualified. You have to follow the instructions of the teacher. If you do so, then you will see Krishna. If you don’t, you won’t.
Then you too will be able to honestly say, “Krishna is an objective fact. I know, because I have seen Him,” as many have said before. People who will not accept God unless we can immediately show them God are just like blindfolded men demanding to see the sun without removing their blindfolds. Unfortunately, with such an attitude, such persons will never know that God is an objective fact.