Two Differences Between Absolute And Relative Truths

[Lord Vishnu]“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)

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अहम् एवासम् एवाग्रे
नान्यद् यत् सद्-असत् परम्
पश्चाद् अहं यद् एतच् च
यो ऽवशिष्येत सो ऽस्म्य् अहम्

aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham

The skeptic will say that there is no universal truth. Even something as basic as the claim of the sky being blue can be challenged:

“Well, that is according to your opinion. I understand that the majority is on your side, that hardly anyone will challenge the assertion. But according to my vision, the sky is a different color. Who are you to prove me wrong? How can my sentiment be incorrect? It is how I view things. What is food for one person is poison for another.”

[blue sky]The Vedas present a concept known as Absolute Truth. The Sanskrit word is tattva. Brahman is what describes the concept as a whole, as it applies to everything. The differences between the kinds of truths are not difficult to understand.

1. Relative truth is based on conditions

There really is no equivalent word for religion in Vedic culture. This is because the idea of sole reliance on faith is based on a lack of knowledge. The word Veda means knowledge, and so the aim of the culture is to understand the higher concepts through intellect, with the application of reasoning, logic and humble and submissive inquiries.

Dharma is the closest match to religion, but it also has different meanings based on context. In terms of occupational duty, dharma becomes conditional, i.e. relative. The dharma for a person with the qualities of a shudra is different than that for a person who exhibits leadership and fearlessness in protecting the innocent.

The distinction with a relative truth is that there is invalidation once the supporting condition gets removed. In simpler terms, when a person is no longer in the laborer occupation, the dharma they previously had no longer applies to them. This means that the truth was never absolute.

The material world is full of such relative conditions. The mistaken assumption is that the relative can be made permanent, that the conditional will remain unchanged forever into the future. This is not so, and therefore relative truths bring endless argument and debate. One side pitted against the other, attempting to do the impossible: have their opinion apply universally.

2. The Absolute Truth is not based on conditions

This is a simple and easy way to understand God. He is the lone truth, principle, concept, idea or what have you which is not based on conditions. He is the same regardless of how the manifest world looks at a certain point in time.

The three primary time periods for analysis are beginning, middle and end. Bhagavan, which is one further descriptive term for the Absolute Truth, is there at the beginning. Before any living beings inhabit the world, prior to the existence of planets, stars, trees, earth, mountains, and rivers, the Supreme Lord is fixed in His position of dominance and supremacy.

He is the constant factor within the period of existence. The witness is everywhere through the expansion known as Supersoul. He is also there at the end, a fact supported through the testimony of saints like Markandeya Rishi.

स त्वं भृतो मे जठरेण नाथ
कथं नु यस्योदर एतद् आसीत्
विश्वं युगान्ते वट-पत्र एकः
शेते स्म माया-शिशुर् अङ्घ्रि-पानः

sa tvaṁ bhṛto me jaṭhareṇa nātha
kathaṁ nu yasyodara etad āsīt
viśvaṁ yugānte vaṭa-patra ekaḥ
śete sma māyā-śiśur aṅghri-pānaḥ

“As the Supreme Personality of Godhead, You have taken birth from my abdomen. O my Lord, how is that possible for the supreme one, who has in His belly all the cosmic manifestation? The answer is that it is possible, for at the end of the millennium You lie down on a leaf of a banyan tree, and just like a small baby, You lick the toe of Your lotus foot.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.33.4)

In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavan explains that He is beyond these time periods, as well. After all, past, present and future represent conditions. They are relative both in the sense of the entire timeline of creation and also at the individual level. When I was not married, my future involved family life. To my child, that same time period was the past.

The Absolute Truth is the same regardless of condition, and in truth the living entity is the same way. At the defining level they are a pure spirit soul, not tainted by conditions involved in material existence. Due to the influence of ignorance they have lost their way, succumbing to depression, madness and feverish pursuit while experiencing something like a dream.

[Lord Vishnu]The representative of the Absolute Truth brings the necessary knowledge to awaken the dormant tendency towards Divine life, which is always eternal. That spirit can be awakened today through something as basic as the chanting of the holy names, which are identical to the Absolute Truth: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Over petty issue endless debate,

Each side their position to restate.

Whereas the condition relative in dependency,

Changing through temporary residency.

Absolute Truth concept Vedas giving,

Ideal match for soul eternal living.

He beyond the periods of time,

In every situation to find.

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