“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)
सर्वतः पाणि-पादं तत्
सर्वतः श्रुतिमल् लोके
सर्वम् आवृत्य तिष्ठति
sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ tat
sarvataḥ śrutimal loke
sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati
A common game in philosophy to play. Sort of like a puzzle. Something to make you think, for many hours. Today, one person is on this side of the argument and their counterpart on the other. Tomorrow, the roles could reverse.
Debate teams in school work in this way. What better way to learn the intricacies of the issue than putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and seeing how they feel. Armed with double-sided experience, come to a rational conclusion; one that you will be firmly convinced of.
The question posed goes something like this:
“If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? More specifically, if no one is around to witness, if no one can actually testify to having heard the fall, does the sound really get produced?”
Modern technology has provided similar conundrums. In the sport of professional hockey, there is instant replay to see if the puck has crossed the goal line and gone into the net. Sometimes the evidence is not definitive. The puck disappears into the glove of the goaltender.
A rational thinking human being assumes that the puck crossed the line. After all, there is so much room inside of the glove, and the glove is entirely in the net. The puck must have gone into it, well past the goal line.
The problem is the lack of visual evidence. There is no still image showing the puck in the net. A person has to assume, but there is no definitive proof. The same dividing line could apply to the question of the tree falling. No one is there to witness. The assumption based on rational thought is that the tree indeed made a sound. Such a large object hitting the ground always produces some audible result.
From Vedic literature, we find the hard evidence that was previously lacking. There is indeed a witness. Not only specific to our tree falling in an unnamed area of the world, but to any result manifesting.
First, there are the three modes of nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. They must cooperate for any outcome, large or small, complex or simple, to become true. I arose from bed this morning to get ready for work. The same as many previous days. Yet there was no guarantee of the decision matching with the preferred outcome. Nature had to first comply.
Behind that nature is a sanctioning authority. It goes by different names and terms, but understand that it is non-different from the ultimate authority. The Supreme Lord, the Almighty God, the Divine, the one without a second, creates the material and spiritual worlds. We get fooled into thinking that performing action is the sole cause of consequences.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
If God must first give sanction, a natural follow-up question relates to observation:
“How does He know my desires? How does He witness actions in order to give approval to the results?”
There is an expansion of the Divine known as Paramatma. Translated as “Supersoul,” this is something like the all-pervading witness, antaryami. Paramatma is a plenary expansion, which means that it is non-different from God the person.
From shastra we learn that the Supersoul is everywhere. The eyes never close, so to speak. He sees both the good and the bad. Another analogy used is two birds sitting on a tree. One is enjoying the fruits, and dealing with the consequences thereafter. The other bird simply observes. The two are always close by.
The correlation is to me and the Supreme Lord. He is always with me, to whichever body type I travel. He witnesses everything, which means that if I engage in devotional activities, He will surely take note. He witnesses my decision to strive for liberation and He is eager to help in my meditation on the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
If tree in the forest falling,
Sound produced without person there calling?
Philosophical game to play,
But resolved an easy way.
By Paramatma witness known,
Who first giving sanction alone.
So that even my devotion to see,
And lending unyielding support to me.