“The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which is for those who are meant for death.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.13)
न स्वर्गं नापुनर्-भवम्
मर्त्यानां किम् उताशिषः
na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ
Just a single moment; that time spent is more valuable than the most expensive automobile you can think of. More worth it than courtside seats to the big game. Better than that cruise-ship vacation or that exotic travel destination. More important than having enough money to retire safely for the rest of the time on this earth.
The meeting with the saintly person, bhagavata, carries the potential for resolving life’s most difficult issues. Not information used to pass a trivia contest, but the really pressing problems, which have baffled mankind for centuries. Those questions which stimulate endless speculation, which other leaders might shrug their shoulders at, the person connected to the Supreme Personality of Godhead has no fear in speaking with the weight of authority to support them.
1. If God exists, why can’t we see Him?
This is the natural progression after acknowledging existence. Any person can say anything. The person on the street can answer the question of existence in the affirmative. There are competing viewpoints, but people generally lean towards the side of belief.
If we can agree that there is a God, then where is He? Wouldn’t sight settle doubts? Wouldn’t a direct vision provide the best confirmation? Why keep everyone in the dark, so to speak?
The answer is that the Supreme Lord is all-around. He accomplishes omnipresence through a feature known as Paramatma. This translates to Supersoul, and it is a kind of expansion of the original person. Undivided, though seemingly distributed in parts. One identity, but present in innumerable instances.
The key factor is discernment. Being able to detect the presence; not necessarily asking for a special vision. Just as spectacles help to sharpen the available ability in sight, the saintly person gives hints, clues, and processes where moving forward the proper vision arrives.
The bhagavata sees the person they serve, Bhagavan, at every moment. They respect His presence inside of the temple and also outside. They are not hallucinating and neither are they in some imaginary land. They can see God, and they can help others to similarly remove the darkness of illusion.
2. Why do bad things happen to people?
This is one of the stronger arguments from the atheist side. We are supposed to acknowledge God’s presence. We are supposed to worship. He is the all-good, all-loving, Divine being. If that is the case, how could there be tragedy? Why is one person born with a silver spoon in their mouth and another relegated to a life of poverty?
The simple answer is karma. This is one of the operating principles of a material existence. The individual is spirit soul, jiva, and they come in contact with matter, prakriti. Kala, which is time, acts on that spirit-matter combination.
Activity, or karma, determines the nature of time’s influence. This is action and reaction. Karma is something as simple as turning left while driving and ending up another road. It is also as complicated as the chance meeting with the person who ends up being the spouse, spending many years together in marriage.
Karma can span many lifetimes. The comparison is to air and how it carries aromas. My conception of life right now can determine the state of being I experience in the next birth. This is karma influencing consciousness, which is the proof of an existence.
शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
3. Where was I before this birth?
As there is karma to influence life in the future, so there was action in the past that determined the circumstances of the present birth. The saintly person accepts the information on faith in the beginning, but they receive further confirmation of the principles through consultation with shastra and also personal experience.
Vedic literature passes forward countless tales of people experiencing several lifetimes, going from low to high and high to low. Rich in one life and poor in the next. Maybe a prominent king at first, but then a deer later on.
4. Where will I go after death?
Jiva lives on. It cannot be killed. It never takes birth. This means that I will always be somewhere, no matter the point in time, when viewed for analysis purposes. Karma and consciousness combine to influence my fate. The safest position is to be conscious of the Supreme Lord while quitting the body. At anta-kale, I would then attain a state similar to His.
अन्त-काले च माम् एव
स्मरन् मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्
यः प्रयाति स मद्-भावं
याति नास्त्य् अत्र संशयः
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
5. Why are there so many religions?
Okay, so the saintly person has answered the toughest questions I could throw at them. I am satisfied with the responses. This Vedic literature seems quite interesting. I am ready to learn more. I am eager to make advancement.
But before we move on, I want to know why there are competing religions. Why aren’t the other faiths able to answer these questions? I would think that jiva, prakriti, kala, and karma have nothing to do with a person’s professed faith. Every religion could teach the same information and we wouldn’t have issues.
The explanation is that there are different capacities for learning depending on the time and circumstance. Not everyone is ready for the full explanation of an existence. Not every person will be receptive to accepting such information.
Yet since God is omnipresent, He never forsakes anyone who is desirous of knowing Him. He always gives them a way to advance, to move closer to their original, constitutional position, which is inseparable and endearing association.
Coming their way by chance,
Now my knowledge to enhance.
With toughest questions to pose,
Seeing what saintly one knows.
Surprised with explanations produced,
To timeless principles introduced.
That always living and ready to go,
My eternal nature to know.
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