“Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?” (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Yamaraja, Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.116)
अहन्य् अहनि भूतानि
शेषाः स्थावरम् इच्छन्ति
किम् आश्चर्यम् अतः परम्
ahany ahani bhūtāni
śeṣāḥ sthāvaram icchanti
kim āścaryam ataḥ param
“Listen, religion is nice and all, but don’t you think we have our priorities backwards? Turn your back on society. Ignore the poor. Yell and scream at your parents. Do not have any appreciation for the sacrifices they made for you as a youth.
“The insulation, the protection, if you will, is the deity. You worship a statue or picture on a regular basis, thinking it to be God, but you really have no idea. You are worshiping someone you have never seen, nor has anyone else. It seems a little silly to me. What is your response?”
Several issues covered within these accusations. For starters, someone who is genuinely in tune with the Divine consciousness, who has connected through what is known as yoga, automatically has care and affection for every living thing around them.
This eliminates the common barrier, the extent, if you will, of the family. Such a person will appreciate what the animals do for society, from the dogs to the cows. They will look upon the elders with respect, and they will certainly help those who are suffering.
Shri Rama, one of the deities worshiped that supposedly no one has ever seen, remarks similarly in the Ramayana. He rhetorically asks His wife, Sita Devi, how people worship what is inanimate and out of reach, the deities, but at the same time ignore those who are animate and within reach, who are just as worthy of respect.
अस्वाधीनं कथं दैवं प्रकारैरभिराध्यते।
स्वाधीनं समतिक्रम्य मातरं पितरं गुरुम्।।
asvādhīnaṃ kathaṃ daivaṃ prakārairabhirādhyate।
svādhīnaṃ samatikramya mātaraṃ pitaraṃ gurum।।
“How can we worship in various ways the Divine, who is not within our reach, if we neglect mother, father and guru, who are within our reach?” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 30.33)
As to who has seen what, no one is able to tell another person’s experience based merely on their own. As an example, I have no idea how to fly an airplane. I wouldn’t know the first thing to do. This does not mean that everyone else has the same limitation; to make such a claim is silly.
The acharya within the Vedic tradition sees the Almighty at every second of the day, wherever they turn. They have the spiritual vision described in Bhagavad-gita, expanded beyond detection of the individual soul.
ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि
शुनि चैव श्व-पाके च
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
Whilst criticizing those who try to connect with God through the authorized method of deity worship, there is blind ignorance of an undeniable truth. Day after day, countless living entities leave this world. Friends, family, well-wishers, elders, children, political leaders, celebrities, enemies – none is spared the wrath of undefeated time, kala.
Yet the general population behaves as if they can create a permanent situation in this temporary world. They act as if the same forced departure will not occur for them. Maharaja Yudhishthira remarks on this phenomenon in the Mahabharata. He considers that ignorance to be the most amazing thing in the world.
Therefore, it can be said that devoted souls detect what is plainly visible to everyone else. They also see what others cannot: the influence of the Almighty in every aspect of life. They maintain this spiritual vision throughout their dedicated practices in devotion, and carry it forward into the future, after quitting the body.
Not the visuals alone,
Past and future also known.
Where the spiritual detecting,
How into body and later ejecting.
Countless souls coming and going,
This the most amazing knowing.
That permanent somehow to maintain,
Proposition not wise or sane.