“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)
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अहर् यद् ब्रह्मणो विदुः
ते ऽहो-रात्र-विदो जनाः
ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
te ‘ho-rātra-vido janāḥ
The human being has intelligence. Shastra distinguishes the level of intelligence between the various species. In other words, the human being is special in this regard. We can prove this both off experimental knowledge and from sacred texts, passed down through the ages.
As a human being I might come upon certain information; a discovery of sorts. It could be something practical like solving algebra equations or something more philosophical, such as how to deal with other people and persuade them over to your way of thinking.
Thrilled upon the new discovery, I share with others. I do not consider the age or experience-level of the other participant to the conversation. They may be much older than me, and upon hearing my views, they can’t help but reply along the following lines:
“Son, I was conducting experiments before you were born. While you were crawling around in diapers, I was holding down a job, maintaining a family, struggling through life, and working for a higher goal. I do not need to be lectured by you. Instead, you should humble yourself and listen to what I have to say, for a change.”
The idea is that there is intelligence on both sides, indicative of the unique abilities within the human species. That intelligence is best put to use in seeing distinctions at the largest scale, the macro level. This is in accordance with the objectives of sadhu, shastra, and guru, who hope for only the best achievement, purushartha, for the living being.
1. Life and death
It is almost as basic as recognizing before and after. There is a beginning state, and then something occurs to alter the situation. Last night, for instance, was the beginning. Everything was dark. There was barely any sound coming from outside.
This morning things are different. The sun is out. The temperature is higher. I hear a steady stream of cars driving down the road. A person new to the situation may not believe that only a few hours ago everything was different, but I am there to remind them. Memory is a basis for intelligence, and I can logically deduce that the darkness will return a few hours into the future.
The same pattern of recognition is available with the paired events of birth and death. The first is the beginning, the time when there is boundless potential. The second is the final act of the play, so to speak. The same individual that previously arrived has now moved on. We refer to them as “the departed” for a reason.
2. One hundred years and eternity
The example above dealt with the changes to the outside environment within the span of a few hours. As an intelligent human being, I can extend that logic to a much larger sample size. I know from recorded history that civilization existed one hundred years ago. It would be foolish to assume otherwise, as there are even people still alive today who lived through that period of time.
While one hundred years seems like a large amount of time to the human being, we can also contemplate just how small it is in the larger scheme. Bhagavad-gita says that a person who knows the day and night of Lord Brahma, the creator, actually understands time.
The distinction between one hundred years and eternity is also a good way to make a test out of proving God through the empirical method. This is one of the often-heard complaints offered by the non-believers. They insist upon scientific evidence before they will firmly believe in a higher power.
Fortunately, there is a test we can conduct. Establishing that there is someone who claims to be God, if they were to stand before us, what method would we use to prove their claim? The simplest way is to test longevity. If this person is really God, then they must not ever die. I will simply observe them and make sure that they are always alive.
The issue is that my time in observation is not perfect. If the person stands before me for one hundred years, is that sufficient? Not really, since we already know mortals who live for that long. What about one thousand years? At this point, the comparison might be to Lord Brahma, and we know that he is not immortal.
The truth is I have no way of testing eternity. It is infinite time-travel into the future, and so the empirical method is worthless. Eternity is still true; it is a valid concept. Shri Krishna describes how a person can infinitely stay with Him, to achieve the best end there is.
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)
The same memory that furthers our intelligence of the outside world can launch us into a life of eternity in the company of the one person who is always immune to life, death, gain, loss, heat, cold, and other conditions in duality. Our ability to perceive God, to serve Him, to alter our destiny towards His direction, is the true boon of the human existence.
God desperately want to know,
My knowledge of eternity to grow.
Since no other way to prove,
As perception eventually to lose.
But faith from word taking,
And then test through practice making.
Our intelligence best suited this way,
Where in transcendence to stay.
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