“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13)
परं ब्रह्म परं धाम
पवित्रं परमं भवान्
पुरुषं शाश्वतं दिव्यम्
आदि-देवम् अजं विभुम्
आहुस् त्वाम् ऋषयः सर्वे
देवर्षिर् नारदस् तथा
असितो देवलो व्यासः
स्वयं चैव ब्रवीषि मे
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me
“One of the things I often hear you say is that there is no empirical way to prove the idea of God. Whether someone believes or not, both participants generally agree to the idea of God. That is to say the side that believes has an idea to whom their worship goes. The side that does not believe at least knows, in theory, what the other side is worshiping and aligned with.
“Taking the common factor, there is no experiment which can be conducted to prove the necessary properties or qualifications. For instance, God would have to be without end. The Sanskrit word is ananta. Setting side anadi for the moment, since we cannot travel back in time with our current ability in perception, if we were to meet someone claiming to be God, we have the opportunity to move forward.
“The issue is limitation in duration of perception. I cannot prove that the person standing before me will live forever, precisely because I will eventually move on to another body. This is known as transmigration of the soul, or reincarnation. Someone can take my place, after the fact, but they have the same limitation.
“This is a nice way of invalidating the empirical method. The scientists say they don’t believe in God because they cannot prove His existence through observation and experiment. Well, based on the parameters of their field, it is impossible to reach a proper conclusion, whether God exists or not.
“Keeping this in mind, how can we be sure that Shri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead? How do we know that He is identical to Vishnu, who purportedly dealt with Brahma, the creator, at the beginning of the current iteration of the cycle of the universes? How do we know that Shri Ramachandra is an avatara of the same Vishnu?
“Do you see what I am getting at? Those personalities may have done extraordinary things, but that alone is not qualification for Divinity. The time in perception was limited for Arjuna, though he saw the virata-rupa on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. How can we be sure that what parampara passes down to us is legitimate?”
Through skepticism, any claim can be denied. Taking one or two steps at invalidation, based simply on the tendency of human beings to commit mistakes and cheat, I could say that whatever so and so claims is not true.
“You have heard of the telephone game. You start with a statement and then pass it on to someone else. Each person forwards the same message to one other person. When you reach the end you have the last person repeat the original statement. Almost never do the words align with the original. Along the way, people added or subtracted, either accidentally or intentionally.”
We accept the information from parampara on faith in the beginning. This is not a radical idea, since so much of life depends on extending trust to unknown people. We believe the government when they say they want to keep us safe, even if they employ perplexing methods like obstruction of breathing and confinement to the home for months on end for the healthy. We trust the scientists with specific medical treatment, even if the claims defy all the odds and stretch passed the boundaries of common sense.
With parampara, we accept the information, deliberate, and also assess the qualities of the individuals making the claim. The Arjuna figure from Bhagavad-gita is of the highest standard of behavior. He is so kind and gentle that he doesn’t want to proceed in a war, though he has every justification to bring the opponents to justice.
After Arjuna requests and sees the universal form displayed by Shri Krishna, in his subsequent praise he still references authority figures. The idea is that Arjuna is not simply offering kind words due to heightened ecstatic emotion. What he says about Krishna is supported by saintly people such as Devala, Narada and Vyasa. If you don’t believe Arjuna, then at least take the word of these people of the highest character, who are not attached to material life in the slightest.
Markandeya Rishi receives the benediction to maintain perception through to the destruction of the world, in a particular cycle. He verifies that no one else is around; everything and everyone is gone. Except there is a small child resting on the leaf of a banyan tree, unaffected by the destruction. This is Narayana, who remains through to the next cycle of creation. Markandeya explains that Krishna is the same Narayana.
There are other experiences with the virata-rupa, such as with mother Yashoda and the crow named Kaka. Krishna lifted the mighty Govardhana Hill and Shri Rama broke the heavy bow of Lord Shiva in the contest held by King Janaka. These are extraordinary displays of strength, but that alone does not automatically equate to Divinity.
We accept the information on faith, follow the recommended practices, and then later verify for ourselves through what is known as vijnana. This is practical realization of the knowledge, which has its origin in the Vedas, which are timeless.
Arjuna the virata-rupa seeing,
Proved that friend the Supreme Divine being.
But still authorities to name,
As support for the claim.
Any person the same could say,
But for validity a practical way.
That from the principles accepting,
Proof of the truth expecting.