09 April 2012
Dear Nutan Swamiji (as Swami Niviseshananda Tirthaji is affectionately called by devotees)
It was good talking to you today. My queries may take up a lot of your time - I can be quite persistent! I do hope you will welcome argument and dissent as part of our discussion. On my part I can assure you that it won't be a waste of your time because as I've said before - I'm an atheist, but only reluctantly.
I want to believe, and have spent the last 24 years seeking to believe. Books by spiritual leaders have completely failed to satisfy me. And this is not because of a lack of effort in thinking. I cannot start believing in something just because a spiritual leader, or the scriptures, said so. Nobody has one iota of proof, so it all boils down to a question of belief.
Over here, I would like to say that I was never spiritually inclined. Even now I'm not. I would be happy believing in God just like I did in the first 28 years of my life - a simple unquestioning belief in a power higher than me. But then, at 28, my mind took me unawares, and made me, against my will, question reality and existence.
It questioned everything that till then was the very foundation of my being. Belief in God was one of the many casualties. My mind would just not let go until I found the answers. Needless to say I did not find any answers that satisfied me. Over the years I've come to terms with the fact that I will never find answers. I have stopped searching. The questions still bother me, but now I keep them at bay.
Dear Nutan Swamiji, our perception of reality is based on our senses. According to me it is a perception based on something that is limited by its very nature. So what happens to the real world if all the senses are taken away? How then would you define reality? How then would you believe in existence at all?
Obviously one cannot discount existence altogether. Even without a single sense organ you would still know of your own existence. But then what exactly are you? What is the reality of what you are? My contention is that one can never know as long as one is trapped in a body. If one can know at all, it would be only after death. Therefore one can never know the truth as long as one is alive. And that is why I cannot believe.
For years I struggled to figure out my own thoughts. I didn't know why I was thinking them. I thought I'd gone crazy. I went through quite a number of scientific and spiritual books to find answers to my questions. I discussed my thoughts with people who I thought might be able to understand me. All to no avail!
Finally a very close friend recommended a book by X. I read it and knew at once that I was not the only one who had these thoughts. ....
Again I want to reiterate that I didn't want to think this way. It brings me no peace. All I want is to be happy and peaceful.
Nutan Swamiji Responds
14 April 2012
I feel concerned about your mind. I don’t know why you have not been led to the proper literature or the proper teacher. There must have been lack of humility or lack of true enquiry, which means deluding intellectuality and other distracting attractions or ambitions.
I have never questioned anything in life; I have only enquired. Seldom I have failed in getting the right answer. Whenever the meaning or relevance of any scriptural statement or sloka was not clear, I could not denounce it as irrelevant or contradictory (as did many philosophers). I thought and thought till I got the enlightening revelation.
I have never believed in any God, or questioned any belief. I have only enquired about God or the ultimate Reality, and finally landed on the Truth about my own Self.
All questions spring from the mind. The solution also lies in the same mind. All contradictions meet and dissolve when the mind is taken to a higher, subtler, and more comprehensive plane. A spiritual teacher does not answer a question; he answers the questioner. He tries to look into the mind of the questioner, tries to straighten the kinks, so that the enlightenment dawns in the mind.
Well, there are ways to present Vedantic truths convincingly. Throughout my life I have been practising to present the ultimate Truth in a logical format suitable to the modern scientific thinkers. But a real spiritual seeker need not go along that path. Our saintly Teachers can easily put a humble sincere seeker on an inspiring experiential path of self-discovery and knowledge.
When I went to my Gurudev (Baba Gangadhara Paramahamsa) with my enquiry about the ultimate Truth, he pointed out that being a student of Physics I must appreciate the difference between theoretical knowledge and the conviction gained by doing the experiment myself. He put me in the laboratory of my being, to do the experiment with my own being, and have the knowledge first hand.
A true seeker of spiritual Truth should read the inspiring and enlightening writings of ascetic Saints and Knowers, and not of intellectual giants or erudite scholars. Otherwise all the Professors of Vedanta in the Universities would have been guiding people as spiritual teachers. They don’t. If and when deeper enquiry dawns in them, they humbly go to the saintly Knowers. Because, spiritual knowledge is a knowledge to be lived. It is gained easily and naturally from a person who is living the knowledge. A flame is to be lit from another flame, not from a beautiful picture of fire.
Why don’t you read Swami Vivekananda’s “Jnana Yoga” and other lectures? Have you read the bioigraphical writings on so many saints published by Sri Ramakrishna Mission centres? You can also try to read “In Tune with the Infinite” (by Ralph Waldo Trine).
In fact, our Eternal Mother is always waiting for us, calling us back on Her lap. Engrossed in the small small thoughts of material gain, social position, and self-image, we ignore Her. The day we cry for the Mother’s lap leaving all other desires, She takes us in Her cooling embrace.
With love and blessings,