Joy of Self: Revealed Sound
By Swami B.V. Tripurari, originally published in Joy of Self, Mandala Publishing, March 1997.
The concept of scripture is no less difficult for modern society to embrace than that of sri guru. Yet scripture is as inseparable from the eternal guide as the sun is inseparable from our eyes in our attempt to see. If the guru and saint are our eyes, scripture is the sun. If all three are in place, we can see.
From the scripture, we learn the qualifications of the guru, whose every word must be backed by scriptural reference for it to have spiritual standing. This is so because the scripture is the eternal reality manifest in sound to the seers and written down by them to uplift us. As such, scripture is eternal. It manifests and at times is unmanifest, as is the world itself.
The many now interested in what has been called “Eastern mysticism” are wrong in construing that such teachings are mystical rather than rational and based on the scripture. Christianity has been long and accurately portrayed as a rational, scripturally based doctrine, but no less so is the theism of the Orient. Outside of atheistic doctrines such as Buddhism and Jainism, practically all branches of Indian philosophy draw heavily from sacred literature, the Vedas and Puranas.
Although there is a similarity between the sacred literature of the Orient and the Christian Bible, the Jewish Torah, and the Islamic Koran, there is a considerable difference as well. The difference lies primarily in the Oriental notion of the eternality of the Veda. While the Bible, Torah, and Koran all have a beginning in time, the Veda is held to be beginningless. The fact that it is written down by human hand does not compromise its eternality.
The Veda is Brahman, the Absolute, in sound. It is the Absolute extending itself to humanity, perfection speaking to the imperfect. By imperfect means, we who are steeped in imperfection stand little chance of knowing that which is perfect. Both our sense perception by which we “know” and the logic that extends our knowledge beyond that which we can perceive with the senses are imperfect instruments.
Sense perception is as awed as are the senses themselves. With our eyes alone we will never know the size and nearness of the full moon at night. Yet with the help of reasoning, we can understand that it is large, its apparent smallness owing to its being situated at a great distance. Yet as sense perception is faulty, so is reasoning lacking. This is so because unless we can validate that our reasoning is true in all circumstances, that it has universal concomitance, we cannot say that it is absolutely true. Demonstrating this universal concomitance is virtually impossible for practically any logical inference.
How then can we know for certain? How can we arrive at perfect knowledge and thus be perfectly happy? Only if perfect knowledge cares to reveal itself to we who are imperfect. The finite soul can never know the infinite save and except if the infinite, out of its infinite capacity, chooses to reveal itself to the finite. Perfect knowledge is just that, perfect, and therefore it is worshipable by those steeped in imperfection. We will never be successful in attempts to arrest perfect knowledge and imprison it within the jail cell of our human embodiment, for its own agenda is to liberate us from our finite conception. It makes this agenda known to us through the Veda, which is etymologically derived from the Sanskrit root vid, which means to know as well as to make known. The Veda is thus that which makes itself known and by which all can know conclusively.
The Veda does not claim that by studying its words with our intellect we will know the truth. It does not attempt to establish that which is eternally self-established. It is the self-established truth imploring us to take up the means of experiencing the truth ourselves. By this alone shall we know, yet hearing from those who have themselves seen is tantamount to seeing oneself.
The Veda, eternal sound, is experienced by the seers beyond the confines of time and space. Returning to time and space, they share their vision with us, thus serving as first-hand witnesses to the truth. Without them and without the Veda, we will never know the truth, for from those who have seen we derive the necessary inspiration to see for ourselves. They also give us a proper conceptual orientation, the systematic means of pursuit, and information regarding the goal. These three, known as sambhanda, abidheya, and prayojana, are the essential elements of sacred literature, and a brief explanation of these elements comprises the balance of this short book.