To Believe or Not to Believe

Ever since the world began
To Believe or not to believe
Has been the predicament of man

There has been a constant urge in man to know the unknown, to differentiate between the real and the unreal, and to separate the Truth from the Untruth. But in this quest, he finds many hurdles due to fraud, superstition, blind faith, and hearsay. He gets lost because his knowledge and vision are limited, while the scope of the inquiry is unlimited. He depends on his faculties and the information gathered by others in the past. While his faculties cannot grasp the universe in its entirety, the information available to him has so much mix up of fantasy, imagination, distortion, and prejudices, that the facts get obscured.

But what is Reality and what is Truth? Is it what we see, what we learn from others (viz. our parents, our teachers, and the society), what we feel, or what our intellect guides us to believe. We want to assure ourselves that we stand on a firm ground, based on reason and rationality, and live in harmony, in an orderly world., governed by precise rules.

In the introduction to the book, "The Mysteries of the Unexplained", published by the Reader's Digest, the editors have stated that this urge has provided a receptive audience of seers, scholars, scientists, and experts of every persuasion. There has not been a shortage of authorities ready to find reasonable explanations for all observed phenomenon and to provide solutions for the various mysteries of the universe. They continue:

And yet there are events that seem to say that our rules, our beliefs, even our common sense, may some times let us down.

In the past, men and women believed that the world around them had a miraculous dimension ' that angels and demons were real, that prayers were efficacious, that man had a special place in the universe. Today fewer and fewer people believe in such a world. (4)

Swami Vivekananda, in his preface to Raja Yoga, which has been published by Advaita Ashram in India as a part of his Complete Works mentions that:

Since the dawn of History, various extraordinary phenomenon have been recorded as happening amongst human beings. Witnesses are not wanting in modern times to attest to the fact of such events, even in societies living under the full blaze of modern science. The mass of such evidence is unreliable, as coming from ignorant, superstitious, or fraudulent persons... It is not the sign of a candid and scientific mind to throw overboard anything without proper investigation. Surface scientists, unable to explain the various extraordinary mental phenomenon, strive to ignore their very existence. They are, therefore, more culpable than those who think that their prayers are answered by a being, or beings, above the clouds, or those who believe that their petitions will make such beings change the course of the universe. The latter have the excuse of ignorance, or at least a defective system of education, which has taught them dependence on such beings...The former have no such excuse.(7:121)

Truth and Reality are, thus, a great dilemma. Often what appears to be is not. For centuries, nay millennia, men thought that Earth was only a flat piece of land, the beginning and end of which were unknown. To those standing on Earth, it appears to be motionless in space, and the Sun, the Moon, and the stars go round it. But it is not true When Galileo propagated the theory that it was the Earth which rotated on its axis and revolved round the Sun, he was persecuted and sentenced to imprisonment because such facts were against the views of organized religion. The same happened to the Albigeneses and the Cathars, who believed and talked about reincarnation. As this view was in conflict with and endangered the then accepted religious beliefs, the papacy and the mass of humanity, steeped in those beliefs, waged a crusade against their propagators. They confiscated their property, proscribed their literature, and exterminated them, thereby devastating their entire province.

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