THE next question would be ‘can the shadow know the substance,--that is to say, have any actual dealing with the substance on the plane of the latter?’ The answer must be that it can have only dependent relationship on a different plane. The substance is categorically different from the shadow. The image of the horse in the pool can only carry a shadow on the initiative of the reality on its back, but not the real person.
But if we are really the images in the pool how can we ever hope to be real horses? No, indeed. But our real selves are not images in the pool. Our real selves are live horses and function on the plane of the reality. They are at present under the delusion that they are shadowy horses and it is their fate to carry only shadowy riders. The truth of this delusion is proved by our actual experience. It is at this point that the empiric sciences are of real help to us. All those sciences confess their inability to find out the truth or even to touch the fringe of the question of reality. They also realise that this is necessarily a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. They hope to be able one day to get to the real truth. This instinct pervading all scientific efforts points to the conclusion that the soul does not really belong to the plane of his present unnatural ignorance. He is not satisfied with the challengeable gifts of the empiric sciences. On the other hand he is still more clearly reminded of his present distance from the real truth, doubtless in a vague and misleading way, by every fresh advance in his enquires regarding the nature of this world. The soul should have been perfectly satisfied with empiric knowledge if this anomaly did not really exist.
This is our only hope. That the soul belongs to the realm of the Absolute is corroborated by our actual experience that he can never be satisfied by the delusive images of the reality offered by the senses. This being so he naturally feels out of his element in their midst.
Thus the method of revelation demands the most careful consideration at our hands. The truth comes down to us and lifts us to His plane, which is also the plane of our real selves, by method of His own.
The Absolute plane need not be regarded as something abstracted or taken from this world. Nothing but the unreal can ever be the remainder of the unreal. The unreal is the deceptive image of the reality and is lacking in the latter’s substantive, unconditional or essential existence. There is absolute locality corresponding to the unreal locality. All localities with which we are familiar in this world are shadows of the absolute locality. If we chase these shadows for different purposes we shall thereby be no nearer the realisation of our purpose as souls. But if the substantive locality itself chooses to descend to this shadowy plane and if we are inclined to regard it seriously as such inspite of its appearance among the shadows and try to make its acquaintance in a scientific way we may get by the method of dealing with it as Reality the only substantive proof of its existence.
We can have no access to the realm of the Absolute if we do not thus care to make the acquaintance of itself in the only feasible manner. It is only the spiritual realm itself that can ever give us any knowledge of itself. If we want to make the acquaintance of God minus His realm we are doomed to perpetual disappointment. Such an ambition can only suggest itself to those dogmatic empiricists who are absurdly bent upon regarding the Absolute as merely the Relative shorn of its all. The chase of this Zero or Abstraction, the ideal of the empiricists, only leads us into the deeper deeps of the apparent realm whose shadowy treasures are ‘exposed to view but not to touch’ and are calculated by their very nature always to tantalise without ever satisfying our wants which are in fact themselves the consequences of a desire for such chasing for such chasing of the shadow.
We are of course free to regard Sridham Mayapur as an ordinary village of this world with only this result that by following such a course we shall not only not arrive at the Truth but will expose ourselves to the charge of deliberately refusing to avail of the only method for His attainment. Disinclination grows by exercise and the disinclination for the Truth is also not likely to diminish by this suicidal policy.
If the method of revelation or the descent of the Absolute to the plane of the limited be admitted as necessary to enable us to make His acquaintance the descent of Sridham Mayapur must also be regarded as a definite corollary of such admission. It is so because the Absolute is the Reality Who corresponds in His essential features to this world without possessing any of the unwholesome qualities (from the point of view of the requirements of our self) of this phenomenal world. God has His eternal dwelling in the heart of the realm of the Absolute. We cannot see God unless and until we are privileged to have a sight of the Abode of God. But as the only object of human life is to try to obtain a sight of the Godhead it becomes imperatively necessary for every one of us to seek the spiritual locality where alone He is to be eternally found. The process of the quest of the Abode of God belonging to the category of the Absolute is thus seen to be the eternal function of all individual souls.
Sridham Mayapur is, therefore, categorically different from the village Mayapur as it appears to our view. Sridham Mayapur can not be perceived by our senses. Neither can it be conceived by the human mind, It is the Reality. It has the power of making itself known to our souls. It is full of mercy being the manifestation of the plenary or real power of the Godhead. It is the eternal Abode of Godhead Himself. We can not have access to Godhead Himself. We can not have access to Godhead except by its means. We can also have no access to itself except by its grace. The method by which its grace may be attained can be learnt only from those who themselves possess such knowledge by the grace of seemingly insentient locality identical with the sentient paraphernalia of Godhead. Such knowledge is categoricaly different from empiric knowledge. We must not obscure the issue by confounding the one with the other. We have to receive this new knowledge by submitting unconditionally to be enlightened by the self-revealing entity itself. In other words we must agree to receive the knowledge from the Vaishnabas in the assurance that as soon as we accept it on its own terms all our doubts and difficulties will be cleared up to our satisfaction by the light shed by itself. We can not have access to it either by ‘blind’ faith or by ‘blind’ reasoning. We can find it only by living faith which is self-illuminating. The necessity of this method which is comprehensively called ‘the path of listening’ or srauta pantha is conceivable by the empiric reason only negative in the form of the realisation of its own utter incapacity for the task of ever attaining to the real truth by the ascending methods of domination which alone are open to it for the purpose. The method of enlightened submission should not, however, be confounded with any kind of submission to be found in this world that always carries an un-wholesome connotation. Unconditional submission to the real Truth is the only true freedom. Submission to the apparent truth is the only possible bondage for the human soul.
We then arrive at the following position. If Sridham Mayapur chooses to manifest itself in this world we can have no real knowledge of it by empiric methods of search. We can know it only by its own grace. Such grace enables us to serve the Sridham, which is of the plenary essence of the Divinity, under the direction of those who can acquaint us with the method of such service which is fully corroborated by the shastras, Our only possible relationship with Sridham is that of the under-servant to the upper-servant of the Lord. The devotee alone can recognise Sridham Mayapur through the faculty of service of Sridham itself. We are, indeed, at liberty to believe any place as Sridham on the assurance of empiricists but such identification remains necessarily unsupported by any testimony on the other side. It would be more in accordance with the nature of the quest to apply the empiric methods for understanding the nature of the identification of Sridham by the devote as this latter is the object of our search.
The application of the empiric method to a spiritual subject is rendered possible by the inconceivable circumstance of the descent of Sridham into this world. The Sridham has the power of appearing in this world so as to be apprehensible to the senses of fallen souls. But the fallen soul because he is lacking in the quality of devotion can not know its real nature either by perception or by intuition. The fallen soul is bound to see the Abode of Godhead in the likeness of a mundane village. This is so because it approaches and is bound to approach the subject in the wrong way. That very thing which appears to him as the mundane village of Mayapur is, however, really no mundane village but the eternal, limitless, living, super-mundane abode of the Divinity. An ordinary mundane village is of the nature of the perverted reflection of the reality. The village Mayapur even as perceived by the fallen soul is not of the nature of an image like the ordinary mundane village. It is the substantive entity itself appearing in the likeness of the image to the view of the mundane observer. If he chooses to regard the Sridham as image he is bound to be a loser by such procedure as he shall not only never obtain a view of Sridham and of Godhead by following such course but will suffer the inevitable consequences of toying with the substance gratuitously assuring it to be the shadow. The feasibility of the geographical identification of the holy site by empiric methods made possible by an act of Divine Grace can not be lightly exploited for the purpose of defeating the object of Divine mercy manifested in the shape of the descent of Sridham to this world. It is no doubt feasible to try to identify the site, which by the hypothesis itself requires in the attempters the possession of the knowledge of the reality, by empiric methods also only by the grace of Sridham itself. The people of the present municipal town of Nabadwip say that their city is not Sridham Mayapur the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya. They assert that the birthplace was washed away by the Ganges and so disappeared completely long ago. The truth of this is questioned for partly different reason by the devotees as well as the scientists. Both maintain that the site exists in tact and is also identifiable.