VBT – Meditation 1.2
Many have tried to give a definition for truth. What is truth? Man has pondered over it from many aspects. What is truth? What do we mean by “truth”?
Science regards facts as truth, and this definition is widely accepted today. Science says: a fact is truth. A fact is that which can be tested and checked experimentally, for which there is proof in the material world.
The Upanishads have no objection to this definition; Eastern wisdom has no objection to this definition. But Eastern wisdom raises a deeper question, one which is unanswerable by science. Eastern wisdom says: “We accept that the objectively present phenomenon is truth. But what is present today may be absent tomorrow and what was absent yesterday may be present today. In the East we call only that phenomenon which is never absent a truth. When it is eternal, we call it truth – the rest we call simply a fact.”
Eastern wisdom makes three divisions: a dream is that which belongs to the imagination of one individual; a fact is that which is a collective experience; truth is that which is eternal – because a fact does not always remain a fact.
The materialist makes only two divisions: one is the dream, nonfactual, fiction; and the other is the fact, a substantial fact. A fact is that which is agreed to by the masses, which has a materialistic existence, which we can test and check objectively. But the Upanishadic sage says that truth is that which is imperishable, indestructible.
We make three divisions. We call that which is a personal experience a dream; it may not necessarily be fiction, it may take the form of a fact. Then that which is a collective experience is called a fact, but it may not always remain a fact, it may become a dream. These two cannot be called truth: truth is that which always remains the same – neither is it dream, nor is it fact. It never changes, it never transforms itself – it simply is. Nothing less than that is acceptable as truth. The Eastern definition of truth lays its foundation in eternity and indestructibility. That is why we call the world maya, illusion; there is no other reason behind it.
When we say the world is illusory, or as Shankara says, “The world is an illusion,” it does not mean that this world does not exist, it means that the nature of this world is such that it will not remain the same eternally. When Shankara called this world maya, people misunderstood it to mean illusion, as if the world is nonexistent – the tree before you is nonexistent, you are sitting here but you are not… No! Shankara does not mean this. Shankara is saying that you do exist, but your nature is such that you exist now and will cease to be tomorrow. So we do not say that you are real, we say that you are illusory. We call truth that element within you which exists now, will exist tomorrow when you disappear, which existed even before your birth and will exist when you die; will exist in your youth, in your old age; which exists when you are at the climax of your fame and when you fall into the abyss of indignity, which exists in every situation – in every situation, no situation making any difference to its existence. Only that we call truth, all the rest is illusory.