What is True?

“If this is true, what else could matter? If it is not true, what do our lives matter?” – Swami Vivekananda [1]

What is it that we believe in? What is it that we are willing to give our life for? What is worth dedicating all of our energy, efforts and strength to achieve? What makes our life worth living? What is worth cherishing and holding close to our heart?

 


These are essential questions that we all must ask ourselves. The answers are not necessarily easy, nor will they be the same for everyone.

We all need something to hold on to. Everyone needs something in which to place his faith. Some place their faith in money. Some place their faith in man. The wisest man places his faith in God.

The material man says that the man of faith is a fool to believe in what cannot be seen or proven. But the truth is that it is the material man who is fooling himself. He is hanging on to a fleeting, impermanent reality as if it will go on forever. But one day soon that physical reality will come to an end and he will have to leave behind everything that he holds dear. We all must take this final journey, the question is: what have we prepared for the way?

Without faith, we are nothing more than an insignificant creature on a giant ball of earth floating in the infinity of space. Without faith, the whole of our existence is merely a fleeting moment in the eternity of time. Is this the lens through which we wish to view reality? Is this the manner in which we want to live?

There have been many people who have tried to prove the existence or non-existence of God. But there is really no way to prove whether God exists. The Divine reality is not a matter for logic or physical brain analysis. It is something that we can only know by searching deep inside ourselves.

When sceptics would come to Sri Ramakrishna and demand to know why we can’t see God if He really exists, Sri Ramakrishna would answer them with the following analogy:

We see many stars at night, but when the sun rises they disappear. Just because we are unable to see the stars during the daylight hours, should we say that they no longer exist? Similarly, just because your physical consciousness keeps you from being able to see God, it does not give you the right to proclaim that He does not exist. [2]

What, after all, is it that we see? When we look up at the sky, our eyes tell us that it is blue. But this is only an optical illusion. In reality, the sky is not blue. In fact, there is really no sky at all.

Suppose we pass by a stream every day. We perceive the stream as the same all the time. But the truth is that the stream is constantly flowing. From one second to the next, it is a completely different stream that we see. The same is true of everything in this material reality: everything is in perpetual motion; everything is subject to constant change.

We will not discover the truth by studying any book or observing the world around us. The truth can only be found by looking into our own hearts.

Truth is called ‘God’s signature’. There is a place inside each of us where God dwells. This internal point of consciousness is alive with the truth. This point of Divine truth is covered over by layer after layer of material consciousness. We must strip away all of these external layers if we want to discover this place of pure truth.

The nineteenth century Hasidic Master, Rebbe Natan of Nemirov, teaches that this is the meaning of God’s command to Abraham in Genesis: “Lech lecha me’artzecha, umimoladitecha, umibeit avehca” – “Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house.” When God says to Abraham lech lecha, He is telling him: go to ‘you’ – to your Self, to the spark or point of truth that is who you really are. Me’artzecha, umimoladitecha, umibeit avehca – leave the illusions that you have absorbed from the land in which you grew up, the fantasies that come from the personality with which you were born, the distorted perceptions that have arisen as a result of the family that you were raised in and go to the Divine reality that lies at your very core.[3]

The work of discovering our true Self is at the centre of the spiritual life. We begin this process by searching for one truth in which we have faith – one truth that we feel reflects who we really are. Then we ask ourselves: what does this truth tell us about our real identity? What does it tell us about how we should lead our lives? From this initial fragment of truth we will find the path that will lead us onward to our goal.

The Book of Proverbs 20:27 states: “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being.” When we touch upon our true Self it illuminates our inner reality. The light of truth purifies our imperfections and transforms our personality. Once its brilliant radiance has filled our consciousness, all our confusion and self-doubt will swiftly disappear.

According to Rebbe Natan there is a different aspect of the truth, of God’s signature, that is being revealed at every moment of every day. We are unable to perceive these Divine revelations, however, because we are disconnected from the truth within ourselves. What is true or right is not the same for every person – nor is it the same at every moment or in every circumstance. What is right in one circumstance may be wrong in another – what is true in one person may be false in another. In order to perceive this truth, we must be able to interact with people and events from the place of emet l’amito – of pure truth inside ourselves. Only in this way will we be able to find the truth in every moment – only in this fashion will we make each moment true.

Therefore, Rebbe Natan says, we must constantly ask God to help us find the truth in each moment – to help us hold on to the place of pure truth within ourselves. This, he says, is the intention behind David’s plea in Psalms: “Lead me in Your truth, and teach me: for You are the God of my salvation; for I have waited for you all the day.” (25:5) David is asking God to lead him along the path to salvation by teaching him the truth that is being revealed at every moment of the day. [4]

Although humility is considered one of the highest virtues in the spiritual life, nonetheless, Rebbe Natan insists that we must hold on to the things that we know to be true with all of our might. We should not let other people define the truth for us or tell us how to live our lives. Each of us must live according to what we “understand in our heart”, for this ‘heart truth’ is a beacon that will guide us throughout all of our days. [5] Truth, Rebbe Natan declares, is a strong bridge that will take us safely across the turbulent waters of this ever-changing world. [6]

Copyright © 2008, by Yoel Glick

 


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Swami Chetanananda, God Lived with Them, p. 49
  2. Swami Chetanananda, How to Live with God, p. 348
  3. Natan of Nemirov, Likutei Halachot, Hilchot Genaiva, halacha 5, 7, quoted in Likutei Eitsot Hamishulash, vol 1: emet # 74
  4. ibid, Hilchot Genaiva, halacha  5, 9, quoted in Likutei Eitsot Hamishumlash: vol 1: emet # 76
  5. ibid, Hilchot Aidut, halacha 4, 5, quoted in LEH: emet # 55
  6.  ibid, Hilchot Tefilin, Halacha 5, 1, quoted in LEH: emet # 1

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