I think that perhaps I will cross post the VMA articles series, either here or on an independent site, but we will see. At any rate, for the time being, people can read those articles on the VT website.
A reader of this site recently wrote to me and asked the following:
Namaskar. Throughout your writings you teach reality over hagiography. Recently, you have written that (materially motivated) historical concoctions are an important part of remembrance in temple pilgrimage. History and concoction cannot go together as their very existence is opposed to the other.
I am writing this as factors of concern I had and have about temples. After they have enjoyed the fruits of publishing their historical concoctions - extracting historical facts becomes harder or nil.
In other words, publishing a concoction as truth is directly opposed to the promotion and perpetuation of truth. I am not questioning your choice rather clarifying considerations which would explain why I was upset about your apparent change of thinking in this matter.
I am not sure specifically what article he was refering to, perhaps in connection with the Dham where one is presented with "facts" that are not at all historically verifiable. This is obviously a problem that does not easily go away in a world where skepticism is the dominant virtue. I answered him personally and he suggested my publishing the reply. So here it is:
Before I begin, I have of late been following a psychologist and philosopher named Jordan Peterson. I think that you might be interested in hearing his talks on this and related subjects. If you have been following my blog, you will know of my interest in Jung and myth, etc. Peterson follows directly in this school, but he is a clinical empiricist and, like Jung, is a believer who is trying to understand God's work, though as a scientist he is loathe to say it. Anyway, I am impressed by him as a deep thinker and social commentator. His scope is very broad.
Though I am nowhere near as erudite as he, nevertheless I feel confirmed in a lot of what I have been saying by his insights. I find this very encouraging and hope that the doors to understanding religious belief and God that he is opening up will be followed by those to whom such things are important.
What is reality? What is the relation between the experience of the individual consciousness and the actual world externally, as it is?
Now most people in this world think that the hard stuff we are surrounded by is reality. Let me assure you, it is here today and gone tomorrow. What is real is the soul, which never changes, and is simply observing the passing scene.
There is, of course, a place for empirical reality. It is really very much like a video game called life in this world. Each one of us programmed for a particular adventure to live out and then go on to other levels, and so on.
Indian religion is almost solipsistic in its creed. It says: We have faith that if we surrender to God, our existential reality will take care of itself. God will provide for my achieving that purpose. Indeed, He always has.
Such faith must also be accompanied by renunciation, because you cannot surrender to God with material benefit in mind. How much discomfort you are willing to tolerate will determine how much you compromise with giving yourself completely to God. Everyone is to be tested in this manner, and that is for sure.
But if you have such faith you set about turning inward and dwelling in the Self. When you have come to this point, the External Reality has served its purpose. At this point, whatever External or Empirical Reality offers for experience is only confirmation, immediately or belatedly, of the benevolence of the Self.
Now, to answer your question. The acharyas are busy building a house that people who wish to attain the Inner Reality can live in. The trick is that the house has to be built in the External Reality. That is the reason that there are so many paths to God. Like the light hitting a prism, the One becomes Many.
So now let us say that I am a Seer of the Truth who knows that the instant the One Non-dual Truth hits Matter, it becomes compromised. What have I seen ? And how will I go about building my house for people to move toward that goal from wherever they are, and in the meantime live together in the best possible way, in a way whereby they will be as happy as it is possible to be in this world of misery and death, where no pleasure is not accompanied by loss and imperfection?
Now, no amount of empirical knowledge of the world can do anything more than hint at what the knowledge of the transcendental self is as an experience. The masters know that there are media by which Truth can be communicated, and of those the principal ones are Myth and Symbol.
Different myths and symbols arise for a reason. They compete because they all announce to the world a higher reality and they differ in what that highest glory of God is. But for us, for Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the real world is that of Chaitanya Krishna, and whatever serves the purpose of being aware of that world is, as far as possible, to be adequately presented so that those who live by empirical reality will not be too offended, but they know there will be limits to what can be done for such people. Mimamsakas.
Some myths are more important than others. Empirical reality serves a purpose until we reach the point of surrendering and embarking on the path of sadhana. At that point it has served its purpose and recedes.
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te.