By looking further horizontally, we can’t see vertically
Suppose a person walking along a road wants to see ahead – and does so using binoculars. But as long as they are looking ahead, they won’t see the vast sky above them.
Similarly, many people desire to know more about life. But as long as they are looking at material things alone, they can’t perceive life’s spiritual side. The Bhagavad-gita (15.11) contrasts two kinds of spiritually interested people: the first perceive the spiritual realm, the other don’t. The first redirect their vision from forwards to upwards. That is, they follow the disciplines necessary for detaching their consciousness from the material level and raising it to the spiritual level.
The other category comprises armchair speculators whose inner vision stays horizontal. That is, they are internally looking only for life’s material pleasures, even if they talk about life’s spiritual side. Consciously or subconsciously, they deem material reality as life’s foundational reality. So, they end up reducing the spiritual down to the material. Such reductionism is evident in, say, contemporary neuroscience’s attempts to reduce consciousness to biochemical changes in brain cells.
Modern science is like binoculars to observe nature and understand its behavior, thereby achieving better prediction and control. It increases our capacity to see ahead horizontally. But it refuses to look vertically because of its operational principle of methodological naturalism, meaning that it aims to explain everything in natural or material terms. As it binds itself to the material, science can’t learn anything distinctive about spiritual reality.
To raise our vision from horizontal to vertical, we need to open-mindedly consider realities higher than the material. For such open-minded seekers, the Gita offers the process of yoga, especially bhakti-yoga. By steady yogic practice, we get the eyes of knowledge to perceive the spiritual not just as real but also as life’s most treasured reality.
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