“The inhabitants of Vrindavana were perplexed by great difficulties because a certain portion of the Yamuna was poisoned by the chief of the reptiles [Kaliya]. The Lord chastised the snake-king within the water and drove him away, and after coming out of the river, He caused the cows to drink the water and proved that the water was again in its natural state.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.2.31)
In spite of the fact that we accept so many truths on authority alone, when it comes to the highest truth, that relating to the origin of matter and spirit, the original cause of the animating force within this universe and in every one of its creatures, we insist on visual evidence. “Give me some experiment to show that God exists. I need something beyond faith. Sure, there is an animating spark inside all of us, but how can we prove where it came from?” The origin Himself knows of this tendency in man, and so He takes special effort to give extra proof whenever there is doubt, further illustrating His unmatched kindness.
“How can you prove that there is a God? Show Him to me if He exists. I need an experiment that I can conduct that shows that He exists. Show me some evidence from fossils that He roamed this earth. Give me some archaeological evidence that He created this earth.”
These questions are ironic, considering that documented evidence already exists. This evidence is not really a secret either. In the many spiritual traditions of the world, the origin is known as God, who is vaguely described. Then in the Vedas there is the most detail provided, where names, forms and pastimes are presented. They are passed on in an oral tradition originally and then documented in written word later on. Someone saw God, remembered their experience, and then described it to others. Others then accepted that information and wrote it down. Others followed with additional written words, which were then passed on from generation to generation. Where is the difficulty in believing that this could happen?
We today know that Shakespeare roamed the earth not because we saw him personally. We know he existed because of works attributed to him that are available today. His written word apparently held together from the time of its original composition. Also, others who saw him wrote down their experiences, allowing future generations to know of his existence. The same holds true for any historical personality.
In the Vedas, the same description of experiences exists, except they pertain to the highest being. To prove His existence and to give pleasure to those who believe in Him, He does amazing things. The amazing is always remembered more than the mundane. Therefore the mundane is hardly described in the Vedas. The amazing takes up much more space. All the evidence required is there. God can be seen in the words that describe Him.
There are also the teachings presented by God in works such as the Bhagavad-gita. These works are manuals for life; guidebooks on how to go about living. Living involves fearing, eating, sleeping and mating. Living as a human being additionally brings thinking about the future, wondering about the past, and inquiring into the greater mysteries, such as life and death and the infinite time and space. All issues are addressed with certainty in the Bhagavad-gita, whereas in mundane works these things are just speculated on. The speaker of the Gita, Shri Krishna, does not wax poetic on these issues. He speaks with ontological certitude. He knows what He is talking about, and one who understands that follows His teachings with great sincerity. From their practice and the benefits that arrive afterwards, Krishna’s divine nature is further confirmed.
We accept so many things on faith alone. We don’t experience the rocket ship going into outer space, but based on the pictures shown on television, we accept it as fact. Comparing the population of human beings that have been in outer space to those who haven’t, the latter is much larger. And yet that same group widely accepts the testimony of the former. The news shows us so many images that we accept without hesitation. And mind you, the majority of the stories they present are either fed to them or purposefully sought out. We think that when the newscast shows people on the street being interviewed that the sample is randomly selected, but in reality there was an action line going in, and whichever respondents fell into that action line were the ones chosen to be aired. In political stories, the powers that be send out their spokespeople to feed the media with whatever line they choose. The media then dutifully reports on what they hear. Thus there is little honesty in journalism, and yet everything is accepted by the consumer of news without hesitation.
The insistence on visible evidence ignores the obvious defect in sight itself. The defect in sight is not just with the eyes either. The larger error is from the processing of what the eyes see. At the time of birth, man inherits a forgetful mind and imperfect senses. Maharaja Yudhishthira, a famous king, was once asked what he thought the most amazing thing in life was. He responded that despite seeing so many people die, the human being still thinks that he will live forever. He knows for sure that his ancestors are no longer living, and yet he still ignores impending death. This is the most amazing thing. This means that the consumption of visual evidence is not immune from defects. Despite seeing the effects that alcohol has on us, we still drink too much and pay the price afterwards. Despite knowing that eating too much will increase our weight, we still go ahead and overindulge in food. There was undisputed visual evidence at the outset, but it still wasn’t fully accepted, despite its prominent availability.
In Vrindavana a long time ago, the residents once saw an amazing act of a young boy. This wasn’t the first amazing act of His. Prior to this He had thwarted a demoniac creature who tried to kill Him using a whirlwind. They also saw Him survive the attack of a devilish witch who had placed poison on her breast. She nursed the young child, thinking that He would die, but the reverse occurred. The amazing little darling of Vrindavana sucked the very life out of her.
On this particular day the Yamuna river was poisoned by a serpent named Kaliya. The river was so important to the residents and the protected animals of the community, so this was a dangerous situation. The young child fearlessly dove into the river and subdued the snake. In the beginning He was under the clutches of the snake, but He freed Himself and then danced on its hoods. Those people of the town who hadn’t fainted from worry saw all of this take place. They were amazed at the young boy’s ability to take on a snake. In a snake versus a boy, the boy is the underdog, especially if the snake is powerful like Kaliya. And yet the underdog won again, without a problem.
The young child of Nanda and Yashoda drove Kaliya away, but since He knew man’s tendency to insist on visual evidence, He had the cows drink some of the water from the river. This way everyone could tell that the poison was gone. Subduing Kaliya should have gained the trust from the others. If the child said the water was fine, He should have been believed. But He left no room for doubt. He gave the visual evidence that man is so insistent on having.
He has done the same many other times in fact. When delivering the famous Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the battlefield, to prove that He wasn’t a hack mental speculator, an armchair philosopher exercising His mental muscles on a picturesque afternoon, He showed the universal form. This is a factual vision that is not possible to see with normal eyes. Think of the entire universe crammed into one painting. Such an image exists, though it can’t be properly painted. There is a picture of you available from outer space, though you can’t see it. The inability to see it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Similarly, the universal form, which is one way to see God for those who are insistent on visual evidence, always exists. On one famous day, Shri Krishna showed it to Arjuna.
In Mathura, Krishna dragged the dead body of the evil king named Kamsa in order to prove to Vasudeva and Devaki, Krishna’s embattled parents, that Kamsa was indeed dead. As Lord Chaitanya, the same Krishna brought a page from the Kurma Purana to a brahmana to prove to him that Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife, was never actually touched by the fiend named Ravana.
“Indeed, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu eagerly tore this page from the Kurma Purana, although the book was very old, and He later showed it to Ramadasa Vipra, whose unhappiness was mitigated.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 1.119)
Following the Lord’s lead, the kind Vaishnava souls of today try to give the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” to as many people as possible. This is audible evidence of God’s existence. The same visual is passed on through the written words of the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Thus visible proof of God’s existence is available to anyone who is fortunate enough to want to see it.
If of God’s existence you care,
All evidence already there.
Of experiences with God saints wrote down,
Words create visual, proof of God through sound.
But insistence on sight the Lord knows,
So extra proof He always shows.
After Kaliya’s hoods from Krishna’s feet sank,
At Lord’s insistence, from Yamuna the cows drank.
Word of subduer of Kaliya enough to rely upon,
Still the Lord showed proof that poison was gone.
Holy names reveal that God is still around,
Therefore saints liberally vibrate that sound.