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Seeing with the Ears
Suppose you are sleeping in your apartment and a thief breaks in, with the intention of murdering you and stealing all your wealth. In such a moment of danger, which of the five senses is most likely to help you? You certainly cannot smell the thief, nor taste him with your tongue, nor feel him with your skin,nor see him with your eyes. But if the thief makes a noise, you might hear it, wake up and be able to save yourself. This is a simple experience that we can easily relate to. but it has much broader implications.
Suppose I hand you a glass of liquid. How would you go about determining what it is0 Most men of science would suggest doing some chemical tests. First of all, we have to recognize that this involves seeing, smelling, tasting and touching, perhaps with the help of instruments. But all these methods fall in the category of sense perception, which is inevitably fault-prone. Furthermore, chemical tests can be misleading. What if the liquid is one for which the testing reagents have not been developed? And even if you do all the tests, perhaps it may be a mixture of two or more liquids. How can you determine which? After all there are practically unlimited possibilities. Where will you begin? And after all your tests, you might discover that the liquid contained a valuable ingredient capable of curing cancer, and that you have just about wasted all of it in mere testing!
Therefore let us step back and consider something altogether different, something radical for modern science. Why not simply ask the person who handed us the liquid, "What did you give me?" That might just solve all our problems. From the above two examples, we understand the potency of hearing as a reliable way of acquiring knowledge. Hearing is, in fact, the basis of all our knowledge. From the cradle to the crematorium, our whole life is based on hearing. Just think of any five common items of knowledge and backtrack how you learned about them in the first place. How did you get into engineering college? How did you learn about GRE and TOEFL exams? How did you learn ABC? How did you come to know the way to the nearby movie theater? How did you come to know about Einstein? Everything we know begins from hearing. Books are also in the category of recorded sound.Thus all knowledge - whether mundane or Vedic - has to be acquired by hearing from a proper authority. Everyone is born in ignorance; otherwise what would be the need of schools or colleges? We go to educational institutions to gain more awareness about the world around us and to improve our life.
But how do we know from whom to hear in order to obtain perfect knowledge? In the modern times, modern science is not the only source of knowledge, which we hear and accept. Everyday we are bombarded with dozens of newspapers, TV commercials, magazines of all description, journals and so forth. We are overflooded with so much useless and questionable information that we have a hard time deciding which one to accept. How can we judge the degree of authenticity of all that we hear?