Chapter 7: Death
Those who come to know this reality become neither happy nor sad upon seeing the waves and whirlpools of the unreal arising between two non-existences, because they know that what didn’t exist the moment before will also vanish the next moment. If the valleys of non-existence are on two sides and in the middle is the peak of existence, then this “existence” is a dream, then it is asat, unreal. If on two sides is the infinite expanse of existence, then it is sat, real.
Krishna has given a very valuable criterion for testing what is real. There is happiness now, it wasn’t there a moment ago and it will be gone again in a moment. There is unhappiness now, it wasn’t there a moment ago and it will be gone again in a moment. There is life right now, it wasn’t there some time ago and it won’t be there some time in the future. All that exists in the middle but not at either end only manages to create an appearance of its presence, because that which doesn’t exist at both ends cannot exist in the middle either. It can only appear to exist.
Everything in life can be tested on this touchstone. And this is what Krishna is telling Arjuna: Test and see. Don’t be mesmerized by something that was not there before and will not be there in the future. Even when you see something now, it is not actually there. It only appears to be there. It is a deception. And by the time you have woken up to this deception it will have disappeared.
It is better to pay attention to what was here before, exists now, and will be here in the future. It is possible you may not even see it, but still it exists. Start searching for it, looking for it.
In life, the search for truth begins by recognizing the false. To know the false as false, to know the unreal as unreal is the basis, the foundation, of the quest for truth. Except this, there is no other way of finding the truth.
How do we find out what truth is, what the real is? We can only begin by first knowing what is false.
Sometimes it creates confusion, because you may ask: “How can we know what is false until we have known what is truth? As long as we have not known the truth, how can we know what is false? We can recognize the false only if we have known the truth, and we do not know the truth.” But the opposite of this can also be said, and the Sophists have been giving this opposing argument. They say: “Until we know what is false, how will we come to know what truth is?”
It is a vicious circle, like the one about the chicken and the egg. It is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg? If you say the hen came first, then the trouble is that there cannot be a hen unless there was an egg first. And if you say the egg came first, then the difficulty is that there cannot be an egg unless the hen lays it. But one has to start somewhere, otherwise this vicious circle will have no beginning.