By Michael Ketterhagen
Mary taught me about the difference between knowing something based on faith and knowing something based on one’s experience.
I was doing some gardening this weekend and pulling some of the grass that popped through the straw which covered most of our gardening spaces. I had put the straw over the ground this past fall to see if the ground cover could improve the quality of the soil. This Spring, lots of little shoots of grass popped through the straw. The little shoots of grass were scattered all over the straw-covered gardens. I thought that the straw I used had been peppered with many stray oat seeds.
It looked like young oats to me and not quack grass, even though it had quack grass appearance. I even pulled some of it out and it pulled up easily with no quack grass runners attached to any of the roots.
I told Mary that I thought it was oats, not quack grass. She looked at me as though I was not telling the truth. She knows how I hate to dig up the quack grass, even though that is the only way to stop its invasion of the gardens. I asked her, “Don’t you believe me?” She said, “Yes, I do and I don’t.”
I immediately understood what she was saying, and I said to her, “As someone you love and trust you believe what I’m saying and you still have doubt about what I’m saying because you haven’t experienced what I experienced.” She said “Yes.”
Mary had faith in my words. She trusted in my words and understandings and believed that I was telling the truth, but doubt still entered her mind. She needed to experience what I was saying in order to cast away all doubt.
Together, we witnessed the truth about Absolute Truth. The human mind only absolutely knows what is true when it experiences it. The mind always can be brought to a point of doubt or always has subtle doubt until one personally experiences a reality. Experiential knowledge, called Sri Vidya, in yoga philosophy is the highest truth, the highest form of knowledge.
Faith is an important part of that Sri Vidya because all of us must have faith in our personal experience and not doubt in our experiences in order for us to truly know what is true. However, after we experience something, especially in the early, brain-forming years of life, it is very hard to convince us that it is not actually true. Only very dramatic experiences, like a near-death experience or a devastating trauma, can change our perception of truth.
Our need for experiential truth and not just believing (or having faith in) someone we love and respect is paramount today. Many believe that God exists. Many of us want God to exist and care for us but also have deep doubts about the existence of a compassionate, loving, protective Being. We have faith that God exists and yet wonder if God is really actively caring for us, even though almost all religions say that such a God exists. The Yoga Tradition also teaches about a loving Divine Mother who cares for and protects all of us.
The difference between knowing without doubt and knowing completely this truth is “direct experience.”
In order to truly know God’s/The Universe’s/Christ’s/the Divine Mother’s loving presence in our lives means we must experience that Presence, that Reality directly. Christian mystics who taught many monks and nuns in their monasteries and convents have experienced this Reality directly. Yogis and ancient and current saints and sages of that tradition have also done so.
It is possible for us to know the entire truth about God by performing the practices detailed in the sacred books of Christianity and Yoga. Wise teachers in each of those traditions can show us the way.
We can know ABSOLUTELY that God exists because there are ways to directly experience God’s Divine Presence. We just need to search and find the path that works for us. We need to practice the path that helps us experience directly the loving, caring Source of our Life.
Yoga is one of those paths.
I pray to the divinity in you!