The Utility of Interpretations
That’s the whole point—isn’t it?—of why interpretations are offered and why they are studied. It’s not so much a matter of agreeing or not agreeing with, or accepting or rejecting, any interpretation. That’s secondary. What is primary is the question: does this interpretation help me go closer to the truth, or the inner essence, of the person or the idea that is being interpreted.
Among the earliest in this class of interpretations is Max Muller’s Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings, first published in the year 1899. As a strong believer in the scientific study of religion, Muller believed that a comparative study would uncover hidden religious truths and was adamant that Christianity should be subjected to the same method of study as were employed in the study of other religions.
In Vedanta itself it is possible to view the world in at least five distinct ways: as a cosmic sacrifice (yajna), as a cosmic play (lila), as cosmic union (yoga), as a cosmic person (virat), and as a cosmic mystery (maya). There is also immense diversity in how one’s own self is understood and, of course, how the Being that lies beyond the world and the self—often expressed in English through the overused but handy word “God”—is understood.
The Bengali phrase achine gach refers to a tree that cannot be recognized or identified, a tree that is a puzzle. The more we try to figure out what tree it is, the more confused we get and the more perplexed we become. Hence it is “the tree without a name,” a mysterious tree which is seen and yet not really seen. Its existence is known but not much else. After all, what is generally recognized as “knowledge” is nothing but cataloging and assigning of names to events, things or persons and investigating their interrelationships.
Every one of us has probably felt the beneficial influence of silence. Even the busiest people need to have breaks of silence in their work. Silence seems to be a necessary factor in our lives, yet we do not always realize the implications of the quietness we unconsciously seek and enjoy when we take a walk in a solitary meadow or in a forest or on a mountain. These quiet recreations may not occur very often, but when they do we cannot forget the spell that such solitary communion with nature leaves upon us.