Srila Prabhupada would often point out the absurdity of the skeptic’s demand to see God in our present condition. “What qualification do you have to see God?” he would challenge. He would also point out that seeing is just one way to acquire knowledge; we often get more and better information by hearing.

In everyday language, we use “see” in the sense of “understand.” We say, for example, “Oh, now I see what you mean.” This use of the word often suggests the need for qualification. A child is usually unqualified to “see” what a college professor is explaining. A mathematician may fill many pages with symbols showing the solution to a mathematical problem, but most people won’t be able to see the solution (or even understand the problem).

The same principle applies to spiritual life. I once read a scholarly book about consciousness, a topic that even brilliant minds tend to struggle with, mainly because of their commitment to philosophical materialism. The author of the book noted that the topic of consciousness is a subtle one and, having heard many speculations on it, he was convinced that even among the highly educated, some people intuitively understand it better than others.

Those of us who practice bhakti-yoga began our spiritual lives because we were able to see the truth of Lord Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna that each of us is a particle of consciousness. Many people just cannot see that. For them, the idea that they are not their body seems absurd. “You mean I’m not me?”

We want to see God, but we can’t even see ourselves.

But we don’t have to stay in ignorance. We can qualify ourselves to see both our real self and God. The Vedic literature and teachers in the tradition give us access to spiritual reality by presenting instructions on different levels. We can increase our qualifications and learn in stages. Demanding to see God right now is like a kindergartener demanding to receive a PhD. Many years of study and perseverance are required.

Even in ordinary life, people show by their actions that they can’t see what is obvious to others. For example, some people never seem to understand that bad behavior brings bad consequences. Even though the evidence is right in front of them, they just don’t see it. The Bhagavatam speaks of “seeing but not seeing,” and it trains us to see what is true. Lord Krishna speaks of the need to learn from a guru who has seen the truth. Such a guru is said to force open our eyes with the light of knowledge.

One reason for not seeing the obvious is a lack of desire to know the truth, as expressed in the saying “Ignorance is bliss.” Changing our ingrained habits and viewpoints is difficult, so we avoid the challenge by ignoring improvements that require sacrifice. The reality that good things usually take effort is itself a lesson we may be unwilling to acknowledge.

Change and maturation are a natural part of life. Children go through stages, outgrowing their desire for things they once cherished. A central theme of the Vedic literature is that our growth as human beings must continue after we reach physical maturity. Human life is meant for ongoing improvement in our ability to see reality, the basis of which is God and our relationship with Him.

–Nagaraja Dasa