The Problem of Comprehension
Truth is Eternal and Self-Existent, but requires a Rishi or a Seer to bring It to the focus for the benefit of common masses. The experiences of such persons, their encounters and the interplay with various aspects of Truth are transmitted from one generation to the next by oral and written tradition; i.e. the words are the only medium for giving expression to the experiences of the Seers that endure as Scriptures for generations to come.
A few points must be emphasized here:
1) That the saint, the Seer, the Prophet, or the Avatara (Divine Incarnation) who embodies to reveal the Truth for the spiritual growth of the aspirants is limited by the human form, and thus he or she also must out of necessity behave as human being. He cannot reveal the whole Truth at any one given time or in one given Divine Manifestation. However, in the flow of time many such Seers with varying degrees of power illumine different aspects of Truth (or Reality or Self) and add to the general increase in knowledge, wisdom, and intellect of the masses. Among the masses also, a person can have only a partial comprehension of the Truth depending upon one's aptitude, capacity, and station in life.
2) One cannot be sure about the time or place of the advent of an Avatara in advance. In fact, only a few are capable of knowing his greatness during his lifetime, and similarly it would be a great folly if someone claims to have fully understood the mission of such an Incarnation. Thirdly, the Avatara emphasizes and gives priority to such aspects of the Truth as would be most beneficial for the spiritual progress of mankind during that particular period of time and circumstances. In fact, the import of His teachings, preaching, and sayings takes a few decades, or even centuries, to become fully comprehensible and verifiable. The authenticity, importance, and the grandeur of his message unfolds gradually over a period of time, and mostly benefits the society in which He takes birth.
3) In the process of transmission of the value and meaning of the words of a prophet, it is inevitable that some distortion or unwanted emphasis should creep in. This is because, the prophet is no longer available in body to correct the misgivings and distortions. Additionally although his followers are sincere, honest, and have faith in His teachings, they do not have the same capacity as that of their Ideal to realize and manifest the Truth. In the words of Sri Ramakrishna, a small container cannot accommodate all the contents from a larger one; some of the portion is sure to spill over!
4) The spiritual experiences cross the limitations of the mind, i.e. they are transcendental in their nature. In such a state of altered consciousness the person who has had gone beyond the faculties of the mind and the speech cannot describe the experience fully and exactly when he comes down to the human plane of consciousness. His words thus remain inadequate medium for expressing his divine experiences fully. This is one more factor that adds to non-comprehension of the teachings and the sayings of Men of God. Under such circumstances when one has to tread the path of spirituality and then it is but natural that such a task incorporates great difficulties with real chances of failure. However, what all this teaches us is that Teachings, Scriptures, and the Books should be taken as guidelines only. They should be seen as a map that depicts the terrain but does not take you there. One is required to make his own efforts, guided by such a map, to reach the place of his interest.
c s shah