Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 15, Verse 11

यतन्तो योगिनश्चैनं पश्यन्त्यात्मन्यवस्थितम् |
यतन्तोऽप्यकृतात्मानो नैनं पश्यन्त्यचेतस: || 11||

yatanto yoginaśh chainaṁ paśhyanty ātmany avasthitam
yatanto ‘py akṛitātmāno nainaṁ paśhyanty achetasaḥ

yatantaḥstriving; yoginaḥyogis; chatoo; enamthis (the soul); paśhyantisee; ātmaniin the body; avasthitamenshrined; yatantaḥstrive; apieven though; akṛita-ātmānaḥthose whose minds are not purified; nanot; enamthis; paśhyanticognize; achetasaḥ

Translation

BG 15.11: Striving yogis too are able to realize the soul enshrined in the body. However, those whose minds are not purified cannot cognize it, even though they strive to do so.

Commentary

To strive for knowledge is not enough; our endeavor must also be properly directed. Humans make the mistake that they seek to know divine entities by the same means as they have gotten to know the world. They take the perception of their senses and the power of their intellect as the basis for deciding the rightness and wrongness of all knowledge. They presume that if their senses cannot perceive something and their intellect cannot comprehend it, then that entity itself cannot exist. And because the soul cannot be perceived by their senses, they conclude that there is no such entity. Describing this phenomenon, Alexis Carrel states in his book, Man the Unknown: “Our mind has a natural tendency to reject the things that do not fit into the frame of scientific or philosophical beliefs of our time. After all, scientists are only human. They are saturated with the prejudices of their environment and epoch. They willingly believe that facts which cannot be explained by current theories do not exist. At present times, scientists still look upon telepathy and other metaphysical phenomena as illusions. Evident facts having an unorthodox appearance are suppressed.”

The Nyāya Darśhan calls this kind of thinking as kūpa-maṇḍūka-nyāya (the logic of the frog in the well). A frog lived in a well and was very familiar with the dimensions of its own dwelling. One day, a Rana Cancrivora (a species of frogs that lives in the ocean) jumped into the well. They began chatting with each other. The frog of the well asked the ocean frog, “How big is this ocean from where you have come?” The Rana Cancrivora replied, “It is very big.” “Is it five times the size of the well?” “No, much bigger.” “Is it ten times the size of the well?” “No, even bigger.” “Hundred times?” “No, that is nothing. It is far bigger.” “You are lying,” the frog of the well said, “How can anything be more than hundred times the size of my well?” Its intellect had been conditioned by the lifelong experience of the well, and so it could not conceive of the vast ocean. Similarly, limited by the experience of their tiny intellects, materialistic people refuse to accept the possibility of the existence of the non-material soul. However, those who pursue the spiritual path realize that there can be knowledge beyond the purview of their material intellects. With humility and faith, they begin treading the spiritual path and aim to purify their hearts. When the mind becomes cleansed, the presence of the soul is naturally perceived. Then the truth of the scriptures is experienced through realization.

Just as the senses cannot initially cognize the soul, God too is not under their purview, and has to be perceived through the eyes of knowledge. In the following verses, Shree Krishna gives the method for perceiving the existence of God.