On moving Vedic science forward Sitalatma Das

It’s nice to see legacy of HG Sadaputa Prabhu being revived, with his books appearing back in print and new articles based on his works being published on vaishnava sites. I would argue, however, that a change of direction is direly needed. There could also be a strong argument to stick with the formula endorsed by Srila Prabhupada, too, so my arguments are presented simply for consideration, and they might be based on a wrong understanding of devotees or Prabhupada’s vision, too.

The basic premise of Bhaktivedanta Institute in the 70s was that devotee scientists can win over atheistic scientists by producing top-notch research, publishing books and articles accepted by peer review journals, and by holding conferences. In a way it was a science version of converting westerners by learning to eat with knife and fork – beating them on their own turf and on their own terms. It didn’t work for spreading Krishna consciousness and, after forty years of trying, it clearly doesn’t work with science, too. There could always be another book, another article, another conference so devotees can always find some source for hope but, realistically speaking – it doesn’t work. read more

Common sense as soul’s proof

Srila Prabhupada many times gave an example to disprove Darwin’s theory; if life comes from chemicals then why is it that in state laws all over the world a murderer is hanged while a thief is just arrested? He used many such examples to show that by common sense it can be proved that life comes from life and not chemicals. Another example he often used was that in every language, when a man dies, it is said that he has gone away. This is common sense shared by everyone, that something living has left the dead body. When I was new in devotional service (for some years) whenever I used to read these statements from Srila Prabhupada’s books I used to think that how is it that Srila Prabhupada is trying to make a point about something using common sense? This is because the idea of using commons sense can be defective (unreliable). This is because what I perceive by common sense is not necessarily correct. Someone may say that; according to my common sense life comes from matter.

Later I came to understand (by mercy) something very interesting. Scientists say that life comes from chemicals, but for that they neither have any observational nor experimental support that conclusively proves this fact. In such circumstances, even according to modern scientific methods, priority should be given to knowledge gained by common sense. Otherwise anyone can come and say anything according to their imagination. In any society laws should be based on accurate knowledge and thus unless proof is available, common practices followed for centuries cannot be changed.

So in this case, Srila Prabhupada is exposing the scientists’ cheating in establishing Darwin’s theory without proof, and then he establishes the point that people’s common sense says that life is different from matter. So in society, the soul’s existence should be accepted. We see that Srila Prabhupada would always attack scientists by saying  “can bring a dead body back to life?” or “at least create a mosquito in your laboratory” and then when they reply that “we will be able to do it in the future” then Prabhupāda would say “this is rascaldom. Trust no future however pleasant”. This is exactly the point – Srila Prabhupada means that “you are establishing something in the society without having any support for it and when asked for the proof you say that we will do it in future. This is cheating. First you have to prove something, and then you can establish it.” read more

“My faith is proof and your faith is blind belief”?

Faith1

When I was new in “bhakti” path, I used to read Srila Prabhupada’s book–“Life Comes from Life”. I was from science field and specifically I was more in researching various things and trying to understand scientists in depth. So I was very much in synchronization with the way scientists think. I did change my whole direction, by reading the books of Srila Prabhupada, based on a convincing fact that ascending process is faulty and guarantees failure to know the truth and that he was proposing a process that guarantees realizing the truth.

I got quite convinced of the fact that “sastra’s are the way and Krsna is the SUPREME. But I was not very much convinced of some of the arguments that Srila Prabhupada keeps against modern scientists to prove the existence of soul–for instance “because it is given in ‘sastra’s that’s why it is proved” and then he would go on saying that from centuries this process of evidence is followed (quoting from the Vedas) in Vedic India. I used to think “may be because Srila Prabhupada is not a scientist neither does he have much experience in science so he is not properly able to explain to these scientists.

 How can we present the Vedas as the proof? It can be said that as there are many other things in the Vedas that are true so it is logical to put faith in the Vedas to understand that soul exists. But how can one say that because it is mentioned in the Vedas “it is proof”? But I had a great regard for Srila Prabhupada and thus did not challenge his way of explanation and felt a little guilty. I then started to honor such statements of Srila Prabhupäda as “arsa vakyas”–the statements from great authorities that might not be clear to us now but are not to be disrespected. read more