Science

The case for belief in Kṛṣṇa

The new atheism movement is on the upswing. Thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have made a clear and logical case for atheism. Religious belief is on a decline in the developed countries. Anyone with even a basic education knows that the people in the past did not have knowledge of the sciences. The scriptures of most major religions are substantially contradicted by modern science. Most cultures that were based on religion appear repressive and primitive.

There is no conclusive evidence of God, and what evidence there is argues against His existence. For example, everything that is measurable in nature observably occurs under natural laws and God is superfluous for explaining everyday experience. The problem of evil is a vexing one. Bad things, (really) nasty things happen to decent persons all the time. A benevolent God does not tally with common experience.

Given atheistic trends in modern society, it may not be surprising that religious fanaticism is on the upswing (although fanaticism has always existed). Conspiracy theories abound in the field of religion, and common sense tends to take a back seat. Believers feel under siege, and are fighting back against the rise of empiricism and the sciences either through scientifically disastrous theories like intelligent design theory, or ad hominem attacks against science and scientists. However, it has proven very difficult to argue against science, against evidence and against a rational opponent. Only the intellectually weak, or obscurantists and sophists, or those that have been substantially influenced during their childhood years, it would seem, would continue to believe in religion.

Is there any case to be made for the existence of God? Consider the following question:

What is one inviolable truth that we know for sure, without relying on any one else for knowing it?

It is the certain knowledge that “I exist”.

The rise of the sciences has made one thing abundantly clear- human beings, and indeed everything else in the world, are programmed molecular robots. We are information, matter and energy processing robots that are capable of self-replication. The laws of physics demand that fundamentally, each one of us is a giant molecular complex arranged in certain spatial configurations, and no more.

The implications of this are staggering and I will let the reader draw them. Just imagine that you are a robot. What does that say about your goals, relationships, aspirations, thoughts, desires, morality, and indeed anything that you hold important? It is pointless to continue being in a state of being a giant molecular structure. Particularly when disassembling that state can instantly end suffering.

The problem is that such a notion goes against the only truth that each of us is certain of. That we exist. We don’t walk around thinking we are molecular robots. We know we matter, that our opinions matter, that the pursuit of knowledge and truth matters. Further, we want to know- who we are and what we are doing here. We are self-aware, and we are aware that we are self-aware. Amazing.

Bhakti scriptures offer us the possibility that we exist in a more substantial sense than as molecular robots. In fact, the Bhagavad Gītā states that we are not the molecular robot- we are different from the body. Further, we are passive onlookers that do not interact with the material body – which means that no instrument of science could ever discover our own existence (as separate from the body).

To me, exploring the possibility that “I exist” is all important to continue on in the world. And because the Gītā offers that option, I am interested in the Gītā. It so happens that the Gītā also states that Kṛṣṇa exists. Therefore I believe in Kṛṣṇa’s existence. If I don’t exist separate from the body, it matters not what I believe or don’t believe. If I do exist independently from the body, then I see no problem in accepting that Kṛṣṇa exists.

What about the fact that the scriptures are contradicted by the sciences? Śrī Jiva Goswami explains in the Bhagavat Sandarbha that the only purpose of the scriptures is to explain a reality beyond the grasp of the mind and senses, a reality that is beyond material nature. Therefore it is pointless to look to the scriptures to reconstruct human history or the history of the world. The purpose of scripture is to help us discover ourselves, and therefore Kṛṣṇa.

As for the problem of evil, according to the Gītā’s theology, we are individual jīvas, untouched by happiness or suffering. The experience of happiness and suffering is really information processing in the mind and has no impact on us. There is no evil or good in the world- it is all an illusion.

What about the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anyone who has seen (or is willing to admit) that he/she has seen Kṛṣṇa? What is the evidence for Kṛṣṇa’s existence? To that, I reply- what is the evidence for my own existence? When I myself am beyond perception, why would He be perceptible?

To not go against our own intuition of ourselves, we are faced with the fantastical notion that we are each a spiritual being, and that there is a spiritual being called Kṛṣṇa. A most strange state of affairs!

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  1. It is impossible to prove the existence of God by logic. In fact it would be easier to logically infer the existence of many Gods by taking into consideration the diverse conditions in the Universe. This shows that Ancient polytheism makes more sense than Abrahamic Monotheism and it’s obsession with “proving” Gods existence and imposing that idea on everyone.

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  2. is this not where acintya-bhedabheda tattva comes to our aid? Some modern neo-Gaudiya sects are essentially dualist, and not even in a properly dvaita manner but rather more by offering a Christian sense of the relation between the individual and the Supreme Godhead. Acintya-bhedabheda tattva, however, accommodates the reality of abheda alongside the reality of bheda.

    One way in which it does so is through its radical acceptance of personhood or individuality. If you experience yourself as an individual person, then once you move past solipsism you can infer that other people around you are also experiencing themselves as individual persons. From there, the wise will extend this understanding to include animals and plants. From there, the Vedic worldview accepts the individuality and personality of what many in the West simply call phenomena: the rain, the wind, the sun, etc. From there, it is a logical inference that if you are a person, and if the universe is radically personalistic, any form(s) of Godhead must also exist as person or persons. From there, how can we distinguish between the many persons of Godhead? Most personalities of Godhead have a job to do, or control or manifest some aspect of creation. However, if there were a form of Godhead that didn’t have a duty involving creation, maintenance, or destruction of the material realm, but had instead delegated those duties to other personalities of Godhead, we would naturally call that freest personality of Godhead the Supreme… which is ironic in that this form’s supremacy is displayed precisely in its not displaying supremacy, as it simply engages in loving pastimes with paramours, family members, friends, and servants.

    Sadly, far too many neo-Gaudiyas have embraced a deformed/deficient philosophical conception, in which they think of bhakti as the worship of a sexy blue Hinduized Jesus figure who will save you from pap/karma/sin, but who can’t adequately explain what he means by “save” or “you” or “sin.”

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    • Certainly this logic is compelling but at some point, its flow contradicts empirical experience. Varuna and Indra are not perceptible to the senses, whether in the West or the East. I can perceive I exist, and I can perceive that others are conscious, but it stops there. I cannot perceive wind, rain, sun etc. as individuals.

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      • I appreciate your point, but please consider that my senses do not perceive you. Using your above analogy, my senses perceive a robot that answers to the name T. Krsna dasa. Only by inference do I perceive that there is a “you” experiencing itself. That same inference, then, allows me to infer a “you” behind the wind and the rain. You are correct, of course, that it is not a “required” inference, just as many in the West do not feel it necessary to infer a “you” behind a cow-robot or a basil plant-robot. However, I would argue that it is much more logically consistent to infer a “you” widely or not at all, rather than to adopt the common Western approach in which only other approved human beings receive that inference.

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      • There is a difference between the two inferences. In the first case, you notice that T. Krsna Dasa has similar behaviors as you – like communication, thought and so on- and so it is reasonable to infer that he is conscious like you (this is why I don’t accept solipsism). In the second case, your inference contradicts empirical observation. Rain and wind do not have any of the properties of living beings of any kind.

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      • I should add that cows and the basil plant are living because they are made of cells, which is the case with all of life (except viruses). This is the basis of all biology. Cows are conscious because they have the same machinery as ours (brain, nervous system and so on)

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  3. 1. Going from “I exist” to “I matter” (or “my opinions matter”) is a belief, not knowledge.
    2. Just because the Gita provides an alternative explanation for the nature of my existence, does not necessarily mean Krsna exists. Accepting the Lord’s existence is also a belief.

    There is nothing wrong with having beliefs. But we should be clear about beliefs being beliefs, and not confuse them with knowledge.

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    • How do we know “I exist” is not also a belief? I am curious- what is knowledge according to you? Also- in case you noticed, the title of this article is “The case for *belief* in Krsna”.

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      • I know that I exist because I have to be there for the question to arise. Whether or not you know that I exist, is a different issue.

        Knowledge is that which comes thru a pramana. (And the pramanatva of anything has to be established first).

        Your title is such, but you jumped from “we exist” to “we KNOW we matter” (emphasis yours). Then you did not offer any “case” (argument) — apart from claiming that this is what the Gita says — for your jump from “I exist independently of the body” to “belief in Krsna.”

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      • “I know that I exist because I have to be there for the question to arise”
        –This may also be a belief. You may indeed be a robot.

        “Whether or not you know that I exist, is a different issue.”
        — I dont need to know whether you exist or not. Once I decide to believe in the Gita, I believe in your existence.

        “Knowledge is that which comes thru a pramana. (And the pramanatva of anything has to be established first). ”
        — This is your belief system.

        “we exist” to “we KNOW we matter”
        — The first is a belief, and the second is also a belief.

        “Then you did not offer any “case” (argument) — apart from claiming that this is what the Gita says — for your jump from “I exist independently of the body” to “belief in Krsna.” ”
        — Obviously you think the article is pointless. So feel free to ignore it.

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    • T. Krsna dasa is giving is a helpful insight into how his mind works, but he should appreciate that others may organize the same information differently and thus arrive at different beliefs/opinions. For instance, in my above example, he draws a line of inferential personhood in one location, while over the centuries others have examined the same evidence and drawn different lines. Some assign full personhood narrowly to a subset of the reported 400,000 human species, while others assign it as widely as I suggested in my original note. Notice, too that if having “the same machinery as ours” is T Krsna dasa’s criterion, then others may use that same criterion to exclude females, as has indeed been done in some cultures. Then again, the other unexamined premise behind both his criteria and mine is that we are starting from the Gita to draw our further conclusions. Someone else might point out that there are other texts that offer the option that “I exist.” T Krsna dasa and I find reason to proceed from the Gita, but others proceed from the Quran or from Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. In both his presentation and my comment, as well as your clarification, there are a host of unexamined underlying premises without which our arguments will fall apart.

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      • Maybe I wasn’t clear before. The steps in the reasoning are: 1) My belief that I exist, 2) My preference for not existing as a robot, 3) my conscious choice to believe in the Gita because it *states that I am not a robot*, 4) the fact that the Gita explains the jiva as beyond the mind and senses, which means it cannot be discovered by science, and 5) the Gita’s explanation that Krsna exists. It’s simple enough.

        I am not offering this as a logical proof for the validity of the Gita or for Krsna’s existence. Bhakti is a path of sraddha, and I am explaining what I believe is a plausible reason for sraddha in the Gita.

        Robby the Robot offered logical reasoning, and I was simply pointing out that it contradicts empirical experience. I derive criteria for external empirical realities from science, not from this culture or that, or based on somebody’s preference. According to science, women and cows are conscious because of their nervous systems. However, it is not my intent to use this as evidence for women or cows having atmas- that is Robby’s approach. I accept that they have atmas because the Gita says so.

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