“The Vedic process does not involve research work. In mundane scholarship, we have to show our academic learning by some research, but the Vedic process is different. In the Vedic process the research work is already done; it is complete, and it is simply handed down by disciplic succession from teacher to student.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Elevation to Krishna Consciousness, Chapter 1)
To be considered an outstanding philosopher, you have to come up with a new theory or postulate that is not currently in the field. This is what “outstanding” means after all, for if you simply copy what other people are saying how would you distinguish yourself? In the field of self-realization, however, the more appreciated scholars are those who best soak in and describe what they have learned from their predecessors. While the philosopher has to present groundbreaking research or prove a brand new theory that has been painstakingly concocted and tested, the sincere student of a bona fide guru, or spiritual master, just has to show that he has learned from his guru and not deviated from his teachings. Since the subject matter is fully encompassing, there is nothing that needs to be added on, subtracted, shaped, molded, or interpreted. Whoever is fortunate enough to meet such a philosopher – a sincere student who keeps the chain of information transfer rolling on schedule – will be benefitted in every way.
“The word muni means one who can agitate his mind in various ways for mental speculation without coming to a factual conclusion. It is said that every muni has a different angle of vision, and unless a muni differs from other munis, he cannot be called a muni in the strict sense of the term.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.56 Purport)
In material science, wherein the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, is either fully ignored or wholly rejected as being just a myth concocted by the less intelligent, the starting point of information is nothing. That’s correct; without establishing a base of knowledge rooted in information of how God created the earth and why He did so, man will start with a blank slate. Therefore the first scientist must put forth theories based entirely on personal observation. To the sober man, this will immediately cause some light bulbs of thought to turn on within the mind. “The first person on earth knew nothing then? They didn’t know what the sun was, how to eat, why there should be sleep, how to maintain the body, etc.? How could they even survive then? How could they live life and avoid danger?”
Living in ignorance is possible, otherwise animals, insects and fish couldn’t survive. Based on the atheist theory, the first generation of mankind would have had to have made observations of the world around them and then steadily built upon that foundation. Yet, based on how we treat our own children, we know that this method is flawed. From the very beginning of life, the young child starts the discovery process. They play throughout the day and find things they have never seen before. Little by little they add on to their knowledgebase.
Would a sane parent allow their child to continue discovering in this way, perpetually? Would they say, “Okay, son, you just go on discovering and noting down your observations. Pretty soon you’ll figure out how to live.” We send children to school to learn higher information, to be instructed on concepts and given tools that will allow them to grow into mature, self-sufficient adults. In a similar manner, the Supreme Lord, the fountainhead of everything, didn’t just leave us residents of the material world without an intellectual support system. He gave us the Vedas, the original scriptures for mankind, which provide guidelines and recommendations on how to make the most out of life. The keepers of the faith were the original spiritual masters, who passed on the same instruction through the hearing process. In this way papers, books and pencils weren’t even required. Simply by hearing one could acquire perfect knowledge.
When the authority of the Vedas is denied, man must methodically add to their knowledgebase that originally started from nothing. Therefore, as each new person comes along, they must come up with new theories to describe the nature that is so difficult to explain. In this respect man has made tremendous advancement, or so he thinks. By noticing the sun’s rising and setting at periodic intervals and the life cycles of the various species, so much information has been gathered. As this knowledge is accumulated, it is passed on and taught to young students who are shielded from the high wisdom that is the Vedas.
Since the original knowledgebase is itself insufficient, or at least incomplete, future scientists must do research work and prove their theories that add new points of information. Since the human being, due to the limitations on the gathering of sense perceptions and the short duration of life, can hardly witness anything significant in one lifetime, the opportunities for new research work are endless. One person cannot possibly see all that there is to see, for they couldn’t live long enough to properly take everything in. Indeed, as soon as there is birth, automatically so much of past history is missed out on. Furthermore, even if we were given a guided tour of the universe, there is no way we could remember everything that we saw or even properly understand how everything works. This defect in man indicates that he is inferior to the superior person, the supreme person in charge of creating the nature that He is not even interested in.
“And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, still My Self is the very source of creation.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.5)
In the field of science, if one wants to become a PhD, a doctor of philosophy, they have to come up with a new theory or idea, research it for years on end, and then come up with a doctoral thesis, or dissertation, that proves their theory. This work is then presented before a panel of scientists, who review the theories and grill the scientist presenting them. The presentation required to get a PhD carries with it tremendous pressure, more than a person could imagine. If the research work presented isn’t unique, if it doesn’t further advance the particular field of science, if it doesn’t show that new ideas and theories have been thought about and validated, the doctorate cannot be granted.
With Vedic science, however, the starting point is completely different. Though the Vedas and their different branches don’t take up volumes and volumes of journals that line the library bookshelves, the knowledge necessary for fulfilling life’s mission is presented in full detail and without ambiguity. As brevity is the soul of wit, the greatest poet of them all, Shri Krishna, has nicely condensed brilliant philosophical points and recommendations into short, concise verses that can be sung, remembered and implemented in everyday life. The Vedas are so brilliant that they explain why material science exists in the first place. Every theory of life, every religion to have ever come into existence, and every type of idea that will ever be born in the future is explained in the Vedas, for its knowledgebase is complete.
“…Due to the great variety of desires and natures among human beings, there are many different theistic philosophies of life, which are handed down through tradition, custom and disciplic succession. There are other teachers who directly support atheistic viewpoints.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.14.8)
How can we make these claims if the human mind is limited in its ability to think? If someone gives you the proper tools that allow you to make full use of your brain power, then surely you can understand a lot more than you did before you received those tools. Since the starting point of Vedic instruction is information that remains far above the theories concocted by the scientists and material enjoyers, the result is supreme enlightenment. Students of the Vedic tradition are taught that they are spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. From this it can be understood that the body is just a temporary covering, a sort of outfit conducive for play on a field that is temporary in nature. To try to understand the field and use knowledge to exploit both it and the people residing on it is a faulty endeavor, for the outfit must be given up after a certain amount of time elapses. Despite the best efforts made at prolonging the duration of play, an end point must arrive. Even Lord Brahma, the first created living entity and the person charged with populating the material realm, must quit his body, though he lives for billions of years.
If the outfit is temporary and the field not meant to be exploited, what is the point to human life? Why are there even varieties in species? Why is there a field? The spirit soul, the essence of individuality, has full freedom in its choice of association and pursuit for enjoyment. Just as no two individuals are exactly the same in their tastes, no two spirit souls will follow the exact same path for enjoyment. Though there is full freedom, the exercise of it generally follows one of two paths. One roadmap lines up with the soul’s constitutional position, while the other does not. Therefore one path is eternal in its manifestation and the enjoyments that result, while the other brings numerous, temporary endeavors resulting in flickering happiness. Since we know that the outfits assumed in the material realm must be renounced at some point, it’s obvious that life on earth represents the latter choice, the one that doesn’t correspond with the soul’s constitutional position.
The very desire to reject Vedic wisdom and accumulate a knowledgebase formed exclusively off of sense perception is itself indicative of the choice made towards following the improper path, the one leading to inferior happiness. At its core, the soul is a lover of God, who is its life partner. When the freedom of association chooses in favor of God, there are no defects in anything, including knowledge. When the choice is made in the other direction, cycles of birth, old age, disease and death result. Imperfect knowledge that needs to be continuously compiled, researched and proven is required. Celebrations over temporary increases in the duration of life and the ability to enjoy occur, while in reality no further progress is made towards fulfilling life’s ultimate mission.
If the right choice is to act in God’s interests and love Him to the hearts’ content, then the real mission in life becomes obvious: use the advanced brain power of the human body to figure out how to reenter divine service. If one loses their driver’s license through revocation or gets kicked out of a school they were attending, the subsequent rehabilitation process is aimed at getting their prior privileges reinstated. Driving still takes place and the school remains in session even if we are not participating. Similarly, the divine pastimes of the Supreme Lord take place constantly in the various universes. To reenter these wonderful engagements, to get reinstated into our natural position, all that is required is a sincere desire to do so.
This is easier said than done, however. Concomitant with birth in the material realm is association with ignorance that envelops the otherwise knowledgeable soul. The proper path in the human form of body, therefore, is to slowly but surely dissipate this nescience and return to the original position of desiring to be with Krishna. The more knowledge that is acquired in this regard, the better the chances of being committed to the eternal path of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. Instead of accepting new research work and showing how you have further advanced the cause of material science, it is more beneficial to simply accept a spiritual teacher, one who has already chosen in favor of service to Krishna.
To earn the doctorate, the research work must be compiled, presented and substantiated. On the spiritual side, however, to earn reentry into Krishna’s pastimes, one simply has to show what they have learned from their spiritual master. The original knowledgebase is perfect, so what could a paltry living entity contribute anyway? This doesn’t mean that the student acts like a robot and repeats everything verbatim without understanding the concepts. Though repeating word for word what the spiritual master has said is beneficial, when the student explains the same concepts in their own voice, showing how they have assimilated the information into their own journey through life, the true indication of enlightenment is given. Furthermore, through this outpouring of sublime wisdom countless other people can be rescued from the ocean of nescience and taken back to the imperishable land, the home of the Supreme Godhead, the fountainhead of all energies.
Another factor to consider is that as more time elapses from the start of creation, mankind’s brainpower and adherence to spiritual principles diminish. The field work in spiritual science has already been completed, by those who were much smarter than we are and who lived a life more conducive to contemplation on the Supreme Absolute Truth. The hustle and bustle of city life, the constant struggle to maintain one’s family and bare necessities, greatly inhibits the ability to accept spiritual wisdom and forge a change in consciousness. Nevertheless, simply accepting the foremost recommendation of the acharyas, the regular chanting of, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is enough to shift our desires to the spiritual world. At the time of death, the governing body headed by Shri Krishna Himself will see that since our consciousness is fully fixed on God, we obviously took the words of the spiritual master to heart, that we didn’t get distracted by the temptation to supersede the guru’s authority or show that we are smarter than him. Krishna’s welcoming arms reward those who accept without reservation what has been handed down to them.