Melding Faith And Empirical Knowledge

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation. The ultimate goal is Krishna, because the philosophers who are also sincerely searching after the Absolute Truth come in the end to Krishna consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.3 Purport)

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Friend1: How old do you think the universe is?

Friend2: What is my opinion or what do I know based on authority?

Friend1: I’m asking because they bring this issue up during presidential campaigns quite often.

Friend2: Do they? The politicians are expected to be scientists?

Friend1: That’s the thing. Certain enemies want to see if a specific politician is in line with modern science or not.

Friend2: As opposed to what?

Friend1: Well, there is the idea that certain faiths say the earth is only so many thousands of years old.

Friend2: I see. Basically, they’re asking something to the effect of, “Are you a religious nut?”

Friend1: Exactly. I never even pondered the question before. For starters, time is infinite in both directions. That is common sense. There is a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. There is no limitation on space, either. You build a wall somewhere, a boundary, but there is always something beyond it.

Friend2: That’s why those two concepts, time and space, are beyond the capabilities of the human mind.

[faith]Friend1: The real reason I bring this up is because these arguments in certain parts of the world have been going on for centuries. The basic question is, “On which side do you stand, science or faith?“

Friend2: Right. Do you accept something based on a belief or do you confirm your suspicions with empirical knowledge?

Friend1: Faith a lot of times here is based on fear. “I am a God-fearing person,” is the declaration. Meanwhile, the other side says there is no God. Their justification is that science has disproved so many myths and legends that people relied on in the past.

Friend2: Yes. Though they can’t explain the origin or prove empirically that something will continue to exist moving forward; better to have faith in sense gratification and the unknown future than rely on what some ancient book says.

Friend1: Haha, that pretty much sums up the argument. Anyway, where do the Vedas fit into this? I know there is more scientific information presented.

Friend2: For sure. Look at the section in the Shrimad Bhagavatam spoken by Kapiladeva. The subject matter is best described as metaphysics. No mention of faith, though there is information about the experience of the human being within the womb. No real way to validate that, even through modern science.

Friend1: I would think the Bhagavad-gita is similar.

Friend2: For sure. Lots of scientific properties described. That’s why sanatana-dharma can accurately be translated as “the science of self-realization.” The jnana and vijnana constitute a science, and the aim is to realize the spiritual nature, the atma, which also consists of an original spirit, which is supreme.

Friend1: Theoretical knowledge and practical realization. That’s what the people in the debate are missing.

Friend2: You could say Vedic culture is like melding faith and empirical knowledge. Accept things on faith at first, which children in school already do. This is the descending process of knowledge. That should be sufficient, like when my parents tell me not to touch fire directly, since it will burn.

Friend1: There is no need to make an experiment of it.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Precisely, but let’s say that I do. When the warning proves to be true, I have more faith in the authority figures. In the same way, through practical realization of Vedic principles I develop more faith in the teachers, who originate with the Supreme Lord. The idea is to not be blind in any direction. Use the intellect. Challenge beliefs you think to be flawed. Bring your doubts to the table. When you still proceed forward in practicing spiritual life, you get that much more out of it.

In Closing:

Faith relying on one side,

That man in sky to preside.

On science alone the other,

Breaking myths one after another.

Better to meld the two,

Belief and confirmation too.

With Vedic culture already there,

Both of science and philosophy aware.

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