“The Blessed Lord said: O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who realize the Self. Some are inclined to understand Him by empirical, philosophical speculation, and others are inclined to know Him by devotional work.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.3)
Friend1: What do you say to the people who insist on empirical evidence?
Friend2: For what? If I’m sitting down to eat pizza, I will surely insist on something in front of me, that I can experience with the senses.
Friend1: For proof of the Divine. Spiritual life. The aim of religion. God, or whatever the preferred term.
Friend2: You want the quick answer or should I work through an example?
Friend1: Umm, can you do both?
Friend2: Let’s do the example first. We’ll start with the premise that God exists. Even if you are a skeptical person, just work with that starting point.
Friend2: Now let’s say that God the person appears before you. This is the one everyone worships to some degree. Technically, even atheists are worshipers. Their understanding is limited, and so they are focused on the shadow portion.
Friend1: Which is the material energy.
Friend2: Yes. They pay honor to maya, which is the illusory energy that makes me misidentify with the temporary body and think other silly things like the universe coming from nothing and human beings descending from monkeys.
Friend2: Sure, but don’t get hung up on the exact form. If a clear picture is lacking, take whichever preferred form and have it appear on the scene.
Friend1: I would think that is sufficient evidence. The physical meeting satisfies the empirical side.
Friend2: Hold on. Don’t jump ahead. Anybody can say anything. I haven’t reached the point of proof yet. Would you say that one property to the Almighty, should He exist, is deathlessness?
Friend1: You mean that He lives forever? Of course. If this person dies, which is the forced exit from the body, then He can’t be superior to everyone else.
Friend2: The thing is, what experiment is there to prove beyond a doubt? Real science is observation and experiment. It is neither consensus nor extrapolation. The person who relies on empirical data is essentially saying they have to observe in order to believe.
Friend1: Right. They’ll accept the observation of others too, like focus groups, scientific studies and the like.
Friend2: So who will be able to conduct a proper study? If I have to die myself, how can I validate that someone else will never die?
Friend1: Wow. That’s deep. You’re right, though. It’s impossible.
Friend2: Which leads me to the simpler answer to your question. Human beings have defects. One of them is imperfect senses. Just because I experience something doesn’t mean that I will reach the proper conclusion. Nor is it guaranteed that I will remember every observation. I can make mistakes. I am actually not qualified in any way to prove the Divine nature of something based simply on observation.
Friend1: It’s hopeless, then? We have to rely on faith alone?
Friend2: Faith in the beginning, but then get further confirmation through application of principles. Do some work. Krishna even addresses this in the Bhagavad-gita. He refers to the empirical path as sankhya. That is studying the nature around you, knowing the various elements and such. The other path is karma-yoga, which is the same thing as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Apply the principles you’ve learned and there will be practical realization of the difference between body and spirit, the inhibiting nature of the gross and subtle elements covering the soul, the power of the illusory energy, and the persistence of both individual and supreme spirit.
Friend1: So it’s not an either or situation, where you have to choose between science and religion?
Friend2: Of course not. Use everything available to gain further confidence in the existence of the Almighty. That is why the human birth is the most auspicious. We have the chance to understand God and have that understanding alter the way that we live, for the better.
In human birth the chance,
That forever living to enhance.
Alive in wherever the way,
In permanent body to stay.
Either empirical or working so,
Both to one destination should go.
Visual way flawed one reason to reject,
Better to realize after principles to accept.