“Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra’s sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.18-19)
अवजानन्नहं मोहाद्बालोऽयमिति राघवम्।
विश्वामित्रस्य तां वेदिमभ्यधावं कृतत्वरः।।
तेन मुक्तस्ततो बाणः शितश्शत्रुनिबर्हणः।
तेनाहं त्वाहतः क्षिप्तस्समुद्रे शतयोजने।।
avajānannahaṃ mohādbālo’yamiti rāghavam।
viśvāmitrasya tāṃ vedimabhyadhāvaṃ kṛtatvaraḥ।।
tena muktastato bāṇaḥ śitaśśatrunibarhaṇaḥ।
tenāhaṃ tvāhataḥ kṣiptassamudre śatayojane।।
“What is your response to the argument that man should trust science instead of religion? The claim is that the followers of a particular book aren’t using their intelligence. They are placing their hopes on a prayer, for lack of a better word. Locked into a system of faith, whilst denying reality.”
1. Observation and experiment
The true definition of science, after removing the politics and conflicts of interest tied to financial benefit awaiting the researchers and health experts, is observation and experiment. See something occurring in nature. This pattern of cause and effect then triggers an intellectual response, perhaps a curiosity.
The natural course is to conduct an experiment. See if what was observed takes place again. Maybe then alter the controls to create a slightly different configuration. See if the experiment repeats as expected at nighttime, during a winter storm, when there is falling rain, etc. Since there is so much to observe in nature, the exercise of science is practically limitless.
The issue is that the person on the other side is fallible. While science may give a repeatable result to a certain set of stimuli, there is no guarantee that the observer will gleam the proper conclusion from what they see. To err is human, so perhaps there is something important missing from the equation. The scientist hasn’t observed every case and every scenario, so they cannot say with certainty that their conclusion is correct.
2. Science is always changing
Which leads to the next and larger issue. Since man is fallible, he cannot observe everything properly the first time around. Even after one hundred successful experiments, there is the potential to be disproved at a later date.
Take the last fifty years or so in the area of public health. The initial claim was that saturated fat was a great killer. It was harmful to the human body. The recommendation was to consume an alternative kind of fat.
Years later the experts reversed the conclusion. It turns out those other fats are even more harmful. In the area of parenting, for a while new mothers were told to supply powdered formula to infants. Today, breast-milk is considered the gold standard. At first silver nitrate drops into the eyes immediately after birth, but that practice was replaced with something else.
The results of observation and experiment must change, by way of the changing world. This means that trusting science is the equivalent of trusting something that is not fixed. How can a person put full faith in an area of uncertainty?
The Vedic science never changes. Those principles descend from the original person, adi-purusha. The principles He explains in Bhagavad-gita, for example, are as relevant today as they were when spoken five thousand years ago to the bow-warrior named Arjuna. They were equally as valid when delivered to the sun-god at the beginning of this specific creation.
इमं विवस्वते योगं
प्रोक्तवान् अहम् अव्ययम्
विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह
मनुर् इक्ष्वाकवे ’ब्रवीत्
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ’bravīt
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
Sanatana-dharma is indeed a science. There is a way the living entity travels. There is an origin, though only in terms of understanding for beginning and end within an arbitrarily defined period of time. Kala, which is time, moves infinitely backwards and forwards.
The individual is spirit soul, and in this world that soul comes in contact with material nature, prakriti. The combination has the potential to act, karma, which has specific consequences. Kala works within the system to deliver the proper results.
Overseeing everything is ishvara, which is another name for the Almighty. Within that system can be found so many scientific principles, amazing rules of nature that act perfectly, delivering the results at the appropriate time and to the worthy recipients.
Man could spend millions of years observing and never reach the same conclusions with certainty. The science is already there to be learned, to be used for furthering the highest goal of an existence. Faith in Krishna and His teachings is the wisest proposition, one that never has to be regretted.
We have an example from the Ramayana that nicely illustrates this principle. A Rakshasa by the name of Maricha had previously attacked innocent sages residing in the forest. The missions were conducted at night, with limited vision for the victims. Maricha brought some friends along, and everything went according to plan.
In other words, based on science, observation and experiment, Maricha concluded he could behave in a certain way and expect a fixed outcome. The sacrifices of the sages would be disrupted, they would be lethally wounded, and the Rakshasas would enjoy the resulting flesh.
Maricha was not aware of the spiritual science, that the Supreme Lord can offer protection to anyone who seeks it. He happened to be there in the future one time, as the youth named Shri Rama. The looks were deceiving. Rama was supposedly a warrior in training, positioned next to Vishvamitra’s sacrificial fire. The guru and the student.
Maricha had nothing to worry about; or so he thought. He attacked in the same way, but this time the outcome was different. Rama was not phased in the slightest. He picked up His bow without hesitation. Rama let fly an arrow that thrust Maricha away some eight hundred miles. The attack failed. Science had lied to the Rakshasas. They received a glimpse into the potency of the source of spirit, and they were poised to receive a more grave lesson in the future.
For years the experiment to repeat,
So that doubt finally to defeat.
Then surprising one day,
When outcome a different way.
Like Maricha towards fire coming,
And target of missile becoming.
Because Rama authority commanding,
There with bow and arrow standing.