“And as far as disease and old age are concerned, everyone gets practical experience. No one wants to be diseased, and no one wants to become old, but there is no avoiding these. Unless we have a pessimistic view of this material life, considering the distresses of birth, death, old age and disease, there is no impetus for our making advancement in spiritual life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.8-12 Purport)
Friend1: I often hear His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada refer to the “science of self-realization.”
Friend2: It is self-explanatory, no pun intended. Realize the self, who is the individual. This realization is not easy. There are scientific principles involved. We are not stuck on blind faith. There is something behind the curtain, so to speak.
Friend1: Okay, but I see people taking issue with that.
Friend2: With what?
Friend1: The science part. In a basic science experiment, I mix two ingredients together. There is a visible chemical reaction. The corresponding compound is proof of the hypothesis. This is the foundation of science.
Friend2: Well, that is how science should be. Today, it is certainly not that way. You have your leaders who contradict themselves every other week. They claim some medication, developed only recently, protects you from a disease. Then they want to force everyone to take it, since the people who received the medication are vulnerable when in contact with those who haven’t received it.
Friend1: Makes absolutely no sense. They are making a mockery of science. I will agree with you on that. But let’s stay with the genuine side here. How can you say anything relating to religion is scientific? The two terms conflict.
Friend2: That is why Prabhupada chooses those terms. He wants us to think differently. Abandon what we are accustomed to. Understand that the Vedas are unique. The knowledge of the self is indeed a science. Think of it like discovering the inside of a large package.
Friend2: Both components exist in reality. There is the box. There are the packing materials. There is the object protected on the inside. The self is the same way. Inside of the covering, the individual is who makes the living being tick.
Friend1: The soul.
Friend2: Who is the essence of life. Realizing this soul, who is individual and thus the self, requires scientific understanding. There are basic principles that must exist in order for everything to come together.
Friend2: The self is different in properties, as well. The self is knowledgeable, blissful and eternal. The body it accepts is different.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: Temporary and miserable. In fact, you could say that the science of self-realization is also studying the miseries of a material existence and trying to avoid them.
Friend1: What are those miseries?
Friend2: Birth, old age, disease, and death.
Friend1: Birth is a misery?
Friend2: Absolutely. Never mind that today you are lucky to make it out of the womb alive. Shrimad Bhagavatam graphically illustrates the terrible time spent within the womb, a worst-case of solitary confinement.
Friend1: Okay, but childhood is miserable? I am not sure anyone would apply that characterization.
Friend2: Misery from beginning to end. Old age is the worst. Disease is everywhere. Obstructing your breathing, staying locked in your house, and taking experimental injections is not going to stop disease. Never has and never will.
Friend1: How is knowledge of the self going to help me avoid these miseries?
Friend2: Because the self is meant for spiritual living. The miseries we experience are due to bodily association. Abandon interest in the temporary body and you will experience a change immediately. Keep at it long enough and you will enter another world, even prior to quitting the body.
Friend1: Really? That sounds appealing.
Friend2: Sound will rescue you. Practice the science of self-realization through hearing and chanting, through connection with the source of the self, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Not at faith wall to hit,
Something on other side to sit.
That soul a scientific discovery,
Confirmed by Vedic wisdom recovery.
Such that real difficulties to know,
And in proper direction to go.
That life for spiritual vision meant,
Not in repeated misery spent.