“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
1. I don’t believe there is a God
“It’s the imaginary person in the sky. He’s some old man that is angry and bitter. At least that is the common depiction. He will punish the sinners. If you don’t surrender to Him now, forget about it. You are out of luck.
“I don’t buy any of it. I am not into make-believe. The stories they tell me sound like the work of those television magicians. We know that they aren’t really sawing their assistant in half. We know that the quarter doesn’t magically appear from behind the ear. The rabbit out of the hat didn’t come from nowhere.”
2. I don’t believe we have to serve such a God
“Maybe I am not on the level of disbelieving, entirely. I might acknowledge that there is some superior being. But I don’t subscribe to this idea that you have to dedicate everything to them. What kind of life is that? Why should we give up everything and surrender in such a way?
“We have vitality. We have strength. We have the ability to become enlightened. Why would such gifts be sacrificed for the purpose of someone we are not even seeing? It is not like He is the boss at the place of business. He is not presiding over the community or nation.
“If He is there, He would want us to enjoy. He wouldn’t want us to suffer. That makes more sense to me than simply sitting down and giving up on life. Shutting out the rest of the world and repeating a mantra, while waiting for death to approach.”
3. I don’t believe there is life after death
“It is a comforting thought, but there is no evidence. I think that when you die, that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. No one has any idea where people go. They probably just cease to exist. That is why it is better to ignore that unwanted aspect of living. Enjoy every day to the fullest, and then allow nature to take its course.”
How would such a skeptic be convinced otherwise? Beyond relying on a book that provides information to the contrary, on what basis can a person’s mind be opened to something they are so against? Is there a way to save such a person?
To begin, on the platform of mental speculation, one person’s point of view carries equal weight with another’s. That is to say, the believer in God and the afterlife is just as credible as the skeptic. If one person speculates that there is no afterlife, another person can speculate that life continues, that the individual inside never dies.
Moreover, if the skeptic insists on evidence to be convinced in the opposite direction, ask them to provide a sufficient experiment. They might come up with a person doing amazing things, like telling of the past or predicting the future. Maybe someone with ten heads and twenty arms who dominates the world. A king who has everyone under their grips, due to fear of punishment. That would be visible evidence of something beyond the ordinary.
Such things have already occurred and the people associated were not God. They eventually met death. They perished. Within the material world, the sky is literally the limit to ascension in terms of power and authority.
The believer might give their own experiment to satisfy the skeptic. What if someone approached us and claimed that they never die? That would certainly fit one aspect of the definition of God. If we are ready to conduct the experiment, the issue is that we cannot validate throughout all of time that the person is still vital.
If I must one day leave the area of observation, how will I know that the person claiming to be God continues to live? We could say that there is the ability to pass on observations, to keep something like a chain of scientists moving into the future. Their word would be considered the truth, the proof that everyone is looking for.
That is exactly how parampara already operates. The Vedic tradition, for instance, has survived without any major institutions. Divinely empowered individuals arrive from time to time, to reinstitute the science of yoga, should it be lost, but then it is up to others to keep the tradition going.
इमं राजर्षयो विदुः
स कालेनेह महता
योगो नष्टः परन्तप
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)
At some point the skeptic will come upon the difficult questions of life. Why am I here? Why was I born? Why do I have to die? Why am I forced to lose the association of my friends and family? How should I live my life? What will happen to me after death?
There are no answers attainable through scientific research or mental speculation. There are answers from the Vedic tradition. For as many questions as a person has, there is at least some explanation on the other side.
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
Shrila Sanatana Gosvami asked these very questions of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In a very submissive mood, with the hope that the grace and kindness of the teacher would settle the doubts. When receiving the answers, the expectation is for the disciple to deliberate. They should not follow blindly.
It is in this fashion that a skeptic transforms into a believer, that a person who was previously sad and depressed in the life of sense gratification finds renewing joy, enthusiasm, and happiness in the bliss of service in surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Skeptic their theory to posit,
Just another speculation deposit.
One person not superior to another,
This view as serious as the other.
Vedas already with answers giving,
On afterlife and reason for living.
Deliberate and not blindly reject,
Timeless wisdom from Gita accept.
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