Friday, April 26, 2002
Meditations/ Mukunda Goswami
Faith and reason meet in the Gita
ONCE UPON a time (namely on September 21, 1995) deities in India, England and other parts of the world were videotaped (and broadcasted) drinking huge quantities of milk. Evidence like this is considered 'hard proof' in most law courts.
Yet, despite these recorded images, the incidents were scorned in some circles as sleight of hand. Critics sought to expose myths of inexplicable happenings. CNN used the Calcutta Rationalist Society (CRS) as one example of a local organization that suspected fraud. The CRS spokesperson, seen by millions of viewers worldwide, described how porous effigies, with invisible tubes beneath them, 'explained' the magic we saw.
Hardcore rationalists are prone to denounce all faith claims and spiritual convictions, whether based on ancient teachings or blind and thoughtless. And there are religionists who disdain all technical innovations, such as in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, genetic modification, and even medical science. In this way, faith and reason are often seemingly at odds, but the facts even things out.
Acceptance of the unknown, the uncharted and the unexplored is at work in every phase of our existence. We have faith in such things as automobiles, or numbering system, and our professors of math and science. Every step we take, every ride in automobile or airplane, each time we cross a bridge - we have faith we won't fall. In the learning process, that which we hear form parents and teachers is taken as true.
But how to believe in that which we do not see, taste, touch, smell or feel? One answer to this questions is to examine what we do every day. We believe that air, electricity, reasoning, the mind, and many other things truly exist, although we know of them only by their symptoms, or by what we have read or been told. There is no empirical proof of their existence. Also, 200 years of intensive global scholarship has yielded no academic censorship as to where the 'Indo-Aryan homeland' is located. And so it is with God.
Since the time of the Enlightenment, or at least since the mid-1700's, the human mind, in its most advanced stages, has been considered the crowing achievement of this world .But the source of that mind is all too often ignored.
One of the most respected theological discourses in the word, the Bhagavad Gita, takes the form of a dialogue in which the student, Arjuna, is in the end, encouraged by his teacher, Sri Krishna, to make an informed, rational decision.
Whatever need there is for basic faith, Bhagavad Gita provides common ground where the rationalist and the rishi can agree.
The write is an emritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission)