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Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the modern world. Dealing with the varieties of challenges we face as practicing Gaudiyas amidst Western culture.

Normalizing Your Worldview - Dealing With Traditional vs. Modern Worldviews

DharmaChakra - Thu, 07 Apr 2005 22:34:43 +0530
Originally from the Nitai's statement on sane Vaishnavism thread.
Madhava's Creationism and science in Vaishnava-theology thread should probably be required reading for this thread as well.

QUOTE(TarunGovindadas @ Apr 6 2005, 07:09 AM)
Respected Vaishnavas,

honestly I am not only shocked but also very confused, because for me it is very hard to understand how someone initiated into a Gaudiya-Vaishnava-tradition can come to the following realizations after more than 30 years of doing bhajan:

Complete Post Here

Ok, I humbly ask, not offend or to challenge or to attack, just to know, who else beside Nitai das and Jagat share the same opinions on the realizations I summarized before and how did you come to such an understanding that for example most of the Bhagavatam is "fake"?
Just utterly curious I am... blink.gif

Its funny. As modern human beings we live a life in paradox. I think we need to seperate the 'traditional' from the 'historic', and try to understand how each factors into our world views.

I personally found Braja's quoted conversation to be a bit of fresh air in the fundamentalism that has plauged GV here in the west. Its a fact for us, we just take things too seriously. I'm a little disappointed this thread has not commented more on that (lengthy) quote. If you agree with it or not, at least it brings up the possibility that there are other reasons things are written as they are in our scriptures.

Our western society has been completely transformed by the 'Rational Revolution'. Its taken for granted that we now receive at least some kind of science education in our public schooling now. Does anyone question the existence of DNA and genes? Which Bhagavatam verse describes them?

This scientific world view, the one we use to understand how planes fly, how doctors treat us, does run headlong into some of the issues Tarun-ji has brought up. How can we come to some kind of equilibrium? In fact, we bifurcate the two, existing one foot in the modern world, one in the traditional. Nitai-ji has presented an important question.. can we believe in both systems, especially where they so obviously collide? Nitai-ji has simply chosen to reject those parts of the scripture he finds untenable (note: he has not provided reasoning as for why he has rejected these things). Braja has provided another 'out', in having us evaluate why the author has presented something in this particular way.

Which is better? Should we even try to be apologists, try to harmonize the scripture with the world? Who am I to say? biggrin.gif
Madhava - Thu, 07 Apr 2005 23:06:28 +0530
I have said it in the past, and I'll say it again.

While some elements from the shastra find peculiar parallels with modern science, we would do well to study the purpose of those shastras before ascertaining its expected realm of expertise.

A famous example would be the cosmology of the fifth skandha of the Bhagavata. One friend recently suggested that it was irrelevant as far as our bhajana is concerned. My Baba objected, reminding how Jiva Goswami has noted that the Bhagavata was relishable at every step.

Consider this: What do Krishna-bhaktas relish? Narrations of Krishna. Do they relish narrations of the nuances of the phenomenal world? No, they do not. It therefore follows that if the Bhagavata is relishable at every step, its topics must all be written with a direct connection with Krishna. It is not, therefore, befitting to brush them aside as humbug and out-dated bits of information. As an introduction to our case example, consider the following statement establishing the motive for the narrative:

bhagavato guNamaye sthUla-rUpa AvezitaM mano hy aguNe ’pi sUkSmatama Atma-jyotiSi pare brahmaNi bhagavati vAsudevAkhye kSamam AvezituM tad u haitad guro ’rhasy anuvarNayitum iti |

"As the mind absorbs itself in the gross form of Bhagavan consisting of the guNas, it indeed rises beyond the guNas, becoming suitable for absorbing itself in the more subtle form of the supreme Brahman, full of the light of Atman, known as Vaasudeva; O guru, please describe this to me."

Hence, what was described was a method for connecting the consciousness with Bhagavan through purification of our consciousness of the elements within our range of perception and conceptions. To quote myself from an earlier topic:

Thus the speaker was requested to narrate on how Bhagavan is perceived in the cosmos, instead of describing the nitty-gritty of the cosmos. Since the whole point of the narration was to see the cosmos as the sthUla-rUpa of Bhagavan, it would make little difference which model the narration was based on, as long as known phenomena was explained in connection with Bhagavan, thus enabling the mind to first focus on something tangible that is of spiritual significance, an intermediate stage to perceiving that which is truly beyond.

It therefore follows that we are to look at the scriptures from the angle of which the author originally looked at them, envisioning them as devices meant to uplift our consciousness beyond the mundane realm. Their accuracy or lack thereof with modern theories is irrelevant, there is really no need to compare the two since they deal with topics of entirely different worlds.

With the approach above, most contradictions between science and tradition become rather irrelevant.
Madhava - Thu, 07 Apr 2005 23:23:12 +0530
Regarding the idea:

I no longer believe that the Bhagavata was written 5000 years ago and by Vyasa.

If you study the Bhagavata itself, it'll become evident that the concept of what exactly the Bhagavata is is "flexible". How many "Srimad Bhagavata":s do we have?

1. The Bhagavata of four verses that Narayana spoke to Brahma at the dawn of creation.
2. The Bhagavata that Maitreya spoke to Uddhava.
3. The Bhagavata that Vyasa spoke to Shukadeva.
4. The Bhagavata that Shukadeva spoke to Parikshit.
5. The Bhagavata that Suta spoke to the rishis of Naimisharanya.

This understanding of "Bhagavata" is derived among others from the following statement of Sri Krishna to Maitreya Rishi:

purA mayA proktam ajAya nAbhye
padme niSaNNAya mamAdi-sarge |
jJAnaM paraM man-mahimAvabhAsaM
yat sUrayo bhAgavataM vadanti || BhP 3.4.13

"In the days of yore at the dawn of the creation, I spoke to Brahma, who resides on the lotus born of my navel, the knowledge elucidating my wondrous glories. That the saintly men call the Bhagavata."

Also, at the final chapter of the Bhagavata (12.13.10), after the summary of the various Puranas:

idaM bhagavatA pUrvaM brahmaNe nAbhi-paGkaje |
sthitAya bhava-bhItAya kAruNyAt samprakAzitam ||

Initially, this Bhagavata was gracefully revealed in full to Brahma, who sits on the navel-lotus and who was afraid of material existence.

The various phases of the Bhagavata are then (12.13.19) related, coming from Brahma to Narada, from Narada to Vyasa, from Vyasa to Shukadeva and from Shukadeva to Maharaja Parikshit.

Considering the above, it becomes less of an article of faith when exactly and who composed the Bhagavata in its current form. The narrations of the Bhagavata are immaterial.

The opening shlokas of the Bhagavata say: zrImad-bhAgavate mahA-muni-kRte kiM vA paraiH? "Since Maha-muni Vyasa composed the beautiful Bhagavata, where is there a need for all those other texts?" Thus Vyasa's composing the Bhagavata is described in our Bhagavata itself, and in fact considerably elaborated on in its first book. The fact that he had already composed the Bhagavata prior to the meeting of Naimisharanya is evident from the fact that he spoke it to Shukadeva. Did he, then, compose the Bhagavata again after Suta Muni had finished the narration? That seems rather unlikely, since the sublimity of what he presented was already established prior to Suta's narrative in the mangalacharan.
braja - Thu, 14 Apr 2005 22:59:48 +0530
Interesting report on Yahoo regarding the views of college students in the US regarding religion and science.

And a graphic:

user posted image

DharmaChakra - Fri, 15 Apr 2005 03:10:46 +0530
QUOTE(braja @ Apr 14 2005, 01:29 PM)
Interesting report on Yahoo regarding the views of college students in the US regarding religion and science.

I saw that this morning as well, and was going to post it, but couldn't figure out just where it fit. This is a good spot biggrin.gif

I found the poll questions interesting. Are you on the side of religion or the side of science? The presumption off the bat is that they are rather mutually exclusive (and no, the two other poll questions don't provide good alternatives).
Kulapavana - Mon, 18 Apr 2005 19:33:37 +0530
I find the issue of Vedic cosmology to be an important one, for several reasons. I'm one of those "scientific" types, with MS in Engineering and a life long career in scientific environment (I'm currently a manager of an analytical laboratory). I have been studying Vedic cosmology for many years, gradually understanding the issue deeper and deeper. Over time, my appreciation for Vedic view only increased and my faith strenghtened. I did not give up my scientific mind and did not abandon rational analysis. to the contrary - the Vedic approach EXPANDED my view of rationality, logic and science.

to all the inquisitive minds out there, I can spare one hint: the key to understanding Vedic comology is the understanding of SPACE... smile.gif
Mina - Fri, 13 May 2005 22:32:26 +0530
Kulapavana: How so?
Mina - Sun, 15 May 2005 23:04:20 +0530
If we start with the premise that this world is illusory in nature and that we are unable to perceive it accurately, that answers a lot of questions right off the bat. Whether it is in the realm of science or the realm of theology, it is still pertinent. On the theological side we have the false notion of self related to our bodily existence that is temporary and constantly changing as opposed to the true nature of the AtmA, which is eternal and changeless. On the scientific side we have our false notion of matter and three dimensions plus the fourth dimension of time, then the reality is that it is all actually energy and that there are many more dimensions than that. What looks like temporal phenomenon of objects that are created and destroyed is just an illusion and energy is the basis of the whole universe, and it can neither be created nor destroyed (at least not by us - only some Creator can be the source of it).

The details may change over time as our body of knowledge increases. The scientific theories may give way to newer ones that fit the facts we are always accumulating better. The underlying premise, however, does not change. Birth and death remain as constants. Hence, the eternal truths presented in ancient texts are still applicable today as much as they were centuries ago. Those are the important items, and not the distance between the earth and the moon and the sun and the structure of our solar system and galaxies.

The main thing about science is its utility. If it is usefull to us to combat disease and provide technologies and sources of energy to enhance our quality of life, then it should be embraced on that basis. It is not, nor was it ever meant to be, a religion. If it can also be utilized to give us a better understanding of our spirituality, then it is all the more useful to us. Parapsychology is a new discipline aimed at studying and attempting to explain phenomena that are outside the pale of traditional scientific research. Just as psychology itself took time to become a recognized field, so too will parapsychology. It well emerge as did psychology with some of the research that is unsound falling by the wayside.
Kulapavana - Mon, 16 May 2005 16:55:10 +0530
QUOTE(Mina @ May 13 2005, 01:02 PM)
Kulapavana:  How so?

is this a question about the space? if so, here is another hint (or two).

space is not linear (ie. you can travel all you want at astonishing speeds in space and still not find the end of the universe). distances in the universe given in the sastra are only for the sake of providing us with the general proportions of the universe and it's contents.

space (and time as well) is multi dimensional - the dimensions (or "worlds") may intersect at times and there are devices that enable movement between some of these worlds.

our perception of space essentially becomes the space - it could be compared to hypnosis induced illusion. space is quite real, yet our perception of it is illusory, incomplete and limiting.
Mina - Mon, 13 Jun 2005 23:18:47 +0530
I think we need to incorporate all available sources of knowledge into our worldview. Otherwise we become like horses with blinders on.

Mina - Tue, 14 Jun 2005 04:31:39 +0530
Just about all human cultures throughout history have had a conception of an anthropomorphic Deity. That raises some interesting questions. Is the Deity human in form and other attributes, or is that just another form of maya for us? Is that something we have been taught so as not to freak us out with something that is either beyond our comprehension or something we could not possibly relate to? If we consider the Deity as being, like us, of the essence of consciousness, then do not all conscious beings of all species of life have some attributes of the Deity, and not just us humans at the top of the food chain?

Clearly we share traits with the rest of the mammals and have even more in common with other primates like the great apes. Wherein lies the distinction between man and gorilla? Those lines have blurred as research has shown that chimpanzees and other apes have the ability to make and use tools and to learn sign language and spoken words. I think our Eastern worldview gives us the insight to accomodate these data, because we are taught by the sastras that there is a jiva in every living entity and in every atom. The ignorance of fundamental Christianity has them believing that only humans have a soul, which is a very distorted view of life. After all, what then is the distinction between a living entity and inert matter like a rock?

How do we reconcile the solid and indisputable evidence of evolution with our understanding of the AtmA and consciousness? For those who merely understand that species have been evolving on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, there is still the mystery of why this has taken place. For us that is no big mystery, since it explains that jivas have been taking birth in different situations and eventually taking birth in a human body, which has evolved over time and is a suitable vehicle to attain mokSa. Heck, we even see instances of souls in lower species achieving spiritual advancement described in the texts. In some respects a dog owned by a Vaishnava is more fortunate than many humans that are walking around in the darkness of ignorance.

What we ultimately need to come to grips with is our biology and our ability to overcome our baser urges at the same time. It is difficult for us to generally act in some other manner than apes, with which we share 98% of our DNA. We are going to be jockeying for position in our apelike hierarchical society and mating in apelike fashion and engaging in apelike territorial disputes in the form of wars, etc. We can, however, achieve a higher level of culture and creativity than all other species, as well as deeper philosophical and theological insights. An ape may have some primitive inkling of forces greater than himself upon hearing thunder in the sky and seeking lightning strike, which instills in him some awe and reverence bordering on zAnta rasa. Only humans can get beyond that rasa to the other rasas.
Mina - Wed, 15 Jun 2005 19:52:36 +0530
People in general tend to be extremely gullible and inept at exercising any degree of reasoning power. An article in the Financial Times of London today discusses the Mozart effect as a case in point showing how typical this is. When one unfounded study (which later proved to be false) came out supposedly showing that babies that listened to classical music were born smarter than babies that didn't, people flocked to the practice in droves. Upon investigation it was proved by several other studies to be a complete myth. The article links this behavior to the various management fads that sweep corporate America every few years and have resulted in the stupidity of moves like downsizing to improve the competitiveness and the bottom line, which only resulted in crippling companies by draining them of needed talent and expertise.

In order to ensure that our world view is reasonable we must be vigilant in order to avoid being swayed by propaganda that is based on false premises and half truths. If some ancient text states that the earth is flat, we should be ready to question it. After all, it goes against all logic as well as the common knowledge of geography that we currently possess. If you just stop and think about our hundreds of satellites in orbit that are the infrastructure for telecommuncations and television broadcasts, it is obvious how insane it is to believe such nonsense.