A Measured Critique of Science
Kudos to Badrinarayan Swami for his wonderful piece entitled “In Defense of the Vedic View” [May/June]. An article confronting the modern scientific establishment and defending the viewpoint of scripture can easily stumble into one of several pitfalls: It can decry ignorant notions of scientific theories, thereby defeating a “straw man” but doing nothing to help cut the real man down to size; it can throw out the baby with the bathwater by implying that scientific observation and experiment are useless (rather than limited) and that researchers are evil (rather than misguided or tendentious); or it can bloviate on minutiae that are beyond the ken of the average reader and so make no real impression, boring rather than informing.
Badrinarayan Swami’s exposition avoids all of these. In highlighting the limitations of science and dispelling the notion that one must be irrational to be religious, he accurately represents theories (with specific citations to scholarly publications), acknowledges the legitimate and positive role of science and the scientific method, and intersperses the article with analogies that are readily understandable and memorable.
More extreme and acerbic attacks may generate more excitement among the blindly faithful, but measured and perspicuous assaults like this one are more likely to move thoughtful readers to consider the basis of their beliefs and to help loosen the otherwise ineluctable hold of atheistic science on the modern mind.
Well done, Maharaja.
Navina Syama Dasa
What to Think of at Death
The essence of the Srimad-Bhagavatam is ante narayana-smriti [to remember Narayana, the Supreme Lord, and the end of life]. Can a devotee of Krishna, a member of ISKCON, go to Goloka Vrindavana if he chants the name of Narayana at death?
Raghunatha Chaitanya Dasa
Via the Internet
Reply: Narayana is one of Krishna’s many forms. The verse you cite, Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.6, isn’t meant to say that one must remember that specific form of Krishna. It is telling us that success in life is to remember God at the end. In ISKCON, our devotion is for Krishna, the original form of the Lord, and we are being trained to remember Krishna always. Devotees of Krishna’s Narayana form will go to Vaikuntha, but we devotees of Krishna will go to Goloka Vrindavana, since the form of the Lord we remember at death will naturally be Krishna. We will go where our heart leads us.
About how long before things start to get bad in the age of Kali-yuga? And how long will there be Hare Krishna temples to go to?
Via the Internet
Reply: If you look around, you’ll see that it is already starting to “get bad.” Although superficially there is advancement, the progress is only in material areas, and the result of that “progress” is spiritual decline. ?For example, social media and cell phones have made life more impersonal than ever. People don’t talk to people anymore or make deep friendships, but rather click “like” and “friend” and don’t even know who they are talking to or what they are talking about. The world climate is changing, and so there is danger of flooding, earthquakes, and crazy weather. Fuel is running out, as is clean water. When we buy water, we buy plastic, and plastic is polluting the water – and everything else.
New diseases are replacing the ones that have been vanquished, and people are still dying at the rate of 100%. Countries that were friends are now enemies; people who were friends are now enemies as well.
Greed and envy are rampant in society and especially in government. Marriage and other signs of social decency are declining, and trust and love, on all levels of society, are declining at an alarming rate. Traffic in large cities is unbearable. Many families cannot afford a house even when both parents work and the children are in daycare at six months old. Children no longer respect or listen to their parents, and crime, suicide, and violence are constantly rising.
So, on the outside, Kali-yuga is progressing and causing people to get more and more entangled in material life, with less and less time for spiritual practices. Therefore the qualities that people have on the inside are also declining. People go to the temple to pray for their material life to be less stressful and more productive, rather than praying to Krishna for love of God, which is really the only valuable thing and the only thing that will make one happy and peaceful.
Lord Chaitanya said that the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra will remain strong for the next ten thousand years and after that Kali- yuga will take over entirely. But knowing that things are declining, we should not hesitate to put proper energy into becoming Krishna conscious and helping to keep the Hare Krishna temples open and strong. This should be done with determination and urgent attention. Each of us must consider how we can assist in helping others to find their relationship with Krishna. We should make every effort to improve and enlighten society in an attempt to slow down, or even stop, the progress of Kali-yuga.
Can I be a bhakti-yogi and still live a regular lifestyle? I’m going to graduate school. I live in an apartment with a partner, attend yoga classes, and travel. Also, is it okay to read literature other than the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam?
Via the Internet
Reply: Bhakti-yoga is for anyone, anywhere. It is practical, active yoga that really happens from within the heart. Many of the previous teachers, acharyas, in our line were householders who traveled, taught, and studied. Their priority was to focus on the Lord as the supreme controller, proprietor, and friend. They took shelter in their sadhana, or daily spiritual practices of hearing and chanting about Krishna, studying the scriptures, preaching, and praying.
Anyone can perform these activities. They purify the consciousness and connect us to the Lord Krishna. At the same time, we should try to avoid bad association and give our good association.
If the literature you choose is elevating to the consciousness, then it is OK. If not, it may divert you from your focus on the Lord.