This conversation between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and biochemist Thoudam Singh, PhD, took place in Bhubaneswar, India, on February 3, 1977.
Srila Prabhupada: This spiritual science is not beyond science. It is the ultimate science – vijnanam, the most practical scientific understanding.
On the one hand you have jnanam, purely theoretical understanding, like that of the big modern so-called scientists. They theorize how matter is working and how the material body is working, but they do not know how the soul is working, how he is living in the material body and controlling the material body. They do not even know their own selves.
On the other hand you have this vijnanam, which is not only theoretical but also practical. It is practical knowledge that you realize and understand in your own life – knowledge of who you are, apart from your temporary material body, knowledge of your actual, spiritual identity and how to return at life’s end to the spiritual world.
Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna affirms, jnanam te ’ham sa-vijnanam idam vakshyamy asheshatah: “I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know.”
So this spiritual science is not beyond science. It is the ultimate science. Explain it nicely. Then the Americans and the whole world will understand.
Dr. Singh: Yes. Honest, fair-minded scientists can help in this effort.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. You can go to the universities and talk with them. Present this spiritual science through scholarly writing and debate.
Formerly, learned scholars used to travel and do that. In Sanskrit it is called dig-vijaya. The scholar makes it known, “I have this knowledge.” Then he challenges, “Come on. You defeat me, or I defeat you.” And whoever is defeated becomes a student of the one who is victorious.
In any event, in India this was the system. You go out and travel all over the world, and if you are qualified to speak, those with opposing views must come forward to defeat you. Or, if they are defeated, they must become followers; they must make proper acknowledgment. At the present moment the world needs strong spokesmen for this spiritual science who can go forth and convince skeptics.
Dr. Singh: A few months ago several of us who feel strongly about what you’re saying visited MIT.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, MIT. Shortly after my arrival in America I went there and challenged them [laughs]: “You have so many departments of technology. Where is the department that teaches this technology – how to bring someone from death back to life?”
Dr. Singh: At MIT they have a big department of artificial intelligence. So we went just to see what they were doing. First they weren’t going to allow us in. They didn’t want us there.
Then we beseeched them, “We’ve come from far away, and we are interested in mathematics and computer science. We’d simply like to know a bit about this artificial intelligence you are pursuing.”
Finally they allowed us to come in, and a PhD candidate in computer science showed us all the various labs they had.
Srila Prabhupada: A huge arrangement.
Dr. Singh: Yes. Then we started talking about intelligence – what intelligence actually is. We had a roundtable discussion, and this PhD candidate was telling us that by “artificial intelligence” they mean that in the future they will have cars and airplanes driven without drivers or pilots. That kind of thing. We pointed out that for true intelligence, there must be consciousness. There must be a spirit soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That autopilot business can be done; they have been doing it for some time already. For instance, for years they have been launching satellites, and those satellites operate at great distances from earth, often largely with automatic mechanisms, with a kind of artificial intelligence.
So the satellites have no actual intelligence. The actual, working intelligence is to be found in the people who design and control the satellites. Not in the satellites themselves, but in the laboratories and control rooms, in these various people – these conscious, spiritual beings.
Dr. Singh: Yes. That is precisely the point. So we told the PhD candidate, “This expression ‘artificial intelligence’ – the expression itself – is wrong. A misnomer. It shouldn’t be used. ‘Intelligence’ implies consciousness, a soul. No consciousness – no soul – no intelligence.”
Srila Prabhupada: That is correct.
Dr. Singh: These people have many plans. And they have many dollars to spend – perhaps millions on a department with only thirty-five professors and twenty-two graduate students. Finally, this graduate student admitted that they had been trying to do so many things but they are mostly failing in so many ways.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.]
Dr. Singh: And then I said, “Why are you spending so much time like this?”
The graduate student said, “We do some work, but it’s mostly for fun. To get money.”
Srila Prabhupada: Just see what rascals they are!
Dr. Singh: They have to keep themselves busy doing something. Otherwise they’ll have no income.
Srila Prabhupada: That is their position – “artificial intelligence.” They do not even know who they are, and they are keeping the whole world in darkness. They have no intelligence. Still, they pose themselves as intelligent and draw money. That’s all. Posing themselves as intelligent amongst the fools and taking money from them. This is what is going on.