Before accepting the renounced order of life in 1959, our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, was chief supervisor in the laboratory of Dr. Jagadis Chandra Bose, renowned Indian botanist and chemist, whose most memorable experiments were in the field of consciousness-perception in plants and other nonmoving entities. Dr. Bose was an innovator in the true sense of the term. He attempted successfully to show contemporary men of science the need for a spiritual perspective in their work-an open-mindedness that would allow them to examine more objectively the conclusions of the Vedic scriptures-and simultaneously he resolved the ambivalent attitude toward Western science held by many of his Hindu associates. Dr. Bose summarized his most recurrent experimental theme in these concluding remarks of his lecture-demonstration at the Royal Institute in 1901:
“I have shown you this evening the autographic records of the stress and strain in both the living and the nonliving. How similar are the two sets of writing, so similar indeed that you cannot tell them the one from the other! They show you the waxing and waning pulsations of life—and the climax due to stimulants, the gradual decline in fatigue, the rapid setting in of death rigor from the toxic effect of poison. It was when I came on this mute witness of life and saw an all-pervading unity that binds together all things—it was then that for the first time I understood that message proclaimed on the banks of the Ganges thirty centuries ago: ‘Those who behold the One in all the changing manifoldness of the universe, unto them belongs the eternal truth, unto none else, unto none else.’ ” ** (Quoted in RabindranathTagore, “Acharya Jagadisher Jaivarta,” Vasudhara, 2 (1958), pp. 107-9.)
This must have been hard to swallow for some of Bose’s Western listeners, steeped in an Aristotelean scientific culture. The intellects of modern science prefer on the whole to see such conclusions relegated to convenient departments of parapsychology and religious studies, thus freeing themselves from the responsibility of conscientiously seeking to resolve the dichotomy between science and religion. This situation has arisen not because all scientists are necessarily anti-religion, but rather because religion for so long has not shown her scientific side—the substantive, researchable quality that would make her more attractive to the rationalist.
A quality of honest men is that they admit ignorance of things beyond their knowledge, and further that they accept an idea when convinced of it by proper reason and argument. The Vedic conception of the forthright man of science is one of an individual bent on extending the perimeters of emperical knowledge to bring about a fusion with transcendental truth. Real science, according to the Vedic conception, is not unspiritual, but, rather, unrestricted, truly experimental—even to the extent of experimenting with the chanting of ancient mantras, for example, or attempting the various yoga systems as means for self-purification. And real religion, say the Vedas, rests not on blind following or mere sentiment, but rather on a scientific analysis of matter, spirit and the control of both.
This is not a new viewpoint. The greatest scientific thinkers in history have all been spiritual men who have tried to unify the apparent divergencies between science and religion. All have pointed to the same ultimate truth in science and religion, but only from different points of vision.
“Subjects of philosophy and theology are like the peaks of large and towering and inaccessible mountains standing in the midst of our planet inviting attention and investigation. Thinkers and men of deep speculation take their observations through the instruments of reason and consciousness. But they take different points when they carry on their work. These points are positions chalked out by the circumstances of their social and philosophical world. Plato looked at the peak of the spiritual question from the West, and Vyasa made the observation from the East: so Confucius did it from further East, and Schlegel, Spinoza, Kant and Goethe from further West. These observations were made at different times and by different means; but the conclusion is all the same inasmuch as the object was one and the same.” ** (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, The Bhagavata: Its Philosophy, Its Ethics and Its Theology. pp. 15-16.)
Krishna consciousness, as a practical program for implementing the conclusions of spiritual science, may offer some valuable insights into primal origins, or the beginnings of the creation, which might not otherwise be available to sincere men of science. This information is drawn from authentic Vedic texts, and, as we shall see, it finds convincing supportive evidence in modern logic and scientific discovery.
Scientific opinions about the origins of creation have been summarized into two very famous theories, called Big Bang and Steady State. The Big Bang theory hypothesizes that originally there existed an enormous manifestation of matter that by its own gravitational force “turned in” on itself, creating a density so great that it ultimately exploded, sending gas, dust and radiation flying millions of miles into space. Little by little, over an unimaginably long time, these substances began synthesizing into solid elements, which in turn became planets and other celestial bodies. The Steady State theory, however, suggests that the process of creation is going on perpetually, from a source in the universe that constantly produces material elements. These elements spread out and form the planets, stars and other celestial manifestations. Thus the process of creation is constantly going on.
The Original Cause
Of the two theories, Vedic references tend toward the Big Bang theory, which suggests that at a certain time well in the future the process will reverse itself, and all the planetary systems, galactic clusters and so on will begin to decompose as the universe again turns in on itself. At that time all forms within the universe will cease to exist, having returned to their original state, and the program will begin anew.
“At the end of the millennium [the Lord says], every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency, I again create.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.7)
“This material nature is working under My direction, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.10)
The major distinction between scientific theories and Vedic statements is that scientific theories are obliged to stop at the point of primal origins (where did the primeval “lump” or source of the steady state come from?), whereas the Vedas continue their explanation back to the adi-purusa, or the primal cause of all causes.
According to Vedic statements, no creation exists without a clearly defined purpose, though that purpose may remain hidden from our eyes for some time. Contrary schools of thought, however, such as the Existential and Absurdist schools, propose that the creation is purposeless, meaningless, and that life is an absurdity, a dreamlike state that ends with death. Followers of these rather depressing ideologies generally lead unhappy lives, for they find no meaning for living yet are unable to explain why they prefer to live rather than die.
Neither the meritorious men of science nor the devoted followers of the Vedas agree with the idea of purposelessness. In fact, neither in the macrocosm of the universe nor in the microcosm of the tiniest atomic particle do we find such aimlessness or disorder. Order pervades every inch of space and time, and the history of man reads like a captain’s log book—with page after page of notes, charts and graphs, all attempting to define and order the world around us.
The creation took place, according to the Vedas, by the will of the Supreme Lord. To accommodate the desires of living beings who sought to live outside His jurisdiction, the Lord created the material world, just as a government constructs a prisonfor citizens who want to live outside the laws of the state. The rebellious souls who prefer the pseudo independence of material life get various bodies in this world according to how lusty they are to enjoy the resources of material nature (animals occupy a position lower than human beings, yet higher than plants and trees). The forgetful living beings, ignorant of their original spiritual nature, try to enjoy to the best of their tiny ability, but in this way they implicate themselves further and further in the entanglements of material life.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Bg. 3.27) “The living entity in material nature follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species.” (Bg. 13.22)
The Vedas describe the human form of life as the loophole through which to escape from the world of birth and death. After a natural evolution through 8,400,000 species, the living being achieves a human form, in which he can revive his dormant self-consciousness and return home, back to Godhead.
The Touch of a Living Being
Now, some people consider themselves too rational to accept unseen laws of reincarnation or the existence of a Supreme Being. They express their objections by posing rhetorical questions like, “If God created everything, then who created God?” But even if we think that someone else created God, this still implies the existence of an ultimate cause So actually no one objects to the idea of some ultimate cause-neither the proponents of the empiric school nor the students of spiritual science. Admitting an ultimate cause, therefore, we must ask this basic question of creation: was that original cause conscious or inert?
When I was small, I remember now, there was a game I would play for fun with friends. I would set up a line of dominoes, so long that it extended into the next room. Then when a friend would come in, I would push the first domino and watch my friend’s surprised face as the line of dominoes fell, as if by magic, across the room. Because my friend could not see who moved them, he would be amazed by the feat. Similarly, we wonder at the workings of nature, who bears rich harvests year after year, as if by magic, and turns the color of leaves on the autumn trees with masterful discretion. We gape childlike at the vastness of space and its perfect order, self-sufficient planets and orchestral movements. On a human level, the beauty of a painting reflects the creativity of its painter, the harmonies of a piano concerto that of its author, and the qualities of a son those of his father. Throughout the history of the world, there has never been creation without the touch of a living being. That same principle holds true, according to the Vedas, on a universal scale.
Evidence of the Unseen
As for the objection to unseen movers, a second example will explain this principle to the skeptic: The electron has never actually been seen, though its discovery has launched a whole new field of investigation—subatomic physics—which deals with particles so small that they are virtually invisible and can be tracked only by a tail of bubbles they leave behind them as they travel through some medium, such as liquid oxygen. These electrons are like the jet planes we know have just passed overhead because we can see their white tails of smoke. So, the entire cosmic manifestation displays the creative potency of the Supreme, though He Himself remains invisible to our gross vision. And as the electron makes no extraneous effort to create its tail, so the Supreme exerts very little energy to create this material world. We can hardly imagine, therefore, how great is the total creative power of the Supreme Absolute Truth.
The objection raised by the rationalists is more semantic than sincere: if everything has a cause, then what caused God? The difficulty we have in accepting something or someone without a cause is due to our conditioned life, for nothing within our experience has ever been causeless. “Cause and effect” is a familiar, practical law that allows us to deal with everyday affairs without having to abandon any of our common values. But causelessness implies supremacy, absoluteness, a God to whom we will have to surrender—and because God has a very bad reputation in the material world, that idea repels us, frightens us. We have no knowledge of God, except what the village elders have told us about a wrathful, chastising Deity, and the whole concept of “surrender” appears aboriginal, uncivilized.
“If God does exist,” the modern pioneering man tells himself, “then I will have to accept a subordinate position”—something he finds hard to do. So modern educators teach quite the contrary-that our young should learn to think for themselves, to become independent. (“We don’t actually know any better than you,” the teacher says. “Try to find the solution by yourself.”) This they call the spirit of self-sufficiency or “the human potential.” But the result of such indoctrination has been that many educated men automatically throw up a wall of self-defense when a discussion veers toward love of God. Marxist theory epitomizes this spirit of self-sufficiency by stressing the “infinite creative power of the people,” man’s ability to resolve his problems and create for himself a perfect society, a classless society, in which research will be unimpaired by political oppression, in which men in every sphere of activity will feel satisfied and productive—in other words, a kingdom of God withoutGod.
Our purpose here is not to show all the defects in this kind of reasoning. Writers of much greater merit have successfully done so already. Rather, this article is an attempt to present basic scientific information that will help sincere inquirers understand Krishna to be the cause of the universe-and help them understand Krishna’s causeless nature.
The Ultimate Goal of Research
According to the Brahma-samhita, Krishna’s body is not made of atoms and molecules. And Sri Isopanisad adds that His body contains no veins or other mechanical arrangements for maintaining itself. Krishna the person and Krishna’s body are nondifferent. Therefore both Krishna and His body are eternal, without beginning or end, unlike our material bodies, which perish with the passage of time and molecular deterioration.
The spiritual world is nondual. Non-dual does not mean, as some Vedantists say, that we are the same as God. “Non-dual” refers to the fact that in the spiritual world there is no qualitative difference between Krishna and His form, Krishna and His name, Krishna and His pastimes, Krishna and His abode. All are of the same eternal, blissful nature. In that eternal, blissful spiritual world, Krishna is engaged in playing lovingly with His devotees in varieties of relationships and affairs. Renowned scholars and speculative philosophers often interpret Krishna’s personal life and loves as mythological, in the same way that the wranglers in the scientific arena interpret God as a creation of the mind of man. Actually Krishna is not man-made, nor are His activities mythological. Love of Krishna constitutes the ultimate goal of research and the perfection of all knowledge. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita:
“After many births of speculative research, the truly intelligent man surrenders unto Me, Krishna, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Bg. 7.19)
The Spirit of Investigation
Many theories about the origins of creation strongly resemble the explanations of Vedic literature. Space theorists such as Albert Einstein and the German writer Willie Ley have described the universe as expanding in three dimensions. This is corroborated by the Vedic writings. Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that the material universes exit from the immense body of Maha-Visnu, the creative Personality of Godhead, in the form of particles, three times the size of an atom, that gradually expand. Now, according to Vedic scientific calculation, the universe we live in has attained a diameter of 4,500,000 miles, past which the sevenfold coverings of the universe begin. These coverings are earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind and intelligence. The first layer extends 8,000,000 miles, and each successive layer extends for ten times the thickness of the preceding layer. The study of these material elements is called Sankhya. It was first described by the great incarnation Kapiladeva. His advent and instructions on the cosmic manifestation, its spiritual counterpart and the supreme control of both are all described in the Third Canto of the Bhagavatam.
Beyond the sevenfold coverings of the material universe is the spiritual sky, which is unknown to the empiric researcher. Its residents enjoy eternal life, full of bliss and knowledge (sac-cid-ananda), unimpaired by the miseries of life in the material world. This material world is described as a perverted reflection of that spiritual realm. Everything found here exists in its original pure state in the paravyoma, or spiritual sky. Here, for example, a flower lives and then dies. There, it only lives. Death is unknown. As varieties of life exist here, so great varieties of life also exist in the spiritual world. But there the cows, the swans, the trees—all living beings—are of the same eternal, spiritual nature as Krishna Himself. This material universe displays a graduation of planetary systems; and so also in the spiritual sky there are diverse planets, each inhabited by self-realized souls who have no thought other than to serve the Lord of their hearts, Krishna. The Rg Veda describes Vrndavana, the planet of Krishna, as the highest abode of all (Rg Veda, 1.1 54.6). Devotees of Krishna who have purified themselves of all material desire, false pride and envy return to that supreme abode after leaving their present bodies.
A careful study of Vedic scriptures reveals that nowhere has science or research been forbidden or condemned. Rather, the same spirit of investigation has been encouraged everywhere, throughout the Vedas. Bhagavad-gita directs that one should approach a spiritual master with questions (pariprasna). And, again, the Caitanya-caritamrta says “Apply your reason and logic.”
It is sad to see how this spirit of true scientific investigation has been stifled, especially in contemporary educational institutions. Spiritual study should not be avoided. ISKCON proposes that all universities develop within the structure of their already existing curricula a department of spiritual sciences to deal directly with the question of God’s existence, the nature of universal law, and the practical application of spiritual knowledge. Accredited instructors from among the ranks of Krishna conscious devotees are prepared to assist in organizing such departmental studies, and for this they require no salary. Our purpose is not self-interested. According to the circumstances either traditional or “free university” classes may be given, and courses may deal with any revealed scriptures, not only the Vedas.
The Excellence of the Vedas
The Vedas, however, are outstanding. They contain information on everything from medicine and farming to a detailed explanation of time sequences on upper and lower planets, from techniques of yoga and meditation to household hints and recipes for tasty vegetarian dishes-from detailed explanations of governmental organization to masterful directions on constructing and decorating a temple or residential building. The verses in each of the hundreds of Vedic texts conform to strict rules of poetry and meter. The Vedas contain drama, history and complex philosophy, as well as simple lessons of etiquette. Military protocol, use of musical instruments, biographies of great saints and sages of the past—these are but a few of the subjects covered by the Vedas. By following Vedic directions, all the great spiritual leaders in the history of India have achieved perfection (Bg. 4.2). How, then, could we say that the Vedas, compiled by the incarnation Vyasadeva, are works of a mortal being? Scriptures are not products of the material world, where passion and ignorance predominate. No person under the influence of passion and ignorance could possibly produce an authentic scripture. For over 5,000 years the Vedic teachings have been studied and admired by the world’s most profound scholars. No mundane writing can possibly approach the level of an authentic revealed scripture.
The original speaker of the Vedas is Narayana (Krishna), as stated in the Mahabharata (Santi-parva, Moksa-dharma, chapter 349, verse 68).Vyasadeva and those who follow in succession from him are the propagators of the Vedas. So the principal difference between the empiric researcher and the spiritual experimentalist is that the mundane researcher refuses to accept information coming from a realm beyond his sensual perception—despite constant reminders that his senses can fail him—whereas the spiritualist has adopted a submissive attitude. The spiritualist, therefore, by approaching the proper authority, can acquire knowledge that could not otherwise be obtained.
“Cavil as Much as You Like”
The conclusions of the two schools are the same: that there exist living beings and a manifested world; that both of them are controlled; that since nothing within our experience exists without some cause, there must also be a cause for the cosmic manifestation; that man is struggling on account of ignorance; and, finally, that human life is meant for realizing our actual position and resolving the frustration imposed by our ignorance.
Scientists like Bose have served to help dissuade thoughtful men from accepting the idea of man’s ability to solve all his problems independently. Although this idea may superficially appear palatable, in fact the same problems confront modern, technologically advanced Everyman that have always confronted him: birth, old age, disease, death. And no progressive planning commission or well-meaning manifesto will ever do away with these ubiquitous companions to life in the material world. Nor should useless arguments taint our spirit of investigation. After all, who can deny the infinitude of even this material creation, which is described as only one-fourth of the entire creation of God? The Bhisma-parva section of the Mahabharata says, acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet: “Things of an inconceivable nature certainly cannot be grasped by argument.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura concludes, “Cavil as much as you like”—ultimately one must surrender to Krishna.
Yogesvara dasa is a 24-year-old American now living at the ISKCON center in Paris, France. He has studied at the University of Wisconsin and the Sorbonne. He and his wife play important roles in preparing Krishna conscious books and magazines for publication In French and other European languages.