By Damodar Prasad das
In his summation during his debate with self-confessed atheist Stephen Law, His Holiness Sivarama Swami made the following point: He said that for those individuals who take up the science of spiritual life, who “perform the experiment”, there is no need to argue. They know the truth. On the other hand, for those who do not take up the science of devotion, whether they believe in God or not, the arguments will continue ad infinitum. This raises the question, what is the value of such debates?
Perhaps their only value lies in what a devotee like His Holiness Sivarama Swami can make of the public platform to introduce to the curious the concept of a scientific approach to the question of God, and science begins with the spirit of inquiry, not scepticism.
Famed atheistic polemicists such as Richard Dawkins have argued that God, like any other subject, should be the subject of scientific inquiry, and on this basis, seemingly, they deny the existence of God without actually taking up the inquiry. Scientific research begins with definitions. What trouble have they taken to research all the world literature on the subject of God in an attempt to arrive at a conclusive and exhaustive definition?
Following the definition of the problem under study, one then begins thinking about possible research techniques for gaining knowledge about the subject matter. At this point, one must realise that since God is a spiritual conscious being, the most appropriate technique for researching Him is phenomological in nature. Phenomological research relates to the research of subjective experience and consciousness, and the primary research technique is the interview, coupled with systematic analysis of findings and process. And who should one interview? Those who claim to see God, and who claim to be able to reveal Him to others. At this point one should note the following prayer in the Rig Veda, Visnu Sookthan (1.22.20):
om tad visnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah
— diviva caksur atatam
“Just as the sun’s rays in the sky are extended to the mundane vision, so in the same way the wise and learned devotees always see the supreme abode of Lord Vishnu.”
tad vipraso vipanyavo jagrvam sah samindhate
— visnor yat paramam padam
“Because those highly praiseworthy and spiritually awake devotees are able to see the spiritual world, they are also able to reveal that supreme abode of Lord Vishnu.”
Note that in these verses that God is described as a self-evident truth. One must realise the truth for himself, after making the relevant inquiries. And, as any qualitative researcher knows, the researcher is both ethically and scientifically bound to approach his study participants with respect and humility. If you really want to find out about the inner life of people, the best approach is to live amongst them and to participate in their social world.
Following such a scientific study, if so-called atheistic scientists still wish to proclaim the non-existence of God, at least they will have more credible grounds for doing so.
Damodar Prasad das (BCaiS)