The Monk’s Podcast with Radhika Raman Prabhu is an immensely penetrating and relishable discussion on Harmonizing faith and reason in bhakti.
Faith and reason are both sources of authority upon which beliefs can rest. Reason is generally understood as the principles for a methodological inquiry, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, or religious. Faith, on the other hand, involves a stance toward some claim that is not, at least presently, demonstrable by reason. Thus faith is a kind of attitude of trust or assent. Thus faith and rationality are a tussle between the heart and the head. Rationality can be used as a tool to build faith. But ultimately faith is solely based on spiritual experiences. Humility is the foundation of both faith and rationality.
As Chaitanya Charan Prabhu states, this is a kind of discussion that is necessary but does not happen. There are a certain stereotypes about what academic scholarship means. Should it done or not done? What are the challenges? This podcast discusses this and more and is a very valuable resource for many devotees.
HG Radhika Raman Prabhu is a notable vaishnav scholar. He lectures widely on topics related to Vaishnav Bhakti traditions and Vedanta philosophy, inter religious dialog and the relationship between scholarship and practice.
Here is the YouTube link to this eminently listen worthy discussion:
And brilliant summary by Chaitanya Charan Prabhu from 2:39:42
Chaitanya Charan Prabhu:
So we discussed today you could say broadly on the topic of faith and reason, in devotion ,in bhakti. In started with your experience. You had education, homeschooling, but that was protection, not isolation. And so you develop critical thinking at that time itself. And it was not a big culture shock or intellectual shock when you entered into academia.
The “us and them” , mentality comes primarily when we don’t interact with people, except to say, speak down to them. Or so we, we can see our faith is special, but at the same time, respect other people’s faith also be seeing that there are different ways to approach Krishna.
And then within the faith and reason dialogue in the academic world. I think two main discuss themes we discussed were the historicity and the principle of Revelation. So historicity- it was very beautiful . Before answering a question, we need to question the question that why is this question important, and in the Abrahamic traditions, because they have a linear conception of history. So history is going somewhere. And that’s why where what happened, when what happened and how becomes important. But in our tradition, history is not going anywhere, the soul is going somewhere. So the historical events promote the souls evolution ;is more important than the specific history or geography of those events itself. So we discussed Srila Prabhupada’s quote about not denying that Ahobilam is where Narsimha appeared, but not insisting on it. Its not we are not historical or non historical, but history is simply like a departure point for us to go to the transhistorical.
So, for us, if we start giving an exam that we are not prepared for, then we will get into trouble. Do we want to do that exam also. What is central for us is not the specific history. So, it is like a pyramid. One is to say a little history is itself important and this is how it is whatever the tradition says. The other is that Oh! it doesn’t matter at all. It’s what we taught is more important, it is all mythology. So we understand its history, but the more than history is what is critical for us. What is the trans historical that is taught, that’s what we focus on. And even in the historical like say, we say Krishna appeared here in Vrindavana, it’s not the literal geography of Rādhā Kunda, but Radha Kunda as it is seen in the pratyaksha, Vidusha , that is what is important for us.
So historical question, if we want to change the frame of the discussion, you discussed earlier to go inside and there is a lot of area for going into the, into the academic world. And then like Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya spoke for seven days to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and then Chaitanya Mahaprabhu got to speak.
So, some devotees who have the requisite supportive association to sustain that hearing of things which are of a non devotional perspective to things and then they also have the intellectual skills, they have the nature and they get the training for that. Then when they speak, then they will be heard. And then the the mainstream dialogue itself will, the mode of that dialogue itself can be changed significantly. And we can see that other religions have done that significantly, but we Hindus have not done Hinduism Vaishnavism or even our movement has not done that so much.
Then we discussed about the revelation question. The religious or the traditions approaches that religion is something which is consistent, comprehensive and timeless, whereas, the academic scholars approach is that it is something historical, philosophical, social, cultural or psychological – these factors. So, when this conflict comes up, so, same like the upanishads, they are other revelations or are they discussions and because of a political conflict between different regions that happened at a particular place.
So, both of them can go together, because we see that Krishna can act by breaking through history, descending into history or Krishna can act through the movements of history itself. Both can, it seem inclusive and they can increase our faith.
So there’s the transcendental circumstantial, we could say both of them are, are overlapping, are two simultaneous or overlapping modes of explaining the same thing. And that way, it doesn’t have to necessarily challenge one’s faith. We discussed various examples for that purpose.
And then, specifically with respect to faith and reason, we had a long discussion towards the conclusion that, reason is always a part of the okay if you want about faith. Faith is in our tradition, faith is not simply based on beliefs. Okay, this is what I believe that apart from beliefs, this is what I practice. This is what I have experience. This is how I have seen my saintly teachers to be and this is how what I have, say, learn by studying scripture. So there are so many aspects to faith. And when one area becomes weak, just as when one leg is weak, we rely more on the other leg. And that’s why while specializing in one according to our nature, you also need to have enough time to appreciate the other sources of faith also, because they may become the source of our survival at some time.
And overall, then we talked about, how faith can rely on reason at the initial stage, and faith can partially rely on reason and faith can ultimately transcend reason. But when it even when it transcends reason, it doesn’t reject reason it just doesn’t rely on reason. Because even in our tradition, there you talked about Ramanujachaya using reason to show how reason cannot prove the existence of God – the Shreebhashya.
Also our tradition has critical scholarship where you know, okay, this versus has this versions. So, there is the critical attitude with the tradition also. And ultimately for us the challenge is that the rationality is just one way of thinking. It is valuable for both- for us to understand Krishna better and for us to explain Krishna better to others, and between academic scholarship and sages, the devotional practice the devotional way of looking at things. There could be traditional scholarship also. So, that is something which has not been so developed. But as our movement is evolving, that kind of spaces will be created. And for us, the same rationality which can help us to fix our mind and Krishna can also obstruct us, if we start thinking that this is the only way or this is the superior way or this is the best way and we start looking down upon on the rational devotee. So, if we have that Vaishnav understanding that ultimately, we are here for Seva, and my scholarship is one way of serving, then we all can contribute in the Lord’s mission in the way that he has gifted us
Radhika Raman pr: That was amazing. Your ability to summarise everything we spoke about, points to your own brilliance as a devotee and as an intellectual. So Thank You for that. I have nothing to add or subtract from what you just said. I think that’s a good overview.
I am just really really grateful that I have the opportunity to discuss all of these matters with you. So nourishing for my own Krishna Consciousness, to have your association like this today. Whether this video gets any views on YouTube or not it really not matter. To me it’s completely successful to just have your association to discuss these wonderful topics. It was for me a wonderful morning for me in the US and for you in India.