Vanity thought #1372. Latest weirdness

Just as I was arguing against our common perception of the world science came up with a perfect illustration. Well, maybe not so perfect because it doesn’t seem to convince anyone but me so far, and it’s my interpretation that is perfect for my point, not anybody else’s.

You know how quantum mechanics turned the world upside down in the last century. So did Einstein’s relativity, but Einstein dealt with speeds of light and massive galaxies while quantum mechanics studies things we can fairly easily test down here on Earth and it’s down here on Earth that QM comes up with mind blowing and counterintuitive stuff.

Maybe these days they teach differently but I still imagine atoms as nuclei surrounded by orbiting electrons and I imagine electric current as electrons bumping into each other and passing charges. In QM, however, electron is not a thing flying around, it’s not a point in space and it’s not a particle. It is BOTH particle and a wave.

I’ll start with basics. Imagine electrons shooting out of an electron gun and hitting a target on the other side of the room. Now imagine we put a screen in the middle with two windows. As a particle an electron would have to pass through either of those windows to hit the target, it can’t pass through two windows simultaneously, no one does that. Now imagine this room being half filled with water. You start a wave on your side and register its arrival on the other end. The wave will pass through both windows in the screen, and the windows will also create an interference as the wave exits from them.

So, electrons behave like that – sometimes like waves and sometimes like particles. Okay we all have learned to live with that.

This time, however, people who already spend their lives walking upside down in Australia went a step further. They’ve created an experiment where they isolated a single atom, not an electron, and they shot it through two screens made of lasers. How they achieved that doesn’t really matter. The second screen could adjust the interference created by the wave passing through the first screen or they could turn it off completely.

Basically, they looked at the atom after the second screen, which they manipulated in various ways, and they could tell whether the atom traveled like a wave or a particle when it passed through the first screen. So the atom starts traveling, goes past the first screen, goes past the second screen, and then they take the measurements.

The weird part is that Australians reversed the flow of time here. By manipulating the second screen they could manipulate how atom behaved when it passed through the first screen moments before. In everyday situations the second screen should have no effect on what happened before the atom reached it but in this experiment it did. They thought they changed second screen settings randomly but found that the atom always behaved according to how it was going to be measured, or observation created “reality”. And not just at the moment of looking, but the past reality, too.

The wave vs particle duality is explained in various ways. One easy model is to think of an electron like if it was a cylinder. If you look at the cylinder from the top it looks like a circle but if you look at it from the side it looks like a rectangle. Similarly, the way we measure the electron reveals a different side of its actual nature, either wave or particle.

In this experiment, however, the atom changed its behavior backwards in time, which is what makes it truly weird.

So far there aren’t any easy explanations for this. The math checks out, but scientists still can’t wrap their heads around what it actually means.

There are several theories for this kind of phenomena. Some are more popular, some are more radical, some are better researched, but nothing has been definitely ruled out yet.

One version says that there are multiple universes co-existing in each moment of time and they can overlap or diverge at will. Thus the same atom can behave as a particle in one universe and as a wave in another, but in each universe its behavior is consistent. So, if five minutes later we see it as a particle it could have been only a particle in our universe, and if we see it as a wave it was a wave all along, too. In some other universe the same atom could have behaved in the opposite way.

Another version says that time actually flows backwards and what we see are not results but causes of our past. This is what I suggested just the other day. It’s not that what happens now determines the future, but now determines the past. The history that we think is cast in stone really depends on how we look at it.

It would also mean that we can all look at history differently and it would make total sense to us even while contradicting to other observers – their history depends on how THEY look at it now.

Of course, no scientist is prepared to take this theory that far but it would be a nice side effect, wouldn’t it?

Actually, it would go somewhat against our insistence that there’s only one truth – Kṛṣṇa, and we don’t get to make up our own reality, but an easy explanation is that the reality is indeed one but what we get to make our own are our illusions.

This means there’s no history of the universe as such and our views are extremely subjective. Our perception of history would depend on our attitude towards it today. This conclusion might be controversial but it complies with our observations, it accounts nicely for the diversity of views and for bone-headed stubbornness of the opposing sides. Whatever they say makes sense to them and the same principle applies to all of us, too. We all have our own, personal version of history that is often at odds with how other people saw it.

Quantum mechanics sort of explains how it could have happen.

Now, if we insist that truth is only one and it would set you free, and that might very well be the case, it doesn’t break this theory because people have different illusions, not different truths, and those illusions are not going to liberate them but rather attach a busload of karma. Isn’t it what happens when people twist what we think as the reality and then suffer for it?

I should end with a disclaimer that I have no qualifications to judge the results of that experiment and my interpolations from QM into philosophy might be totally unjustified, but as long as they loosen the grip the illusion has on us it should not be a complete waste of time.

Vanity thought #1371. Why care?

Yesterday I argued that my personal history, and anybody else’s who had come to ISCKON, for that matter, is a naturally occurring phenomena rather than product of our assumed devotion.

Generally, we think that devotion comes first, external manifestation follows, and therefore one is the cause of another. Then we go on and chant “Oh Lord, Or Lord’s energy, please engage me in Your service”, and that’s what happens later. Nope, I say, whatever engagement happens to us is pre-ordained by the stars, lines on palms of our hands, and history of the universe itself.

We still see it as progressing from past to the future and so we hope that by changing the present, by our prayers, we change the course of universal history. Nope, it doesn’t really work like that. And it doesn’t meant that the above translation of the mahā-mantra, given by Śrīla Prabhupāda, is wrong.

First, the time – it doesn’t flow from past to future, from left to right, or in any other direction. We see that way because we are under Lord’s illusion. Freedom from this illusion means freedom from time, among other things. Time is one of the Lord’s mightiest weapons and no one in this material world is above it, except viṣṇu-tattva and liberated souls. They see the world as it is, “objectively”, if that means anything in their world. I guess it does, as they are free from any bias, but even in the spiritual world they are still under control of the Lord so He is the only one who can be truly objective.

Anyway, outside of influence of time they do not see it as linear. I guess it’s like playing around with controls of your preferred media player on the computer – you can skip backwards and forwards, freeze the frame, rewind, play it at double speed, slow it down, and even play it in reverse. Musical notes and video images, and their digital representation, follow in sequence but this sequence can be viewed in any direction. One note is always tied to another, there are unavoidable intermediate notes in between, and nothing can ever be out of place.

Or consider bittorrent technology – it allows you to download a song or a movie in a series of blocks, each 256kB in size, and each block downloaded individually. They can come down completely out of order but the torrent program can reassemble them back into a song because they all are numbered. It’s like a collection of singular mementos, a card deck that can be shuffled, each card or each memento has it’s own meaning, value, and information attached to it, but you can always arrange it back to order if you want.

That’s what happens with time and everything that happens to us here. There are mementos, there are memories, and right now they are being served one by one, and we dutifully count them, but outside of the illusion they can also look like a shuffled card deck or a jumbled jigsaw. Liberated persons are not playing, they don’t have to follow the sequence, they only know that the order exists and that’s enough for them.

Our perception that we can somehow assemble the puzzle in any other way is based on ignorance, at best it’s cute but mostly it’s just naive. Each episode from our lives and from the life of the entire universe can fit only in one place and it must connect with its neighbors. We can’t change that, they can’t change that, the Lord probably can but He is not interested, as far as we heard of His engagement with the universe.

The perception that our actions somehow matter is the false ego talking. Usually we think false ego is our temporary identity as a given material body but no, it literally means “I am the doer” in Sanskrit. Ahaṇ is “I”, aham, and kāra is a verb form for action. So, false ego is not just “I am a man” or “I am a woman” or “I am a dog”, but also “I am the doer”. Primarily “I am the doer”, I would say, but don’t quote me on that.

This understanding might explain why false ego sometimes referred to as one element for the whole universe as opposed to ten senses given to each living entity. We ALL think exactly the same, universal thought – “I am the doer”, in each and every form of life.

So, under the influence of this thought we assume that we can change things and our efforts matter. They don’t. All our actions are carried out by the material nature. All our actions are caused by desires that appear in our minds as minds observe the activities of the material nature. Our minds don’t get to choose what they like and what they hate. They don’t get to choose whether to feel cold or hot, pleasure or pain.

Hold on, we CAN influence how to react to various events and feelings, we CAN control our mind, we have intelligence for that, don’t we? Nope, intelligence is just another material element that has access to memories, which came from observing the actions of material nature. When intelligence processes these memories it can chart a different course of action from the one suggested by the mind, but the way intelligence works is also mechanical. It simply makes sacrifices of less important interests for the sake of the more important ones, that’s all. Who sets the values? Who determines the priority? Not the intelligence itself – these things come from other people, our parents, teachers, gurus, friends etc.

As devotees we don’t get to choose whether celibacy is important or not. We don’t get to choose whether chanting is important. All these things come from our authorities. Our intelligence simply reflects the strength these authorities hold over our lives. Those raised as atheists don’t give a dime for God or the scriptures or the prophets or the gurus. Those raised in a different way value the same things differently – we don’t really get to choose our upbringing.

Prolonged exposure eventually solidifies our commitment and strengthens our intelligence, but we don’t get to arrange how long our bodies are going to be exposed to the teachings of our ācāryas. Some only get one mantra and are sent off to a forest to practice it for the rest of their life. Some spend their lives in a temple, some see their guru only once in the life, some are personally trained for years. We don’t get to choose.

So, nothing we think we do here really matters. We are not the doers. The Lord and His material nature carry out all the activities, we just claim ownership over something that is not ours.

And if somebody raises the argument that this attitude leads to inaction and irresponsibility – hogwash. EVERYONE will be forced to work and act according to his nature. We can’t stop it just as Arjuna couldn’t stop the battle of Kurukṣetra. The hesitation and irresponsibility are caused by the mode of ignorance, not by me typing away this post.

We are not the doers also means that we can’t stop things from happening, and they will happen in their predestined way whether we like it or not. Just let the world be, it’s Kṛṣṇa’s world, not ours, He is the controller and enjoyer, not us, stop trying to usurp His position and His powers.

Ha, didn’t I just said “stop”? How can we stop? I just argued against it, didn’t I?

Well, this is the only choice we can make as spirit souls – whether to accept Kṛṣṇa as our Lord and master or whether to defy Him and try being little gods ourselves. Depending on this choice we will see the rest of the world accordingly. The world will go on, but we will perceive it differently. We can choose to see it as paramahaṁsas or we can choose to see it as hogs and dogs, that’s all.

Vanity thought #1370. Natural phenomenon

Recently I saw an avowed atheist drop a kind of a bombshell – God doesn’t exist and people’s religious beliefs are simply a product of their environment. Of course there’s nothing new here but that second part made me think – he might be right more than he realizes.

If I honestly analyze my path to where I am, there’s nothing supernatural to it. I can interpret it as Kṛṣṇa’s will, or Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, or soul’s eternal and irresistible attraction to the Lord, or aggregated sukṛṭi, but I could also interpret it in purely materialistic, “objective” terms, too. That’s what atheists do and it makes sense to them.

I did not choose my upbringing, I did not choose the magazines with articles on yoga which I read after my father was done with them. I did not choose Christianity appear as stifling and confusing – my teachers taught me that. I did not choose how my outlook on life changed in my teens, I did not choose how it changed in college either.

I did not choose books I read. Well, I did choose them in the library but my picks were guided my interests and my interests depended on what I had already read before. I also did not choose books that had profound impact on my understanding of the world, people gave them to me. So, by the time I got my hands on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam I was already half done, it was just a topping on the cake.

Specifically, the way I remember it, I read something about Brahman and I tried praying to it for guidance, and that eventually led me to Bhāgavatam, in a few days time. I did not choose that book about Brahman either, friends gave it to me, it was cool, they said.

At that time I didn’t have any pressing engagements or unavoidable obligations so it was given than I would have tried to join the temple. Once in the temple I didn’t get to choose which speakers to listen to. It’s true that only one of them was truly inspirational but, in retrospect, it could be explained by my guru displaying the outlook on life I was more compatible with.

TBH, now, many years later, I rue the missed opportunities to pay as much attention to other sannyāsīs passing through our temple. I still don’t see any one of them as equal to my guru but they had their own good points and I would give an arm and a leg to get their association now. But I digress.

The choices I made during the time of my active service weren’t free either. I had a certain set of skills and I was engaged according to them. Things that I was bad at never worked out, and there was nothing “transcendental” about it.

Family life was totally predictable, too. Some astrologers looked at my chart and laughed when I was insisting on staying in the brahmacāri āśrama. They were right and I was wrong, and there was nothing transcendental about it either.

Point is – at every stage of my life I was a “victim” of the circumstances, a slave to my karma. It’s my good luck that the biggest chunk of it was guided by devotees and ISKCON in general but that influence was objective, predictable, and measurable, not “transcendental”.

I bet similar analysis can be made for every member of our society, too. We did not have any supernatural inputs at any stage in our history. Money, temples, deities, paraphernalia, books – none of that came out of vacuum. All the elements and causes were already present in this world, they were just assembled in a certain way at a certain time.

We can say that Śrīla Prabhupāda was a messenger from Kṛṣṇa but we should also agree that he can be described in terms of his external upbringing. He was born in a certain place, he was taught English at a certain school, met a certain guru, and there wasn’t any real choice back then. He heard certain teachings, he heard about the value of books, which wasn’t a supernatural judgment as well, he heard of the need to preach in western countries – there really isn’t anything Prabhupāda could have done differently. The prediction of late in life traveling and opening a hundred temples was in his chart, too.

So, are atheists right when they say religions are nothing special and can be explained as any other natural phenomenon?

Yes, but not in the way they expect.

Religions are part of this world BUT they are started by the Lord. He personally appears here or He invests His preaching potency into a suitable body, like that of Vyāsadeva.

I’m not sure it’s even the right way to describe what happened. It’s not like appearing as Vyāsa is Lord’s personal decision, Vyāsa is a post that comes with the universe, like Lord Indra or Lord Brahmā, it’s all built in and happens according to the schedule.

What I mean to say is that God’s connection with the universe is not casual or accidental, it’s an integral part of universe’s existence. So yes, religions are part of this world and they are not supernatural.

Atheists can purge religion from one corner of it but I doubt it’s sustainable and it certainly can’t be universe wide. The Earth is a place for human beings and humans will always have some sort of a religion, it’s their nature. Otherwise souls would get born on asuric planets. Religion is a dharma of a human being, can’t change that, it will be here as long as there are humans.

The fact that some of us reject the Lord is part of the deal – we need to have options to make a choice and some will make the “wrong” one. It’s not wrong per se, it’s a soul’s desire and we have to respect it, and as a result of this choice atheistic souls will probably populate planets of the demons. Internet there is faster, I heard, and wifi is everywhere, they’ll be right at home.

My larger point today is that it’s not a bad thing that we have no proof of supernatural influence on our lives, we should not fall into that trap set up for us by atheists. “Supernatural” is their word, not ours, soul’s dharma is to serve the Lord, dharma cannot be supernatural by definition – dharma is NATURE of a thing.

We can, of course, make a distinction between material and spiritual nature but both are Lord’s energies and the Lord does not treat His inferior energy with contempt, He uses it to manifest His pastimes before our eyes all the time. Until the moment of liberation everything we see here as spiritual is actually made of that inferior energy – deities made of clay, gurus bodies made of cells, holy name made of audible vibrations of our vocal chords and so on. It’s just that when this inferior energy is connected to the Lord it becomes spiritualized, it acts as if it was spiritual, and that’s what we have been taught from day one.

Atheists usually refuse to grasp this point but it doesn’t make it untrue or their observations incorrect.

Vanity thought #1369. Define God

Request to define God is very popular in discussions with new atheists. They can’t argue whether something does or does not exist unless that thing is properly defined, the scientific method prohibits them from doing so. What to say in response to such requests? I don’t really know, nothing seems to work, but it does make me think about it over and over.

To start with, I’m not comfortable with the word “define”. What does it mean exactly? Do they expect God to be defined as an instance of a class, or should He be defined as some animal species? Or should He be defined in philosophical terms? I don’t really know what they want. They say “your god, you define it as you want, we’ll deal with whatever you give us”.

Fair enough, but then the pressure shifts back on us to present a definition that would satisfy them, and that’s even before they begin their testing if God exists according to this definition or not. Should the responsibility to define God be ours, however? I disagree.

If we come to preach then we present Kṛṣṇa the way we want Him to be seen. We introduce Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is a definition in itself. We can also talk about Him being the most attractive person, or about Lord Caitanya being the most merciful. Or we can talk about Him being present in the heart of every living being in His Paramātmā aspect. In this case, preaching, we are free to introduce Kṛṣṇa in any way we want so that people form relationship with Him on our terms.

Of course they are not real relationships but that’s how people would think of Him from that moment on. We can say that He is the slayer of demons and people would think, yeah, it’s great that God kills those annoying atheists. We can introduce Him as the protector of His devotees and people would turn to Him for shelter every time they sense trouble. It is a kind of relationship already.

So, once again, when we preach we define God however we want. When atheists demand the definition the situation changes and we don’t have the same freedom anymore. We have to guess what kind of relationship they want to have with God and then present Him accordingly, we don’t get to share our attitudes, we don’t get to share our appreciation, we don’t get to share our devotion.

Shouldn’t this be a reason to turn around and walk away? If people ask for definition to prove that God doesn’t exist – why should we help them? Who would benefit from that? Not them, not us, not Kṛṣṇa. And yet they are asking about God so some sort of an interest is there and we can always hope to fan that spark.

When I think about what they actually want I come to the conclusion that they want a fight and are somewhat open to the possibility of defeat. In some cases defeat is not an option and so there’s nothing for us to do there. It’s hard to read people right away but it becomes clearer as the conversation moves alone. There are all kinds of atheists, some reject God, some are agnostics, some are ignostics, some believe in a higher power but not God of Christian tradition, let along Allah, some are against organized religion, some are against dogmas. It’s hart to tell unless you get to know the person a little better.

Bottom line – we need to know what that person wants from God first, then we can start thinking about accommodating his desires.

Everybody is after the Absolute Truth, that much is clear, but exact aspect of the Absolute they want is a hard guess. Then we need to reconcile the object they are searching for with “God”, a person. Maybe they are after impersonal Brahman. Most of the time your garden variety atheist sees Absolute Truth as logic and rationality. At first they might say that Absolute Truth is what they can test with their senses, ie empiric reality, but if they talk about God chances are they are open to possibility of God being transcendental if this theory checks out logically. Reason and rationality allows us to talk about non-empiric reality so it’s theoretically possible for God to be found there. Arghh, it’s complicated, they want so many things with so many conditions, and they are never quite clear about it themselves.

So, when they ask “define God” they ask for a logical definition of a personal aspect of the Absolute Truth. Okay, but logic is impersonal. How can we use an impersonal tool to define personality? In the material world every definition strips away a personal aspect of the object. If you say “my father”, for example, you define that man as a generic figure stripped of all personally identifying features. If there are five men of the same age in the room, “my father” doesn’t really identify anyone in particular. And if you say “a man with a mustache” you’d strip him of his relationship to you. Even if you say “my father who is a man with a mustache” it still doesn’t tell us anything about your unique relationship with him, we assume it’s like between every father and son, nothing personal.

In these cases definition helps us to identify one person in the group but God can’t be classified like that – He is not a part of any group, as far as material world goes. We can’t single Him out in a lineup.

I’m not sure atheists are aware of that when they ask to define God. They might every well be asking to point to an object in this world that we call God. This object would then definitely exist and be testable, and so all requirements of their scientific method will be fulfilled, but it won’t be God, of course, and they will prove it by classifying it as a material object with material origins and material properties.

There’s another fundamental difficulty with definitions – they are all circular. You take a word, look it up in a dictionary, then look up meanings of the words defining it, and in no time you’ll get caught in a loop with no way out. Big dictionaries might have something like a hundred thousand words but they also carry another number – how many words are used to define them. If you don’t know the meanings of these words from outside the dictionary, it can’t help you. After all, a dictionary is just a book, it has no connection to reality it tries to define. That connection you have to create yourself. You have to know what words like “water”, “up”, or “go” mean in the real world first. Or put it another way – you can’t learn a foreign language by reading a dictionary alone (I don’t mean dictionaries with translations).

God has no presence in the real world, however. We cannot construct Him from building blocks of words related to physical phenomena like we do with any other concept. That’s probably why impersonalists are so fond of “neti neti” method – it’s much easier to say what God is not rather than say what He is. This method also does not lead to personal realization, so is it even possible to satisfy atheists request to “define God”?

Probably not. They won’t accept impersonal aspect of Godhead either, for the reason that it’s not perceived by the senses. After all, it takes impersonalists decades of thinking and analyzing things while keeping their senses under control to realize Brahman. Modern day atheists would never qualify. For them Brahman might as well be non-existent.

I don’t know what to do here. Let them worship logic and reason, that would eventually lead them to impersonalism. They won’t complete this journey in one lifetime and there will be hell to pay for all their sins, but in the long run the process is unstoppable.

And yet they can’t stop talking about God as a person so they must have some kind of relationship with Him. Probably based on envy, but it’s still better than nothing. What would we advise Kaṁsa, for example? Should we ask a person like that to concentrate more on Kṛṣṇa, even if he hates the Lord, or should we try to change his hate into devotion? How does Kṛṣṇa want to relate to Him? Kṛṣṇa wanted to kill Kaṁsa, if Nārada Muni converted Kaṁsa into a devotee and Kṛṣṇa came to kill him, wouldn’t it spoil the whole pastime?

“Always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget” might be a higher principle here. This means that atheists should be encouraged to talk about God no matter what. Is this how we should accommodate their requests? Just keep them talking? How about intensifying their hatred so that they really always think about the Lord?

Hmm, once again I came to the conclusion that preaching to atheists is a waste of time. However useful, fanning someone’s hatred for Kṛṣṇa is not what we should be doing as Lord Caitanya’s servants.

Unfortunately, no other ideas come to mind.

Vanity thought #1368. Mystery of Uddhava

This is born out of a comment I left on someone else’s blog.

Uddhava is a really special personality who doesn’t fit into our usual understanding how things work when Kṛṣṇa descends into the material world. Generally, we accept that Kṛṣṇa manifests His own planet, Goloka, in our realm so that we can get a glimpse of life in the spiritual world. One model is that material universes are moving like on a carousel that goes past a window into the spiritual sky and so through that window someone somewhere always sees the Lord and His pastimes.

This explains Kṛṣṇa’s appearance once in a day of Brahma – that’s how often our universe passes that window. This explains how devotees can get birth during Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes without having to wait – as souls we aren’t confined to any specific universe, I guess. We can always be taken to where Kṛṣṇa is right now.

I might be wrong here but it gives me hope of edging closer and closer to either Kṛṣṇa or Lord Caitanya with every consecutive incarnation, or even getting straight into their pastimes in whatever universe they are visible at the moment.

What this model doesn’t explain is how the place in our universe that passes by the window is also non-different from spiritual Vṛndāvana. When we, the conditioned souls, see the Lord during His advent we are not seeing Him through any windows, we see Him right here between us. These places, either Navadvīpa or Vṛndāvana, are here and at the same time there. They are here even when the Lord is invisible, like right now. So, perhaps, our carousel doesn’t pass by the window but rather through the spiritual world, as if it was a fun park ride passing through a waterfall.

In any case, what we see here is the same stuff that goes on up there. There must be differences, however. Demons do not exist in the spiritual world, Kaṁsa does not exist in the spiritual world, the battle of Kurukṣetra does not happen in the spiritual world, lots of our earthly pastimes are not possible there. This is reconciled in our literature but not in great detail, afaik.

With demons, for example, there’s a fear, not their actual presence, and Kṛṣṇa dispels this fear in the hearts of His devotees. For them it’s part of their relationships with the Lord, they don’t need actual third parties to experience them in full. This doesn’t explain Kurukṣetra or Kaṁsa, however.

Kurukṣetra is at least not part of Lord’s abode but Mathurā is. Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes involving Pāṇḍavas might not exist in the spiritual Goloka but Mathurā is definitely there, and how could Mathurā not have Kaṃsa? How could such a major part of devotees appreciation fo the Lord here be absent in the spiritual world? Everyone here knows Kṛṣṇa is a slayer of Kaṃsa, how could this most basic memory be absent there?

This could be reconciled somehow, I guess. The story of Kṛṣṇa entering Mathurā includes non-devotees and karma-miśra devotees so it’s clearly not the part of the spiritual universe, the fully spiritual part could be Kṛṣṇa’s life here with the members of His dynasty.

Then they all moved to Dvārakā, which is another part of spiritual Goloka. Dvārakā was here along with all Dvārakā’s devotees, the queens, the Yadus – they were all there. There was a problem with Earthly Yadus, of course – how they were “only” demigods who had to be “retired” during a drunken battle, but similar problems can be found in Vṛṇdāvana, too – the brāhmaṇas who refused Kṛṣṇa when he asked for food, for example, or the gopīs who couldn’t join the rasa dance.

Our Earthly manifestations of Goloka allow for the inclusion of devotees rising from the ranks of the conditioned souls, which is great for us. Uddhava, however, is Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associate, He is not one of us, He is always with Kṛṣṇa as His dearest friend and most trusted adviser. He is eternally present in spiritual Dvārakā, too.

The mystery which puzzles me is that Uddhava is not satisfied with his position. He is engaged in service in a legitimate rasa as Kṛṣṇa’s friend and servant. This rasa should correspond to his eternal spiritual svarūpa and should fully satisfy his soul, and yet he longs for something more. How’s this possible?

He lives in Dvārakā among among Kṛṣṇa’s seniors who are in vātsalya rasa with the Lord, and Kṛṣṇa’s queens are there, too, who are in mādhurya rasa. Both of these are technically superior to Uddhava’s sakhyā, yet he is not interested in upgrading to them.

He was perfectly situated in his position until Kṛṣṇa sent him to Vṛndāvana with a message to the gopīs. I guess until then Uddhava had only a vague idea who the gopīs were and what were their relationships with Kṛṣṇa. When he saw them, however, they turned his world upside down. He had never seen love for the Lord that was so intense and so absorbing and so self-rewarding.

Interestingly, he didn’t want it for himself. He didn’t want an upgrade to parakīyā, he simply wanted to serve them in any way he could. From that moment on his heart’s desire was to be born in the land of Vraja so that he could get the mercy of the gopīs upon himself (SB 10.47.61):

    Oh, let me be fortunate enough to be one of the bushes, creepers or herbs in Vṛndāvana, because the gopīs trample them and bless them with the dust of their lotus feet.

In the purport it’s explained that Uddhava knew gopīs wouldn’t bless him with their footdust but if he was born there as a bush or a creeper he would eventually get it. His wish was granted, for course, and there’s a place on the banks of Kusuma Sarovara where grass is believed to be the incarnation of Uddhava. Alternatively, he was born in Puṣpavana. From where I am details are not really that important, locals there can explain it better.

So, what happened to Uddhava and his eternal svarūpā? Has he “ugraded” himself to the servant of the gopīs? Or can we say that he traded his position as Kṛṣṇa’s friend in Dvārakā to the position of Vṛndāvana’s grass? Grass is supposed to be in a neutral rasa, however. Or is he the kind of grass that sees itself as a servant of a servant of a servant? Now that he got his wish and got gopīs footdust all over his body, what happens as a result? Would he become gopīs servant or would he accept their exact mood, including conjugal attraction to the Lord?

I tend to think that he would rather always remain their servant and admirer even without leaving Dvārakā. This makes a lot more sense – he is there, in his eternal form and eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa, but he knows that there are devotees who are better and more dedicated than him.

I might be wrong, it’s all very speculative, but it’s the kind of speculation that can increase our appreciation for the love and humility displayed by Lord’s devotees. If that has been achieved then the exact answer is immaterial, it could be whatever and arguing about it would completely miss the point.

Vanity thought #1367. Original Sin 3

For the past couple of days I’ve been talking about the meaning of original sin in different traditions. They all have some things in common and at the same time they all are obviously different. Christian concept is unique and it overshadows pre-JC understanding of faulty human nature which was otherwise common across all religious traditions.

We all might disagree on exact causes of sin and evil in this world but Buddha had a very practical outlook on all this – it doesn’t really matter how it all started, it’s more important what we are going to do about it. Life is short to waste it on chasing the impossible.

In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we are not that different in this regard – we don’t waste our time on trying to find the exact reason of our falldown and whether it was a falldown at all. Until “no fall” vādīs challenged us on that we simply didn’t think about it and were caught by surprise by their suggestion. It was, and still is, plainly obvious that our origin lies in the spiritual world and we somehow or other left it. The exact circumstances were never of interest to us and we still can’t find them anywhere in our books.

I’m not sure refuting “no fall” arguments is not a giant waste of time. It does make us search through tons of books for exact quotes and then analyze them in every possible way but I’ve also seen a warning not to treat our literature like that. We should stick with one book and read and understand it thoroughly, then move on. Reading a passage from here and a passage from there to prove a point is not how we should take association of the ācāryas, which is what studying their books is.

Anyway, we might attribute sin and evil to predominance of the modes of ignorance and passion, or we might talk about the collection of anarthas in our hearts because real sin is not serving the Lord even if it might not look like a sin according to mundane morality. I don’t think other religions make similar distinctions, but we all have to deal with the same effects regardless of the causes, and all religions prescribe following rules and regulations to purify one’s existence.

Buddhists talk about four noble truths, for example – the world is full of suffering, desires and attachments are the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering means giving up desires, and that following the path would lead one to this end. Same thing expressed in different words. Absence of God and relationships with Him is a major drawback, but that happens AFTER the liberation anyway, which is of immediate concern to Buddhists.

They deal with the unpleasant nature of this world, we are not interested in it very much, we want devotional service right from the start and are not interested in cessation of suffering – it goes away on its own as we gradually realize our spiritual identity. We need Kṛṣṇa, everything else is of no importance whatsoever.

Anyway, Christian concept of Original Sin serves as a ground for endless attacks on their doctrine. Why all people in entire history are made to suffer for one mistake of one man? Why does God allow evil at all? Does it mean that He is not all powerful?

This problem of evil has been dogging Christians since forever but we can turn it around against atheists as well. What are their answers to the existence of evil in this world? Why do innocent children die of cancer or born with deformities? What is the source of evil according to their understanding.

Turns out, they don’t have answers. They say that evil doesn’t really exist, it’s just mindless and impersonal material nature. Well, that’s what we, Hare Kṛṣṇas, have been telling them all along, except we call it karma.

Look what Richard Dawkins writes in River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

    In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

First question – if that’s how they see the world, why bother Christians for explanations to something that doesn’t exist? They could be making an argument that Christianity is internally inconsistent in that it can’t explain its concept of evil according to its own doctrine, but that’s not how they usually present it – they really think that evil is real and want Christians to explain it.

Christians have an answer, Original Sin, so internal inconsistency isn’t there, so atheists talk about inconsistency between what they see and what the Bible tells us about it. In short, they see evil as real and often undeserved. That’s a natural reaction of any human being while Dawkins’ quote above is a mature understanding of a hardcore atheist. The problem is that most atheists aren’t going to go as far as that and deny that there’s no purpose, no good, no evil in our lives.

This is their internal inconsistency – if they take atheism to its logical end it’s where they should arrive, but they abandon logic somewhere along the way.

So, if evil doesn’t exist – why bother Christians about it? Or why bother attacking law of karma? And if evil does exist – what is their explanation for it?

Afaik, they don’t have one. They can blame things like child suffering on unfortunate circumstances, which means there’s no evil per se, but they have no idea what compels people to sin.

In the Dawkins quote there’s a mention of “selfish gene” and it might sound like a good answer, expect that it’s not actually a gene in Dawkins view. It’s the name of his book, not that there’s a gene that one can flip and make someone unselfish. He talks about natural selection as a reason for both selfishness and altruism without specifying any particular carriers of these traits.

The problem of evil in atheism is compounded by a lack of objective definition. We say that it’s any action not in service to the Lord but atheists don’t have such a luxury. They have to deal with the fact that what is evil for one man or one culture might be considered good by others. They have to deal with the failure of pure pragmatism to console people whose comfort is sacrificed for the “common good”. They have to deal with the popular understanding that ends do not always justify the means. They have to deal with the fact that there’s no common yardstick to measure either good or evil.

It’s so much easier to say that none of it truly exists, like Dawkins did. Except that everyone says that it does.

I wonder why the outspoken atheists are not challenged on this point, even Christians get it, but somehow they don’t use it and get stuck in defending themselves instead.

Vanity thought #1366. Original Sin 2

I got interested in the topic of the Original Sin as an exercise in how different religions view inherent corruption in the nature of men. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we do not see it in the exactly same way and we certainly don’t link it to the fault of one man (and one woman) as Christians do, but we all, regardless of our religions, have to deal with the results. Even atheists have to do something about it.

Our “original sin” is the moment the spirit soul turns away from the Lord and decides to take a tour of material world. This is debated by “no fall” vādīs but I won’t get into that now. We decided to have a different kind of relationship with the Lord, not the one based on service but the one based on pretending He does not exist and we’d better live our lives without Him.

Since the Absolute Truth is all-inclusive we can’t avoid dealing with the Lord, however, and, for our convenience, He created an inferior energy we can pretend to play with, and He placed us under the illusion that this energy is disconnected from Him. We wouldn’t call it a rasa but since the Lord is engaged supporting our decision it must bring Him at least some kind of pleasure, we are His children, after all. He literally can’t let us go, probably because there are no places outside of the Absolute Truth to go to.

Nevertheless, the original rejection of our existing relationships with Him must have been painful. We are certainly made to suffer, and so the cause of this suffering is our “original sin”.

There’s another force at play here, however – Kali Yuga. For us it’s only a harsher form of punishment, more ignorance and less goodness, but for other contemporary religions it is the only thing they have ever known. Perhaps only Judaism has a memory of what life was like before Kali took over but it certainly not the first thing one learns about that religion.

Introduction of Kali, and specifically increase in passion and ignorance, makes our sins two-layered. Some are due to our original rebellion and some are due to temporary waves of Kali Yuga overwhelming our consciousness. The original sin is eternal, the effects of Kali are not. I think it’s quite possible that when Christians or Muslims battle their sins they mean only sinful desires imposed on them by Kali Yuga, ones that come and go all the time and can be resisted by sticking to rules and regulations.

Seven deadly sins, for example, fall into this category. We are never lusty, greedy, or gluttonous all the time. We can easily figure out that these urges are temporary. We can learn to avoid them and we can learn to suppress them, they are more or less manageable, and so we see them as extraneous even if we attribute them to our sinful nature.

What I’m not so sure of is that battling this kind of sins helps people in other traditions realize the presence of the original offense towards the Lord in their hearts. Everything we do in this world is founded on that original rejection of Lord’s service, even at our best moments we are guided by the desire to avoid Him.

Of course, when we turn to religion we somewhat correct our mistake but this layer of grime on our hearts never goes away completely until we are safe and sound back in the spiritual world in the Lord’s company and in our fully spiritual bodies. Will Christians or Muslims get there, too? I think it’s very unlikely because their knowledge of the spiritual world is non-existent and if they don’t know where they are going it’s not likely they will ever get there. This is the stuff they’ll have to learn in the afterlife, though the same can be said about devotees, too – we are not likely to learn our spiritual position in Kṛṣṇa līlā in this life time, only general information about our destination.

This is an important point to remember – the process of anartha nivṛtti will continue until we reach Vṛndāvana in our spiritual bodies. Even being born in the Earthly manifestation of Vraja is not enough, as seen from the examples of gopīs who couldn’t join the rasa dance. What we are doing now is the major clean up that should allow us to acquire taste for bhakti, what we will do at the next step is being purified enough to eventually attain bhāva and then premā, which is theoretically possible while in our material bodies, but some anarthas will still be with us, that’s just the way it is.

So, I’m not sure if Christians and Muslims, or Jews, realize how deep our aversion to Lord’s service is seated within our hearts. It’s not just propensity to sin, if we are battling with four regs it’s still nothing, spiritually speaking. When those other religions recommend following certain rules as a way to counteract our inherently sinful nature it’s also still nothing, spiritually speaking – it’s just and introduction to vaidhī, regulations. Vaidhī does not equal to spontaneous devotion which alone can sufficiently purify our hearts.

Vaidhi-bhakti is performed for materialistic reasons – if spontaneous devotion is not there what other reasons can we possibly have? Some engage in following rules and regulations to make their lives better, more comfortable and more pleasurable. Some want release from suffering without any clear idea what comes next, but in any case path of vaidhi is a reaction to what happens to us in the material world.

Spontaneous devotion, otoh, is fully independent and completely self-sufficient, it like like that from material pov where the Lord is still invisible. It has no external reasons and it does not lead to any external goals, and it cannot be checked by any external means. It’s between the soul and the Lord and the material nature can’t get inside of that.

Only then we can hope to sincerely beg forgiveness for our original rejection of the Lord. Only spontaneous devotion can convince the Lord to give us another chance. Only then our original sin will get discarded.

Do Christians, Muslims, Jews, whoever, attain this stage? Perhaps only in the most confidential parts of their teachings, in the writings of the saints. It’s certainly not their required reading like our Caitanya Caritāmṛta or Nectar of Devotion. In my experience, vast majority of the regular believers have no idea.

We, as devotees, also should never forget that as long as we are in our material bodies we are bound to act out of selfish interests. By guru and Lord’s mercy we can be engaged in their service but it’s not an excuse for us to claim that we are not acting selfishly anymore. Our motives should never be presumed as pure. The fact that we must treat other devotees as spotless and unassailable in this regard should not give us any funny ideas about ourselves.

We are never really worthy the opportunity to serve, it’s not our divine right, not as long as we are in the material world. The engagements that we do have should be seen as causeless mercy from our guru, not even the Lord Himself. Causeless means we have not deserved it while mercy means that it’s sacred and must be cherished and protected. In this multi-party relationships between us, the material nature, the guru, and the Lord, only our motives are always impure and we should acknowledge that at all times.

There’s no place for vanity in spiritual life.

Vanity thought #1365. Original Sin

We all know the idea – first created people ate an apple against God’s injunction and were cast out of heaven. How and why it affects every human being born thousands and thousands of years after that episode is a mystery with many explanations.

To us, as devotees, it makes no sense whatsoever. Christians can’t say it makes no sense and would argue that it’s no mystery at all, but then many of them disagree on the answers, meaning they don’t know, meaning it’s still a mystery. The concept came into being only after Christ and does not exist in Judaism.

One of its corollaries is that since all men are born into total depravity they don’t have free will. We are all not simply inclined to sin but enslaved by our sinful desires. Then comes the Christ and saves us by his grace, whether it’s through baptism of something similar. The problem with this is the same as with Christianity itself – people were saved before, people who never heard of Christ were saved after, too.

It’s a little contradiction that arises more from missionary zealotry rather then from the idea itself. We ARE “slaves to sin”, slaves to the three guṇas, but we still possess free will, which is manifested in our attitude to God. Everything else is mechanically carried out by the material nature and so we are always enslaved in that sense – we never have control over what material nature does, we only hope she cooperates with our desire to serve the Lord.

As an aside, check how Christians, starting from Paul, dealt with this contradiction. In Paul’s letters to Romans (10.8-9) he quotes the Old Testament:

    But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The problem here is that Old Testament didn’t need Jesus at the time, the words were spoken by Moses and he didn’t ask anyone to wait for Paul’s message (Deuteronomy 30:14):

    But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

The bold part, boldly telling people to save themselves now, without waiting for future Jesus, was omitted by Paul. They didn’t really need Christ then.

That is not to say that people aren’t perceived as depraved in Judaism, it’s just that they don’t accept JC as the only way. There’s this instruction from God to Cain in Genesis 4.6-7, for example:

    Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Afaik, in Judaism there are injunctions for men to urinate without using hands because of the fear of accidental arousal – can’t trust the human nature. Check out Halacha 23 on this page for more details.

One more curiosity – our classification of suffering into three categories, adhyātmika, adhidaivika and adhibhautika, apparently exist in at least some Jewish schools (source), too:

    ..Maimonides and other rationalists, and even the poet Yehudah Halevi, explain that what we consider evil has one of three sources, although Halevi divides the three into several more. Many painful situations are the result of what people do to themselves, such as stepping out in the cold without wearing adequate clothing or failing to study and then being unable to find a job. The second is when someone else causes the person pain, such as when Hitler decided to expand Germany by killing millions or when a neighbor cuts down a tree and it falls on the house next door. The third is the laws of nature, which, as previously stated, is good for the world as a whole but can hurt individuals, such as a heavy rain or winds that clean the earth, but kills people.

The main difference is that ādhyātmika miseries are those that arise from one’s body and mind, not exactly results of personal karma as presented in this quote.

Anyway, Judaism rejects the idea of Original Sin in the context of its effect on every human and proposed salvation but it does not object that sin exists originally in every man. In Judaism propensity to sin is individual’s responsibility, ever present and always to be fought off. Purity is possible through following the scripture, JC or no JC.

Interestingly, having the scripture and having its injunctions explained to you must already be some form of the grace. Jesus himself would be just one of the instances of such grace. Of course it’s Christians right to have a special place for him in their hearts but we aren’t similarly obliged, and Christianity does not break universal principles of religion. We just happen to get them in a fuller form, and, thanks to Lord Caitanya, completely transcend the inherently selfish interest in the problem of evil and suffering.

It’s not that we, Hare Kṛṣṇas, can explain it better, we just don’t care. We are not concerned with liberation from suffering, we are interested in what happens after it and how our liberated lives can be of any use to the Lord.

Original sin is not accepted by Muslims either, certainly not in the way Christians interpret it, but human weakness is inbuilt in Islam, too (source).

    And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.

Islam also has a fallen angel, Iblis, a carrier of pride, whose job is it whisper in people’s ears and urge them to sin. It’s a kind of equivalent of the force that modes of material nature exert on people in our tradition. The explanation is completely different, of course, but to people on the receiving end it doesn’t really matter where this force comes from, we can’t see its origin anyway and we have to resist it regardless.

One interesting aspect of Islamic worldview is that they do not separate good from evil in principle and strive to see both phenomena as manifestation of God’s will. Very mature understanding even from our position, and the one conspicuously absent from current discussion on Islam spurred by terrorism. Could it be a Christian knee-jerk reaction where they always separate the world into “us” and “them”? “Us” are always good and morally right and “them” are always barbaric and in need of purification. Even atheists can’t shake off this Christian legacy of trying to set the world right according to their beliefs, but more on the problem of original sin in atheism next time.

Vanity thought #1364. Scientific challenges 3

Continuing from yesterday – suggestions proposed by proponents of the string theory on modification of scientific method are revolutionary but it won’t be the first revolution of this kind in science.

To recap – string theory is mathematically solid but impossible to prove experimentally. Earth is too small to sustain the kind of experiments necessary to confirm it the usual way. We’ve never had these constraints before and perhaps it’s a surprise but they have been long coming.

When we look at distant stars, for example, we have to deal with Earth’s atmosphere, the air surrounding our planet will always, always interfere, and that’s why we built Hubble. It’s not the biggest telescope in the world, far from it, but it flies in total vacuum and we simply can’t replicate its results here on Earth.

When some twenty countries came together, raised funds and built LHC at CERN it was clear that we can’t expand capacity of our colliders forever. This is as good as it gets. Incidentally, it also meant that no one else has the capacity to run his own collider experiments independently, it’s all at the mercy of people who run CERN. It wasn’t like that in the 18th and 19th centuries where everybody could do cutting edge science in his own garage.

Inability to do testing is not going to stop scientists, however, and so proponents of the string theory suggested new criteria for validating theories. A couple of years ago a physicist turned philosopher Richard Dawid wrote a book called String Theory and the Scientific Method which described these limitations and ways to solve them in great detail. I have not read it and have no intention of reading it but chapter by chapter synopsis, reviews, and counterarguments are easily available on the internet.

Basically, what he says is that if we do science the usual way and scientific community responds in the usual way, then we can judge theory’s validity even without testing.

In terms of the string theory he argues that since it’s not built in an empty lot but follows methodologies and constraints imposed by quantum field theory then these constraints ensure that string theory won’t stray off course even if it’s impossible to test.

Dawid’s other argument is that, as seen in the context of existing framework, a theory that doesn’t have any alternatives is usually the right one. As I understand, in the context of quantum field theory strings are the only viable outcome. I don’t know if it’s possible to develop quantum field in another direction or, mathematically, strings are unavoidable.

There’s also the argument that, as seen in history, if a theory offers surprising and unexpected explanations to a number of seemingly unrelated phenomena it must be right. This is, perhaps, the strongest side of strings. Its corollaries in holograms and super symmetry are testable and proven. Dawid argues that it’s enough to assume strings are real.

There’s one more argument that string theory, once properly developed and calculated, will be the one theory of all and explain all known empirical data. So far there aren’t any principal obstacles to achieving that goal, it’s just a matter of putting man-hours into mathematics.

String theorists have their work cut out for them both in short and long term perspective. They have to present general relativity and quantum mechanics as instances of strings, for example, which is a big job. ATM they just don’t have enough math to calculate how strings would behave at those levels AND reconcile it with formulas from standard theory.

The best argument for strings being “real” is that scientists believe that they are and they are not going to be dissuaded by some internet atheists who have learned how to parrot scientific method. It’s the case where science sets the norms and philosophy of science follows, and that’s why scientific method has to be adjusted and empirical testing needs to be put aside.

Dawid spent two chapters explaining that this change is not the first one in the history of science. In the 17th and 18th centuries atomists faced the same problem – atoms were to small to observe but otherwise they perfectly explained everything that people knew at that time.

Atoms are still impossible to observe, btw, and not just because they are small. Even if we had a powerful enough microscope it would still be impossible because simply looking at an atom would “break” it. Shining light on atoms changes their structure. When we bombard them with photons, which what light is, these photons knock electrons off their orbits and atoms will never be the same.

Don’t repeat this in public, it’s just a principle, not exactly what happens in reality.

So, when scientists of that era realized that they will never see the atoms in real life they quickly found other ways to justify their theories. We’ve been using these ways ever since without questioning but at the time it was revolutionary. Things must have been seen and perceived by our senses, now all LHC produces is thousand and thousands of pages of sensor readouts. These readouts look absolutely nothing like Higgs Boson but we accept that when properly interpreted they show proof of Higgs existence.

Science moved from direct to indirect evidence and never actually seen any of its discoveries since. We can’t see electricity, we can’t see electrons, we can’t see radio waves, we can’t see wifi around us, and nothing inside our computers suggests it can show us the internet, which we also can’t actually see or touch.

Dawid says that physics came to the point where we have to take the next step and become satisfied not only with indirect but also with non-empirical evidence.

Of course his proposal is far from being universally accepted and he has a lot to prove before that happens. Basically, string theory needs to show that it really complies with everything Dawid proposed, which isn’t that obvious and needs to be looked at by other people first. If and when it’s found that it checks out there would be a discussion whether string theory is just an exception or we really need new rules to push science forward, then these new rules will need to be negotiated by philosophers of science, so it’s a long time, probably decades before any of it becomes real and widely accepted.

In the meantime, science and string theory will keep going regardless of the discussions about it and so we CAN use this example with atheists already. Some form of move from strictly empiric to non-empiric assessment is unavoidable and even those who disagree with Dawid admit that going by empirics alone is implausible.

Is it possible to connect these developments in science with methods we use in self-realization? It’s not that easy and I haven’t figured out how to go about it yet. We do have empiric proof of one’s spiritual advancement but no “proof” of the existence of the spirit soul. This could be compared to the jump to accepting indirect evidence of atoms and everything smaller. I can’t think of an equivalent to “if the method worked before then new claims about some aspect of spirituality must be correct, too” development. If I could it would be a better argument for avoiding demands for empiric proof of God. Maybe it will come to me later.

Vanity thought #1363. Scientific challenges 2

Expanding on yesterday’s post – while the statistics about rise of atheism don’t look good what is really discouraging is that we have an opportunity to preach here and we are missing it. The stats cover only the US, dynamics in the rest of the world might be totally different, but it also means we can’t help our American devotees if they don’t help themselves. It’s their opportunity, their chance, and I hope they don’t blow it.

“Unaffiliated” category rose by 6.7% in the past seven years but only 1.5% of that went to atheists, the rest was shared by agnostics and “nothing in particular”. Assuming these are the people who left Christianity (-7.8%), it’s a 5% increase in churchless folk who have been awakened from the illusion and will never become atheistic again but have nowhere else to go. They need the holy name to sustain their faith but somehow we can’t reach them.

Or maybe I’m being overly dramatic. The preaching is still going on even if not in as pure form as it was during Prabhupāda’s time. We still hold festivals and programs and distribute books. There are good news coming out of the USA, too. Maybe we can’t get people to declare themselves as Hare Kṛṣṇas yet but out core principles are widely known and certainly noticed – no killing of animals, the soul is different from matter, there’s karma and reincarnation, and so on. Mantra yoga is now a thing, too.

Lord Caitanya is still in charge, His army will never run out of soldiers and He’ll give enough inspiration to His devotees when the time is right. It’s His movement, after all, we are just His tools.

Getting back to atheist propaganda – I’m still not settled about best arguments against demanding the proof of God. Probably I need to sleep on it some more. In the meantime, I want to discuss faults in atheist presentation itself.

They increasingly rely on the so-called “scientific method” and challenge Christians to proof God according to scientific rules. In it’s core scientific method is very simple – you look at the situation, make an educated guess, think what you would need to do to prove yourself right, then do it to check. There’s nothing particularly sciency about it, it’s just common sense and it’s how all people live their lives and solve their problems, even those without modern education.

Atheists dressed it up, however, make it bullet-pointed, and added explanations and requirements for each step. Wikipedia’s page on it contains more than eleven thousand words and countless links to related articles. This might be necessary to cover everything there is to know about scientific method but it also looks like it has been made artificially complicated to create an air of legitimacy around it. When I first looked at that page I thought it was written for ten year olds. I was looking at the mobile site then and right at the top of the page was an infographic image with “Think of Interesting Questions” as one of the steps. Reading small print there also looks like it is more suited for a classroom handout than for an encyclopedic article.

That image lists seven steps to the scientific method, btw, not four, but those additional steps are self-evident.

So, what’s the problem with it? Quite a lot, actually.

Scientific method is closely tied to experimenting. Without tests and experiments you can’t do science, apparently. Tests must also be repeatable so that other people might double check your findings. It sounds nice and logical and atheists expect that it would immediately put Christians off but that’s not how actual science works.

Ability to test theories is not universal, it doesn’t work in history, for example. It doesn’t work in law either – you can’t test the same argument in front of the same jury multiple times. Of course science has ways to get around these natural limitations but they are not reflected in the scientific method. Yet.

String theory is about to upend the whole thing. Problem with string theory is that it’s very mathematically attractive. It’s so beautiful it can’t be wrong, and so far it’s the only viable candidate for the ultimate theory of everything. Attempts to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics are going nowhere and are not likely to produce results any time soon. They still might but as of now it’s only string theory and nothing else. So, the problem is that string theory is largely a mathematical exercise that cannot be tested by experiments.

It’s not impossible, in fact string theorists can easily describe the necessary experiments to confirm it, but it’s impossible in practice. Large Hadron Collider built in Europe is the biggest corroborative project in science so far and probably in our lifetime but it’s wholly inadequate for stingists. They need a collider the size of the galaxy.

It’s very simple, actually, at least the way they describe it, and, you don’t need to be a stringist to agree – it just follows from basic formulas. The amount of energy needed to smash particles to see if they are strings or not is known and is impossible to handle by the humanity at our stage of development.

“Our stage” is a generous qualification, it presumes that at the next stage it could be possible but in reality it’s hopeless. Best days of experimental particle physics probably are behind us. The world can’t afford bigger colliders, it can’t afford bigger space telescopes either. Hubble is about to retire at the end of the decade and its successor, James Webb, has been facing multiple delays, cost overruns, and funding cuts by American legislature. There’s no public enthusiasm for such projects anymore and world economy doesn’t look too good to lavish money on science.

The fact of the matter is that string theory cannot be confirmed experimentally. It doesn’t mean no tests can be carried out, however, there are plenty of side applications that can be tested but to the opponents they won’t look like the proof of the main theory itself.

This practical limitation does not stop scientists, of course, they cite other reasons why string theory might be accurate and these reasons are open for debate but even the opponents realize that something needs to be done. Eventually they will come to some sort of an understanding that would legitimize non-empirical theory assessment.

Where will this leave atheists with their scientific method? Nowhere, they’ll be left holding the bag as science moves on.

The thing about scientific method is that it only describes how scientists do science, it doesn’t prescribe how science should be done. If scientific community decides to do things in a different way scientific method will have to comply, it has no power to legislate scientific process.

This doesn’t mean that scientists will suddenly accept religious arguments for existence of God but at least we could shake off annoying atheists with their “where’s you proof, where are your tests” kind of questions.

There’s more to be said about this evolution of science and I’ll leave it for tomorrow.