There was a small fire in my street and it burned the internet cable. Most of my neighbours use ADSL, which also carries the phone signals, so it was the first one to be fixed. The cable company, however, has relatively few customers and it might take them a couple of days to show up and fix my internet.
I guess I could use my phone’s connection but it’s still inadequate for my use, so I just turned the computer off. I might use the phone to post this later on but there’s no rush. Also the phone itself doesn’t support diacritics, so no Kṛṣṇa, only Krishna, which I don’t feel comfortable with on this blog anymore.
Typing without internet also means that I don’t have access to google and can’t check quotes, facts, and ideas, I’m also too lazy to read my last entry on the phone and it would be too difficult to copy paste links, for example, so I’m going in blind.
The debate between Deepak Chopra and Richard Dawkins is about to turn nasty. They might have added some important points to consider but nothing stands out for me. Instead of moving on I’d like to take a step back and try to see their arguments from Kṛṣṇa conscious perspective.
One who knows Absolute Truth knows everything and so should be able to explain all existing phenomena without any contradictions. We know Absolute Truth to be Kṛṣṇa., Chopra and Dawkins have their own understanding of it. The question then becomes which understanding can explain all the others and explain all the interactions between them, which version of the Absolute Truth is really absolute. I hope it’s Kṛṣṇa, and by hope I mean my own meagre understanding of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa is the Absolute by definition but what I imagine to be Kṛṣṇa might be not.
What if all three viewpoints explain everything perfectly, for example? Would it mean that they are all equally legitimate? Would it mean that the Absolute Truth is very flexible and Kṛṣṇa as we know Him is just one of many manifestations – that would be māyāvāda.
Here we have an atheist, Dawkins, and Chopra, basically a māyāvādī impersonalist, and they are not a good company. Lord Caitanya forbade us to listen to either of them but we also need to know our enemies in order to preach effectively. Most of the time we can’t rely on connecting to people through the Lord in their hearts, we still need to speak from a mundane platform, so we need to know how to do it effectively. We might not discover some magic argument to win them all but knowing why arguments don’t work is useful, too, and can spare us a lot of time.
Dawkins’ case is relatively easy – there’s science, we have evolved from material elements into complex beings, and we can now apply science to understand the world. It’s hard work but it must be done, and we don’t know all the answers but it’s not a problem, there’s always tomorrow.
Chopra caught him out there – Dawkins’ POV implies that we are qualitatively different from the world around us, that we are the observers and the world is there to be observed. We have independence and can use our superior resources at will. Several times Dawkins’ spoke about fundamental difference between things inside the universe and the universe itself. “Just because we have consciousness,” he said, “doesn’t mean that the universe has consciousness.”
This position hasn’t been thought through, at least not by Dawkins. We are not separate from the universe in any sense, we do not exist independently of the universe, we are, as Chopra put it, “an activity of the universe”, whatever that means. Dawkins’ view here is inconsistent with atheism itself – if we are nothing but atoms arranged in a certain way we can’t ascribe any extraordinary qualities to ourselves. Our consciousness, therefore, is not principally different from nuclear reactions within the stars, there’s nothing special about it. As I said a couple of days ago – it’s Dawkins here who takes the nominally religious position and argues that we are special and different from matter.
Atheists have constructed a thoroughly complete model of the universe but they still have gaps – stuff they admit they don’t know. This should disqualify them from holding the Absolute Truth. They say they will learn these things in the future but this makes time superior to their knowledge, and their science is still driven by circumstance and evolution, it’s not up to them whether they learn the origin of life or not. They can make promises today and be unable to keep them tomorrow. Who knows what’s in store for our planet and which direction evolution will take them in the next hundred years? We are on the precipice of a global catastrophe already, there’s no money to be made in the origin of life, so it might not be what science will even be doing in the foreseeable future, let alone finding a solution.
Chopra’s view is hard to explain in Dawkins’ framework, a lot of what Chopra said was incomprehensible to him, the atheistic paradigm is simply inadequate for this kind of talk, and dismissing it as “word salad” is only an admission of personal inadequacy because, as Chopra said, there are lots of scientists who don’t have a problem with it and can understand it perfectly fine. That’s another reason why atheism is not the Absolute Truth. Their paradigm is sufficient for third graders but it needs to evolve if it wants to deal with people like Chopra successfully.
I don’t know the full extent of Chopra’s spiritualism, in this particular debate he talked only about one aspect of it – our unity with the universe. It’s hard to deny and it fits perfectly well with our empiric perception of the world. Where third grade atheists assume some special position for themselves, Chopra says that our consciousness is the consciousness of the universe. We are not special, we are the eyes and brains of the universe as it starts to perceive itself.
The assumption here is that the universe has a purpose, that it evolves, but Chopra didn’t go any further than that, it was too much for Dawkins already.
We, of course, would immediately object that consciousness and life are distinct from matter. The universe evolves to provide us with suitable bodies to express our desires, and by “universe” we mean Lord Brahmā. We don’t see how he works so we might just as well label it “universe”. This way we can understand and explain Chopra’s reasoning without going against Vedic knowledge. Everything he says can be explained from Kṛṣna conscious POV – it’s just a combination of empirical perception with glimpses of self-realization.
Once again, I don’t know the extent of Chopra’s spirituality, maybe he does see himself as a spirit soul in eternal service to God, but within this debate he chose not to bring it up and restricted himself to what was supposed to be common ground with Dawkins. He failed, but he also had plenty of people in the audience who got it, so if we judge the success by the reaction of the public then Chopra did very well.
Seeing ourselves as “activity of the universe” is great, but it’s still seeing ourselves as our bodies, as our incarnations. “Unity” with the universe will eventually be replaced with liberation from it. Then the devotional service might start and one would finally know Kṛṣṇa, the real Absolute Truth. Chopra is on the right way, but we can’t take lessons from him even if we can appreciate his progress. There are still a few good things to say about him as debate continues, but let’s leave it for tomorrow.
PS. Posting this via phone connection, sorry if proof-reading is not up to scratch.