Article by Upendranath Dasa
Dogma Verse Science
The Process of Krishna Consciousness is Scientific, not dogmatic
Dogma—beliefs, doctrines or creeds, that have not been critically examined to see if they are ill-founded or hold genuine merit.
Science—a body of knowledge that is systematically arranged, that operates by specific laws or principles, and yields specific results.
The process of Krishna consciousness is scientific, not dogmatic. An important part of the science is that Krishna consciousness practitioners rely strictly on scripture to support their conclusions.
In Bhagavad-gita (16. 23) the Lord established this principle:
“He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.”
Sastra is such an important principle, that in the Bhakti-Sandarbha Srila Jiva Gosvami has stressed that the ultimate meaning of the word sraddha is respect, and it must be based on sastra.
In Section 173 he cites this verse to affirm the importance of sastra:
sruti-smrti mamaivajne yaste ullanghya varttate
ajnacchedi mama dvesi mad bhakto’pi na Vaisnavah
“The sruti and smrti are My direct orders. Anyone who does not abide by them goes against my order and is envious of Me. Even if he is My devotee, he is not a Vaisnava.”
Srila Prabhupada also stresses the importance of sastra:
Lecture Bhagavad-gita 1973:
“Sastra yonitvat. Yoni means source, source. Sastra yonitvat. Sastra caksusa. Your eyes should be the sastra. Not these blunt eyes. Everything we also experience by sastra, by book. So, we have to see through the authorized books, the description which is beyond our perception.”
He also stresses that Krishna consciousness is a science (Topmost Yoga):
“Krishna consciousness is a great science; it is not a sentimental speculation regarding love. It is based on scientific propositions described in the Bhagavad-gita, in the Vedas, and in the Brahma-samhita; and it is accepted by authorities like Lord Caitanya, Ramanuja Acarya, Madhva Acarya, Narada, Asita, Vyasa—there are so many authorities. Krishna consciousness is not an ordinary lovemaking or moneymaking business; it is reality, and if you stick to it seriously, your life will be perfect.”
In making the point that it is a science we should note that he says the science is based on sastra. (“It is based on scientific propositions described in the Bhagavad-gita, in the Vedas, and in the Brahma-samhita”). As soon as we depart from the perfect conclusions of the sastra, which is not subject to the four defects, we enter the realm of speculation, conjecture.
Science means that no guesswork is involved, that a specific course of action brings specific results.
One has to know the science, which is highly confidential, and far more subtle and complex, than any material science, surpassing Quantum physics, Astro-physics, Theocratical-calculus, Medical-science, or Microbiology, to name a few. Krishna asserts to Lord Brahma, that Krishna consciousness is a science.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 2. 9.31:
jnanam parama-guhyam me yad vijnana-samanvitam
sa-rahasyam tad-angam ca grhana gaditam maya
“The Personality of Godhead said: Knowledge about Me as described in the scriptures is very confidential, and it has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service. The necessary paraphernalia for that process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully.”
The Lord is saying,
“Knowledge about Me is not only supremely confidential (paramam guhyam), it is also scientific (vijnanam). I will explain the entire process and you must take it up carefully.”
That means one cannot just throw oneself at the process, with assumptions like “I am advanced” or “I am advancing very nicely” just by the passage of time. One has to be careful. One of the points Srila Prabhupada brings out in the purport to this verse is:
“. . the Lord informs Brahma that knowledge of Him, the Supreme Absolute Truth, as it is stated in the revealed scriptures, is very subtle and cannot be understood unless one is self-realized by the grace of the Lord”.
It is “very subtle” means that this science is not easy to understand. And “as it is stated in the revealed scriptures” means, conversely, what is not stated in the revealed scriptures is not part of the science. Therefore, elsewhere Srila Prabhupada writes (Bhagavad-gita10.4 purport):
“Asammoha, freedom from doubt and delusion, can be achieved when one is not hesitant and when he understands the transcendental philosophy. Slowly but surely, he becomes free from bewilderment. Nothing should be accepted blindly; everything should be accepted with care and with caution.”
One becomes free from doubt and delusion, when one is not hesitant, and when one knows the transcendental science, and the natural result will be that one accepts nothing blindly or whimsically, but with care and with caution. One becomes more, rather than less, discriminating.
But I know from experience in preaching, and counseling devotees, that many of them are not ready to take responsibility for discriminating.
Indeed, they do not even realize that is a desirable goal. They have not been encouraged to understand Krishna consciousness in this way.
Thus, in counterpoint, some devotees pounce on this phrase in the quote just before, “and cannot be understood unless one is self-realized by the grace of the Lord.” The emphasis is placed on “grace” with the attitude that it is not by knowledge and discrimination, and all this complicated effort that we become Krishna conscious.
But the Lord says, “You must take it up carefully”. To be careful, one first of all must have a good grasp of the science, otherwise one risks falling into dogma in the name of science.