Reflections on the Relation between Religion and Modern Rationalism
One hundred years prior, Vivekananda popularly introduced Hinduism to America at the 1893 “Parliament of the World's Religions” held in Chicago. During this time, the so-called conflict thesis of religion and science dominated discourse. Thompson steers around that dilemma while engaging constructs drawn from the bhakti traditions identified with Gaudiya Vaisnavism. He further discusses a variety of research initiatives in quantum mechanics, genetics, and artificial intelligence, which appear amenable to a complementary relationship. Thompson also proposes practical methods drawn from the bhakti traditions for developing Vivekananda’s cherished goal, love of God.
TRANSCRIPT: Reflections on the Relation between Religion and Modern Rationalism. Parliament of the World's Religions: Chicago – 1993 / (931)
Well today I was going to speak on the subject of "Science and Religion." So this is a very broad topic and I can't even begin to cover such a vast field in this short period of time. So I'm going to tell a small segment of the story of the relation between science and religion specifically dealing with the relation between Hinduism and modern science, which was brought to India in the British colonial period, and trace that up to the present day in the... and give some reflections on the present day understanding of the relation between science and religion in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
So I'll begin historically with Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda of course spoke at the Parliament of Religions in 1893. He began by outlining some of the salient features of traditional Hinduism. He mentioned reincarnation, karma, and the problem of evil in the material world. He went on to explain that the solution to this problem depends on seeking refuge in God. God is that one, he said, by whose command the wind blows, the fire burns, the clouds rain, and death stalks upon the earth. He is the source of strength and the support of the Universe. He is everywhere pure, almighty, and all merciful and we are related to God as a child to a father or mother and as a friend to a beloved friend.
Vivekananda went on to say that we are to worship God through unselfish love. And he pointed out that the way to achieving love of God was fully developed and taught by Krishna whom the Hindus believe to have been God incarnate on Earth. Through love we are to perfect ourselves, reach God, see God, and enjoy bliss with God. On this, he said, all Hindus are agreed. So Vivekananda Swami went on to say though, that in the final stage of realization, God is seen to be impersonal Brahman, and the individual terminates its separate existence by realizing its identity with Brahman. Making analogy with physical science, he said that physics would stop when it would be able to fulfill its services in discovering one energy of which all the others are but manifestations. And the science of religion would become perfect when it discovered One... when it would discover One who was the only Soul of which all souls are but delusive manifestations.
So in this presentation, Vivekananda was giving a modern interpretation of advaita vedanta. The philosophy of advaita vedanta is very ancient. It goes back to the philosopher Sankaracarya. And actually it goes back much further than that. It can be traced also to the ancient Greeks. For example, the Greek philosopher Parmenides argued extensively that the ultimate absolute truth is One, and his disciple Zeno was famous for Zeno's paradoxes in which he tried to argue that the world of appearances is actually illusion. So Vivekananda was presenting the philosophy of advaita vedanta but there's an important observation to make concerning this philosophy. There are basically two concepts of illusion. Maybe there are more but at least there are two important conceptions of illusion. We can call these maya and myth. So the concept of maya is the original conception in advaita vedanta. Maya is a kind of energy which covers over the soul's knowledge of the Supreme. So maya therefore creates illusion by covering one's innate knowledge and creating ignorance. So this maya is a kind of energy and it's real. In order to cover knowledge you have to have something real. It's just like if I had a beautiful painting and I covered it over with a layer of tar. Then I couldn't see the painting anymore. But that tar is the obstacle which is blocking me from seeing the painting. So this is the concept of illusion as maya. Another aspect of this concept is that the illusions generated by maya are understand... are understood to be temporary or transitory. They have a beginning and an end whereas the Absolute Truth is eternal. And it is beyond time. It never changes.
So there's another concept though, of illusion. And that is what we call myth. I use the word myth according to the modern understanding of the term. Myth means a story found usually in an old religious book which in modern thinking is considered to be false. So that is an illusion in the sense that it's a false story. Someone may believe it, but if they believe it, they're believing in something that's just not true. So that is another conception of illusion. Sankaracarya in his presentation of advaita vedanta was talking about the first kind of illusion, the illusion of maya. Vivekananda, in his presentation of advaita vedanta in 1893 was taking advantage of a second conception of illusion, namely the concept of myth. There's a very profound reason for doing this and that brings us to the crux of what I want to discuss today. So this topic goes back to the... basically the dawn of the mechanistic conception of nature during the scientific revolution. And it culminated in the 18th century in what is called the enlightenment. So I'm going to be speaking here about the relation between the ideas of the enlightenment, or what we may call the “enlightenment consensus” and religion.
I should stress that I'm not actually talking about a conflict between science and religion. I don't think that there really is any conflict between science and religion. But there is a conflict between certain philosophical ideas that have been grafted onto modern science and the fundamental conceptions of religion.
In brief, the enlightenment consensus is that everything that exists is matter within three dimensional space transforming as a function of linear time. The real inspiration for the enlightenment view of the world was the very brilliant scientific work of Sir Isaac Newton. Newton created a calculus of motion based on force and matter. And with this he was able to do amazing things that no one had been able to do before. So as a result of this great success and other important currents in the realm of science, the idea was developed that everything is matter within space and undergoing transformation. So the form of the advaita vedanta philosophy presented by Vivekananda is useful for dealing with the enlightenment perspective. The philosophy of the enlightenment was introduced in to India in a very powerful way by the British occupation. And Vivekananda was living in the late 19th century during the high noon of the British Empire, at a time when the enlightenment philosophy of matter in motion had become elevated to a very powerful position in the thinking of educated people around the world.
This enlightenment conception was also brought in to India through the institution of British education. So the problem with this conception is that if you look at the Vedic literature and the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and other texts of traditional Hinduism, you'll find many conceptions there which seem to disagree with the enlightenment consensus. There are mystic powers, there are yogis who can exhibit different siddhis: anima siddhi, mahima siddhi, laghima siddhi, and so on and so forth. There are the devas. There are various things which, in modern terms, are called miracles. All of these things are basically rejected in the enlightenment consensus. So if you take the idea that illusion means myth, then this provides a very convenient way of reconciling the enlightenment consensus with religion. One simply says: Well, the stories in these old books are basically mythological. They are illusion in the sense that what they describe doesn't exist. It is unreal but it has a symbolic meaning.
Now Vivekananda, in fact, presented this idea of symbolic meaning. If I can find where I have a little quote... ah yes. I should mention before reading this quote that there's a second problem that Vivekananda Swami was dealing with, and that is the question of religious pluralism, the question of many different faiths. This also became a real problem in India when the British came in with the Christian religion. And also the Jewish religion is there, the Mohammedan religion was already, of course, very prominent there, and so forth. So what do you do about the many different systems of faith, these different religions? Well once again, if the scriptures are mythological and simply have a symbolical meaning, then this is very easy. You can say that all of these different systems of symbology refer indirectly to the One. Vivekananda said, "The Hindus have discovered that the Absolute can only be realized or thought of or stated through the relative, and the images, crosses, and crescents are simply so many symbols, so many pegs to hang the spiritual ideas on." So this is the concept that he presented.
But there is a problem with this conception. I began by reading what he said about the development of love of God. But in order to have love of God, you have to have God as a real personal Being; and you have to have the soul as a real personal being. In order for a relationship of love to have meaning, there have to be two persons at the very least, the lover and the beloved. This is required if you're going to have love. So what then becomes of God if you take this picture that everything is illusion accept for the ultimate One. The One of the philosophers unfortunately is not a very lovable object. The process of philosophical analysis by which one understands the One is called neti neti in Sanskrit. In Latin this is also well known. It is called via negativa. It basically means denying everything that can be conceived within the mind. So for example, the Greek philosopher Parmenides in about the 4th century BC argued that the One must be a sphere of perfectly uniform substance. He said it must be uniform because if you say one part is different from another, then you have duality. You have at least two things and not just one. But even the concept of the One as a sphere brings in problems because a sphere has an inside and an outside so there again you have duality. Ultimately you find that in the concept of the One, from a philosophical point of view, all conceptions within the mind must be thrown out which means that the One ultimately is unknown and inconceivable. So this creates a problem then in the attainment of love of God.
So what I want to do now is turn to another approach to the question of religion in relation with modern thinking and specifically the thinking of the enlightenment. There is another tradition within Hinduism, according to which, the Supreme is ultimately personal. The Supreme Being is known by many different names; Krishna, Narayana, Vishnu. There are many different names for the Supreme. But the concept here is that the Supreme Being is a transcendental Person. Also, within the heart of each living being such as you or I, there's the spirit soul, the atma or jiva, which is also an eternal conscious living being. And given this framework of philosophy, the ultimate goal of life is for the individual soul to become free from the illusion of maya which is holding it in the grips of material action and reaction, and come to know the soul's original and eternal relation with the Supreme Person. And this is known as bhakti or love of God. So this is another tradition which allows for the development of love of God. However, in this tradition, there are also some difficulties. So I'm going to give a bit of historical information on how some important proponents of the bhakti tradition in India dealt with these difficulties. I'll turn to the life history of Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
Bhaktivinode Thakur was born in 1838. His original name was Kedarnath Datta and he was born in the Nadia district of West Bengal. He was a somewhat elder contemporary of Vivekananda Swami who was also born... His name was Narendranath Datta, interestingly enough. And he was born in Calcutta, very nearby the place of birth of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. As a young man, Bhaktivinoda Thakur acquired an English education and he used to exchange thoughts on literary and spiritual topics with Debendranath Tagore, the leader of the Brahmo Samaj, who was also an early teacher of Vivekananda. In due course, Bhaktivinoda Thakur studied law and for many years he served as a magistrate in different posts in the British Government in India. So Bhaktivinoda Thakur deeply studied the religious thought of his day. He scrutinized the works of European philosophers and he was greatly impressed with the devotional teachings of Jesus Christ. At first, his western education inclined him to look down on the Vaisnava literature describing devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krishna. Indeed, he wrote that the Bhagavata, one of the main texts describing Krishna, seemed like a repository of ideas scarcely adopted to the 19th century. So this was the impression he had of the Bhagavata or Bhagavat Purana, also called the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In due course of time, Bhaktivinoda Thakur came in contact with the devotional teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And he became greatly inspired by these teachings and eventually attained a very high level of spiritual realization of Radha and Krishna. So he then proceeded to write many books and articles and so on describing the path to love of God through bhakti.
So I'm going to take another little historical sidetrack here to describe in greater detail the intellectual climate in which Bhaktivinoda Thakur was operating. What I will do is read something that was written by Sir William Jones. Sir William Jones was one of the first British Indologists and he was a jurist who was connected with the British East India Company. He lived primarily... Most of his work was done in the latter part of the 18th century. He's describing Hindu chronology and the different yugas which are described. He's talking here about the third yuga which is called the Dvapara Yuga. He says,
I cannot leave the third Indian Age in which the virtues and vices of mankind are said to have been equal without observing that even the close of it is manifestly fabulous and poetical with hardly more appearance of historical truth than the tale of Troy or of the Argonauts. For Yudhisthira it seems was the son of Dharma, the genius of justice, Bhima of Pavan or the god of wind, Arjuna of Indra or the firmament, Nakula and Sahadeva of the Kumaras, the Castor and Pollux of India, and Bhisma their reputed great uncle was the child of Ganga or the Ganges by Santanu whose brother Devapi is supposed to be still alive in the city of Kalapa all which fictions may be charming embellishments of an heroic poem, but are just as absurd in civil history as the descent of two royal families from the sun and the moon.
So this is his characterization of some of the basic characters of the Mahabharata, which is one of the great epics of Sanskrit literature. Now the significance of this is that Sir William Jones didn't feel it necessary to say anything more to condemn this whole story. Because obviously, here we have people who are descended from, you know, the god of wind or Indra or Yamaraja. What is this? These are mythical stories. Therefore this cannot be history – it could never have happened. So in this way he completely dismissed it out of hand. Indeed that is still the prevailing state of affairs in modern scholarship. These stories are not granted to have any historical value. They are considered merely to be myths or fantasies.
I should point out by the way that Sir William Jones was, let us say, following a little bit of a double standard in this presentation. I'll put on a transparency here. This is a chart of history as reconstructed... as reconstructed by Sir William Jones. He's creating dates for the different characters described in the Sanskrit literature. Manu 1 is Svayambhuva Manu. Manu 2 is Vaivasvata Manu, and so on. You'll notice the dates that he has set up there. The earliest date is 4006 BC which is also the date of Adam. What he's doing is reconciling everything with the Bible. And in fact, Sir William Jones was accepting the reconstruction of Biblical history given by the Bishop of Usher. He seems to have come up with 4006 instead of 4004 BC. But basically it's the... Ussher's chronology for the Bible. So Sir William Jones took the point of view that we can dismiss the Vedic texts as unreal, as fantasy, because we know that all these miraculous descriptions cannot be true. He however was taking the Bible as being literally true. However, in due course of time, there was some poetic justice perhaps because the same approach that he was taking to the Mahabharata was later taken to the Bible. He was writing in... Well this article was written in 1788. He was.... By the middle of the 19th century, the higher criticism was being applied to the Bible in England. That originated in Germany earlier in the century. And in the higher Biblical criticism, basically everything in the Bible is thrown out as being mythology, as being mere stories of things that never happened.
In addition to this, there was the development of Darwin's theory of evolution which completely abolished the Biblical picture of creation and so on and so forth. Of course these developments also had their impact in India. So in the time of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the intellectual climate was that any kind of mythology, any kind of tale of the supernatural, of the miraculous and so on is simply untrue – there's no truth in it. And this was based ultimately on the enlightenment consensus in which one feels great confidence in thinking that the only thing that is real is matter in space, and matter is described by the laws of physics. So what can happen by those laws can be real and other things cannot. How did Bhaktivinoda Thakur deal with this situation? Well he took an approach of interpreting part of the Sanskrit literature, of the Bhagavatam as being mythological or symbolical and part of it as being true. So the approach was to take the devotional teachings concerning the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna and describe the spiritual meaning of these teachings in great detail. He however dismissed some of the material in the Puranas.
For example, here's one quotation. This is in an essay called “The Bhagavat” written by Bhaktivinoda Thakur. He said, "In the commonplace books of the Hindu religion in which the raja and tamo gunas have been described as the ways of religion, we find description of a local heaven and a local hell. The heaven is as beautiful as anything on earth and the hell as ghastly as any picture of evil. The religion of the Bhagavat is free from such a poetic imagination. Indeed in some of the chapters we meet with descriptions of these hells and heavens and accounts of curious tales. But we have been warned in some place in the book to not accept them as real facts but to treat them as inventions to overawe the wicked and to improve the simple and the ignorant." So he gave this presentation – this was his presentation in the late 19th century. However Bhaktivinoda Thakur also composed many devotional writings in which there is implicit reference to different demigods or devas and rishis and so forth in the Vedic literature as being actually real beings. In fact, there's a good reason for this. The reason for regarding these as real beings is that in order for knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to come down in to the material world, God must descend in to the world in various forms. This is the idea of the avatar. In the Vedic literature many different avatars of the Supreme Lord are described.
When an avatar comes down in to this world, there are many different activities or pastimes. And in the accounts of these pastimes, quite frankly, many so called mythological events are described. I mentioned the different characters in the Mahabharata, Arjuna and Yudhisthira and so forth. They were friends of the avatar known as Lord Krishna in this material world. Arjuna and Bhima, Sahadeva, Nakula and so on, were very much involved. So there's an inextricable relationship between the avatars of Krishna who come to the material world to give information about spiritual reality and the different mythological events described in the sastras. Indeed the avatars themselves engage in many activities which would be described as mythological. For example, Krishna is said to have lifted Govardhan Hill. There's a very detailed story about that in the Bhagavatam and you can go to the Govardhan Hill in India today and you'll see it's a very extensive mass of rock. How could somebody lift that? It's miraculous. It certainly doesn't agree with the enlightenment consensus. So in order to try to reach people who are very much dominated by the materialistic outlook of the enlightenment consensus, great saintly persons such as Bhaktivinoda Thakur have occasionally given a modified picture of the teachings of the sastras. In one sense, Vivekananda was doing a similar thing. The difference is that Bhaktivinoda Thakur was pointing out the reality of the Supreme Person and the reality of the individual soul. But he did, you might say, modify to some extent some of the descriptions of specific events in the Vedic sastras.
So I want to go now to the present day. I'm going to describe briefly the present situation in the scientific community and in the field of religion. And describe further developments of these ideas. So the first thing that I will turn to is a modern approach in which one can say, on the one hand, that God is real and is a Supreme Person and the soul is real, so that therefore love of God could be a real possibility. But at the same time one avoids conflict with dominating scientific ideas of the modern day and age, basically the same thing as I've mentioned before, the enlightenment consensus.
What I will do to introduce this is start with some ideas presented by William James. William James was a 19th century philosopher and psychologist but he had some ideas which were quite relevant even to the present day. And he was known for being very much an empirical scientist. William James as... at the conclusion of a very extensive study of religious experience came to the following conclusion. He said, "The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me, in to an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely understandable world. Name it the mystical region or the supernatural region, whichever you choose. Yet the unseen region in question is not merely ideal, for it produces effects in this world. When we commune with it, work is actually done upon our finite personality for we are turned into new men, and consequences in the way of conduct follow in the natural world upon our regenerative change. But that which produces effects within another reality must be termed a reality itself. So I feel as if we have no philosophical excuse for calling the unseen or mystical world, unreal." So James here is arguing against the enlightenment consensus. Because he's saying, people seem to have contact with another world, the mystical world, or whatever you may call it. And that contact transforms these people. Now if you think of the people as arrangements of material atoms moving in space, then you're saying that that transcendental world works on atoms and makes the atoms do things that they wouldn't have done otherwise. So this would indicate that that transcendental world is a reality which somehow has an impact on this world of matter. In other words, there's more than just matter in space. There's something transcendental, a transcendental realm.
I'll turn to a modern scholar who is studying the Vaisnava tradition named David Haberman. Haberman presented an analysis of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan. And he wrote an article on this called 'Shrines of the Mind,' and he more or less implicitly developed a picture of religion which I will call the theology of visions, which involves taking Vaisnava ideas and mixing it a bit with the conception that William James was describing. So basically the conception that he is giving is this: He is saying that all of the descriptions of Krishna, Rama, and so on in the sastras refer to visions which have occurred within the consciousness of great souls in the course of their meditation. But they do not refer to anything that has actually happened here in this physical world. So according to this conception, and in fact this is what he outlines in his paper, if you go to Vrindavan you'll find many different holy sights where Krishna's pastimes took place. Now it's known historically that these sights of Krishna's pastimes were excavated and rediscovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu back in the 16th century. So the traditional conception here is that Krishna actually was on the earth in the 31st century BC – that is when His manifest pastimes on this planet Earth took place. And over the course of the ages, the sites of His pastimes were lost. But in the 16th century, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is actually an avatar of Krishna, rediscovered or rather revealed these sights to the world. That is the traditional understanding.
What Haberman proposed was that in actually fact, prior to the 16th century there were no holy sights of Krishna in Vrindavan and there were no actual manifest pastimes in the 31st century BC. But in the 16th century, these sights were projected from the... what he calls the mental realm in to the physical realm. And he described Vrindavan as a mental shrine. Now his use of the “world mental”... Well as a scholar, he protects himself by sighting many different theories of what mental means, but basically his trend of thought seems to be that he's speaking of a transcendental dimension of existence. And the idea is that by meditation one can enter in to that transcendental realm. And he describes in great detail the practices of meditation of the Vaisnava saints. So the idea is that there's a transcendental Vrindavan and you can enter in to that through meditation. And you can actually experience Radha and Krishna and develop pure love of God. But in the physical world, the events that took place during Krishna's pastimes, in fact, never actually happened. This only occurred on the transcendental platform. So you see then how you can reconcile the modern enlightenment consensus with a conception of God that enables you to have some idea of bhakti. Namely you say: Yes the enlightenment consensus is right about everything measurable within this world, especially it is right about history, about the different things that happened in the historical sequence of events.
If you look at modern history, of course, no one is following William Jones' timetable any more. But today, in fact, historians will not allow as great antiquity to events in India as Jones was allowing. He goes back to 4000 BC, but according to the modern conception, the Aryan invasion was at about 1500 BC and the Rg Veda was written in maybe 1000 BC. And most of the puranas were written around the time of Christ or afterwards up to maybe 1000 AD.
So this is a compromise position which I'm referring to here as the theology of visions. There are however some problems with this theological approach. One great problem that it has is that the personalities who have traditionally had the visions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead have in fact believed implicitly in the traditional understanding of the actual historicity of Krishna's pastimes on the earth, and the pastimes of other avatars, Lord Ramachandra and so on and so forth. So one can raise the question: If these great souls who have actually attained transcendental realization believe in the reality of myths, how can that be? You would think that if they have attained such a high level of realization, they would be able to understand if something is a myth if mere mundane scholars can understand it's a myth. So we seem to have a contradiction. The great souls are believing that these myths are actual historical reality and they're the persons who are having the transcendental visions. So that's one problem.
Another problem is: Why should the worship of Krishna be such a recent affair going back to the 16th century if there is a transcendental realm and you can attain it through meditation? You would think people would have been doing that before the 16th century also. Another problem has to do with the question of the multiplicity of religions. Because now how do you deal with the fact that in many different religions, people have visions of a transcendental nature. There are the visions of the Virgin Mary, of Jesus Christ. In so many different traditions, people have experience of higher beings who come to teach them and so on and so forth.
Another problem is that this theory basically abolishes the idea of God as the Supreme Creator which is an essential feature of the very idea of a Supreme Person. If God merely appears in visions, what becomes of the idea of God as the Creator of the world and the Controller of all natural phenomena? Of course that idea doesn't fit very well the enlightenment consensus. There you run into a problem, because the territory staked out in the enlightenment consensus is that all of matter should simply follow material laws. And you can't have God coming in there and fooling around with matter. He has to remain in the transcendental world and let matter run according to the laws of physics. So that is a problem. And the final problem with this theology of visions is that this can easily be transformed in to a psychological theory, that is the visions are merely psychological. They're a result of various chemicals and so forth within the brain and that's the sum and substance of it.
So I wanted to, in the time I have left, very briefly outline another approach to the question of religion and the enlightenment consensus. And I want to relate that to modern developments in science. In the 19th century when these current developments were instituted by personalities such as Vivekananda Swami or Bhaktivinoda Thakur, that was the very high noon of the enlightenment consensus. In those days, Newton’s theory of deterministic classical physics reigned supreme. There have been many developments however since that time in science.
There's the quantum theory which has reduced our understanding of matter basically to mystery. The more one delves into the quantum theory, the more mysterious matter actually becomes. In fact, things are getting worse and worse. The more the quantum physicists have tried to develop their theory, the more mysterious it has become. And now Howard Georgi who's a very prominent physicist at Harvard is characterizing physics as recreational mathematical theology.
So likewise in biology, great strides were made in the discovery of the structure of DNA, the spiral helix and so on. And some scientists thought we're on the verge now of really understanding life. But as more studies have been made, the biochemical machinery of cells has been seen to be so complex that one is naturally led to ask how it could have gotten that way. It becomes a permissible argument against the theory of evolution by chance, by mere collisions of cosmic rays with genes and so forth. And natural selection. Likewise the... in the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, there was the idea of la mettrie, that man is a machine. He wrote a book about it back then and people have been promoting that idea ever since. But now, with the development of modern computers, the more powerful the computers become, the further we are to realizing artificial intelligence in computers. That's a whole story in itself. Perhaps as a result of these developments, in modern science we now have the development of what is called 'New Science'. There are heretical organizations you might say which are promoting an approach to science which is very different from the enlightenment consensus. This is why I say, by the way, that there's no conflict between science and religion. Because these are scientists. They are moving away from the enlightenment consensus and they are beginning to investigate seriously, the paranormal. For example there's the International Association for New Science, The Society for Scientific Exploration, The Institute of Noetic Sciences. There's a very interesting body, The International Society of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine. So all of these groups are devoted to studying the reality of what would have to be called miracles.
For example, this society studying subtle energy and energy medicine – they're a very interesting group. I attended a conference of theirs recently. And basically they are considering that there must be some kind of energy completely different from what we know in physics. We don't know what it is. Call it prana or chi or whatever you may want to call it. But essentially this energy is somehow intelligently directed by some higher intelligence and it makes it possible to cure illnesses which medical science cannot cure. In the conference that I attended there were two kinds of discussions. In one discussion they were talking about theories of how this miraculous healing process could work in terms of some higher kind of energy. And they also had testimonials by people who, for example, recovered suddenly from terminal cancer. There was one man who was speaking who was describing how his whole body was riddled with cancer and he underwent a healing ceremony in which a brilliantly glowing being appeared before him and suddenly the cancer was gone. And they had medical records showing that there was a mysterious spontaneous remission from a very terminal case of cancer. There are scientists now who are studying these things in detail.
So in the tradition of Vaisnavism as described by the scholar David Haberman, he mentions some of the miraculous events that are connected traditionally with the meditation of great saints. There are saintly persons for example who in meditation will be serving Krishna in the transcendental realm by cooking something for him. There's also cooking in the transcendental realm. And the person burned his hands while cooking. When he awoke from his meditation, his hands were burned. There are many different examples of paranormal phenomena of that nature. If you go further, there is for example the story of the saint who was worshiping Krishna and Krishna placed His garland around his neck. And when he came out of the meditation, the garland was there in actual reality. So if you take an approach to modern science in which there’s serious consideration that paranormal phenomena could actually be real, then you see the possibility of the development of a new scientific approach in which the miracles described in various old religious scriptures could actually be genuine.