13.34: Subordinate the empirical and the rational to the scriptural

by May 27, 2012

In today’s science, consciousness is a mystery that exposes the split between the empirical and the rational approaches to studying the world. From the empirical perspective, consciousness is the first reality that we experience, for it is the basis of all our other experiences. Yet from the rational perspective, consciousness is the greatest mystery; conceiving how it emerges from matter agonizes and withers most of today’s best rationalist brains.

Gita wisdom helps us in reconciling the empirical and the rational by drawing our attention to a neglected dimension of reality: the spiritual. The Bhagavad-gita (13.34) indicates that consciousness originates in the spiritual soul just as sunlight originates in the sun. Just as we cannot see the sun without raising our vision up from the earth, we cannot understand consciousness without, metaphorically speaking, raising our vision up from matter to spirit.

While the specifics of the consciousness debate may not be relevant to us, the underlying principle is. All of us face situations when our perceptions and our emotions pull us in different directions. Such times when our empirical side and our rational side disagree can be disorienting. To reorient ourselves, we need to make scriptural insights as our ultimate compass.

Gita wisdom points out that, though the empirical approach (pratyaksha pramana) and the rational approach (anumana pramana) are valid means of acquiring knowledge, they have no access to the spiritual realm that can be know only from scripture (shabda pramana). As we are souls and belong to the spiritual realm, Gita wisdom urges us to subordinate all other sources of acquiring knowledge to scriptural knowledge. Then, neither our eyes nor our heads will be able to divert us from our progress towards Krishna.



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