For any reasonable discussion to take place, those involved must agree on certain things that cannot be proven. Both science and religion rest on unproven assumptions, some agreeable to both, some not. Premise 1 is generally accepted by both. It states, to put it simply, that reality is what it is. Reality is an objective fact, independent of our subjective beliefs. The statement “Everyone has their own reality” is incorrect. There is one reality, and the scientific method is just one way of trying to comprehend that reality.
Because we are part of an objective reality that encompasses everything, for us to wonder where we fit in is natural. Our human nature drives us to pursue happiness and success, but how can we achieve these things without understanding reality? Not seeing the whole picture, we may be inviting harm to ourselves and others. The mere fact that happiness seems so elusive inspires mankind’s perennial search for the meaning of life.
Generally speaking, the scientific quest as we know it today seeks to explain all of reality in terms of fundamental elements and forces and the laws that govern them. According to science, reality is simply matter and energy. Despite this belief, however, scientists have yet to explain convincingly the most important part of reality: consciousness, or the subjective experience of conscious awareness.
Science hypothesizes that the brain generates consciousness, but the brain is simply a complex machine, executing huge numbers of operations at every moment. Even if a computer could be programmed to mimic human behavior, there is no reason to believe that it will ever be conscious.
Besides consciousness, another aspect of reality that seems to elude scientific investigation and explanation is the realm of the paranormal. Credible experiments by scientists at places like Princeton University have shown that people can do things with their minds that contradict the laws of physics. (For example, with their thoughts, test subjects have been able to influence the output of a computer that generates random numbers.) And many people claim to have had out-of-body experiences, witnessed apparitions, accurately foretold the future, and experienced a number of other things that science can’t explain—and therefore refuses to accept.
The world seems to consist of more than the pushes and pulls of sub-atomic particles. To fill in the picture, we need to go to another source.
We can’t expect our scientific instruments to detect things beyond matter. We need knowledge that comes from the other side. Billions of people accept revealed scripture as that kind of knowledge. God, who is “on the other side,” tells us who we are, why we’re here, what this world is, how to live here, how to relate to Him, and so on.
Our own efforts can take us only so far in understanding reality. Beyond the scientific method, we can pursue an internal mystical search through yoga and meditation, and that will get us closer to the truth. But even that endeavor has its limits. Because the Truth is infinitely greater than we are, we can know Him and all that He has created only when He reveals that knowledge to us.
Some people contend that God is so great that He’s unknowable. But here’s another way of looking at it: Because God is great, He can find ways to make Himself known to us. We’ll never know Him in full, of course, but He has revealed an immense amount of information about Himself. All we have to do is take advantage of it.
The Vedas are books of wisdom that have guided Indian civilization for millennia. While they deal with practically every field of knowledge, the theological and philosophical portions of the Vedas are extremely deep and comprehensive.
A survey of the vast Vedic scriptures can be quite daunting. These books are meant to guide human civilization and therefore deal with numerous fields of knowledge. While much of the information may be irrelevant today (such as the intricate rituals of various sacrifices), the theological parts of the Vedas are as important as ever.
The Bhagavad-gita is the most concise compendium of Vedic philosophy. Most important, it not only establishes that God is a transcendental person; it reveals His identity. In our quest for knowledge of things beyond matter, we will find no better starting place than the Bhagavad-gita.
Where the Bhagavad-gita leaves off, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (or Bhagavata Purana) begins. Early in the book, the author, who edited and organized the Vedic library, is enjoined by his spiritual master to focus this book on the science of God. His masterful presentation is said to have been written when he reached spiritual maturity.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam rejects the temporary goals promoted in other Vedic books. It emphatically delivers the message that the perfection of life rests in constant union with God through acts of love and devotion.
While reality is one, so also, rightly understood, is religion. Religion is not what we believe to be true. It is our actual relationship with God. Human life should be used to uncover that religion, which is everyone’s natural heritage.
The spiritual realm is not simply theoretical. The Vedas prescribe various processes by which one can get in touch with some aspect of the spiritual nature. The highest aspect of spirit is the personal form of God, an objective reality that one can directly perceive, provided one carefully follows the procedure for getting the result.
That procedure is the practice of Bhakti yoga, which must be conducted under the careful guidance of a master of the science of Bhakti. A sincere student receives the blessings of the teacher (guru), and of God Himself, and thereby progresses through higher and higher levels of perception. Attaining ever deeper states of love, the student finally attains pure love for God, which awards one His direct audience.