Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu,
Guru Devo Mahesvaraha,
Tasmayishri Guruve Namaha.
Vande Guru Paramparaam.
“Is Sankara Vedanta Scientific” This is the title of this debate that is being organised by Yuktivada Pathana Kendram. Vedanta in the paramarthika realm is not a subject for debate or discussion. However, at the worldly level, it is a subject that can certainly be a matter of debate, or discussion or argument. Anyway, will start by explaining the circumstances that brought Swami Chidanandapuri, the individual, to this event.
A person who is very closely connected to the ashram, in fact is almost a member of the ashram, he is present in the audience. His name is Shri. Ravindranath. He asked me,
“Swami, are you ready for such a debate?”
“What is the point of all this? Shri. Ravichandran and Swami Chidanandapuri will come here, will debate, will have a good time and leave”
“What will be the use of that?” I asked.
“No, there will be a big section of people who will be able to understand better”, he said
“Are you ready to explain the subject to that very discerning and knowledgeable group of people?” he asked.
“Surely”, I said. After that, he is the one who decided everything.
This name itself….this Sankara Vedanta. I am wondering what it is. Is there a Vedanta like that? Vedanta is just Vedanta. It is the end of knowledge. Bhagawan Bhashyakara Shankaracharya Swamigal, explained it according to the three pramanas – Shruti, Yukti, and Anubhava. Thus, because he spread his own explanation of this timeless Vedanta, that is reverentially called Saankara Vedanta. Only when you want to be very reverential you need to call it Saankara Vedanta. Else it is simply Vedanta.
Surely, in Vedanta, according to one’s worldly situation, and thought process, one can have different viewpoints on it. When a person is climbing to a mountain top, If the person is just starting the journey, and announces to the world or writes about what he is seeing, that will be at a particular level. After he has climbed a little higher, perhaps 300-400 metres, if the same person again, describes his sights, it will be better. So, Vedanta is a highly refined darshanic peak which can be seen, understood and explained according to the each person’s perspective. And that is precisely why, there is space for Dvaita or Vishistadvaita or Advaita or any numerous other streams of thought in it. Yes, very different streams like those of Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya, Vallabhacharya, Nimbarkacharya have their own commentaries and are part of this space, in that same space, is Bhagawan Shankaracharya Swamigal, who taught us primarily through his commentaries (Bhashyas) and also taught us through his Prakaranagrantha Vedanta darshan. That is, what is reverentially called Sankara Vedanta
It is this philosophy that has become the subject of discussion here by questioning whether it is scientific or not. What is science? Scientific means related to science or belonging to science? Here, when we say science, whether it is eastern or western, modern or ancient, worldly or spiritual, these kind of distinctions are not present. On the other hand, man who is endowed with special intelligence, isn’t that the exclusive trait of man? In the innumerable creations of this world, if you examine the various aspects, if you examine the various activities, man has no reason to claim any special greatness. But, among all creations, that we are the most excellent one, at the least that is what we say… that man at least say…the creation of the human being. The special nature is its special intelligence.
If you speak in the language of Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahmaavaloka Teeshana, through the thing, to get to the reason for the existence of the thing, is the peculiar ability and special nature of man. The ability to see things, the ability to look at things seriously, is something any creature is capable of. But through the thing, the ability to get at the reason for the thing, the ability to search for the reason. Getting to all the reasons… that… that is man’s special achievement. That special intelligence is what sets man apart. Whenever man took birth in this world with this special ability, from that day, this universe is a big question mark in front of him. What is this? What is this universe composed of such diverse aspects?
There are only unusual traits in every aspect that I see here. No one thing resembles another. All are different. However, in a world filled with so many different aspects, that there is a definite order. I as the observer can clearly understand. In a certain place, a certain thing, at a certain time, a certain thing. In this manner, there is a definite order which sustains this universe. Then, what is that order? If the order is operating, then there certainly is an operating force that maintains this. You can call it by any name. You can call it X, or Y, or Z or whatever you want. That you should call it Iswara or Parameswara is not at all an obligation. You can call it by any name.
But, if there is an order, there is also a force maintaining that order. What is that maintaining force? Above all, who am I who is thinking this way? Who am I? Am I this gross body? Or am I just organs? Or am I the mind or the intellect? Are all these not mine? Then who I am who is knowing that these are mine and experiencing them? This way, from timeless antiquity, three questions have arisen in human minds. Man has always worked hard to find the answers to these questions. Actually, it is man’s quest for these answers that has given birth to science. Every scientific thought, it doesn’t matter from where in the world it has risen, doesn’t matter at what time period it has risen, doesn’t matter in what name it is called. Science is the quest for this truth.
It is this quest for truth that our great seers, these seers who have taught the Vedas to the world are those who have made this quest for truth. The knowledge that they discovered in their quest for the truth. That is what is the Veda, they taught the world, ascertaining the meaning of the Vedas is what is meant by the word Vedanta. The “end of knowledge” is the meaning primarily attached to the word Vedanta, that is knowledge, not some book. It is not Upanishad or Brahmasutra or Gita the book, that is meant by the word. But that knowledge that comes to us, comes from primarily the books known as Upanishads, Brahmasutra and the Bhagavad Gita, the scientific consciousness contained in these. If you ask whether they are scientific, 100% Yes, is only what I will say, in this first section of my talk.