Translate
 

Logic, Reason, and Faith


Question

I grew up in a comfortable Hindu home, listening to stories of the Ramayana, Mahabharatha, and the Gita. However, at some point during adolescence, the faith disappeared for me. I soon starting studying science, that may also have something to do with it. I’m trying to reconnect to spirituality in a productive way.
However, something that doesn’t sit well with me is that I seem to be “convincing myself” through logic and reason. That’s the opposite of the definition of faith, isn’t it? I would think that the “feeling” is there or it isn’t.
Also, I heard that the process of getting to know krsna is compared to falling in love with someone, that you want to get to know the person as you are falling in love with them.  But don’t you have to meet them first to do that? If I haven’t met krsna, how would i love it? (yes, I also hesitate referring to krsna as a gendered entity) and why is it so difficult to meet or recognize krsna, if the whole point of human life is to get to know our higher spiritual purpose? shouldn’t we be born with that ability? or if we are born with it, why do we often lose it? and then why is it so hard to get it back?  Does love exist without sacrifice?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

Thank you for writing and taking the time to ask your questions.  Your brief description of growing up in a good, faithful family, but coming to question that faith, reminds me of my own experience with my family and and our family religion. In my case, it was exposure to agnostic humanities that “problematized” the simple faith of my youth. In any case, I appreciate the thoughtfulness and sincerity of your questions and comments, and I will address them. Sorry if I sound a little academic, but I do sincerely want to address your concerns.

  1. Logic and reason are not, or shouldn’t be, the “opposite” of faith, though some fanatic religious communities may see it that way. My own teacher, Prabhupada, stressed the need to balance faith and reason, which he saw as complementary. This is a very old idea in the Western philosophical tradition as well. For example, the pre-Christian Stoics taught that God is a rational Being who possesses a divine “Logos,” or reason, which is then invested in the creation, including ourselves. It is for that reason that we can logically, “scientifically” study the universe when our own logos or reason connects with the logical structure and purpose of the world, and thus with the mind of the Creator.

The Renaissance and even the late Middle Ages strongly revived this notion of rational religion. On this view, we cannot reach the highest truth with “unaided” human reason, but a presumed “revelation” must be shown to be reasonable, among other ways by being free from internal logical contradictions or absurdities. Similarly, Krishna says in the Gita 3.43 that we should use reason to discover that which is beyond reason, a verse that I find quite intriguing.

And of course separating faith from reason has led, historically, to the worst forms of fanaticism.

  1. It is true, as you say, that we could hardly fall in love with someone we do not know at all. That is why Krishna stresses in the Gita the importance of spiritual knowledge. And Krishna often describes knowing as seeing, i.e. experienced knowledge. We can only truly love Krishna to the extent we truly understand him. Thus the Gita 7.19 states that one who really understands Krishna becomes devoted. Even in human life, “sustainable” love is based on a true understanding of the other person.

One could object here that in human relationships we actually meet and talk to the other person. In reply, I would say first that even in human life, hearing about a worthy person arouses admiration for that person, if not active love.

Krishna claims to be present in everyone’s heart. The Vaishnava tradition teaches that we do in fact have an eternal relationship with, and knowledge of, Krishna but that we have forgotten it. Material consciousness is compared to a dream from which we must awaken. Cognitively, remembering and learning are not identical. So if Krishna’s claims are true — Krishna is in our hearts and as eternal beings, we simply remember a pre-existing loving relationship with Krishna — then the analogy between human relationships and a relationship with Krishna — is not absolutely analogous./li>

  1. It may not be easy for most to revive pure consciousness of Krishna but it is possible. For example, relatively few persons share your level of academic achievement, yet your research and study will ultimately benefit society in general. As we know, we live in an unusually materialistic, and even narcissistic age, but that very fact awakens in many a wish for something higher. My own view is that Krishna-bhakti has not always been presented in the West in the most practical way, but that an appropriate presentation does have the potential to inspire many people.
  2. Does love exist without sacrifice? At the very least, love requires that we sacrifice our vanity and self-centeredness in the act of loving another. Love does not require that we sacrifice ourselves in the sense of giving up our own nature. Krishna emphasizes in the Gita that even the wise follow their nature, and that our basic duties in life arise from our nature. We are all unique souls, and love reveals our highest individual nature, rather than suppressing it.

I hope my reply will at least encourage you to discuss these points further. I would be happy to hear from you again on these or any other topics. Thanks again for your writing.