Reconciling Modern Science and Shastra
Questions & Answers

Reconciling Modern Science and Shastra

Brain and Science, neuroscience, neutrons

Question: The progress of science is an important part of modern civilization, but traditionally there are huge contradictions between religion and science.

Answer: Can you cite some examples of contradictions? I do not want anything related to astronomy or the structure of the universe because it is a topic that needs some expertise to understand the contradiction, and my knowledge of this field is very limited. 

Question: Wouldn’t it be useful to explain modern scientific achievements from the śāstric point of view?

Answer: How will it be useful, and to whom? And you completely avoided the previous question. I was expecting that you will come up with a big list of contradictions.

Question: Scientific methods of knowledge are acceptable because they discover laws of nature that come from God, but how is it possible to reconcile science and religion in terms of bhakti? What should a Vaiṣṇava think and do if something in śāstra contradicts scientific descriptions of reality? For example, SB 5.16.9 says:

“Similarly, south of Ilāvṛta-varṣa and extending from east to west are three great mountains named (from north to south) Niṣadha, Hemakūṭa, and Himālaya. Each of them is 10,000 yojanas [80,000 miles] high. They mark the boundaries of the three varṣas named Hari-varṣa, Kimpuruṣa-varṣa, and Bhārata-varṣa [India].”

How can we understand this when Mount Everest is only 8848 meters high?

Answer:  It is very interesting that you completely disregarded my earlier replies. This description is not of the visible world but the invisible (ādhidaivika, not ādhibhautika).

Question: And what about SB 3.31.6: “Bitten again and again all over the body by the hungry worms in the abdomen itself, the child suffers terrible agony because of his tenderness. He thus becomes unconscious moment after moment because of the terrible condition.”

I was told that there are no worms like that.

Answer: Thank you. Finally, you have come up with one contradiction. The problematic word here is kṛmi, translated as “worms.” Kṛmi could just mean bacteria or anything that causes itching to the body. Moreover, it does not necessarily mean that it happens to every child in the womb. In the same description, Kapila says that the child remembers his past 100 lives and prays to Bhagavān. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmi comments that this does not apply to everyone but only to some rare beings, such as Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Similarly, maybe some very rare person gets troubled by some kṛmi. The description, however, is given as if it happens to every baby in the womb.

It is important to understand the speaker’s intention. The subject here is not to describe the exact situation of the baby in the womb, but the suffering caused by material bondage. If you want to know about the development of a baby in the womb, please consult Caraka Saṁhitā. You will not find any contradiction, rather you will be amazed with the description given at least 3000 years ago.

The intention of Śrī Kapila describing the baby bitten by kṛmis is to inspire one to take to spirituality. Śāstra uses certain techniques to convey its message. You also use it in your daily life. For example, if you want your child to take a bitter medicine, you may say something false or exaggerated to encourage the child to take the medicine.

Question: Are these verses supposed to be taken as literal or metaphorical? Did mountains really have wings?

“Indra thought: Formerly when many mountains flying in the sky with wings would fall to the ground and kill people, I cut their wings with this same thunderbolt.” (SB 8.11.34)

Answer: I personally do not take it literally.


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