Discussions

Bhakti-yoga: Verifiable Spirituality

Posted Jan. 11, 2013 by Fallensoul in Open

Anonymous Icon

commented on Dec. 30, 2013
by dustproduction

Quote

12

It is often said that religion/spirituality is based either on subjective experiences that cannot be verified by others or on received doctrines that cannot be verified at all. Therefore, the charge goes, religion is a matter of blind faith. But this charge does not apply to the process of bhakti-yoga, for bhakti-yoga is based on verifiable observation. True, a person using ordinary sense perception cannot verify the realizations attained by someone practicing bhakti-yoga. But these realizations can be verified by other persons who are also able to exercise their higher sensory capacities.

We can establish this point with the analogy of two seeing persons observing a sunset in the presence of a congenitally blind person. The seeing persons are able to discuss what they see, and each feels confident that both he and the other person really are witnessing a sunset. If necessary, they can confirm this conclusion by consulting other seeing persons. In contrast, the congenitally blind person cannot verify the existence of the sunset, and he is probably unable to form a realistic conception of what it would be like to see it. He can either accept the existence of sunsets on blind faith, reject their existence with equal blindness, or declare himself an agnostic.

One might say that it is unfair for a few people to lay claim to knowledge that can be obtained only by methods unavailable to people in general. But this charge is actually more applicable to certain fields of modern science than to bhakti-yoga. For example, physicists use multimillion-dollar particle accelerators and elaborate techniques of mathematical analysis to demonstrate the existence of certain "fundamental" particles. The common man has neither access to such expensive equipment nor the knowledge needed to use it properly. Since these assets are difficult to acquire, the common man has no choice but to accept the physicists' findings on faith. Nonetheless, the physicists are confident that they can verify one another's observations, and they would not accept the charge that their conclusions are invalid because they cannot be checked by laymen.

For a given class of observations to be considered objective, the general rule is that a group of responsible people must be able to verify them. These people must agree on a clear theoretical understanding of what observations are to be expected and how they are to be interpreted. Modern physics is based on such a group of experts, and the same can be said of the process of bhakti-yoga. The system of bhakti-yoga is maintained and propagated by a disciplic succession of teachers, or gurus, who have reached a high platform of personal realization. These teachers adhere to a standard body of knowledge contained in books such as Bhagavad-gita, and their conclusions and conduct can be checked by the larger community of realized persons, orsadhus. Qualified sadhus can discuss and evaluate the higher realizations of bhakti-yoga just as readily as expert physicists can discuss and evaluate the findings of experimental physics.

Since bhakti-yoga is based on verifiable observation, it is dependent neither on blind faith nor on speculative arguments. Yet any difficult undertaking requires faith, and the process of bhakti-yoga is no exception. For example, before studying modern chemistry the prospective student must have faith that the many experiments on which the subject is based, actually work. He cannot know in advance that they will work, but without faith that they will he would not be motivated to carry out the arduous labor needed to master the subject. Normally, the student will begin with a certain amount of initial faith, and this faith will grow as he acquires more and more practical experience. The same gradual development of faith occurs in bhakti-yoga.

Perhaps the main reason for the widespread dismissal of religion as "blind faith" is that many systems of theistic thought are not backed up by any verifiable direct interaction with the Supreme Person. Why is this so, we may ask, if the Supreme Person is as readily accessible as the proponents of bhakti-yoga claim? The following statement from Srimad-Bhagavatam [2.6.41] suggests an interesting answer to this question:

The great thinkers can know Him [Krsna] when completely freed from all material hankerings and when sheltered under undisturbed conditions of the senses. Otherwise, by untenable arguments, all is distorted, and the Lord disappears from our sight.

As indicated here, one of the most important principles of bhakti-yoga is that higher realization is impossible until the material senses are brought under control, In the materially conditioned state of consciousness, the jivatma (living entity) desires to enjoy his material situation and is completely preoccupied with the barrage of stimuli presented by his material senses. 'With his sensory channels overloaded, the jivatma is unable to perceive the presence of the Supersoul (the form of the Supreme Person in one's heart), although constitutionally able to do so. Since direct access to the Supreme Person is denied the jivatma with uncontrolled senses, he is prone to indulge in fanciful speculations that simply lead him further and further from the truth.

  • 12 Comments  
  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Dec 30, 2013

    @ROS
    Spirit-uality still leaves us with a dualist approach to consciousness. It can be argued that the doctor reviles someones biological balance and not their spirit. Spirit in this sense is an ambiguity; is it an objective property, observed or ascribed by the observer, in the way the "me" or personality is viewable, or a subjective one, known only to the self-as-knower?
    This is a difficulty in the comparison of the old "wisdoms" and the newer research; they may not be a comparison of apples and apples. While there was always an observable phenomena to speculate about there was almost no information available about the biology involved. This has change only recently and we are now wrestling with how these new observation fit the thinking that has evolved over time. In the end, I do not see a dualist approach being the surviving theory.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Dec 30, 2013

    Continued...

    Modern Hinduism, in practice, tends to stop short of completing the journey, at least in newer interpretations of it. An analogy would be that the ancient Sanskrit language, in which Consciousness has intentionally been built into it, has devolved into modern Hindi devanagari/language, which has taken on the form of convention. In modern India, mother/"mother" is being tossed out of the family home, to live on the street, a contradiction in values and interpretations. If it was a ship, it would be capsized! Abandoned mothers living in poverty, while Father is catered to on a throne?! That was never what was originally intended. Even the third eye has become a mere decoration!

    As with meditation, yoga is being used to remove all distractions and projections, or wayward (uncontrolled, imbalanced) spirit, so the natural, inherent Universal Physics of the person (the natural mathematics Process that created the person) can be restored, but anthropomorphizing the remaining energy into a Masculine God Being/"Him" is still projection.

    In the 3000 year old Bhagavad Gita, or "Gita," which I would highly recommend seekers of Universal Truth/Physics to read (as with the Tao Te Ching, it is required reading in universities all around the world, and available in quality bookstores, and free online) basically a prince is going off to war, all the while having a conversation with his (analogical) chariot driver/"chariot driver." In the end, they essentially become One. Krsna (vowels inherent in Sanskrit, except at the end...a perfect revelation of the Consciousness not-so-hiding within).

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Dec 30, 2013

    It's important to separate, and keep separate, spirit-uality from religion.

    As I have explained in the "Consciousness 101..." thread, SPIRIT-uality is basic-most movement into life (the breathing, moving, processing of life, in itself, which has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. If a person was being revived by doctors with paddles, they would essentially be restoring the spirit of the entity, to breathe, move and process life as a living being.

    Religion is ...a... chosen journey through life, among many other possibilities (such that those other possibilities are as parallel to religion, Physics wise, "science," for instance, as invertedly religion is an-other possibility, or "science").

    Religion is an adherence to a particular thought process, often held to the point of one's not allowing in further growth or exploration or questioning, to not only attempt to find stability and comfort in that particular set of assumed defense mechanisms, or "safe place," but also to satisfy a person's External Dependency/external dependency. In other words, he or she is projecting responsibility away from himself or herself, and onto an assumed Divine Being and social experiences. Religion is fluid and as change-able as one changes one's mind. No religion of projection holds the Ultimate Answer, anymore than any science projecting its answers away from/excluding itself will ever hold the Ultimate Answer.

    Religion is not a stopping place, or be all, end all. It is merely a worksheet, a puzzle table, a place to store your paint and brushes, a canvas, a workshop. While some religions are far more Conscious of Universal Truth than others (Buddhism, Taoism, for instance), they too must relinquish their projections and ritualisms to *experience* Reality. Hinduism has been getting lost in its increasing projections, but has a vast history of ancient documentation of profound Awareness (Mahabharata, Gita, etc., nowadays being exploited in a search for aliens). Buddhism is very highly *realized, * its monks and nuns basically physicists, but it projects "just enough" to teach it, and Taoism soooo adheres to the mathematical Physics that it practically disappears into Nothingness, suggesting no religion should be projected from it, because "the Tao (Way) that can be told is not the eternal Tao (Way)" needing to be directly experienced, at the Core).

  • NoetPoet Dec 29, 2013

    All well and good, and I have seen similar claims made for Buddhist meditation practices. But isn't there actually a lot of preparatory indoctrination involved in Bhakti Yoga from the very beginning stages of practice? Given the subjective nature of the experiences that practitioners aim for, is it not reasonable and indeed probable that what advanced practitioners experience is 1) largely informed by the power of suggestion and 2) at least partially explainable in terms of neurological and physiological changes induced by the practice which are independent of any notions of cosmic and divine realities?

  • Fallensoul Dec 28, 2013

    dusty: thanks for sharing that and for your comments. Well what if those same academic standards are applied to spirituality and you obtain verifiable observation about the truths of bhakti-yoga. What then?

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Dec 28, 2013

    Also, while some may suggest that we need more of a focus on experiential accounts I prefer an academic approach because it adheres to a certain standard (we might argue the benefits of those standards in another discussion).

    In my opinion this thesis appears to meet that standard and so I will take the time to read it and give it my consideration:

    http://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1112&context=td

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Dec 28, 2013

    I did come across this article that I will share here to further the discussion and since many believe science has n place at the table.

    http://www.thespiritualscientist.com/about-the-author/how-i-discovered-the-science-of-bhakti-yoga/

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Dec 28, 2013

    I know nothing about the process of bhakti-yoga but you might have a look at the IONS discussion regarding the Neuroscience of Enlightenment.

  • Fallensoul Dec 28, 2013

    Dusty: do any the ka-zillion books you've read discuss verifiable spirituality like this?

  • Fallensoul Apr 14, 2013

    Thanks Jeanine.

  • Jeanine Broderick Jan 24, 2013

    Is there a Love Button?

    I love this!

    One might say that it is unfair for a few people to lay claim to knowledge that can be obtained only by methods unavailable to people in general. But this charge is actually more applicable to certain fields of modern science than to bhakti-yoga. For example, physicists use multimillion-dollar particle accelerators and elaborate techniques of mathematical analysis to demonstrate the existence of certain "fundamental" particles. The common man has neither access to such expensive equipment nor the knowledge needed to use it properly. Since these assets are difficult to acquire, the common man has no choice but to accept the physicists' findings on faith. Nonetheless, the physicists are confident that they can verify one another's observations, and they would not accept the charge that their conclusions are invalid because they cannot be checked by laymen.

    Thank you for this thread.

    ♡ Jeanine

  • mrmathew1963 Jan 11, 2013

    G'day Fallensoul

    I'm a little annoying!!!.......Very good thread & in my mind so true in all respects.

    Science uses deductive reasoning processes through just the five senses to make a deduction but on the other hand true spirituality uses the sixth sense as its primary reasoning process through separating oneself from the five senses. To me, logically, once you separate yourself from the five senses which are driven by human emotions a more logical correct deduction can be made. The five senses are more likely to give us distorted deductive relatives; it’s very hard to use both conceptive methods/tools but not impossible & just maybe we are here to do just that.

    Love
    Mathew

  • or Sign Up to Add a Comment

Stay in touch with IONS