This episode discusses the book Conceiving the Inconceivable, and topics surrounding Vedanta philosophy, with special regard to the achintya-bheda-abheda understanding given by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The central contentious issue is whether reality is achintya or inconceivable, and if so, why should a book exist about something that cannot be understood? The short answer to that problem is that inconceivability arises due to the use of conventional logic, which is based on the distinctness of physical objects. The same reality becomes conceivable when we describe this world as concepts, however, the logic associated with this reality now violates the principles of classical logic, namely, the notions of identity (if A is B, then B is A), non-contradiction (both A and not-A cannot be true), mutual exclusion (both A and not-A can be false, or at least one of them must be true). The new logic of concepts requires us to admit new categories of “both” and “neither”, which makes this logic counterintuitive. But this problem is not unique to the understanding of soul and God and applies to everything in Vedic philosophy — e.g. the understanding of material elements, the mind-body problem (or the soul-body problem), meaning in ordinary language, and so forth.
This episode of the podcast discusses the tripartite nature of the soul, how the soul’s three aspects create inner conflicts, how the resolution of these conflicts requires choices about what to compromise, how these choices must be balanced over time, and how each situation requires the right kind compromise, these constitute the Vedic philosophical description of the soul.
This episode discusses how the world exists as a possibility, from which experiences are manifest. This manifest reality can then be known or experienced. But the manifest reality can be true, right, and good, or false, wrong, and bad. We then discuss how the difference between true, right, and good vs. false, wrong, and bad is its incompleteness. When claims are incomplete, then to complete them, the opposite claims are incorporated, and these opposites then create cyclical change, as each opposite becomes dominant or subordinate. However, in the spiritual world, when the claims are complete, then the opposites are not required, and then the changes stop. Nevertheless, there is still “motion” which is different from “change”. By understanding the difference between motion and change, we can grasp how the spiritual world is eternally active, and yet, it is different from the material world of changes.
In this episode, we continue the conversation from the previous episode about God as jnanam-advayam or non-dual knowledge and describe additional aspects about God’s nature. In Vedic philosophy, God is said to have three aspects, which are variously described as sat, chit, and ānanda; as Hlādinī, Sandhinī, and Samvit; and as sambandha, abhidhyeya, and prayojana. We discuss the nature of these three aspects, and how they refer to the same three aspects of God, although using different words, identifying different nuances.
In this episode, we talk about the nature of God. In Vedic texts, God is described as paramam-satyam, or the highest truth. He is also described as jnanam-advayam, or non-dual knowledge. What is duality, and what is non-duality? And do these ideas about the nature of duality influence the definition of non-duality? How both duality and non-duality exist in this world? And what are the different kinds of non-duality, which lead to different conceptions of God? These are all interesting questions discussed in this episode.
In this episode, we talk about a number of unique problems that arise in trying to make Vedic philosophy more rigorous in a logical and mathematical sense. I have been presenting some of these ideas while discussing the theories of creation, cosmology, linguistics, the nature of space and time, etc. But there is no single place where we have collected them so far. This is what this podcast achieves to do.
In this episode, we will talk about the problem of epistemology or how do we know. We will go over some historical material regarding the methods of knowledge prevalent in Western philosophy and then look at the same problem from the perspective of Vedic philosophy. We discuss the problems of rationalism and empiricism in Western philosophy and then the metaphysics by which these problems are resolved in Vedic philosophy making empiricism and rationalism valid methods of knowledge. We then talk about the use of authority to discover knowledge which is then verified by empiricism and rationalism, and how discovery and verification are two different uses of reason and experience. Finally, we talk about the dogma of materialism within which modern science operates and how this dogma is disguised as the preference toward reason and experience.
In this episode, we talk about the semantic view of atomism. Semantic atomic theory or the semantic interpretation of atomic theory is the idea that atoms are symbols of meaning and instead of the classical physical properties such as energy, momentum, angular momentum, and spin, these atoms possess semantic properties which are called beauty, power, wealth, and fame. Once we change the properties by which matter is described, we also change the nature of forces. Instead of the mechanical push and pull forces we have to now use the forces of consistency, competition, cooperation, and completion that operate between the meanings. So there is a different idea about material properties and a different idea about material force, and this is what I mean by semantic atomic theory. Once we understand this new kind of atomism, we can also talk about different kind of technology which can emerge from the understanding of this atomism.
In this episode, we talk about the nature of karma and how it is created. We discuss how karma is created as a consequence of actions, different from cause and effect, and to the extent that science only deals with causes and effects, it is incomplete. The episode goes on to talk about how time only creates possibilities out of which our desiring (guna) and deserving (karma) create actual events for an individual observer. So karma is a natural concept, and morality that deals with the consequences of actions is a natural law. The episode talks about many questions surrounding karma such as why we don’t remember the past lives when karma created, how can we punished for deeds even when we don’t remember our actions, and why sometimes some people remember their past lives. We talk about how karma is just like money—it can be earned and spent, and the method of earning and the method of spending can be different. This means that based on how karma is reaped cannot tell us how it was previously earned.
This episode talks about an alternative model of evolution based upon the notions of matter derived from quantum physics rather than classical physics. In classical physics, a particle established continuity between successive states, but in quantum physics, there are successive states but no continuity. The episode discusses how in Vedic philosophy this continuity is established by the presence of the soul due to which even though the bodies are changing through birth, childhood, youth, and old age, the soul remains the same. Also, unlike classical physics where only one state is possible and real at a given time, in quantum physics all the states are possible but only one state becomes real. So, when these material states are understood as different kinds of bodies, then all the bodies are possible at all times but only some bodies become real at a given time. It follows that the species are not evolving into other species. Rather, the soul is evolving through various species. The episode goes on to discuss three definitions of the species in Vedic philosophy, and how they appear in language as first, second, and third-person experiences. Modern science only studies third-person experience and therefore body is also defined only in terms of third-person properties. But in Vedic philosophy, the body is additionally described in terms of first- and second-person experiences and properties.
In this episode, we talk about the problem of incompleteness in science and how this problem is not limited to physical theories but goes way deeper into mathematics and logic itself. The root cause of this problem is traced to the fact that nature has duality and opposites, but inducting opposites creates contradictions in science. The problem is also caused by the existence of figures of speech in ordinary language which are missing in mathematics and logic. Finally, the problem is also related to the existence of choice by which the same world can be described scientifically in new ways, so there is an explicit for the observer in observing nature. The episode discusses how these problems manifest in many areas of modern science in different forms and possible strategies for overcoming them.
This episode discusses how space and time are treated as trees of three kinds of meanings in Vedic philosophy. The idea of the tree of meaning has been described at various places in Vedic texts, as well as in other religions such as Christianity and Judaism. The relation between this tree and ideas of form and substance in Greek philosophy is relevant to this conversation. The episode also talks about how the higher-level branches and trunks are visible from the level of the leaves, but cutting down the leaves doesn’t cut those branches and trunks. In the same way, the higher-level realities such as the mind, intellect, ego, and the soul are manifest in the body, but the death of the body doesn’t destroy the deeper realities.
This episode discusses the relationship between religion and science from the perspective of Vedic philosophy, and how an original meaning embodied by God expands into symbols that include both the soul and their material experiences. This relation between meaning and symbols requires us to treat the material world as a representation of meaning. The podcast discusses how this ideology about matter provides the incremental steps through which the study of pure matter transforms into the study of God.