Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Atheism and pantheism

Yesterday, Swami Veda gave a rather animated lecture about atheism. He likes to tell the story of how he wrote a book called simply "God" which he proudly showed to his guru, Swami Rama. Swami Rama apparently countered a few months later with his own book, based on the Mandukya Upanishad, called "Enlightenment without God."

In this lecture, though, Swami was talking about imbuing life with the sacred. How the lack of awareness of the sacred element in life makess it dry and empty. He used the words astika and nastika several times in order to make his point. Since I have been working on Bhagavat-sandarbha, following a discussion on several verses from the Bhagavatam where the words neti neti are discussed, I wanted to ask what the relation between negation and assertion of Divine Truth were, in his vision. Of course, I think I know what he will say--pretty much the same thing that Osho says--"Being empty [of illusion] is the same as being full [of the divine]."

Over on the Guardian Comment is Free page, an article by Arian Sherine All aboard the atheist bus campaign and its response by Simon Barrow, Atheist evangelising? have become the most responded to articles on the site. The readers of the Guardian are primarily left-leaning social liberals, free thinkers, and decidedly anti-religion. Reading through the comments they make, they are quite as full of bovine dung as the most militant Christians. I came across a quote in one of the links on Sherine's article, however, where Richard Dawkins, the atheistic scientist (whose word "meme" has suddenly become a meme in itself and is now almost as ubiquitous as God himself, though not without being bastardized--come to think of it, not unlike God himself) whose book "The God Delusion" is one of the main texts of revivalist atheism, in which he says that pantheism is just sexed-up atheism. ("Sexed-up" is British for "snazzed up", which is now being replaced by the even more horrible - to sexed up -- "pimped")

Last but not least, Bhagavat-sandarbha 38:


astīti nāstīti ca vastu-niṣṭhayor
eka-sthayor bhinna-viruddha-dharmaṇoḥ
avekṣitaṁ kiñcana yoga-sāṅkhyayoḥ
samaṁ paraṁ hy anukūlaṁ bṛhat tat

The followers of Yoga and Sankhya are intent on the Truth, which is the same object for both, but they attribute different and opposing characteristics to it, either by affirming or negating [its attributes]. To both it appears as that same something, which is transcendental, favorable [to their understanding] and [supremely] great. (SB 6.4.32)

Satya Narayan: In yoga and sankhya which though professing faith in the one Reality ascribe two distinct and mutually contradictory attributes to it, the one claiming that it has hands and feet, etc, and the other denying them, and yet they have a common basis in the shape of God that which is found to be common and beyond dispute and which is acceptable to both is Brahma.

Gita Press version: In yoga (which is primarily a system of religious worship) and sankhya (the science of self-realization) which, though professing faith in the one Reality (viz. God) ascribe two distinct and mutually contradictory attributes to it—the one claiming that (when conceived as the Cosmic Person) it has hands and feet, etc., (corresponding to the Patala and other lokas), and the other denying them (and declaring it as without name and form), and yet they have a common basis (in the shape of God) that which is found to be common and beyond dispute and which is (equally) acceptable to both (viz. God Himself, whose existence is presupposed by both and who is the ground of all negation) is Brahma (to whom all controversy relates).


param padam vaiṣṇavam āmananti tad
yan neti netity atad-utsisṛkṣavah
visṛjya daurātmyam ananya-sauhṛdā
hṛdopaguhyārha-padam pade pade

Since they intend to leave aside everything that is not the Absolute Truth by following the process of negation (neti neti), transcendentalists give up all misconceptions of the self. Constantly embracing the Lord’s form within their heart and having no other friend but Him, they know that He, Lord Vishnu, is the supreme destination. (SB 2.2.18)

On the whole though, negation can only bring you to the Brahma-bhuta stage. In that sense it is the same as other kinds of God-realization.


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