Like Science, what the Upanishads teach is only re-discoverable truth, not a mere opinion

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The scientific temper and attitude, with its passion for truth and stress on verification of conclusions, is common training for religion and for physical science, as understood in Vedānta.

A scientist discovers some truth in his or her laboratory; he or she publishes it in a scientific journal. Another scientist checks it up and verifies it. Still it is not enough. Several other research workers re-check it. And it finally it emerges as an established scientific truth.

So also was the process in the world of religion in our Upanishads. A sage discovered the divine core in man behind his physical, neural, and psychical dimensions; and he called it the Ātman, the divine Self. Another sage took up this challenging conclusion and rechecked it and found it as true; then it passed the test of several other sages as well. And finally it emerged as the truth about man, as the truth of the science of human possibilities, as the Tat tvam asi – ‘ That thou art ’, proclaiming the infinite dimension of what, to the senses, appears as the finite organically limited man.

This is not therefore a mere opinion or personal view; it is the deepest truth about man, about all men. And any one can re-discover it for himself or herself. It is vastu-tantra-jnana – ‘ knowledge based on vastu, or existing fact, or truth’ , as described by Sankaracharya in his Brahma-Sutra commentary.

Hence its message is vedāhametam “I have realized it”; I have known it, not that  I just believe in it;  and  all else can also realize it.

Note the language when a verified and verifiable truth is what is being communicated.

From those ancient sages of the Upanishads over three thousand years ago, to Sri Ramakrishna, in our own time, this is the authentic temper and language of Indian spirituality, which explains the continued vitality and its application and comprehension of, and welcome to, the critical rational temper and approach of all physical science, ancient and modern.

 

Excerpted from “Faith and Reason”, a chapter in ETERNAL VALUES OF A CHANGING SOCIETY Vol.1 – PHILOSOPHY AND SPIRITUALITY by Swami Ranganathananda, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India 1994.

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