Lead me from unreal to real;
Lead me from darkness to light; Lead me from death to immortality.
Here is an interesting discussion which I had with one of the participants of my workshop. She said that science has progressed so far, how does religion & scriptures (that includes Upanishads) make any sense today. These things were written eons ago and world has changed since then. It may not be relevant now. This question may be there with most of us. My two cents on it.
Let’s break it down and understand the domain of
Religion: There is a belief that there is an unseen natural order and there are caretakers of this natural order. We refer to them as Devatas, Holy Spirit, God etc. In addition to this, there is another belief that if we align to this natural order by following certain practices, it will lead to a good life. Can I personally testify the presence of such supernatural beings and natural order? Maybe not. And also, just because it’s not personally experienceable, does it mean that it does not exist – may be not!
Therefore, belief becomes a starting point when it comes to religion. And it becomes a fact to us only when we experience it. Since beliefs and experiences are personal so is the relevance of religion to every individual.
Yes, science is based on facts, hence most of us get attracted to it as there is some kind of objectivity & reliability. This gives us a sense of comfort as there is certainty. While this field is young and progressing really fast, do we see any limitations? Science operates in the domain of matter & energy. What about subtler things like thoughts, feelings, awareness, consciousness etc.? Science may try corelating these to the neural activities in our brain but correlations are not facts. Subjective experiences of happiness or sadness cannot be measured but don’t we all experience these feelings? Yes, science is relevant & reliable but we should also be aware of its limitations.
Now, let’s come to Upanishads. The focal point of these Upanishads is Self. While most part of the religion refers to natural order outside of us and the science refers to the objective universe, Upanishads take out attention to the subjective universe inside of us. It’s the journey of rediscovering self, by going within.
One may ask what’s the use of knowing the self? Think about it – isn’t our inner world of thoughts , beliefs and emotions that create our reality and the experience of life? Check with someone who has all the riches, fame, experiences and stuffs and will any of these matter, if the mind is depressed. To experience the life to its fullest, we need our inner instruments of emotions and feelings in alignment. And this is the central theme of Upanishads, to rediscover ourself through the process of self-enquiry and practice.
The challenge of the human race has been managing these inner instruments while the world outside has been changing significantly. What gave joy and suffering to our ancestors may be very different from what gives us joy and suffering today, but the joy and suffering remains.
The Upanishads give us the road map to the self-discovery of the inner world of emotions, beliefs and mental impressions, with the ultimate goal is to transcend the suffering and claim our real nature which is Bliss. The road map & the wisdom stated in these Ancient Texts is as relevant today as it always has been in the past.
There is a place and time for everything, there is nothing right & wrong, see what works best for you! It be one , some and all of them.
And well, the participant was a nutritionist and in the end she said that for a holistic well-being, a balanced meal is the best : )
Inspired by the talk of Swami Tadatmananda.