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There are widespread misconceptions about the various yoga systems: (a) they are mutually exclusive, (b) everyone can choose their yoga, and (c) each yoga system is optional. This misconception can be easily dissipated by reading Bhagavad-Gita, where Kṛṣṇa describes six yoga systems in a hierarchy. In this post, I will discuss this ladder of yoga systems, how they represent four principles of dharma, how the higher levels of the ladder include the lower levels, why a level is prescribed based on a person’s previous level of progress, and how a new yoga system is sometimes prescribed based on the time, place, and situation to aid the development of the eternal principles of dharma.

The Hierarchy of Many Yoga

Kṛṣṇa describes many forms of yoga in Chapter 12 of the Bhagavad-Gita as follows:

TEXT 8: Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus, you will live in Me always, without a doubt.

TEXT 9: My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.

TEXT 10: If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.

TEXT 11: If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.

TEXT 12: If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.

Kṛṣṇa begins by saying that fixing the mind on Him is the best path. But if one is unable to do that, then following regulated practices of bhakti (such as deity worship and the chanting of the holy names of Kṛṣṇa) is the next best. However, if one is unable to do even these regulated practices, then working for Him (by doing what Kṛṣṇa comes to do in this world) is the next best. But if one is unable to do that, then just doing their social duty without aspiring for results is the next best. If one is unable to do that, then the practice of austerity and meditation is the next best. But if someone is not even able to do that, then they must cultivate knowledge as the last option.

Thus, a clear hierarchy of practices is prescribed in six steps:

  • Jñāna-yoga is the lowest,
  • Aśtānga-yoga is the next higher,
  • Karma-yoga is the next higher,
  • Working for Kṛṣṇa is the next higher,
  • Regulated bhakti-yoga is the next higher,
  • Full absorption in Kṛṣṇa is the highest.

Natural Properties of a Ladder

The higher paths are preferred but they are harder. A lower path is prescribed because people may not be able to follow the higher path. Even though many paths exist, they are for different people. There is no reason for false pride in someone following the higher path inadequately because Kṛṣṇa prescribes a lower path for them. There is no reason for false pride in someone following a lower path because Kṛṣṇa states that the lower path exists for those who cannot follow the higher path.

Due to increasing difficulties in these paths, whenever a person goes to the higher path, it is expected that he or she has either perfected the lower path or they will focus on perfecting the lower path along with the higher path. If one disregards the lower path whimsically, then he or she neither perfects their chosen path nor do they rise to the perfection of a higher path.

This is the basic principle for all ladders. For instance, when a person goes for higher education, he is generally expected to have completed primary education. Some people may pursue higher education along with primary education, but higher education cannot be considered complete without primary education. This is because education is organized as a ladder. If, however, a person simply claims to have completed primary education, then he gets stuck in higher education.

The Four Principles of Dharma

The path of yoga is a journey. There are four guardrails on each path called satya, dayā, śaucha, and tapa. We translate them as truthfulness, kindness, cleanliness, and austerity. Each of these principles exists in three states: (a) accept, (b) reject, and (c) neither. For example, kindness exists in three stages, namely, kindness, cruelty, and indifference. Indifference is neither cruelty nor kindness while cruelty is neither kindness nor indifference. In dealing with a cruel person, the other principles of truth, austerity, and cleanliness may be sacrificed. As most people abandon dharma, to follow dharma while dealing with them, some principles of dharma have to be sacrificed.

For instance, sometimes the truth has to be sacrificed to show kindness, and sometimes kindness has to be sacrificed, to tell the truth. We should accept austerity for ourselves while showing kindness to others, but only if the person receiving that kindness shows gratitude. Those who demand more austerity from others because they have previously received kindness from them should not be shown kindness.

The sacrifice of one principle for others is decided by whatever results in greater perfection, which is just greater dharma. The path toward a great destination sometimes passes through peaks and valleys. While climbing a peak, one principle may be emphasized over others. While passing through a valley, another principle may be deemphasized. Dharma changes based on contexts and is never universalized.

These four principles apply to everything. For example, even if we do a worldly job, we must practice truthfulness, kindness, cleanliness, and austerity. This means—(a) as far as possible, do not lie, cheat, or manipulate others while doing your job, (b) as far as possible, do the job in the most systematic way rather than trying to cut corners and creating chaos to be borne by others, (c) as far as possible, show kindness to others, and (d) as far as possible, take austerities upon yourself. However, if the environment is mostly adharmic, then one may either leave that place or deal with the adharmic people in a way that violates the four principles the least.

The Principle of Bhedābheda

These four principles are mutually inseparable (called Bhedābheda) which means that each of these four principles can become the cause of the other three, and rejection or neglect of any one of them can become the rejection or neglect of the other three. For example, a person who pursues the truth automatically becomes clean, kind, and austere. However, one who neglects or rejects the truth automatically becomes unclean, unkind, and hedonistic. Thus, each of the four principles is causally sufficient and neither principle is causally necessary.

We can think of these principles as parts of a body. Where the hand goes, the head, stomach, and legs come along. This is causal sufficiency. The absence of causal necessity enables choice. We can choose to prioritize one of the four principles, namely, focus on bringing the hand instead of the head, stomach, and legs, because it will bring the other three. Due to choice, no principle is necessary. But because one principle cannot exist without the others, therefore, if any of the principles are neglected or rejected, then others are also neglected and rejected. That is just like trying to accept the hand and reject the leg. Either the hand will also be rejected or the leg must be accepted.

Due to inseparability, ultimately, all four principles of dharma are mandatory. We cannot consider anyone perfect without one of those principles, just like we cannot get a body with one of the body parts missing. The choice in the practice of dharma pertains to pulling the whole body by one of the parts. Since the whole body can be pulled by each part, hence, it is not necessary to pull it through a specific part. But that choice is not the rejection of the other parts. It is a choice to pull the body by one part instead of another. The choice is not free. A choice of one part in a body of inseparable parts, while rejecting the other parts means that no part will eventually be obtained.

The Four Systems of Yoga

The four dharma principles are emphasized in four of the above six yoga systems. Jñāna-yoga prioritizes the truth, Aśtānga-yoga prioritizes austerity, Karma-yoga prioritizes cleanliness, and working for Kṛṣṇa prioritizes kindness. By the principle of causal sufficiency, following one path can give results obtained by following other paths. By the principle of absence of necessity, people can choose different paths.

The ladder of yoga systems exists because it is easiest to be truthful, a little harder to be austere, even harder to be clean, and hardest to be kind. Let’s illustrate this ladder with the example of a simple truth like the soul-body distinction. There is some effort needed to theoretically understand this distinction through Jñāna-yoga. The process of realizing this distinction through the austerities of Aśtānga-yoga is harder than theoretical understanding. Remaining aware of this distinction while doing one’s day-to-day duties is even harder. Finally, teaching this truth to people disinterested in theoretical knowledge, practical confirmation, and continuous cognizance is the hardest.

The principle of inseparability ensures that every person progressing on any path is also progressing on all the other paths. We don’t say that a person on one path is not on other paths, and we don’t say that a person on one path is on the other path. Bhedābheda entails a non-binary logical conclusion in which each path is neither identical to the other paths nor completely different from the other paths.

Yoga and Yuga Connection

Since everything follows from the truth, hence it is the first leg of dharma in Kali-yuga, austerity is the second leg of dharma in Tretā-yuga, cleanliness is the third leg of dharma in Dvāpara-Yuga, and kindness is the fourth leg of dharma in Satya-yuga. Speaking the truth is the practice of dharma in Kali-yuga, the practice of austerities is the practice of dharma in Tretā-yuga, the performance of yajñá is the process of dharma in Dvāpara-yuga, and living for the benefit of others is the process of dharma in Satya-yuga.

The yuga order is altered when Kṛṣṇa appears in this world, as is the case for the present yuga cycle when Dvāpara comes after Tretā. Hence, the processes of austerities and yajñá are swapped in the present yuga cycle—the former is prescribed for Tretā and the latter for Dvāpara. But the general yuga cycle is from Satya to Tretā to Dvāpara to Kali. The yoga and dharma principles are in the same order.

This non-binary logical conclusion allows a person to practice all forms of yoga in all yuga, although it is not the dominant prescription. Likewise, the non-binary conclusion states that even if one of the methods is prioritized in a yuga, the others will be perfected by that process. Thus, the non-binary conclusion has allowed the Vedic system to exist in harmony with a diversity of paths because the true practitioners know that their choice of one path initially lacks the gains of the other path but eventually they get everything.

Harmony in diversity ceases whenever paths are considered exclusive. The exclusivism of many present-day religions is tied to binary logic. The inclusivism of the Vedic tradition is tied to non-binary logic. If we don’t understand non-binary logic, then we remain either covert or overt exclusivists. However, inclusivism doesn’t mean a mindless inclusion of murder, thievery, and cheating as yet another religion. There is a choice to prioritize one of the four dharma principles but no choice to reject all four principles and yet call it a religion.

Prescription of New Paths

Based on the above four principles, Acharyas sometimes construct new paths that combine the above four principles in a new way, while appearing to be different from the previous paths. For example, the Vedic tradition never considered proselytization as a path to yoga perfection. But Vaishnava Acharyas in the last century or so have presented proselytization as Kṛṣṇa’s work. While proselytization is not the traditional Jñāna-yoga, Aśtānga-yoga, Karma-yoga, or Bhakti-yoga, it is a form of yoga as working for Kṛṣṇa. This path was rarely used before. But it has been given prominence at this time. If most people become dharmic, then there is no need for this type of yoga.

Kṛṣṇa describes in the Bhagavad-Gita that whenever there is a decline of dharma and rise of adharma, He appears in this world to—(a) destroy the destroyers of dharma, (b) protect the protectors of dharma, and (c) reestablish the principles of dharma. This is the meaning of “Kṛṣṇa’s work”—it is doing what Kṛṣṇa comes to do in this world. It is distinguished from regulated Bhakti-yoga (also called Vidhi-bhakti) and spontaneous bhakti-yoga (also called prema-bhakti). It is prescribed when one is not able to progress through higher paths.

Under regulated bhakti-yoga, one does deity worship and chanting of the holy names. Under prema-bhakti, the devotee abandons all regulations and is constantly absorbed in thinking about Kṛṣṇa. Due to constant engagement, a deity is not worshipped at fixed times because the Lord is worshipped in the heart at all times. Due to constant engagement, the names of the Lord are not chanted a fixed number of times every day because they are chanted in the heart at all times. This is why prema-bhakti is better than Vidhi-bhakti, and harder. Those who cannot do prema-bhakti are prescribed the practice of Vidhi-bhakti. Those who cannot do Vidhi-bhakti well, are given Kṛṣṇa’s work.

Kṛṣṇa’s work varies based on the time, place, context, and person, without changing the basic principles above. Each person can work for Kṛṣṇa in a different way with the condition that the work must be aimed at destroying the destroyers of dharma, protecting the protectors of dharma, and re-establishing the principles of dharma. If this is happening, then work is Kṛṣṇa’s work. Otherwise, it is personal work.

Inclusion of Multiple Paths

All prior forms of yoga are included in Kṛṣṇa’s work. So, even as the practitioners may not explicitly follow Jñāna-yoga, Aśtānga-yoga, and Karma-yoga, (a) the other yoga systems are not absent, and (b) they have not been rejected. They just have been integrated with Kṛṣṇa’s work.

For instance, when one does Kṛṣṇa’s work, the work must be done in the spirit of karma-yoga, which means keep trying to reestablish dharma, destroy the destroyers of dharma, and protect the protectors of dharma even if there is no result. Do not do Kṛṣṇa’s work expecting name, fame, glory, wealth, and power. Don’t stop doing Kṛṣṇa’s work even when there is no name, fame, glory, wealth, and power. Kṛṣṇa is so powerful and capable that when He works, the results are guaranteed. Kṛṣṇa also appears at a fixed time when such results are mandated by time. But we may not have the power and ability to produce the same results as Kṛṣṇa. We may be operating at a time unfavorable to expected results. And yet, despite these limits, one must do Kṛṣṇa’s work with the current ability even in unproductive times.

Similarly, to do Kṛṣṇa’s work, one must have the requisite knowledge. How can we reestablish dharma, destroy the destroyers of dharma, and protect the protectors of dharma if we ourselves don’t know the meaning of dharma? Without knowledge, we will destroy what should be protected, we will protect what should be destroyed, and we may establish what should not be established. Knowledge is essential to do Kṛṣṇa’s work. Hence, Jñāna-yoga is important for doing Kṛṣṇa’s work. But it can be adapted to the time, place, situation, and person. Modern science has a more important role in Jñāna-yoga today because before people study Vedic texts, they have already been conditioned by the effect of modern science. Even if they read Vedic texts after that, they will either not understand those texts or reject their claims. When an alternative system of education is prominent, removing the ill effects of that education takes precedence. A traditional jñāna-yogi studies numerous Vedic scriptures. But a person working for Kṛṣṇa will study selective scriptures essential for Kṛṣṇa’s work. The study of scriptures is not an end in itself for Kṛṣṇa’s work. But the study of scriptures cannot be blindly rejected because Kṛṣṇa’s work depends on it.

Finally, to do Kṛṣṇa’s work, we have to undergo numerous austerities. The proponents of adharma are not going to voluntarily surrender to dharma. They will fight the proponents of dharma just like demons fought with Kṛṣṇa. They should be destroyed by those doing Kṛṣṇa’s work while preserving protectors of dharma, and reestablishing dharma. Kṛṣṇa’s work is not easy. It involves great austerities because destroying the destroyers, protecting the protectors, and reestablishing dharma is hard work. This work is not aśtānga-yoga but it is austerity. By austerity, one develops willpower, learns to separate the soul from matter, and understands that the soul is not an end itself; the Lord in the heart is. Those who don’t make the Lord in the heart the end goal of austerity prematurely abandon austerity and become hedonistic. All the results of aśtānga-yoga can be attained by performing a different austerity. However, austerity must be performed because without it there will be no willpower, no separation of the soul from matter, and no understanding that the soul is not an end in itself.

Thus, doing Kṛṣṇa’s work doesn’t exclude the other paths. They are inseparable like hands, legs, stomach, and head. We cannot simply take the head and neglect the other body parts. If the head is severed from the rest of the body, each part of the body will die. If instead, we just prioritize the hand, then where the hand goes, the head, stomach, and legs go too. Eventually, we get the whole thing by doing one thing.

The Meaning of Kṛṣṇa’s Work

Kṛṣṇa comes to the world due to compassion. He kills demons, protects the followers of dharma, and reestablishes dharma out of compassion. The mark of compassion is that the least amount of violence is used to uphold the four principles of dharma. The principle of kindness is temporarily abandoned for the long-term reign of all four principles. Hence, doing Kṛṣṇa’s work is the mark of compassion.

We acquire knowledge, undergo austerity, and work despite the absence of expected results to develop compassion. The hardened heart is melted by doing Kṛṣṇa’s work because Kṛṣṇa comes to the world out of compassion. Kṛṣṇa appears in the melted heart. Hence, those who do Kṛṣṇa’s work also get Kṛṣṇa. This means that they continuously progress in Vidhi-bhakti. Those who neglect Kṛṣṇa’s work may practice Vidhi-bhakti but they don’t make progress because the process of melting the heart (along with the processes of the other three principles of dharma) has been rejected. When Vaishnava Acharyas gave Kṛṣṇa’s work as a yoga, they did not (a) disregard Karma-yoga, Jñāna-yoga, and Aśtānga-yoga, (b) they incorporated the three principles of truthfulness, austerity, and cleanliness in Kṛṣṇa’s work, and (c) they married it to the fourth principle of kindness directly.

The seed for such novelties is found in the Vedic texts. For instance, Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-Gita, “If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.” We are not able to follow the regulations of Vidhi-bhakti. We may chant the holy name, but our minds are elsewhere. Our attraction to chanting does not grow continuously. While chanting, our hearts do not melt. Even if we do deity worship, there is no feeling in it. So, how are we going to change the situation? The answer is working for Kṛṣṇa or doing Kṛṣṇa’s work with truthfulness, austerity, and cleanliness.

The Integration of the Six Yoga

In the present age, teaching is an austerity. Therefore, all the results of aśtānga-yoga can be attained by teaching. Likewise, if we teach in a detached manner, and persist despite the absence of results, then all the results of Karma-yoga can be attained just by teaching. Teaching requires a deep understanding of Vedic philosophy, which is the result of Jñāna-yoga. Thus, when Vaishnava Acharyas prescribe the teaching of Kṛṣṇa’s instructions, they also prescribe three other things—(a) learn philosophy, (b) undergo various austerities while trying to teach it, and (c) remain unruffled even under failure. This is how Vaishnava Acharyas prescribed Kṛṣṇa’s work while seemingly rejecting Jñāna-yoga, aśtānga-yoga, and karma-yoga. Factually, nothing has been rejected. It has just been prescribed in a simpler but nuanced form.

Each progressive step includes the previous steps. When one comes to the stage of perfectly working for Kṛṣṇa, it is implied that the processes of Jñāna-yoga, Aśtānga-yoga, and Karma-yoga have been perfected. This means that if we teach Kṛṣṇa’s philosophy, then we must have (a) perfected jñāna, (b) realized that jñāna through austerity, and (c) must be teaching it without the desire for the fruits of our work. If we can do our duties without the desire for fruits or the fear that such fruits may not be obtained, then we can do selfless work for Kṛṣṇa. If we can do such work, then we can also perfect the regulated practices of Vidhi-bhakti. If we attain perfection in Vidhi-bhakti, then we can focus our minds on Kṛṣṇa, which is called prema-bhakti. Those who abandon the previous steps do not attain the subsequent steps.

Thus, a six-step yoga process is reduced to three steps—(a) work for Kṛṣṇa, (b) follow the Vidhi-bhakti practice, and (c) always meditate on Kṛṣṇa. But this simplification is actually not so simple. All the complexities of the six steps of yoga are still included in this process.

Misconceptions about Yoga Practice

Most people at present think of yoga systems as mutually exclusive practices and not as various parts of a body such that getting one part also gets us other parts, but getting some parts is harder than other parts, so the path of getting the easier part is prescribed for those who cannot get the harder part. Those who think in terms of exclusivity try to get the best part but they don’t succeed because we cannot simply get the head without the legs. By the time we get the head, we should have already gotten the legs, although the reverse is not true.

For example, those who try to focus their minds on chanting while neglecting knowledge, austerity, and detachment do not get a focused mind. Their minds remain distracted despite many efforts. The answer to the problem of mental distraction is doing Kṛṣṇa’s work to get compassion, austerity, truthfulness, and cleanliness. The principles of no meat eating, no illicit sex, no gambling, and no intoxication are also meant for the same purpose. Many things are not separate things. They are just like different leaves emanating out of a single branch. All these leaves and branches are inseparable, which means that doing each thing is sufficient and doing the other things is not necessary. But before we reject other things, we must have a serious dedication to one thing. Without it, we will not get any of the other things.

We can illustrate this very simply: A body can be carried by four people, with relatively less effort, because each of them lifts a different part of the body at once. If the same body has to be carried by one person, then the amount of effort needed to carry it is greater. Similarly, it is easier to pull the body through the leg, but harder to do so by pulling the stomach, hands, and head. But if you can lift the body slightly while pulling it, then pulling through the head is easier. If the body is pulled through the head, there is little chance of it being severed into pieces than while pulling through the leg. Thus with different abilities, different things become easy. Everything is not easy for everyone.

The Effects of Material Conditioning

Misconceptions about yoga are the result of a person’s material conditioning. For instance, the influence of tamo-guna produces four effects—ignorance, laziness, arrogance, and selfishness. Ignorance is the effect of tamo-guna on the soul’s knowing aspect of chit. Laziness is the effect of tamo-guna on the acting aspect of the soul’s chit. Arrogance is the effect of tamo-guna on the ānanda aspect of the soul. And selfishness is the effect of tamo-guna on the sat aspect of the soul. When tamo-guna covers the soul, the soul cannot practice yoga.

An ignorant person cannot pursue the truth because the truth is subtle and an ignorant person has a simple mind. He oversimplifies the truth violating the tenets of Jñāna-yoga. A lazy person cannot do austerities because he seeks easy solutions to all problems; he violates the principles of aśtānga-yoga. A selfish person cannot do his duties selflessly because he is motivated by results; he violates the principles of Karma-yoga. An arrogant person cannot love anyone. At most, he desires his salvation and violates the principle of bhakti-yoga.

If the effect of tamo-guna reduces, then one can progress in knowledge. If then the effect of Rajo-guna reduces, then one can progress in austerity. If then the effect of sattva-guna reduces, then one can progress in detachment. If the effect of the three gunas is removed then one can progress in Kṛṣṇa’s work. When such work is perfected, then one rapidly progresses in Vidhi-bhakti. When Vidhi-bhakti is perfected then the prema-bhakti is attained. This is the six-step process given by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-Gita. It constitutes a ladder.

Prescriptions of Mīmāṃsā Philosophy

The Vedic system does not accept universal rules. This is stated in Mīmāṃsā philosophy in the second verse: “Dharma is not rules and regulations”. The next verse says: “Dharma is based on the type of obstruction”. Every moment in life is a different kind of obstruction. Every step in a spiritual aspirant’s life is a new kind of obstruction. It has to be removed but there are easier and harder ways to remove it. If we universalize rules, then we will not find the easiest way to remove the obstruction, delay the progress, and ultimately get stagnated.

An obstruction can be internal or external. An external obstruction is the limitation of circumstances. An internal obstruction can be a previously formed habit or a limitation on our personal abilities. Knowing dharma means being awake to obstructions. Rules are given for those who do not understand different kinds of obstructions. For instance, tamo-guna is an internal obstruction. Its removal requires different approaches depending on which aspect of Tamo-guna is prominent. For instance, an ignorant person is pushed into studying; a lazy person is given difficult work; a selfish person is compelled to do charity; and an arrogant person is asked to obey instructions. If one obstruction is removed, then another one rears its head. In this way, spiritual practice is about encountering and removing different kinds of obstructions. The same method of removal is not always effective. A different method is thus used to remove obstructions.

Rules are given for those who are not awake to obstructions. The general problem with rules is that a rule-bound practice flows around the obstruction rather than through the obstruction, quite like water flows around a rock obstructing its path, rather than cutting through the rock to clear its path forward. Thus, an ignorant person glosses over details while studying. A lazy person cuts corners if he is given difficult work. A selfish person gives harmful or useless things to charity. An arrogant person rebels when he is asked to obey instructions.

If we do not remove these obstructions by a suitable method, then a person practicing Vidhi-bhakti gets stuck. It takes a long time for flowing water to wear out a rock. Another process could have removed that rock much quicker. Hence, awake people evaluate the situation and find the best method to remove the obstruction. Those who are unaware of the type of obstruction find ways around the obstruction.

The Method of Continuous Progress

Based on the ladder given by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-Gita, we can assess one’s progress in the regulated practice of bhakti-yoga, such as the chanting of the holy name. The first sign of progress is that one gets deeply interested in philosophy, or Jñāna-yoga. The next sign of progress is that one is deeply interested in realizing the truth of this philosophy through austerity, or aśtānga-yoga. The next sign of progress is that one becomes detached from the results of work or Karma-yoga. The next sign of progress is that one commits oneself to Kṛṣṇa’s work without a desire for personal profit. Through these progressive steps, one’s regulated practice of bhakti-yoga—such as the chanting of the holy name—continuously improves. Finally, at the perfectional stage of this chanting, one is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa in their mind.

The ladder of progress gets more rarefied because people take a higher step on the ladder without the lower steps. By disregarding the lower steps, they do not perfect their chosen level, they don’t like going to the lower level, and hence rarely reach perfection. The answer to these problems lies in knowing the six-step ladder, finding the current obstruction, understanding how it is the effect of the neglect of a lower step in the yoga ladder, and removing it by strengthening the principles embodied by that lower step in the ladder. There is no harm in stepping down the ladder for a short while because Kṛṣṇa says this repeatedly in Bhagavad-Gita: “If you cannot do this, then do that”.

The Unity of Science and Religion

Based on this six-fold description, we can understand the unity of religion and science. The first two paths (full concentration of the mind on Kṛṣṇa and the practice of regulated bhakti by the body) constitute what most people call “religion”. Religion is worship and devotion to God. But then, if one is unable to do these things, then one can work for Kṛṣṇa, doing what He comes to do. This can include “preaching”. If one is unable to do such work, then he or she can do their moral duties with detachment. If they are unable to do that, then they can perform austerities and meditation. Finally, if we cannot even do austerity and meditation, then we can cultivate knowledge of reality, which we call “science”.

Thus, the topmost rung of this ladder is religion and the bottommost rung is science. Science is neither the greatest path nor is it forbidden. It is rather the sixth path. It is prescribed for those who cannot practice bhakti, cannot do God’s work, cannot perform their moral duties without expectation of a result, and cannot perform austerities and meditation. Science is the lowermost rung of the ladder.

This also means that if we do science properly, then we must become more proficient in austerity and meditation. Then we must become more detached in doing our moral duties. Then we must become more proficient in doing God’s work. Then we must become more proficient in doing regulated bhakti. And finally, we must become more proficient in focusing our minds on Kṛṣṇa. If we are doing science without keeping the ladder in mind, then we are misleading ourselves. Whatever doesn’t improve our capacity for austerity, meditation, renunciation, doing God’s work, and ultimately devotion, is not knowledge or science. Hence, science is a preliminary step that can help us climb the ladder. If we are not climbing the ladder, then we are not on the first rung, which means that we do not know the science.

Hence, there is no science-religion conflict. Those who have trouble with religion can begin with science. Kṛṣṇa accepts this path. Hence, religion and science are not in conflict. By proper science, the practice of religion becomes easier. The purpose of science is to make religion easier. Anyone who creates a materialistic science that doesn’t improve the religious practice is simply spreading delusion. Hence, modern materialistic science is not science, knowledge, or truth. It is simply a delusion. By exposing and denouncing that delusion, we do God’s work, namely, destroy irreligion and establish religion. Since God’s work is superior to Karma-yoga and Aśtānga-yoga, therefore, this form of work is superior to cultivating knowledge for one’s own progress, called Jñāna-yoga.

The conflict between religion and science is created when delusion spreads in the name of science. Modern science is such a delusion. It describes reality as objects and properties, uses mathematical equations for objects and properties, and eliminates the mind, soul, and God from reality. This science cannot even explain our sense perception, which is considered the lowest form of experience. And yet, this impotent science is considered man’s highest achievement at present. When the highest standard of man’s achievement is lower than the lowest level of common experience, then we can imagine how low mankind has descended. We have to get out of this degraded mentality and pursue true science because, from it, every other level of progress is possible.