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Sep 04, 2020, 22:59 IST

When Philosophy Of Religion Becomes Empirical

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, teacher and former President of India, was among the most influential Indian philosophers of the twentieth century. He reflected the rich philosophical tradition of the East and was its leading spokesman for bridging the gap between Eastern and Western spirituality. The philosophy of religion, said Radhakrishnan, can be scientific only if it becomes empirical and is based on religious experience. Hinduism is a good example of a belief system that follows a scientific approach. It is both philosophically coherent and ethically viable.

Vedas, according to Radhakrishnan, form the backbone of Hindu culture and beliefs that can be re-experienced on compliance with ascertained conditions. Reason and intuition are the two powers of mind; the former correlates with the physical senses, while the latter correlates with faith. Vedas comprise a collection of the intuitions of realised souls and got transformed into spiritual institutions to give shape to the cohesive Hinduism that we now are familiar with. Radhakrishnan writes: "The chief sacred scriptures of the Hindus, the Vedas,? register the intuitions of perfected souls.


They are not so much dogmatic dicta as transcripts from life. They? record the spiritual experiences of souls strongly endowed with the sense of reality. They are held to be authoritative on the ground that they express the experiences of experts in the field of religion."

Seers of the Upanishads were aware of the fleeting, transitory nature of the world; therefore, they made efforts to realize the ultimate Truth through deep meditation. Truths expounded by rishis of yore were not based on logical reasoning; these were products of spiritual intuition -- mode of knowing which is devoid of mediation between the knower and known. It is self-revelation of the divine and the intuitive experience is immediate. Immediacy, according to Radhakrishnan,? does not imply absence of psychological mediation, but only non-mediation by conscious thought. It is? not? governed?? by limits of language and logic, and there is no conception by which we can define it.

At higher levels of consciousness,? knowledge, emanates from the eternal Consciousness itself. Some of the wonderful discoveries made by scientists were also the result of sudden flashes of inspiration and not solely of their knowledge derived through bookish study. Radhakrishnan cautions us to distinguish between the immediate experience or intuition which might conceivably be infallible and the interpretation which is mixed up with it. He says: "It is for philosophy of religion to reveal whether the convictions of religious seers fit in with tested laws and principles of the universe".

While there are some religious belief systems that set limits on the types of spiritual experience, the Hindu? thinker has the least hesitation in admitting other points of view which are in divergence with his own, for he considers them to be just as worthy of attention. Hindus believe that there are different paths to god, and each individual has a right to choose her path. This is because religious experience cannot be made objective;? each individual’s path is crafted on the basis of her own understanding of god. Hinduism has unlimited appeal to and appreciation for all forms of experience. Experience and experimentation are the origin and end of Hinduism; it is indeed scientific, said Radhakrishnan.

September 5 is celebrated as Teachers’ Day. Today is S Radhakrishnan’s 132nd birth anniversary.

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