As a result those who maintain that all knowledge must be proved intellectually they came to discard all revelations. There was a sharp quarrel between the intellectuals and the religionists. Those who believed that religion is a mere matter of faith, it has just to be taken for granted and you have to believe in it and belief itself is a pathway to salvation, you don’t need to do much more than this. What is demanded of the individuals is simply to believe and belief itself is a road to salvation. You are merely saved by God if you just say, I believe. And the rationalist they discarded this theory and completely rejected it, saying we don’t accept it. What is not intellectually proved we cannot accept and this conflict between intellect and dogma, conflict between revelation and reason is a very important chapter in the history of Western thought, which continues until today.
Even today in the West there are two groups, those who believe that religion is a mere matter of faith and that you should never even try to prove, either by experience or by thinking and the other group that says that we do not accept anything to be true unless intellectually it is proved to be true and this number of rationalists is increasing.
In Indian thought this quarrel never arose because of those two statements, which were made that the contents of shruti can be both intellectually proved and can also be verified in spiritual experience. If you read the Bhagavad Gita from this point of view, you will find that Bhagavad Gita itself is a book of great intellectual argument. It is also a statement of great spiritual experience. In fact both the trends are present that is why the importance of the Gita is so great because of this reason. In the Upanishads it is purely spiritual experience, in the Veda, purely spiritual experience there is no intellectual argument. In the Gita both these strands are put together.
The statements which are made are derived from spiritual experience but also intellectually incorrigible, like the statement which I have made in the beginning ‘nasato vidhyate bhavo na bhavo vidhyate satah’ − that which does not exist cannot exist that which exists can never be not existent. Statements of this kind are intellectually incorrigible; also they are the result of a great spiritual experience that they have seen those spiritual, realized souls have experienced the spirit. They have found the experience of the spirit of imperishable nature, existence which cannot perish. Therefore of Sat there can be no abhava. Sat of which abhava is impossible, it is imperishable. Nonetheless I have only given you this background to appreciate what I am now going to say about the debate with which I started that in the history of thought there is been a long debate, whether we can intellectually prove the existence of God, although I told you that in the West the conclusion was that the idea of God which is revealed cannot be intellectually proved. Yet there was a long development in the history of the Western thought, when many religious leaders tried to prove the existence of God by intellectual means.
In India also we have many methods of proving the existence of God. In fact each system of Indian philosophy is in a sense an attempt to prove the existence of God intellectually. Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Poorva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa. These are the six systems of Indian philosophy which are based upon Vedic system of philosophy – shruti. Buddhism and Jainism are not based upon shruti they have a different approach. They are also highly intellectual and there also whatever the spiritual experience is also to be intellectually tested. In fact Buddha declared, this is one of his famous declarations ‘Do not believe anything because I have said it, or because anybody has said it, believe only if in your intellectual speculation, in your impartial search by your intellectual thought you really come to the conclusion that it is true’. In Jainism also there is a tremendous intellectuality by which the propositions of Jainism which are based on spiritual experience ultimately are sought to be proved intellectually.
There is in India a long process by which intellectually the propositions of revelations have been attempted to be proved. Let us see at least one example and I shall take the example of an argument put forward by one of the leaders of religion in the west called Anselm. He was one of the great religious leaders and he argued that existence of God can be proved intellectually. I shall now state to you his argument in a very brief manner, in a very simple manner even you can say in a very childish manner, so that it can be understood much more easily.
First statement is in this proof: ‘God is a being than whom greater cannot be conceived’. The second statement: ‘God who is only in conception, is lesser than God who is in existence also’, therefore God who is one, who is a being than whom greater cannot be conceived must not only be in a thought, he must also be in existence. I shall repeat: ‘God is a being than whom greater cannot be conceived.’ ‘God who is in existence is greater than God who is only in conception’ therefore, − God exists. This argument which Anselm put forward for a long time in the west, almost every philosopher after Anselm has tried to grapple with this argument. In a certain sense it seems to be so easy, so clinching as if God’s existence has been proved. No question about it and yet there is a feeling there is some catch in the argument. It doesn’t really satisfy. Is it really satisfactory proof? Does it really prove the existence of God? For example, Descartes who came after Anselm, he forwarded this very argument in different words.
He said every human being has a concept of perfection. That concept may be adequate, inadequate, whatever, but there is a concept of perfection. Perfection at least means one thing which includes everything. Perfection is that which includes everything, existence is something, therefore perfection must be existing and perfection means God, therefore God exists. This was his proof of the existence of God − God exists. Merely by the concept of perfection, which is in your mind, anybody’s mind, everybody’s mind, from the concept of perfection he proves the existence of perfection and by perfection is meant God. In fact many people are quite satisfied with this argument and they feel that God’s existence is proved.