Som Shah

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   Kashmiri Writers

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Hinduism and Scientific Ethos

by Prof. Som Shah


Many decades ago when I started teaching science, a student who was not particularly among the brighter lot, asked me a simple question that threw me off balance. I was teaching the application of principles of gravitation in heavenly bodies which failed to register with the student.  He just asked me as to why one heavenly body attracts the other. Since then I have taught lot more science and during my career in research even answered several questions. But all these questions are about how things happen. I have yet to find an answer to “why”. It did not take me much time to realize that while science has answers or can find out answers for “how”, it has no answer for “why”.

Scientific investigation is primarily dependent on input through human senses. All human senses have limitations. Our eyes can see only up to a certain distance and up to a certain size. Our ears have a maximum frequency range from 50 of 20,000 per second while a whole range of sub-sonic and super-sonic sounds is denied to us (and mercifully so or this world would have been a cacophony of sounds). Our sense of smell is the weakest. Touch and taste have also their limitations. Through technology, however, the scientists have managed to expand their sensory perception. Initially it was through mechanical gadgetry like microscopes and telescopes. Lately it has been through electronics and its sophisticated ramifications. Now scientists are able to perceive and use several kinds of waves and rays through technological innovations that are multiplying at phenomenal rate. But the basic principle is that these waves have to be converted either into a visual or an audio format or both so that their input can be received within the limits of human sensory perception. The entire technological gadgetry and instrumentation is geared towards that end. A mobile phone may receive signals through any kind of radio waves of whatever frequency, but unless that signal is converted into sounds that can be audible to the human ear, it cannot be perceived. So whatever technology we use, the inputs we receive are only through the limited range of our senses.

Scientific research is based on logic. Logic itself has to depend on inputs. These inputs can be observational or they may be derivative. Inductive reasoning is usually based on observational data while deductive reasoning is based on a statistical sample survey. The analysis leads to a theory that needs to be tested under different parameters and eventually it may evolve into a law. However, this exercise is not possible unless the scientist knows what he is looking for. Accordingly he has to start with a model or several models. A model is a dream where imagination is allowed a wide field to speculate on the possibilities and then to narrow them down to probabilities. The inductive and deductive reasoning follows only after this exercise.

Hindu philosophical thought does not negate the logical analysis as is portrayed by some ill-informed religious die-hards who try to separate Hindu way of life from the scientific thought process. In fact most Hindu scholars, rishis as they are called, have used tark which is the Sanskrit equivalent of logic for all their deductions. Had it not been so, the hard core Hindu rishis like Arya Bhatta, Bhaskaracharya, Vatsayan and a host of others could not have come up with astronomical, mathematical and behavioral scientific treatises based on observation, modeling and analysis. But the Hindu philosophy adds another dimension to the scientific method of observation that is not through sensory inputs, which needs some elaboration.

It is now widely admitted that there is lot more to human mind than what appears at the conscious level. Psychologists have shown that the conscious part of the mind is only the tip of an iceberg while the subconscious bears lot more not only by way of memory but also an analytical capacity. The miracles of hypnosis, clairvoyance and telepathy have been experimentally demonstrated. There are many inexplicable aspects of the subconscious mind and its capacity that psychologists are attempting to unravel through psychoanalysis and other techniques. The apparent disorganized pattern within the subconscious mind is probably because it does not follow the logical pattern of science.   The understanding of subconscious has opened a whole new area of investigation that is both challenging and intriguing. What baffles the mind is that most of the inputs that go into the sub-conscious and the reactions there from are not through sensory perception. The mechanism of these inputs is not well understood and it is euphemistically referred to as sixth sense.

Scientific thought has only recently veered to the idea of the possibility of inputs other than those through sensory perception. In the early days of scientific advancement following Renaissance, there was arrogance in science because of its rapid and miraculous successes. But as the vastness of the universe and unlimited possibilities dawned on the scientists, they sobered down and are ready to test all models, however, bizarre they might appear. The Hindu sages and saints have always maintained that human mind is lot more than what appears at the conscious level and training the subconscious to unravel its potential and thereby evolve into a higher plane of consciousness or chetna should be the goal of every human being. This is the basic philosophy of Patanjali’s Yoga that has caught the imagination of the entire world in recent years.

Chetna has no equivalent synonym in English language. It is the consciousness within that governs and regulates all physical, metabolical and mental processes and is the only permanent feature of a human being throughout his life time. While all old body cells keep on dying and new cells keep on replacing them and the physical body continuously changes through the life span, the chetna is persistently in control of the body functions and mind and keeps on evolving and not degenerating as in the case of the physical body. The philosophy behind Yoga is that it should be possible to accelerate the positive process of evolution of chetna towards a higher consciousness where the sensory perception would be only a minor factor and inputs from the universal chetna or paramchetna of the cosmos would be directly received and the human being can be in consonance with the universe as an indivisible part of the cosmos and not as an individual and distinct from the rest.

Hinduism has the emancipation of chetna as its ultimate goal. For this purpose Hinduism prescribes to look for the answers from within and not without. Lal Ded has aptly stated the process in simplest terms and claimed success. Guran won nam kunui watchun, nebra dopnam andar atchun, sui me Lalli gav wakh tai watchun, tanai hetum na hangay natchun. (Guru gave me this one advice; he asked me to go from without to within; that became my watchword and since then I am dancing and celebrating in elation.) With this ultimate goal and model in mind, Hinduism prescribes several approaches, each one meant specifically for a different set of people according to their aptitude and preference. These approaches are elaborated at length in various Upanishads and are available in a summarized and simple version in Bhagwat Gita. It is true that in the course of time due to the degeneration of Hindu psyche in medieval times the basic philosophy took a back seat and ritualism related to the approach took over. As a result the spirit of Hinduism got lost in the process and only the letter remained that gave rise to several grotesque practices, but about that we would discuss in the following chapters.

While science is aiming to find answers for all intricacies of universe and is discovering the exciting and miraculous processes in nature, all its answers are related to the question “how”. It is Hinduism which is adding a new dimension to this inquiry and attempting to find an answer to “why”. In this attempt, unlike other religions, it is not laying down any bounds to the thought processes and speculations and allowing an open field for introspection. That is how science and Hinduism  are intimately related and have a symbiotic relationship.           



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