Spirituality and Scientific Temper
by Triloki Nath Dhar
[ The presidential address delivered on the conclusion of the seminar on "Spirituality and Scientific Temper" held as part of Navreh celebrations by the Bhagwaan Gopinath Trust at the Trust's Bohri Ashram, Talab Tilloo, Jammu, on March 20, 1996.]
In the first place, I offer my salutations to Lord Bhagwan Gopinathji, the liberated saint and rishi of Kashmir, who, at a tender age, responded to the call of the Atman by freeing himself from the shackles of bondage and through tapasya elevated himself to be seated perpetually on the throne of Turiya.
He shed his mortal cloak in 1968. But he exists in checkless, changeless Mahaakasha, guiding his followers and extricating as much of humanity as possible out of the darkest pits of ignorance and misery.
It is heartening to note that Bhagwanji's disciples are carrying on His mission on the earthly plane in a commendable way. The hallmark of activities inter alia appears to be to inculcate the spirit of free inquiry. If India is uninterruptedly great, it is because the rishis and seers of the Vedic yore inspired a civilization in which the spirit of free inquiry and freedom of thought and expression were the guiding principles. The rest of the world awoke to these fundamental human rights only in the twentieth century. It was because of this that, when Sister Niveditta was asked why she embraced Hinduism, she replied: "In Hinduism, there is freedom of thought and expression. Kanada, though a materialist and agnostic, was hailed as a rishi and Patanjali, who said 'not matter but mind', was also hailed as a rishi."
Our ancient scriptures lay great stress on cultivating the spirit of independent inquiry. Nothing is to be taken for granted. In Bhagvad Geeta, we find Lord Krishna, through discussions, advancing to Arjuna unique and irrefutable arguments regarding the immortality of the soul and the existence of the Supreme Being and, notwithstanding all this, the Lord says to him, in conclusion, as per Para 63 of Chapter 18:
"Having imparted to you the most secret doctrine and knowledge, accord special thought to it and then act as per your choice."
That is why, in India, we don't come across persecutions for holding views contrary to traditional views. However, in Europe we find pioneers of modern scientific civilization facing ignominy and persecution at the hands of the state and the church. Galileo was threatened that his eyes would be put out if he didn't retract his opinion; Kepler was hounded out and Bruno was burned at the stake in 1660 A.D.
Men of Science
Modern scientific advancement became possible because of the birth of eminent men of science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Leibnitz were born with a natural scientific temper. They were excited with wonder on pondering over the natural phenomena. Newton questioned why an apple, on getting detached from the tree, should fall on earth and not go up into the sky. One of the characteristics of scientific temper, which these eminent men possessed, was to search for laws which governed natural phenomena in the objective universe. They didn't believe in myth, tradition or conjecture. This led to the discovery of various laws of nature, such as Keplar's Laws of Heavenly Bodies and Newton's Laws of Motion.
Thus, it was the scientific temper of eminent men of science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which laid the foundation of experimental science. During the succeeding centuries, a vast body of scientific and technological knowledge developed, leading to the industrial revolution and political upheavals punctuated by two deadly world wars in which nearly 8 crore of people died.
Through the development of science and technology, the means of production underwent a phenomenal change. Goods began to be produced in enormous quantities in lesser time; the means of communication brought the world much closer. Radio, television, telecommunications, space technologies and computers made life much comfortable. However, all this advancement is bedevilled by insoluble political conflicts, religious fundamentalism, inter-state terrorism, drug trafficking, mutual distrust among nations and interncine local and ethnic conflicts. Global civilization is at the brink of disaster. Ecological imbalance, environmental degradation and denudation of forests is assuming alarming proportions.
Fruits of Advancement
However, the fruits of advancement are enjoyed by a fraction of the total population of mankind and the multitudes are continuing the hard struggle for survival. Rich nations are not only exploiting 75 per cent of the earth's limited resources but also polluting the environment and bio-systems to a maximum limit. It is the fluoro-chloro gases emanating from industrial establishments and residential quarters of the rich nations which has punctured the protective ozone layer of the atmosphere. So, scientific temper which, in a proper sense, took birth in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has led mankind to nowhere. America, Russia, France, Britain and China have more than 10,000 atomic warheads which can blow the world to smithereens. Societies are continuously being rammed by media blasts, consumerism advertisements and competitive commercial thrusts. Human personality is getting pulverized into a huddle of herd instincts. Every individual is striving to obtain the objects of comfort and enjoyment for satiating sense pleasures in a variety of ways. In this connection, we may quote verses 62 and 63 of Chapter 2 of Bhagvad Geeta.
"Thinking constantly of sense enjoyments leads man to the attachment to the objects of senses. This gives rise to insatiate desires which remaining unfulfilled give rise to anger. Anger confounds, resulting in warping memory and reminiscences. This leads to loss of discerning wisdom and final fall."
Can mankind be saved? The answer may be to harken to the call of the spirit. But here also we are beset with conflict. For instance, Christians believe that Christ alone can save the world. However, for the last 1995 years, we find the world, and especially the Christian world, fallen into the darkest pit of hellish degredation. Islam promises universal peace but converted people through sword. During the last 1,400 years, Islam destroyed centres of culture, monuments of civilization and shrines of beauty. During Omar Farooq's Caliphate, the vast library at Alexandria was set ablaze by Muslim hordes and the books therein burnt and smouldered for nearly 300 years. In India, vast librarias at Nalanda and Vikramshilla universities were mercilessly destroyed by Muslim plunderers. We also find that Muslim countries themselves, though living in Dar-ul-Islam are torn by violent conflicts and cenkerous intolerance.
So, what is there now to save the world!
Fragmentation of Knowledge
Modern scientific knowledge fails to provide clues to the why and wherefore of things. Scientific advancement has led to the fragmentation of knowledge. We know more and more about less and less. Some 60 years earlier, a scientist would feel proud that he knew everything about atom. But today the knowledge about the atom has branched into several directions; nuclear physics, neutron physics, plasma physics, solid state physics, quantum physics, meson physics and electronics. A scientist specialising in one discipline cannot afford to devote his attention to other disciplines. A physicist may not be knowing Mandel's Laws of Heredity.
How are we then to know the reality in totality?
One would like to know if there was existence before birth. One would like to know the source of human mind. One would like to know if there is life after death. One would like to know the origin of sin.
For understanding the objective universe, the eye is aided by talescope and microscope. The ear is aided by radio telescope and other gadgets. For understanding flux relationships, mathematics is the greatest tool. But for understanding things in the realm of mind, what gadget can we use to view things directly.
For understanding the Truth, one has to be prepared for the greatest sacrifices. In this connection, you must have read a lot about great bakhtas.
Bhagwan Gopinathji sacrificed everything tor knowing the Truth. It is said that even as a young man, when he was running a shop, a discerning soul on seeing Him would be reminded of the following sloka ot Bhagvad Geeta:
"Which is Night for the multitudes in that Yogi is awake. In which multitudes remain awake that is Night for the Yogi."
And much later on, atter having His darshan, one would be remincled of the following sloka of Bhagvad Geeta:
"As water courses from all lands enter into fully gorged, changeless ocean and do not alter its vast serenity, so do desires and sense perceptions empty themselves without producing any effect in the mind of one who has attained the supreme state and such peace does not tall to the lot of one whose mind is shackled by insatiate desire."
We, compatriots in blood of Bhagwan Gopinathji, are a persecuted community. Our persecution started in 1320 A.D. when Renchana seized the throne of Kashmir and his request for conversion to Hinduism was turned down by Brahmins. He embraced Islam and killed innumerable Kashmiri Hindus during his reign of three years. Sultan Sikander resorted to conversion by force and those who resisted were put to death. He destroyed innumerable temples of exquisite architecture and enormous mass of books on various Shastras were dumped into Dal Lake. We suftered ignominious miseries under the Shia rule. Moosa Rana converted 40,000 Hindu families to Shiasm by humiliating methods of suppression and killings. During 120 years of Mughal rule and 67 years of Atghan rule, a vast number of Kashmiri Hindus were either killed or converted. During these regimes, a number of Kashmiri Hindus bade goodbye to the valley for ever.
The suppression for breaking the backbone of the Kashmiri Pandit community started in a sophisticated garb trom 1948. In 1986, 156 temples belonging to Kashmiri Hindus were destroyed or damaged by Muslim fanatics. Finally, the valley was "cleansed" of Kashmiri Hindus in 1990 atter gunning down nearly 500 members of the community.
How are we to protect our ethos, culture, identity and historical moorings. We have only one solace and that is to pray to Bhagwan Gopinathji to give us wisdom and invincible power to act.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.