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Articles from Pre-1998 Issues 

Spirituality and the Scientific Temper

by R. K. Sapru

The word 'science' is defined as the systematic study of all those things that we observe in our daily life. By the term 'Scientific temper' we mean the attitude of the scientist emphasizing that nothing in the world should be taken for granted or accepted on the basis of blind faith without its being subjected to the test of reason. The scientific temper thus stresses investigation, seeks proof without any bias or prejudice. Tlle man with such a temper studies a subject with openness of mind and impartiality, because he wants to know and observe a thing as it is and not as he wishes it to be. With this impersonal approach toward a problem, the observation that an explorer makes and the conclusions he arrives at are verifiable by any one at any tme and at any place. This is so because a law, principle or phenomenon in nature is universal and not confined to any individual or place. Science has touched every department of human life. It has trasformed our life significantly in many ways. Science is there with its endless gifts, having affected every field of life. Nobody can, therefore, stop the scientific temper from influencing our study of the inner invisible world of mind and spirit.

In view of its emphasis on enquiry and proof, science has questioned the irrational beliefs and practices of every religion in the world. If we do not apply the spirit of rationality to all the religions of the world, then religious zealots and fanatics will dominate our society everywhere. Such people, lacking the scientific temper and not having a vision of the oneness of humanity, will only hamper human development and progress; the followers of one dogmatic religion will not tolerate those of the other dogmatic religion. Narrow dogmatism will lead to forced conversions and to the persecution of innocent people in the name of religion. What an irony that religious enthusiasts though preaching brotherhood and oneness of mankind, promote discord and disunity among men, thus leaving world to ruin!

Thus thundered Swami Vivekananda: "It is better to be an atheist than a superstitious fool. Let us not, therefore, divide humanity into different sects, groups, faiths or nations, thus creating blocks among men that lead to dissention, discord and strife. Instead, let us discard all religious labels and orthodox terminology marked by rigidity and an inflexible attitude. Let us restore the status of science to spirituality (that it enjoyed in India in the true sense during the Vedic times) that relates to the study of the invisible realm, including the mind, intellect and spirit."

By tempering spirituality with science, we will succeed in crosiing the boundaries of religion, caste, creed and colour. This will encourage men and women to study the science of self-realisation, what true spirituality actually consists in. Let the schools, colleges and Universities recognize spirituality (as distinguished from blind faith) as a science. For achieving positive and practical results in the field of spirituality, due emphasis has got to be laid on moral uprightness and discipline. Our educational institutions should pay proper attention to moral and spiritual education, treating it as an integral part of the curriculum. Let our Universities award fellowships in the science of self-realisation to the deserving aspirants. Let the Nobel prize be awarded to outstanding researchers and explorers in the field of spirituality.

The question arises how far spirituality, which deals with the invisible, can be regarded a science. If the answer is "Yes" it needs to be specified where the laboratory is in which this science can be studied and what instruments/ implements to be used for its study exactly are. The answer is that the inner self of man is the laboratory in which the research is to be carried out. The required experiments are to be conducted well within the human body itself, using the mind, vital force (Prana), and emotions as the instruments. Total devotion and concentration of mind are, in fact, as prerequisite for exploring the world of spirit as is equally true of exploring the objective sensory world. Just as we study the anatomy of an atom or a computer in physics or the anatomy of a frog in zoology, we can likewise study the spiritual anatomy of man. The spiritual science involving the practices as systematically devised by Maharishi Patanajali is no less result - oriented than modern science. The yogic techniques prescribed by Patanjali, when followed by the aspirant under directions of an accomplished Guru, yield definite results in terms of the attainment of Self-realization.

Thus, says Swami Vivekananda, "Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, internal and external. Do it either by work, or by worship or by physllic control or knowledge or all of these and be tree". This is the whole gist of religion. The dogmas, rituals and customs are but secondary details. Now it should be clear that genuine spirituality does not consist in material poverty nor mortification of body or beggary but total mastery of spirit over mind and matter. A genuine spiritual person develops complete mastery over nature. One such spiritual master was Bhagwaan Gopinathji of Kashmir. He 'fought' the war lords in the years 1947, 1962 and 1965 (when India got involved in conflicts with Pakistan in 1947 & 1965 and with China in 1962), using his spiritual powers to defeat the enemies of peace, brotherhood and co-existence. The miracles that he performed are beyond the ken of the present day science, nevertheless not inexplicable in terms of the science of spirituality.

Spirituality can be regarded a science in its own right provided we explain it in precise terms without resorting to over symbolism, personification and mystification. The spiritual scientist - the true saint or seer or sage - has a plausible explanation for any happening in the world but the physical scientist's analyses and study cannot be stretched beyond a certain point, being sense-bound. Modern scientists have succeeded in analyzing matter to find its ultimate constituent, the electron which behaves sometimes as a particle and sometimes as a wave.

Science is trying to reduce all known energies like electricity, magnetism, light and heat to its formal single source as is attempted in the unilied field theory but it has yet to discover the fact that mind is the prime source of matter. It has to learn the fact that matter cannot exist without mind. Science defines matter as something which occupies 'space' and has 'weight' terms signifying mental concepts or attributes. The sage knows the truth that earth was formed as a result of solidification of liquids, while liquids are derived from fiery gases and from aakash or space. Space is derived from mind and subtler than mind is the intellect. The mind and the intellect finally merge into the void called sunya which is ''nothingness full of everything". The spiritual seeker, after reaching the "Sunya" sate explores further by asking "What is the element in man which recognizes the void as such and witnesses it. The space-less, timeless and mind transcending self (as we call it) both pervades and witnesses our waking, dreaming and dream- less states, this "pure consciousness" is the divine deputy in a 'coalition'. To know this as our immortal self is not to see it but to be it, this divine deputy - sometimes called Supra- Atman since it unites and binds different individual minds is linked to another bigger sun of "pure consciousness" which the western philosophers have called a "hing-in-itself" or the Absolute corresponding to the para- Brahman of the vedantists, Mahavishnu of the Vaishnavites or Parma Shiva of the Shaivites.

To sum up, let us look forward to the day when physical scientists will succeed in crossing the boundary of matter and mind and have a perfect wedlock with the self-realized seers and sages. Let intellectual prowess be matched by moral uprightness and strength. This wedlock will completely change the material scientist's conception of the universe and its source. The day may not be far off when the scientist can explain as to how a sage or saint can materialize an object by the sheer power of his will. That will be a reaffirmation of the truth that this universe is a mental ideation and imagination of the Universal mind.

"Let peace come for permanent stay on earth".
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