A Grandpa’s Guide To Getting By - Our grandpa-in-residence Pradeep Srivastava offers his advice for overcoming a habit we all share.

Share Your Thoughts

I have often heard folk from scientific backgrounds, criticize, even ridicule Hinduism, but I seldom hear true leaders of Hinduism ridiculing science.

I’m an engineer by background. My father exposed me to Hinduism at an early age. I never saw the need to disparage either. In fact, I strongly believe that Hinduism and science supplement, rather than supplant each other. That’s an ethical and moral question – the kind of issue on which Hinduism can shed relevance and light.

For example, every country has a right to defend itself with the best military hardware it can afford. But ethics and morality teach us that no country should have the right to create a weapon that can destroy an entire civilization. Unfortunately, so many countries now have nuclear weapons, including USA and Russia. Let’s hope those nuclear weapons remain unused.

Scientists Who Converted To Hinduism

As the world grows more aware of Hinduism and gains access to a wider range of ancient Hindu texts, more people are influenced by its precepts.

Renowned scientists throughout modern history, including Werner Heisenberg, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Carl Sagan, Erwin Schrodinger, and Hans-Peter Durr, publicly admit that the Bhagavad-Gita and Vedic texts illuminated their understanding of key scientific explanations and discoveries.

It’s simple: Hinduism is the only major world religion that appears compatible with science. Not a single scientific discovery contradicts Hindu teachings and beliefs. In essence, Hinduism is a fusion of science, philosophy, and spiritualism.

Carl Sagan was attracted to Hinduism and traveled to India to study the Hindu scriptures. He claimed that descriptions of the universe in the Upanishads and Vedas are similar to modern science.

“The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an enormous, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths”.

16 Discoveries From Ancient India

India’s ancient civilization has a strong tradition of science and technology. It gave equal opportunity to sages, seers, scholars and scientists. Long before modern laboratories were established, ancient Indians developed theories and techniques that made fundamental contributions to modern science and technology.

While some groundbreaking contributions have been acknowledged, many are unknown to most. Here are sixteen of them.

1. The Idea of Zero

2. The Decimal System

3. Numeral Notations

4. Fibbonacci Numbers

5. Binary Numbers

6. Chakravala method of Algorithms

7. Ruler Measurements

8. A Theory of Atom

9. The Heliocentric Theory

10. Wootz Steel

11. Smelting of Zinc

12. Seamless Metal Globe

13. Plastic Surgery

14. Cataract Surgery

15. Ayurveda

16. Iron-Cased Rockets

Hinduism vs Science

My thoughts on Hinduism vs Science were developed over 43 years of studying spiritual literature and applying my own intuition to its interpretation. 

How, Where, Why

While studying the universe, science can attempt to answer questions, such as “how”, “where”, and “when”, but cannot answer the questions, “who” and “why”, which Hinduism has been addressing since eternity. Everything that exists in the world has to have a substratum. Rivers have riverbeds, movies have movie screens, gold ornaments are made of gold, and so on and so forth. Likewise, the substratum of the universe is Brahman (God at the personal level). That answers the question, “who”. The question “why” reminds me of a line of an old Hindi song, “Kahe ko duniya banayee” (“Why did You make the world”). I have a simple answer based on what Hinduism teaches. Hinduism talks about the four “Purusharthas” (“Goals of Life”), namely, “Dharma” (“Righteousness”), “Artha” (“Wealth”), “Kama” (“Desire”), and “Moksh” (“Liberation”). Hinduism also teaches the concept of “Dwandwas” (“Pairs of Opposites”) of the material world we live in, such as success and failure, happiness and unhappiness, honor and dishonor, and more. If the ultimate goal of life is liberation, then how would one know that one has achieved liberation if one has never experienced bondage? And that explains why God made the material world because bondage of some kind or the other is always present in the material world.

Ethics & Morality

Science doesn’t get into ethics or morality. That’s why Hinduism, which does teach ethics and morality, is needed to address individual, social and cultural issues so as to foster the wellbeing of individuals as well as society at large. Hinduism enables that by teaching cardinal virtues, such as selflessness, self-control, truthfulness, non-violence, compassion, empathy, etc.

Nature & Materialism

Science has made our lifestyle comfortable through modern inventions but cannot make people happier or more peaceful. As science keeps developing new products and services, its accompanied by an addiction to materialism. But Hinduism teaches us that greed (lobha) is a vice. Materialistic lifestyles result in the exploitation and depletion of Mother Nature’s finite resources. In contrast, Hinduism teaches humans that they are an integral part of Mother Nature, which must be revered.

Balance of Opposites

Science has invented marvelous things but made life complex and increased the mind’s restlessness , while Hinduism teaches how to be peaceful by remaining equipoised amidst the pairs of opposites (dwandwas).

Human & Atman

Science has analyzed man and states that we are creatures composed of various physical, chemical, and biological substances. Yet, no scientist has yet been able to assemble those constituents into one homogeneous creature which lives and acts like a man. Hinduism, especially the non-dualistic Vedanta, teaches that an individual’s True Self is Atman or Soul. Atman is unborn, immutable, undying, and eternal, and identical to Brahman, while the individual’s body and mind are ephemeral, ever-changing, and imperfect. Science doesn’t even recognize the Soul.

Finite & Infinite

Science studies the external world through the means of the finite senses and the finite mind, but tends to ignore the internal world (antahakarana) of the mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), chitta ( memory), ahamkara (ego), and the Soul (Atman), which Hinduism does.

Science tells us that the ultimate goal of everything is unknown and unknowable. But Vedanta teaches that the ultimate goal is Brahman or the Infinite.

The knowledge of the scientist is finite, limited, and of mutable nature. It is not knowledge of the Truth, which is the substratum of the material world, as taught by Hinduism.

Three States of Being, & a Fourth

The old theories of science are constantly being replaced by new theories. Their knowledge is in a state of flux, whereas, the knowledge of the Self acquired by the sages of the yore through direct experience is of eternal nature, can be taught reliably to others.

Science studies the external, phenomenal world of the waking state, but true experience include all three states – waking, dream, and deep sleep. The Vedantin studies all three and discerns the existence of a fourth, the state of Turiya, which transcends the other three states.

The Soul is beyond the realm of physical science. Man is a Soul, wearing the physical body and mind. 

Senses And Mind

In essence, science uses the finite, imperfect senses and mind, to logically and rationally study the finite, ephemeral, ever-changing, and imperfect material world. So knowledge acquired by science is also finite, ephemeral, ever-changing, and imperfect in nature.

On the other hand, intuitive knowledge, based on direct experience, and is deemed more reliable and lasting,. It’s the approach employed to explore the spiritual world, and to foster the knowledge of the imperishable, infinite Truth, or Brahman. Intuition doesn’t contradict logic and rationality and yet it transcends logic and rationality.

References 

  1. Top 5 Famous Scientists Who Converted To Hinduism; https://kivabeguide.com/scientists-converted-to-hinduism/
  2. 16 Significant Science and Tech Discoveries Ancient India Gave the World https://www.thebetterindia.com/63119/ancient-india-science-technology/

    Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash

Pradeep Srivastava

Pradeep Srivastava is a retired engineer, who currently lives in Albany, California. He has been writing for more than three decades. Column: A Grandpa’s Guide To Getting By - Our grandpa-in-residence...