Science, Technology and Spirituality - By Dr. Jagdish Narain

As a humble devotee of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I cannot forget that one incident, which completely changed my life and my family's. It was March 1986, when I came to Puttaparthi with a Committee of Vice- Chancellors to review the development of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, which was being considered for the membership of the Association of Indian Universities. We had earlier visited several Universities on similar missions, but this was different — the serene and disciplined atmosphere of Prasanthi Nilayam Campus, the warm and friendly hospitality and above all, the total involvement of the Chancellor Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba, in the affairs of the Institute, which had already been elevated to the status of a Deemed University by the Government of India. 

Sri Sathya Sai delivering the Valedictory Address during the National Vice Chancellors Symposium - 1987; Dr. Jagdish Narain on the extreme left

During the long interview with the Committee members, Bhagavan discussed about the status of present day education. Education should prepare one for life and not merely for a living. Aim of Education is to build character, not just get jobs.... True education brings about humility and a transformation of heart." 

At the Fourth Annual Convocation of the Institute on November 22, 1985, in the Chancellor's Benedictory Address, Bhagavan brought out the relationship of Science and Spirituality beautifully: 

"In these days of great advances in modern science, there are undoubtedly some great men who have understood the basic synthesis between modern science on the one hand and spirituality and ancient wisdom on the other— Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Dirac.... Their conclusions are nothing but an echo of what the ancient sage, Vyasa, had said "to help others is meritorious, to hurt others is sinful." 

Sri Sathya Sai presides over the Fourth Annual Convocation - November 22, 1985

Today many scientists recognize that the birth of the Universe, its existence and expansion, from conditions of apparent disorder and chaos, point towards a powerful principle of organization and orderliness, bringing about integration and harmony, which can be explained only by the plan and design of an intelligent Power, which is not fully understood by man. 

In fact, the whole Universe is understood little by the present day scientists, as the sheer magnitude of distances, sizes and material properties which defy human imagination. The Black Hole with high density matter, temperatures of millions of degree Celsius, stars billions of light years away. The human brain with its limited knowledge dimensions cannot comprehend such astronomical numbers! However, man's limited knowledge of Astronomy and Particle Physics does find a striking similarity between the orbiting electrons of an atom and the movement of the heavenly bodies in space. On the other hand, Modern Physics seems to get farther and farther from the ultimate Truth, as new theories and hypotheses are formulated by the scientists of today. 

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Most of the scientists, when referring to the mysteries of the Universe, tend to avoid any reference to God. The great scientist-scholar Einstein had no such inhibitions. He said: 

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit, who reveals Himself if we are able to perceive the minute details with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning Power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God." 

Aristotle (BC 384-322)

In the early Indian and Greek philosophy of life during the ancient times, Science, the knowledge of matter, and Spirituality, the knowledge of 'Being' went hand-in-hand. The great scientist-philosopher Aristotle believed that investigations pertaining to the material world are not so important for human welfare as compared to knowledge and understanding of the soul and the Supreme Being. For almost 1,500 years, till about the medieval times, the growth of science in the west was dominated by the religious dogma of the Church. With the Industrial Revolution and softening of the hold of the Church in Europe, somewhat mechanistic scientific investigations were carried out by Newton, Darwin and others, and science seemed to be drifting away from Spirituality in the direction of materialism. 

The resulting influence in India was felt right away. There had been a healthy synthesis of Materialism and Spiritualism in India as long as Vedic culture flourished. In the 18th Century, British domination brought the philosophy of Materialism to India, pushing Spiritualism in the background. In spite of the fact that India became free over 40 years ago, the tide of materialism continued to sweep all over the country; till today, Indian Science and Technology has not been able to provide peace and happiness to its people, either materially or spiritually. 

Let us look to the scenario in the developed countries of Europe, in USA and in Japan. The overwhelming progress of Science and Technology, the conquest of space and time, new inventions and electronic devices and now the computer revolution have made man's life materially rich and physically comfortable and happy. For the common man, Science and Technology appear as supernatural powers, capable of giving all that he needs and desires in life. Through scientific achievements, scientist today feels that he is on the 'top', he has conquered" Nature, and has the capability to be in control of Nature. With this growing matter - oriented philosophy, materialistic attainments have become the aim of life, whatever methods need to be adopted. Man, in his materialistic race for physical comforts, has become insensitive to the finer instincts and impulses, the precious "human" values, inherent in his nature, and it seems that he has no need for God and Spirituality in this age of Science and Technology.

Then we have the brighter side of things too. Some scientists are not out to 'conquer' Nature, but have the wisdom and humility of deeper understanding — that science, by itself, cannot stand alone and bestow happiness and peace of mind to the humanity. Such scientists and thinkers, though few in number are coming forward to show the mutual inter-relationship of Science and Technology on one hand and Spirituality on the other. Their efforts have opened up for Science a new window, through which it would get a complete and integrated world view of Matter, Man and his Being. This relationship, hopefully, will grow and help Science to operate on a fundamentally higher plane than hitherto. This new alliance of Science and Spirituality would eventually give to mankind the understanding of the Ultimate Truth, which will elevate Man in his own self-esteem, add dignity to manhood, sublimate his living and guide him to conform his living to the peace, order and harmony in Nature - Thus Science will give man material comforts and enrich his life, while Spirituality will expand his mental horizons and ennoble his life. 

The trend of fundamental research in Modern Science shows that many of the Vedantic theories are becoming scientifically tenable and acceptable to the research scientists. According to the great scientist Einstein, the day is not far off when Physics and Metaphysics will walk hand-in-hand. Then the total knowledge system will include both physical and spiritual sciences.

According to Vedanta, Life, Spirituality and Science go together, and the dimensions of Vedic knowledge are unimaginably vast, embracing all the branches of Science, Technology, Medicine, etc. known to Man today. Research workers have proven the fact that several new concept Science has now developed, were known to the ancient sages of India. The ancient texts contain scientific information on atomic properties of substances (Sattva, Rajas & Tamas) and even on subjects like Genetics (including RNA & DNA)! 

The fact that knowledge in the Vedas was acquired by the ancient thinkers through intuitive perception and inner revelations creates some doubts and misgivings to the scientist of today. Can spirituality claim to be scientific knowledge? It is well known that Science adopts laborious methods of observation, collection of data, experimentation, analysis, etc. On the other hand, in Spirituality, knowledge and wisdom flow from intuition, a powerful faculty latent in man — Knowledge flows unabated from the inner consciousness, when intuition gets activated and the inner eye is opened. 

Spirituality describes intuition as the inner intelligence and faith, which grasps Reality completely and spontaneously, and is not necessarily based on any scientific reasoning or deduction. 

Surprisingly, some of the great discoveries did not emanate from scientific observation alone. Those men of genius had also qualities such as creative imagination and intuition. The "intuitive" flashes received by the Scientists in their quest for Truth led to famous discoveries like Newton's Law of Gravitation and Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It is a well-known fact that all great men are endowed with a strong intuition or "inner voice". 

At the same time, it should be understood that the process of experimentation does not belong to Science alone. For Spirituality also uses experimentation with measurable results - Its experiments are called 'Sadhana', which are Yogic exercises and disciplines carried on in one's own body, not as a biological unit, but as a living laboratory of Atmic Consciousness. In other words, experiment and experience go hand-in-hand in spiritual advancement.

From study to experimentation, spirituality has a scientific approach just like Science, with very positive results in developing in man the perception and realization of the Ultimate Truth, the God Almighty.

In Spirituality, the Cosmos means more than the physical Universe and space around us. It is a total manifestation of the Ultimate Consciousness operating through many forms of energy and matter, their cause and effect relationship and their inter-changeability. 

When a ray of light is passed through a prism, we get a spectrum of "rainbow" colors. It is well known that there is a wide band if invisible spectrum in the 'Ultra-Violet' and 'infra-red' regions, to which correspond electromagnetic vibrations of different wave lengths and properties. There is reason to believe that spiritual vibrations alone belong to the family of similar vibrations, though little understood by the present day scientists. The ancient sage, Vyasa, recognized the fact that the World is made of Spandana or vibrations. In those days it was customary for the parents to encourage their pregnant daughters to read spiritual stories about saints and brave persons and entertain noble thoughts, so that the child in the womb may be influenced by the vibrations of such sublime thoughts in the mother. 

The spiritual scientists of today are beginning to see the whole Universe as a manifestation of 'Brahman', brought about by the dual principle - Shiva, the static power potential and Shakti, the active energy of change. Shiva is related to the limitless space and Shakti to infinite time dimension. Shiva-Shakti together make a unified source of Cosmic Energy, unlimited in space and time, symbolized as Nataraja performing the Cosmic Dance of Creation and Destruction, going on ceaselessly in the Universe. 

An artist's imagination of the Shiva Shakti Principle

Let us now try to understand the basic link between the fundamental Shiva-Shakti principle of spirituality and the present state of knowledge of Particle Physics. Shiva is the changeless stable potential or Reservoir of Energy, and Shakti is the kinetic creative power of movement and change, as observed in the ceaseless movement and vibrations of particles within an atom. Every Anu (atom) and Paramanu (particle) pulsate with the unitary energy principle (wave), resulting in the ultimate phenomenon of creation, sustenance and destruction at all levels, from the particles of matter to the heavenly bodies; thus keeping the World and the Universe going in harmony. 

An interesting feature of this ceaseless flow of energy inside the atom, the dynamic interplay of the elementary particles, vibrating and interacting with each other under a force system, reveal a systematic order, rhythm and harmony. The chemically stable materials, which build up the matter in this Universe, oscillate in rhythmic movement in their atomic structure, and become unstable if the dynamic balance is disturbed by external effects ... Be it an atom or a heavenly body in space, the whole Universe appears to be engaged in a continual Cosmic Dance of Energy and the physical and spiritual are beginning to understand this Truth. 

Physicists have, in this century, discovered the fundamental relationship between matter and energy. The magical equation e = mc2 forms the basis of nuclear energy, which is already put to use by Technology for useful as well as destructive purposes. The day is not far when-scientists would be able to generate fusion energy, the source of Sun's unlimited energy, and solve all the energy problems of the World. All these scientific discoveries reinforce and confirm the universal law of inter-convertibility of matter and energy. Just like sound or light, converted into electromagnetic waves, can travel large distances, and get reconverted into sound or light (viz. T.V. pictures from Outer Space), matter could also be transported large distances by conversion to energy. We have seen the beaming of men and materials in Science Fiction movies and TV serials like 'Star Trek'. May be these are the scientific and spiritual processes taking place when Bhagavan Baba, with His Divine gestures, materializes things for the devotees. As Science, Technology and Spirituality converge towards Divinity, new insights and advances come from Bhagavan Baba who is showing us the path of universal Love and the merging of all knowledge into the Ultimate Truth.

Swami says: 

"All men are Divine like Myself; the only difference is that they are yet unaware of their Divinity. They have come into this karmic prison through the Karmas of many lives. I have taken to this mortal form out of My own free will. They are bound to the body, while I am free of this bondage." 

Man struggles his way through this world, from one life to the next in his pursuit to reach God who resides within him. We may have climbed the first step, and there are a hundred steps in front of us, with the loving hand of Bhagavan Baba guiding us in our incessant struggle. We should see our life's mission as trying to express His boundless Love the utmost, bring His reality, our true reality into our work, and share it with our friends, colleagues and all others. Bhagavan! Help us shed desire, greed and ego forever; and drown us in Your Boundless Love.

We are celebrating half a century of Avatarhood since Bhagavan Baba declared on 20th October 1940 the purpose of His Life in coming to this World. This will always be a historic day for Mankind, which has drifted far from the human values that bring happiness and ultimate salvation. Bhagavan's life has been a Message of Love, and thousands of us have been blessed by Him. But we should not sit back in our contentment and bliss. There is work to be done, tremendous efforts of all kinds are needed to help our suffering brethren all over the world who are entangled in the present day materialistic problems of life. Let us pledge today, on this auspicious occasion, that we shall devote our life henceforth, in whatever way we can, to serve people around us and spread the Message of Satya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa that our Bhagavan Baba has given us. 

About The Author:

Dr. Jagdish Narain has been a distinguished educationist and Engineer Scientist, who was formerly Vice Chancellor of Roorkee University; Secretary, Association of Indian Universities; Consultant to USAID, UNDP, World Bank and SAPCOS, and member of the Governing Body of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. He merged at the Lotus Feet in January 2012

Source: Sai Vandana (65th Birthday Offering - 1990)

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