Religion and Science
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
This article is a chapter from the book “Bliss Divine”.
Click here to read more essays on Religion and Science.
The Ease-loving Nature of Man
What Has Science Done to Us?
Science Is Defective
Matter and Spirit
Science and Religion
Some scientists, and some so-called educated persons, believe that science can explain everything and can solve the riddle of the universe and all problems of life. They also think that the scientific method is the only method of finding out the truth, and that the scientific training and discipline alone can very efficiently build the character of man. They have ignored ethical discipline, morality and religion altogether, and given religion an inferior position.
One scientist came to me and said: “The Upanishads and the Brahma-Sutras have not been written scientifically. I am trying to give a scientific approach to this vital subject .” I laughed and said : “My dear scientist-friend! The Upanishads are revelations. Brahma-vidya is transcendental. The Atman is transcendental. You cannot take your test-tubes and spirit lamps near Him. The scientists’ conclusions cannot approach His region. Their observations are one-sided, as they concern the waking state alone. Their experiences are relative experiences.” The scientist kept quiet, put down his head in shame, and walked away quietly.
Three blind people touched the different parts of an elephant. One touched the foot, and said: “The elephant is like a pillar”. Another touched the ear, and said: “The elephant is like a fan”. A third touched the belly, and said: “The elephant is like a pot”. Even so, a scientist explores the physical plane, and speaks of atom, energy, and physical laws. He is also like a blind man. He has knowledge of one dimension alone. He has ignored the dreaming and deep sleep states. He has no all-comprehensive knowledge. A Vedantin alone has full knowledge of everything.
As life has been made physically comfortable and comparatively effortless by modern inventions, the ease-loving man is prone to disregard the place of religion in his life and exalt the values of materialistic civilization. But events have always disclosed the unreliability of the purely objective views and methods of physical science, the experience of man that he is not really happier, and the world is not in fact better, even after his arduous attempts at extracting out of external nature its latent resources in order to utilize them for his own purposes. Where is satisfaction, where is happiness, and where is peace then?
Some wise scientists are fully conscious now of the limitations of science, and of its methods, in the investigation of phenomena in planes of subtler states of matter. The reality of the spiritual world is closed book to them. They are equally conscious of the limitations of science in the regeneration of unregenerate human nature, and in the attainment of the Supreme Good or Eternal Bliss, the summum bonum of life.
Can scientific inventions make us really happy? That is the question of questions now. What has science done to us?
Science has now removed time and space. You can go to London even within ten hours (from India). What a great marvel ! This earth has become very, very small. But, has science really contributed to human happiness ? The answer is an emphatic no, no. It has multiplied human wants and luxuries. A luxury of today becomes a necessity of tomorrow. It has made man a beggar.
Science has invented many marvellous things. Scientists are labouring day and night in their laboratories to invent many more things. But, science has made life very complex, and rendered very keen the struggle for existence. It has increased the restlessness of the mind. It has not contributed to the peace of man. Everybody admits this solid fact.
The scientists have made tremendous progress in the twentieth century. The atomic bombs can devastate a large country in the twinkling of an eye. Radios, telephones, telepathy, television, aeroplanes without pilots, mines, tanks, pocket radios, bombs in fountain-pens and cigarettes, underground palaces, shafts, V-bombs, fighters, bombers, anti-aircraft guns, gas bombs, torpedoes, submarines are all astounding marvels. But, the scientists have not improved the ethical condition of the people. They have not solved the problem of unemployment, poverty, war, starvation, disunity among communities, nations, and governments.
Science has analyzed man. He is supposed to be a creature composed of various physical and chemical substances. Yet, no scientist has yet been able to assemble these constituent chemical elements of a man’s body into one homogeneous creature which lives, talks, and acts like a man.
The scientist bombards the atoms, watches the movement of the electrons in his laboratory, spends his whole life in understanding the nature and secret of matter and energy, invents many things, studies the laws of nature; and yet, he is not able to comprehend the mystery of creation and of the Creator, and the meaning of life.
Scientists are very, very busy in studying the external world. They have entirely forgotten to study the internal world. Science gives you knowledge only of the phenomenal appearances, and not of the Reality behind them. Science has not been able to solve the ultimate questions: What is the ultimate stuff of the world ? Who am I ? What is the ultimate truth ?
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, and that It can be realized through hearing, reflection and meditation.
The knowledge of the scientist is limited. It is only superficial. It is not real knowledge of the Truth. Scientists are immersed in transitory phenomena. They rely on external instruments, lenses, etc., for their knowledge. Their old theories are exploded by new theories. Their knowledge is not as infallible and true as the knowledge of the Self of the sages and Yogins.
Science has got its limitations. Science does not have an instrument by which they could just collect the supersensual or spiritual data, or those divine facts which exist in a subtle form but which we cannot see. True experiences include the experiences of the three states, namely, the waking, dream and deep sleep states. The Vedantin studies the three states. He gains more real knowledge from deep sleep state. He gets a clue for the existence of the fourth state or the state of Turiya from the deep sleep state.
The soul is beyond the realm of physical science. The soul is beyond the reach of material science. Man is a soul, wearing the physical body. The soul is extremely subtle. It is subtler than ether, mind and energy. Consciousness and intelligence are of the soul, and not of the body. Consciousness is evidence of the existence of the soul. The soul is the immortal part of man.
Science is a systematic study of facts. It tries to reduce observations or observed facts into a system. In order that the fact may be valid for science, it must be perceptible to the senses. Sensing is false knowledge. Intuition is right knowledge. Intuitive knowledge alone is the highest knowledge. It is imperishable, infinite knowledge of Truth.
A scientist is an extrovert. He bombards the atoms. He cannot find Pure Consciousness there. He will have to withdraw the senses and rest in his own Inner Self. He must dive deep into the ocean of Brahmic Consciousness.
Science is not the enemy of religion, but a preparation for it. Science is an enemy of superstition alone. Both religion and science are engaged in the search for Truth. Their attitudes are essentially the same. But the fields of applications vary. Raja-Yoga is an exact science. Its methods are very scientific. A scientist is an external Raja Yogi. Hindu Rishis,seers and sages have recognized the harmonious relation between religion and science. The divorce of science from religion is the cause of confusion and conflict. Science is religion as applied to the investigation of Truth in the finite nature outside – the object. Religion is science as applied to the realization of the Infinite, the Bhuma, the Truth that underlies all objects – the Subject.
Science interprets on the phenomenal plane the One as energy. Religion interprets the One as the Self, “the Atman”. Science analyzes, classifies and explains phenomena. But Brahma-vidya teaches you to transcend phenomena and attain immortality.
The scientific and the religious approaches to Truth are really complementary, and not contradictory. Religion and science are the twin-brothers. They should help mutually and harmoniously to search Truth and live the life of Truth here.
Science has to do with facts; religion with values. Where science ends, religion begins. A close study of the observations and revelations of science brings a man nearer to God. Who gave power to electrons ? What is at the bottom of these electrons ? What is that power that has combined four parts of nitrogen and one part of oxygen ? Who has framed the laws of nature ? Nature is blind. What is that intelligence that moves nature ? Who is the primum mobile ? A study of the physical forces and the physical laws, an understanding of the mental forces and the mental laws, are not sufficient to make us perfect. We should have a thorough knowledge and realization of the substratum that lies hidden behind these names and forms and all physical and mental phenomena. Then only we will become perfect masters or full-blown adepts or Arhatas or Buddhas.
Mind and intellect are finite instruments. They cannot realize the infinite Reality. But, they are a means. When the intellect has passed through the various stages of reasoning, and when it has been completely purified, then revelation dawns. True religion begins where the intellect ends.
Let it not be thought that religion is dogmatic, other-worldly, a pet tradition of blind believers or irrational emotionalists. Religion is the most rational science, the science of life itself, the science of man as he essentially is, not merely as he presumes himself to be. The basis for all the secular sciences is Brahma-vidya or the Adhyatmic science. Brahma-vidya is the foremost among all sciences, because by it one attains immortality. Secular experiences are partial, while spiritual experiences is the experience-whole. If you know this supreme science of Brahma-vidya through direct intuition, you will have knowledge of all other worldly sciences; just as you will have knowledge of all articles made of clay, if you have knowledge of clay itself. You cannot learn this Science of sciences in any university. You will have to learn this from a Brahma-srotri, Brahma-Nishtha Guru, after controlling your senses and the mind.
Matter cannot be totally ignored; but, matter should be subordinated to spirit. Science should be subordinate to Brahma-vidya. Science cannot be the be-all and end-all. If you end your life in the laboratory alone, you cannot enjoy the eternal bliss of the Soul. You cannot attain the supreme wisdom which can free you from births and deaths. Science cannot give you salvation.
Seek within. Stand not as beggar before the door of science-power that kills, more than heals. Do not surrender yourself to the scientists. They are not able to explain anything. Science knows nothing of the origin of life, the origin of thought, and the origin and destiny of human nature and the universe. There are many questions to which religion alone can give answers – and not science.