13.6: LOGIC OF ADVAITA - Pt.6
During the last one hundred and fifty years a remarkable religious renaissance has taken place in India and this is important for all mankind. The important figures involved in this new awakening are all well-known. Every one of these great personalities has emphasized in unmistakable terms the need to stick to certain religious values, deeply embedded in the age-old philosophy of the Upanishads. The total effect of this renaissance is that India has been able to tell the world confidently that science should outgrow its nineteenth century materialistic all-embracing arrogance and assume the humility that physics itself learnt the hard way during the first half of the twentieth century. One’s very living is a series of actions. In order to act one must make choices and to make choice one must have a code of values. To arrive at such a code one must know what he is, where he comes from and where he is headed and to what purpose. Without such a code of values rooted in man’s faith in his own divine Self, no disease of the world can be cured. No scientific advance can fight the evils prevalent in the society without a parallel advance in Man’s evolutionary ascent to the divine
It is worthwhile at this stage to clear the cobwebs of tremendous disbelief that plague the conscience of many a student of science regarding religion. Religion is not just rituals and miracles though these figure prominently in all popular religion. Science is one kind of response of the finite to the infinite and religion is another. While science may inform you well, it is religion that can transform you. Certainly a scientist must be on guard against the superficial view, exaggerated emphasis, the imprecise statement, the unsound premise, the unreported fact, fallacious reasoning and the distorted picture. But while guarding against such unscientific practices, the scientist should not fall into the same error as the religious fanatic, who doggedly clings to his dogma. So when a mystic reports his experience which, from the scientific viewpoint and methodology is not verifiable or repeatable, we should, as true scientists, be able to accept that there could be things which we cannot explain. buddheH paraM buddhvA, says the Gita (3-43). The New Testament also has a similar thought: St. Paul (1 Corinthians 2:11-14): Spiritual verities are not of human wisdom but revealed by God!
Mathematics also has a lesson to teach us in this respect. Suppose I open an algebra book at random and I find a statement there saying
5 x 3 = 1 = 5 +3
I cannot immediately conclude that there is a total absurdity here and so it must be either a printing error or the author must be a crank. For, if I look carefully into the pages preceding the statement somewhere there might be a statement saying , ‘In what follows, all our arithmetical calculations are made modulo 7’. This means, in calculating with numbers we discard multiples of 7 and take only the remainder. Thus 5 x 3, which is 15, becomes 1 (after discarding 14) and 5 + 3 which is 8, also becomes 1 (after discarding 7) and both are equal! Incidentally, this kind of algebra is very much at the foundation of the modern theory of coding and transmission of messages across space.
Question 8: In your example about 5 and 3 giving a product as well as a sum equal to 1, you had only given different meanings to 5 and 3. If you give the same meanings to 5 and 3 as everybody gives, you cannot get this kind of contradiction.
I am not giving different meanings. I am giving them the same normal meanings as everybody gives but I am putting them through a process which you did not know or think of earlier. Once you understand my process, my algebra, then you can see that 5 x 3 and 5 + 3 could be the same though ordinarily they are not.
Thus, when a scientist hears a mystic talking about the Inner Self, he has no grounds for asserting that the mystic is talking nonsense. It is a different algebra that the mystic is talking about. He is talking about a different process to be applied to the body, the senses, the mind and the intellect and this results, according to him, in the realization of the Inner Self. The Scientist should not fall into the very superstition against which he warned his fellow beings for centuries. He cannot contend that, since the concept of an inner self appears to contradict his scientific rationale, it is wrong. This was just the attitude taken by 16th century priests towards Copernicus. ‘Just because it contradicts our religious beliefs and scriptures, it cannot be right’ said the piests. The Subject of the Inner Self of Man is not in the field of Science; it is the field of Vedanta.
Question 9: Does it mean then that in Vedanta there is no scientific proof of its metaphysical statements?
Proof there is – but hold a minute before I tell you where the proof comes from. However, in asking for a scientific proof you are slipping into a trap. You are looking for the answer in the wrong direction. We are not talking about science here. We are talking about the shAstra of the Inner Self where the axioms are different.
Where then does the proof come from? This is the grandest feature of Hindu religion and philosophy. It explains why Hinduism does not depend, for establishing its truth, on some event or the life story of some person or persons; why the progress of science can never be inimical to the principles and pursuit of Hinduism which holds that the great truths which are its essence can be realized by one’s own intuition. We do not have to dilate on what these truths are. They are the concluding assertions of the Upanishads about the Atman, the permanent substratum, the one invariant entity that survives all the fluctuations and changes that are characteristic of the world within and the world without. The Philosophy of non-duality asserts, with the authority of the Upanishads, that this truth can be realized by oneself through intuition if one practises the discipline which the scriptures have elaborated in every detail. And once this experience of divine communion is there, one can train oneself to remain in that state of eternal existence in union with the Atman even though one is going about the worldly duties and obligations. In this sense Hinduism gives you the privilege of ‘seeing’ for yourself what the scriptures are talking about. There is no greater proof than seeing for oneself. Thus Vedanta may be called the science of the Inner self. For when all this experimentation goes on in the realms of the Inner Self, the Inner Self unfolds itself, as it were! All this is unbelievable, says the critic and he adds: How can I believe it when I have no such experience? Obviously this criticism is like my village astrologer’s naïve opposition to my statement that Saturn has rings! He would not believe me even when I promise to show him the rings through the telescope of the observatory. He thinks he could believe it only if he sees it with his own eyes and not through an instrument, which ‘may be doing some trick’! Your disbelief of the mystic’s word is exactly like this. What right do you have to tell mystics like Aurobindo that what he says is a figment of his imagination? If you are a good scientist, the most that you can do is to get away by saying, ‘Well, I don’t understand your Aurobindo’s experiment!’.
The spiritual experiences of the Vedantic seers of Hinduism – like Agastya, Janaka, Kapila, Markandeya, Narada, Parasara, Patanjali, Vyasa, Vasishta, Sanatkumara, Uddalaka and Yajnavalkya - are all recorded in our scriptures. Each one of them is an authority on spiritual matters. Scientists and teachers of science in modern times who vouchsafe to the dual behaviour of light may not have themselves carried out the two-hole experiment which validates it. They rely on other scientists who have done the experiment and recorded their results. Also there are several other more easily verifiable results which are consequences of the dual behaviour of light and so, even though the whole concept is bizarre, scientists accept it as a fact of science. In the same manner ordinary people do not have to be able to have a direct confirmation of spirituality or of the fact there is a mystic power beyond our rationale. In historical times, over the past twenty centuries, there have been great devotees of the Lord whose devotion to the Lord is as great, if not greater, as the devotion of the greatest Nobel-Laureates of science. They have affirmed many spiritual truths by their intuition. Just a run through the names of these towering giants of spirituality would itself be impressive if not overwhelming. Each one of them is a divine integrator who contributed to the growth of spirituality in this land of India in no small measure. They all breathe the spirit of genuine mystical devotion, sometimes born of a naïve theory of surrender, sometimes born out of the loftiest intellectual conviction, and very often, of both. No amount of historical, archaeological, sculptural or literary research can supersede what they have declared from their spiritual intuition.