17.5 VEDANTA AND SCIENCE
Philosophy points to a reality other than material reality. We seem to know very much of the latter through Science but very little of the former. Even of the scientific physical reality we marvel at its complexity, and the unimaginable facts of fundamental matter. The ultimate entity of matter is thought, to be a ‘string’ tinier beyond imagination, with no mass, but with intrinsic tension and a capacity to oscillate and vibrate. The so-called objective reality of the physical world is not after all that objective - at least in the sub-atomic world, since the subject always interferes by its very observation! The emerging world view of Science is that of a complex interconnected system of interacting particles, the observer being an integral part of the whole system. Thus Consciousness enters the picture. Vedanta holds there is an intuited knowledge beyond. Consciousness and Energy are fundamental; matter is derivative.
Science is an intellectual response of the finite to the infinite. Vedanta brings a complementary response. Science informs but Vedanta transforms. Science has made major contributions to just the minor needs of Man. Vedanta makes only minor demands for his major needs. Vedanta attempts to reveal the ‘that’ and ‘why’ while Science pursues the ‘what’ and ‘how’. Science constantly pursues a reconciliation between infinitesimal smallness and infinite immensity. Vedanta declares an identity between the two. The reductionist approach of Science chases only a receding horizon. The holisitic explanation of Vedanta brings a macro-perception. While Science attempts to establish that out of randomness all this order of the universe has arisen, Vedanta recognizes a purpose in everything. Vedanta starts fom the axiom of an ever-present immutable reality, which is both transcendent and immanent. Science can pursue only what is sensed by the senses.
The truths of Vedanta neither contradict those of Science nor are they dependent on Science. The eye cannot corroborate the decibel value of the noise heard by the ear nor can the ear judge the color seen by the eye. By what Science proves or disproves Vedanta is not affected. Vedanta is as good a Science as Mathematics, in fact more consistent and more amenable to personal verification than all the sciences. Vedanta aims at communion with the divine self. The second law of thermodynamics may point to the inexorable direction of the universe disorganizing itself to ultimate chaos; but this holds no terror to Vedanta because the Absolute is eternal, unchangeable and indestructible. Neither moon-landing, nor the breaking of the genetic code, nor the future inventions-to-be of Science will shake the foundations of Vedanta because its logic is independent of the amount of man’s knowledge acquired through sense-perception. Not any more do thinkers hold the view that Science will have all the answers.
The evils of the world are to be confronted only at the individual level. A process of individual transformation has to start from the Vedanta teaching and snowball into a societal wave. Even when the ancients had powers with their mantra, Vedanta taught them never to use them to destroy the world. But Science has put into our hands a power to destroy ourselves without being able to monitor our proclivity to use it. The human mind as a single isolated factor is an insignificant speck in the vastness of total experience. In that isolated state it cannot, by itself, comprehend, much less communicate, the subtlety of the Spirit behind the Universe. To discipline itself, it needs a continual online correction. Science has no role to play here. The onset of spiritual becoming and realization has to come through enquiry followed by faith and intuition. The impulse for this comes from another soul, the Guru.
Vedanta has a logic behind it. But it is not the logic of the finite science. It is based on the hypothesis of Infinite Existence, Infinite Knowledge and Infinite Bliss. These are the infinite expressions of the (only) three fundamental urges of man - namely, to exist or survive, to enquire and comprehend; and to be happy and perfect. These are the sat, cit, Ananda that define Absolute Reality. The towering proof of this very hypothesis is the long lineage of sages, seers and saints – all along the historic course of Vedanta. The simple listing of their names is impressive if not overwhelming. Proof there is, of the three-fold definition of Spiritual Reality but not in the manner familiar to the scientist. The totality of experience authenticated by every one on this roll of spiritual honour is the proof.
The formula for the journey towards this fruition of Vedanta is the mantra. Every mantra whether it is in cryptic form like Aum or hrIm or in descriptive form like the gAyatrI or just a name of God like Rama, Krishna, Siva, and Narayana, brings out not only the Vedantic conception of Absolute Reality but also by their mysterious mantra power protects and sustains the quality of the Divine, that is natural to Man. It is this emphasis on the divinity of Man - not the 20th century emphasis on individuality - that may give the proper rationale for the need to respect Man’s dignity. The indirect knowledge of this Divinity declared by Vedanta becomes a direct knowledge by personal experience. It is within the reach of all, says Vedanta, if only we make the effort, by using the very mind to transcend the mind. When this experience comes, it is the consummation of identity with the infinite existence of God. When the mind gets into the habit of tuning itself with the non-manifest infinite fountain of peace and love in the deepest abysses of Man himself, there arises a heightened awareness for experiencing the external world - says Vedanta. The visible effect of this would be the equanimous view of everything, tile, stone and gold. It is this equanimity that would nurture and sustain the tolerance that is most needed at the dawn of the third millenium.