Philosophical and cultural factors play a significant role in developing scientific theories and interpreting data. These factors are also influential in assessing science and technology. We experience a visible distinction in the philosophy and culture of the West and East, mainly due to geographical and climatic reasons. And this difference reflects in their approach to science and technology too. Modern science has many roots in Vedic and Upanisadic knowledge. For historical reasons or so, this has been deliberately disassociated even from the philosophical bases. Vedic traditions or dharma traditions address many a question that modern science addresses. These include the origin of matter and universe, origin of life, origin of species and evolution, state of consciousness and mind, among others.
This book addresses topics such as the basic premise of scientific approach to examine reality; mathematical and scientific knowledge, derivation, and application of Vedic perspective; and models for current scientific issues with Vedic perspective, and thus covers ideas of matter and universe, consciousness and mind, and fundamental questions of defining and applying science and scientific approaches. It also deliberates on more attractive aspects of Vedic knowledge such as Ayurveda and yoga, which are fast finding base across the globe.
The volume is an effort to lay down some of the fundamental principles of Vedic traditions and practices for improving the efficacy of modern science. As ancient Indian texts contain many advanced technologies and scientific developments, it is for one's surprise that what technologies were in use and what scientific developments are relevant in our time.
Singh, Bal Ram, is the Director of Center for Indic Studies at UMass Dartmouth, where he teaches a course on Science of Kriyayoga. Dr Singh as a Professor of Biophysical Chemistry and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, was the Founding Director of Botulinum Research Center, has been conducting research for 24 years at UMass Dartmouth on the molecular mode of action of botulinum and tetanus neurotoxins, and lately also on yoga, mind, and consciousness. Dr Singh has published about 200 research articles, has edited six books, including India's Intellectual Traditions and Contributions to the World (DKPW, 2010), and has obtained nine patents. He has published over three dozen scholarly articles on issues related to Indian tradition, culture, and philosophy. He is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management. Dr Singh is President of Prime Bio, Inc., Dartmouth, MA, and Managing Director of BBTech Herbal in India. He is also Manager of a girl's school, Kuruom Vidyalaya, which he has established in his native village in India.
EXPLORING science to understand the mystery of the world we live in is a curiosity man has pursued since time immemorial. It has not necessarily been called science, rather it is many times known as philosophy, culture, traditions, etc., but something that has been based on rational analysis of objects or events. Consequently, an understanding of the mystery of this world is not spoken in a uniform manner. It is not just due to the lack of a common language, but rather due to the lack of a common experience. The narrative of modem science although founded on many of the knowledge streams from entire world has somehow has been narrowed, at least in perception, to the Western world crafted mainly by the European societies. India, arguably the only living ancient civilization in the world, has a grand narrative of not only science and technology but also ontology and the epistemology of science, which is more sophisticated and substantive than what we pursue in even in the most fundamental aspects of modem science. Therefore, it is essential to bring such a narrative to expand the horizons of science, for the benefit of society as well as the science itself.
Since becoming the Director of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2000, I have had many occasions to listen to lectures, interact with scholars, and organize conferences on topics closely related to India's traditions and their connection to science and technology, both ancient and modem. In most cases, while the information was attractive it always left me feeling scanty on the robustness of the argument. There never appeared to be deliberations on multiple aspects of applying modern yardsticks of science to examine the claims and references to science and technology in ancient Indian texts. There was never adequate opportunity to debate it to understand and advance the concepts. At that point I availed an opportunity under a funding from BVM Foundation to organize a workshop-cum-retreat on Exploring Vedic Sciences in November 2009 for roughly four days, inviting scholars who have developed substantial concepts based on theories and experiments, and providing them about 4 hours each to present their topics in a classroom format with adequate time for discussion and debate. The scholars were asked to submit their concepts in the form of chapters in a textbook format so that anyone reading them can follow the material for learning, not just for reference.
The chapters were reviewed by experts in the field, and subjected to revision, before final acceptance for publication. It is hoped that the detailed ideas presented in this book will trigger further research and scholarship not only on the topics covered but also will inspire discussions on many other topics not only from the traditions of India but also other ancient traditions of the world. There is an urgent need of expansion of concepts based on experiences of people in different parts of the world, multiplying the intellectual resources, and then integrating the knowledge to broaden the scientific foundation.
I am very grateful to Mr Mukesh Chatter and Mrs Preeti Chatter of BVM Foundation for inspiring us to embark upon this project, by providing the funding. I am also thankful to my staff, particularly Ms Maureen Jennings, for making all the arrangements for the workshop, and my students who were participants not only as a group of small audience but also providing musical entertain=ment to workshop participants.
Finally, I am indebted to Mr Susheel Mittal of D.K. Printworld, for taking keen interest in the publication of this book.
Science and Philosophy SCIENCE in modern world is defined in simple terms as a systematic study of a topic, subject, or a problem that provides consistent results. Newtonian definition of scientific truth requires it to be non-falsifiable, this introducing a quality control for systematic study of the topics. In requiring the scientific truth to be non-falsifiable it is inherent that the pursuer of the science makes attempts to falsify the emerging truth, and accept the questions and falsification efforts by others, and only when it is possible to falsify the facts and conclusions as scientific until proven false in the future.
There is a great deal of concern in the scientific process and purpose. Since the process can be influenced based on the individual capabilities broadly defined as mental and physical tools employed in the process, the scientific research is suggested to focus on the object and thus be objective, rather than subjective. The purpose of science could vary from genuine curiosity to commercial interest, opening it to subjective bias. Thus objectivity of information may become compromised. The scientific pursuit is therefore ideally carried out in an unbiased manner. The question, however, is that whether it is possible to employ unbiased approach to observations.
Prof. F.S.C. Northrop in his foreword to Werner Heisenberg's book, Physics and Philosophy (Heisenberg, 1999), wrote :
The instruments of modern science derive from its theory and require a comprehension of that theory for their correct use.
This theory rests on philosophical as well as physical, assumptions.
When comprehended, these philosophical assumptions generate a personal and social mentality and behavior quite different from, at points incompatible with, the family, caste and tribally centred mentality of native Asian, Middle Eastern or African people.
Clearly, philosophical and cultural influence could play a crucial role on scientific theories and data interpretations. Therefore, both cultural and philosophical background of scientific ideas is an important factor to consider when assessing science and technology. There is a clear distinction in the culture and philosophy of the Eastern and Western world, in large part due to the geographical and climatic reasons. For example, during ice age, there is difficult life in the northern hemisphere, which makes survival a main goal of life. This climatic reality triggers a series of cultural traditions which influence derivative philosophies of life. The Western culture is more impacted by this phenomenon than the Eastern culture, particularly of the Indian subcontinent, as the latter is surrounded by the Himalayan range of mountains on one side while by the ocean on the other. Indian cultural traditions are thus more likely to continue, and leading to more sustaining philosophies.
Vedic knowledge and its acclaimed eternity result perhaps this ontology, and its philosophical traditions have had extended period of time to be tested and tried. Are these philosophies amenable to modern practices of science? Vaisesika philosophy principles are quite compatible with modern chemistry and vice versa (Singh 2003). Vaisesika-Sutras begins with the definition or purpose of the dharma - yato bhyudaya-nihsreyasasiddhih:t sa dharmah, meaning" dharma is the one which lifts up everything to the greatest realization (salvation or moksa]", In other words, anything that is destined to life (existence) and death has to follow the dharma. Padartha is created by the dharma, and subsequently padartha expands itself into different entities and categories encompassing the universe we know as made of the substance or matter.
Modern science as we know today although has had many of its roots in Vedic and Upanisadic knowledge; its current concepts were deliberately dissociated even from philosophical bases, mostly due to the historical reasons. After European Renaissance during 1400s to early CE 1500, there was a major introspection in the Western world largely under the dark shadows of Church, which controlled the Western society in those times (Kirkpatrick 2002). While in India where Vedic practices, even if these were not perfect or genuine, still dominated the society, it was under foreign rule with very limited freedom to deal with such issues. In the European Renaissance, looking back to Greek philosophies and even Roman Empire provided inspiration. Consequently, scientific theories and interpretations had a clear bias with respect to philosophy and culture.
It is important to note that modern scientific methods and fields of learning to understand ancient knowledge may not be compatible, especially when there may be major cultural and philosophical differences between the society where these scientific tools are developed and the society of the ancient knowledge. Therefore, examination of the basic premises in the Western philosophy or science is needed to compare them with some of the fundamental assumptions in the Indian philosophical systems.
Western thoughts (Agrawal 2001) hold that –
1. man cannot know metaphysical truths by direct experience,
2. even if they can be known, so far no man has known them,
3. and being pure speculations, various schools of Indian thoughts, like the speculative system of the West, must be mutually contradictory, and that if one is true then all the others must be false.
Presuppositions for Indian thoughts are :
1. Man can know metaphysical truths directly,
2. there have been such men and there may still be seers with such knowledge,
3. seers (rsis) teach metaphysical truths after knowing them directly, and
4. while all the rsis know the same truths, they teach these truths in different standards represented by the texts of the schools (Agrawal 2001).
In modern science scientific truth is something that cannot be falsified. There is no need for direct evidence to prove it true. Elements of modern science are fortified by the requirement of objectivity in pursuit of scientific enquiry and experiments.
On the surface it appears that there could be a major contradiction between the Vedic knowledge and the Westernized modern science. However, in practice, at least at the fundamental level, science follows the Vedic ways of pursuing the truth. For example, scientific pursuit embraces the idea of knowing the truth in more than one ways, and actually scientists find more than one way to prove their points or ideas, be it more than one technique, organisms, or even researchers. Therefore, in the current time of scientific predominance of learning, it is incumbent upon scholars to use the science itself to examine some of the intricacies of the ancient knowledge.
Influence of Vedic System on Modern Science
The influence of Vedic thoughts on modern science may not be considered obvious for a variety of reasons. One, during and after the European Renaissance, people of scientific temper decided not to confront Church authorities and have mostly continued to keep their own religious devotion and scientific analysis of the nature separate. So, there was no effort to associate the knowledge with any religion, which is how Western world looks at the Vedic ideas. Two, Western political as well as religious authorities embraced scientific knowledge for their own purposes to remain a dominating force. In fact, since 1936 Vatican conducts a biannual conference on science and religion to promote the progress of mathematical, physical and natural sciences, and to study epistemological problems relating thereto. Three, people historically related to the Vedic culture have remained subjugated at least mentally if not physically to assert their intellect in recognizing them. Four, Western scientists and historians themselves consciously or unconsciously have suppressed some of the obvious references to the Vedic thoughts in the development of modern sciences.
However, some of the great luminaries of the twentieth-century science have clearly stated the Vedic thoughts to exactly explain the highest ideas of the modern science. Erwin Schrodinger, one of the major pillars of modern quantum mechanics, writes:
Within a cultural milieu (kulturkries) where certain perceptions (which once had or still have a wider meaning among other peoples) have been limited and specialized, it is daring to give to (my conclusion arrived at by putting together quantum mechanics with biology) the simple wording that it requires. In Christian terminology to say: "Hence I am God Almighty" sounds both blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard these connotations for the moment and consider whether the above inference is not the closest a biologist can get to proving God and immortality at one stroke.
In itself, the insight is not new. The earliest records, to my knowledge, date back some 2,500 years or more. From the early great Upanisads the recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was, after having learnt to pronounce with their lips really to assimilate in their minds, this grandest of all thoughts.
Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DESU FACTUS SUM (I have become God) ... - Schrodinger 1964
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