The Role of Religion and Science in the Future of Humanity

Swami Rama (Courtesy - Brahmavadin, Madras)

What am I? What is this universe? Are there realities beyond the reach of our senses? What is my relationship with the universe? These are some of the questions both religion and science have investigated ever since the human beings discovered that their intelligence is aware of itself. When the human intelligence first discovered the pronoun 'I', it declared the human capacity to recognise oneself as a special entity, and each individual proclaiming 'I' felt himself to be special in the universe. Thus we enter into an inquiry about our relationship with the universe.

Originally, the inquiring minds were not divided into the followers of religion and science. Those great beings who tried to answer the questions did not completely separate the areas of knowledge. However, they had the realisation that the fundamental answers to these questions could be found only by first finding out the nature of intelligence. They probed into the depths of their own consciousness, and discovered that all consciousness is one and permeates the entire universe.

Great philosophers, prophets and saints have declared this truth throughout the millennia of human civilisation among all cultures, countries and religions. The most important part about their teachings regarding the nature of the universe is that the world of matter cannot be understood without first discovering the depths of this inner consciousness. These masters never denied the importance of understanding the external reality of the universe but they insisted that we must first understand the nature of 'I', by looking into ourselves in deep contemplation, by diving into our depths. There, all philosophers of ancient religions agree. In the Vedas they declared:

"I am the first-born son of Eternal Truth."

We read in the Upanishads: "As though lightning flashed; such is the moment when great Brahman becomes known". Krishna showed to Arjuna the Virat, the cosmic expanse of the great consciousness, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Lao Tze, the Buddha and all the other founders of great systems of philosophy moved their disciples minds by conveying similar truths. The prophets of the Old Testament have repeatedly testified to hearing and seeing God.

When these prophets spoke in such powerful voices, their words seemed to come from a source very different from that of their listeners. A river of inspiration carried their minds. They could not help themselves but intuitively believed that, indeed, the great siddhas, buddhas and muktas, the adepts, the enlightened ones, the free ones, were speaking from oceanic depths far beyond the shallow surfaces of intelligence that the ordinary human beings explore.

The believers are often asked how can we accept rationally that such words of the masters are true? But I say how can we not accept something when many witnesses in all parts of the world at different times have testified to the same reality in similar words? Were they insane? Was the Buddha insane to sit absolutely still for 49 days to reach enlightenment? Which insane person can sit stiff for 49 seconds? The words of Jesus have been reverberating around this planet for the past two thousand years. Why not the words of all the billions of others who call themselves sane? Indeed, the power behind the words of these founders of religions came from a reservoir which can be found in all of us as we probe deep into our own intelligence and consciousness to unravel the meaning of 'I'.

Those disciples who heard the words of their masters seldom understood them. They tried to comprehend their masters' words by guesswork, without themselves going deep enough into the experience of inner exploration through contemplation and meditation. Through this guesswork, many disciples tried to interpret the words of the masters in various ways, thus causing disagreements. Many systems of belief arose and became religions. The paths of religion became separated from true spirituality.

When the experience of inner reality is personal, it is spiritual. When we state that we believe that someone else had an unnamed experience, we are following , a religion. When we are primarily concerned with the nature of the universe, apart from our intelligence, it becomes science; when intelligence tries to understand its own nature, it becomes spirituality.

Religion and science may disagree, but science and spirituality cannot disagree because both are experiential. Science explains the nature of non-I, what it is that we do not identify with intelligence. Spirituality unravels the mystery of the I. Between the I and the non-I there is a link. This link is called the mind. The mind borrows from the inner I a semblance of intelligence and extends it outwards. It also gathers the experiences of the external world and conveys them to deeper intelligence. It is for this reason that the yogis understand the realities of the universe by looking directly into their own minds as there is no part or particle of the universe which is not pervaded by the cosmic mind. The contribution of spirituality and religion to science needs to be remembered in this context. The spiritual leaders were the first scientists.

The yogis have found that the scientific principles that govern the universe are not entirely separate from the principles that govern the mind., It is thus that the spiritual traditions of the ancient past gave birth to a great many sciences. The greatest philosophers of Greece inquired both into the nature of intelligence and the non-intelligent universe and became the founders of the scientific inquiry in western civilisation.

The yogis developed the most advanced principles of arithmetic and geometric models simply by experiencing the patterns that the brainwaves create. When these patterns are projected out from the experiencing mind, they become points, lines and triangles. Who can say whether the highly accurate designs employed in composing mandalas are scientific or spiritual? Is the construction of altars to represent the mandalas an exercise in science or a mental experience of the devotee and worshipper? Are the temples, pyramids, and churches, which are the three dimensional representations of mandalas which, again, are projections from the brain wave patterns, part of an expression of an inner experience or an experiment with architectural design?

The yogis sent their minds probing into the intricate energy and prana patterns of their own personalities and not only came up with the energy maps of the body but also discovered the basis of anatomy. When they tuned themselves to the sounds heard by way of musical rhythms produced by brain wave patterns, they found that these patterns themselves were grosser modulations of yet finer modes of a music that is played by and within the cosmic mind. They found that the notes of these sounds and energy waves were part of a point-counterpoint juxtaposition of the rhythms of duality which developed from the one thought that is the universe. Thus, the sound and energy waves became atoms, points of energy which we call shakto-bindu. When the mind is highly concentrated on a single point, bindu, all the points and counterpoints of the universe are immediately understood. So, without the aid of modern telescopes, the yogis of India asserted that there are as many worlds as there might be hairs on the body of God. The ancient yogis may not have developed a highly complex technology in modern terms because their contribution to humanity was in a different direction. However, it is now well known that the yogis are capable of demonstrating in experimental situations the facts that baffle the scientists of today. For centuries, the works of sciences such as mathematics, astronomy and medicine were preserved in the monasteries of all religions and the monks were the first astronomers and surgeons. The Arab founders of western medicine, like Ibn Sina (Avi-cenna), found no conflict between discussing the nature of angels on one hand and establishing medical colleges on the other. To unite that which appears diverse the yogis have stated from the time of the Upanishads, "There are no diversities in the universe; all is a single infinite expanse known as Brahman."

Those on the path of yoga are often mistaken as being in the same class as various religions, churches, sects and cults whose believers - not the ancient founders - are incapable of scientifically demonstrating the truth of their beliefs. Much endeavour is put into holding a dialogue between science and religion today. In the ancient texts, it is said that there can be two kinds of dialogues among experts. One is called sandhaya sambhasha: a dialogue between friendly seekers who are trying to arrive at a single truth by matching and joining two opposite pieces of a complete picture. Then there is the vigrihya sambhasha: a discussion between rivals each asserting that his own piece is the complete picture, or that the half of the picture held by the other is somehow inferior and subservient.

We read in the Bhagavad Gita that human intelligence operates on three levels. On the lowest level, it sees a part of something and considers that to be the complete whole. On the second level, it gathers many parts and tries to create a complete whole by joining them together. At the highest level, it sees the complete whole first, and thereby comprehends all its parts. This last is the purer level of intelligence. So, the yoga tradition views spirituality and science to be two parts of a complete whole. The future of mankind will be secure when the antagonistic views held by dogmatic scientists and dogmatic religious leaders are not wedded together as though two opponents were declaring a truce, but as two hands obeying the commands of a single brain.

Both science and spirituality are primarily experiences within the principle of intelligence. When intelligence inquires into its own nature, it becomes spirituality. Here we are not talking of an intellectual inquiry or philosophical speculation because that is entirely guesswork.

Thousands of philosophers have created hundreds of encyclopedic works based on such speculation without an inner experience. They cannot agree among themselves and create confusion and conflict among their readers and followers. Their language primarily relates to the external realities and cannot convey the experience of the oceanic vastness of that dimension of intelligence which the founders of spirituality have experienced. The founders of true spirituality agree on the nature of their inner experience; the mere speculative philosophers continue to disagree until, in fare cases like Socrates and Kant, speculation gives way for transcendental silence to flow through. The same applies to the speculative theologian who ventures elaborate and complicated guesswork as to the true meaning of the words spoken by the founders of the traditions. Quite often such guesswork has been falsely given the name of contemplation, not realising that true contemplation is, once again, a silent experience. Neither the philosopher nor the theologian has any business pretending to proclaim a truth till he has come face to face with the deeper nature of intelligence where consciousness goes far beyond the triangles of space, time and causation.

I wish to reassert that science, too, is an experience of a spiritual intelligence but in relationship, to the external universe. In the Upanishads, we are told that the transcendent, Shukla Brahman, is pureintelligence, prajnanam, but God seen as immanent in the universe, Shabala, too, is in reality the principle of intelligence projected into the universe. To paraphrase Einstein, science studies the manner in which the transcendental intelligence manages the immanent intelligence, how God beyond runs the sacred universe here and now. Thus we find that some of the basic laws taught by both the scientists and the spiritual teachers are common to all the sciences. Without understanding these cosmic laws, we would fail to perceive the true relationship between the two facets of reality. For example, take Newtons Third Law of motion: For every motion in one direction, there is a motion in the opposite direction. On the spiritual path, the same becomes the law of karma. For every action in one direction, there is a reaction in the opposite direction. The wording is different, principle is the same. By applying our understanding of Newtons wording, we row our boats or pilot our jet planes. Through an understanding of the karmic principle, we know that what we do to others is actually a seed being sown in our own minds, in the form of subtle impressions, which ripen later for us to reap. We need to emphasise that the principles of science are applied to spirituality much as the universe is an emanation of the divine intelligence. The scientific thought, too, first occurs in the human mind where a spark of divine intelligence is already active.

In order to understand fully the relationship between science and spirituality, we need to know how the unity and multiplicity of the universe are intertwined. Every physicist knows that the worldly objects exist and operate on many levels of reality at once as though these many were occupying the same space and time and presenting to our poor, limited senses a display of mutually exclusive and contradictory facets of existence all at the same time. The ancient Jain philosophers thought of light as atomic; others viewed it as energy. Today we know that the light is both a vibration and a photon, depending on how we view it. Thus, the earlier efforts of science to define everything as a one-level reality have met with abysmal failure. Those who have unraveled the secrets of the world of spirituality have also stated that each level of reality has its own internally valid and self-consistent laws of existence and operation. The rules that apply to drawing an equilateral triangle on a flat surface do not apply on a curved surface, yet between the rules of drawing triangles on two types of surfaces, one is not false while the other is true. There are nights and there are days as well as dawns and dusks in between, and they are all facets of the same reality of time and planetary motions. Parallel lines are defined as two lines at equal distance that cannot meet, and yet we are told that they do meet in infinity. Do they or don't they? Thus do science and spirituality meet in infinity. If science had no basis in spirituality, the intuitive flashes of scientific principles that often occur to true seekers of knowledge would not take place. All knowledge arises from deep within the principle of intelligence of consciousness.

The sages like Lao Tze, Socrates, and the rishis of the Upanishads have all said that the infinite is the source of the finite, and that the One and the many are not opponents: the many dwell within the One as the latter's potentialities, emanate from that One, and after displaying the magic show of the world of maya, they all return to mother infinity in the One. Spirituality experiences the oneness, while science observes the procedures in the many, and their interrelationships within units. It is as though a single unitary point of consciousness expands out and contracts within. The whole universe dwells within a point of intelligence from which it evolves, to which it returns. Science studies the procedures of the evolution of the multiple universe; spirituality experiences the innermost One. Unfortunate is the scientist who stakes his entire being on one small unit from amongst the multiples. Fortunate is the seeker of spirituality who will not see the multiples but within the One. We read in the Upanishads:

"From death to death he goes, who
sees as though there were many here."

"The Vast is the happiness, there is
no happiness in the limited."
"Worship the Infinite Vast."

Science centring itself only upon isolated units of the multiple will lead mankind from destruction to destruction. Medical science that studies an organ in complete isolation from the entire human personality is no science at all. These sciences have to return to their spiritual origins for a greater vision of humanity.

Today we are hearing the scientists talking of the principles of synergy and the psychologists speak of synchronicity. What these words express is a seeking for the One within the many. All energies that flow in the universe, in a single human cell, within an atomic particle, and in the gigantic hearts of the distant suns in the vast masses of gases from which the galaxies are yet to be formed, are all interrelated. If the energy of a single atomic particle were lost, the whole structure of the principles on which the universe is built would crumble and vanish. On the weight of the pencil that I now hold in my hand while writing this paper is dependent the gravity pull within the galaxies which will be formed a trillion light years from now. Though the human sciences declare these principles on an intellectual level, we fail to walk with a cosmic consciousness because physical sciences alone can only state the facts as observed but cannot create a state of consciousness; they cannot convey the feeling of this unity to human intelligence. If a mind is trained only to deal with the multiples, it will take much forgetting and purifying to develop an intuitive grasp of unity that is infinity. It is true that the spiritual inquiries of the ancients led to discoveries of sciences; it has also been said that scientific inquiry can lead to spiritual seeking. We hear today's astronomers and physicists proclaim repeatedly that what seems to them like a mystery play of the physical universe must have a metaphysical author. They guess it to be so but do not know for certain. The same intuitive processes that have helped them often to discover scientific principles can also bring a spiritual realisation when developed further.

A very ancient dialogue occurs in the Vedas: "Believe in God, if indeed He is, but where is He? Who has seen Him?"

"Open your eyes and see. Right here before you I am shining in my full glory in every object you behold." The scientist explores the object; the spiritual seeker looks at the glory.

The future of humanity must be seen from both ends. On one end are the means for physical comfort, nourishment and health of the body; transportation, communications and our insatiable curiosity about every atomic particle in every galaxy. On the other hand is the very nature of man, independent of the physical universe. What can a man accomplish without his tools? Though he can explore outer space, can he dive into the spaces within? Can the scientist control his irritations, angers, frustrations? Can he lengthen the duration of his breath to accomplish the dream of a long life? Can he, without any medicines or injections, merely by using the controls of volition, stop his heart beat or place himself in suspended animation? Can he bring about a peaceful state of mind among the citizens of the world without the use of pills or physiological manipulation? To all these the answer is 'No'. Nor can the spiritual seekers bring nourishment to hungry stomachs without the help of agricultural scientists. To repeat a cliché: "Without science," humanity is a cripple; without spirituality, it is blind.

We must trace the origin of intellectual processes on which science depends to their home, the unitary point of intuition. We must acknowledge that the intuition, too, diversifies itself into intellectual processes which return again to their spiritual homeland in states of deep contemplation and meditation. If depending on science alone, humanity will become so attached to the physical objects, that insatiable greed will lead to our destruction in a short time. Even now thousands of living species are becoming extinct, and beautiful rain forests have been converted into deserts. Spiritual ways of life of many ancient cultures have been disturbed and irretrievably lost. Through spirituality, the higher intelligence will prevail. Needs, but not greed, will be fulfilled, and the present restlessness of masses upon masses of minds poisoning the collective unconscious of this planet will cease its agitations. Guided by pure consciousness, science will serve humanity, while spirituality itself helps raise human relationships to a highly unselfish level of fulfillment.

This is no empty promise. It can be so. This prophecy can be fulfilled. Let science return to its holistic origins, let the scientist remember that it was not for nothing that the monk was the first astronomer and surgeon. Let the scientist today also learn in depth what a swami has to say and the future of humanity is bright. To the people of religions we have to say: abandon the verbosity of your theologies and preachings from the pulpit; return yourself and your followers to the origins of spirituality, the inner conscious experience of dwelling in the infinite light that is God. Cease this incessant talk about God and seek to meet and know God personally.