From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Some people believe that science can explain everything and solve the riddle of the universe. They also think that the scientific method is the only method of finding out the truth, and that only scientific training and discipline can build character. They have ignored ethical discipline, morality and religion altogether.

Once a 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! Upanishads are revelations. Brahma vidya is transcendental. Atman is transcendental. You cannot take your test tubes and spirit lamps near Him. A scientist’s observations are one-sided, as they concern the waking state only. Their experiences are relative.”

Three blind people touched 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.” A scientist explores the physical plane and speaks of atoms, energy and physical laws. He is also like a blind person, as he has knowledge of only one dimension. He has ignored the dreaming and deep sleep states and has no comprehensive knowledge.

As life has been made physically comfortable and comparatively effortless by modern inventions, people tend to exalt the values of materialistic civilisation. But events have always disclosed the unreliability of the purely objective views and methods of physical science. Man is not really happier and the world is not in fact better, even after arduous attempts at extracting the latent resources from external nature in order to utilise them for his own purposes. Where is satisfaction, happiness and peace then?

Can scientific inventions make us really happy? What has science done for us? Science has now removed time and space. This earth has become very, very small now. But has science really contributed to human happiness? The answer is an emphatic no. It has multiplied human wants and luxuries. A luxury of today becomes a necessity of tomorrow. Science has invented many marvellous things, but it has made life very complex and rendered very keen the struggle for existence. It has increased the restlessness of the mind, not contributed to peace. Scientists have made tremendous progress in the twentieth century, but they have not improved the ethical condition of humanity. They have not solved the problems of unemployment, poverty, war, starvation, disunity among communities, nations and governments.

The scientist is not able to comprehend the mystery of creation and of the Creator, and the meaning of life. Scientists are very, very busy studying the external world. They have entirely forgotten to study the internal world. Science gives knowledge only of phenomenal appearances, 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 realised through hearing, reflection and meditation. The knowledge of scientists is only superficial. It is not real knowledge of the Truth. Scientists are immersed in transitory phenomena. They rely on external instruments, lenses and theories. Their knowledge is not as infallible and true as the knowledge of the Self of the sages and yogis.

Science does not have an instrument with which to collect spiritual data or those divine facts which exist in a subtle form but which we cannot see. True experiences include experiences of the three states: waking, dreaming and deep sleep. A Vedantin studies the three states. He gains more real knowledge and gets a clue to the existence of the fourth state of turiya from the deep sleep state.

The soul is beyond the realm of material, physical science. Man is a soul wearing a physical body. The soul is extremely subtle. It is subtler than ether, mind and energy. Consciousness and intelligence are of the soul, not the body. Consciousness is evidence of the existence of the soul. The soul is the immortal part in man.

Science is a systematic study of facts. It tries to reduce observations or observed facts into a system. In order for the fact to 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 the imperishable, infinite knowledge of Truth. A scientist cannot find pure consciousness in the external world. He will have to withdraw the senses and rest in his own inner Self.

Science is not the enemy of religion, but a preparation for it. Science is only an enemy of superstitions. Both science and religion are engaged in the search for Truth. Their attitudes are essentially the same, but the fields of application vary. Raja yoga is an exact science; its methods are very scientific. A scientist is an external raja yogi. Indian rishis, seers and sages have recognised the harmonious relation between science and religion. 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 realisation of the infinite, the Truth that underlies all objects – the subject.

Science analyses, classifies, and explains phenomena, but Brahma vidya teaches you to transcend phenomena and attain immortality. These approaches to Truth are really complementary, not contradictory. They should engage in a mutual and harmonious search for Truth and live the life of Truth here. Science deals with facts, spiritual science with values.

A close study of the observations and revelations of science brings 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 which moves nature? A study of the physical and mental forces and laws is not sufficient to make us perfect. We should have a thorough knowledge and realisation of the substratum that lies hidden behind these names and forms and all physical and mental phenomena.

The basis for all the secular sciences is Brahma vidya or spiritual science. Brahma vidya is foremost among all sciences because by it one attains immortality. Secular experiences are partial, while spiritual experience is the whole experience. If you know the supreme science of Brahma vidya through direct intuition, you will have knowledge of all other worldly sciences. You cannot learn this science of sciences in any university. You will have to learn it from a guru, after controlling your senses and mind.

Matter cannot be totally ignored, but matter should be subordinated to spirit. If you end your life in the laboratory alone, you cannot enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul. Science cannot give you salvation. Seek within. Science knows nothing of the origin of life, the origin of thought and the origin and destiny of human nature and the universe. Mind and intellect are finite instruments. They cannot realise 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.