Science and Sanatana Dharma
There are two types of people. Both have not studied anything properly, let alone in depth. Of these two types, one type thinks that ancient Indian books are all mere meaningless superstitions, and nothing special, nothing important. The other type thinks that there is mobile phone in the Veda, there is washing machine in the Veda. So this is the situation.
A balance is necessary. It is not that nothing is there in the ancient scriptures. It is also not correct to think that everything we discover is in the ancient books.
An objective vision is needed. To have this balance, objective study is necessary. To study objectively, some knowledge of both fields are essential. That is, some knowledge of the present-day science and some understanding ancient texts in their originals, especially sanskrit, is a must. We should know how to read, intepret and understand the ancient texts, which are in terse sanskrit. If we wish to go by the translations, we shall fail miserably. Ancient works were translated long before the world had cars and aeroplanes. For instance, the Rig Veda was translated before aeroplanes came into being. So many translations are sort of incomplete and even incorrect.
When we wish to know what science ancient scriptures contain, we face some serious difficulties. First of all, what are we searching for? Aeroplanes in the Vedas? Drones? Atom Bombs? Ancient scriptures don’t give us a description, for example, of how to construct an aeroplane. So, we fail if we go along this route. We have only one avenue of knowing it: comparison. We cannot guess what else was there in ancient scriptures other than what we see and experience now. Our search for science in ancient scriptures is invariably comparative. We have this here today. Was such a thing in the past?
This leads to another difficulty. Today nobody uses Remington or Godrej Typewriter. If typwriter is ‘science’ it is not there now, and it is not there in the Vedic works also. Typerwriter was only an intermediary stage for something more to come. This means, our science changes, our conception of “science” changes, our science develops: from huge machines to the mobile phone, which contains everything. But this is not the end. A day may come when we can talk without using any instrument. Without a hand-held mobile or microphone, we are talking to someone somewhere. That is, the mobile phone, which we think is the peak of science, is only a transition. After sometime, just like we completely forgot the tape recorder or gramaphone plate, we forget mobile and go for something different.
Why shouldn’t we understand that the Vedas or the ancient scriptures have passed through the stages of gramaphone, tape recorder, mobile phone, and speaks only of the ultimate sciences, which are “talking without instruments, communication without machines”? Our concept of “science”, therefore, should change.
Looking at from this angle, the entire Sanatana Dharma and Vedanta is simple pure science. Science does not mean instruments and machines only. It means rationality. Rationality means openness to investigation.
The fundamental principle of Sanātana Dharma is anveshana, ‘search, discover, find out’. There is no question of “believe in what I say” at all. It is “jigyāsā”, enquiry always. This is science. Sanātana Dharma and the scriptures of Sanatana Dharma teach only science, nothing else. In fact, Sanatana Dharma is not a religion because it has no creed, no prophet, no particular book, no church. It is just enquiry into the Truth. Thus, our ancient scriptures teach only science, and true science. You may ask, ‘What about shraddhā?’ Shraddhā is not forcing you to believe in something. On the contrary. Shraddhā means to enquire into some truth which you have studied or heard.
So Vedanta means science, or scientific enquiry into the Truth.
Despite this, there is something more. India produced tremendous amount of valuable literature in the past. Before we had writing and printing, knowledge was preserved with tremendous effort and enthusiasm by word of mouth. This continued not for one or two thousand years, but thousands and thousands of years. How was knowledge discovered? Through enquiry and search and contemplation. This knowledge is called revealed knowledge. These revelations of essential truths were transmitted from generation to generation till writing came. And thus we had written-down Vedas. Veda itself is knowledge, like “science”, which deals with diverse subjects. Then there are other forms of literature till the latest works. Most of them in sanskrit, the language that never changes or dies. This helped preserve the most ancient knowledge till now. The oldest of them all, the Rig Veda, is thus before the Buddha, before Krishna and Rama, before earlier dynasties and thus, at least 20000-25000 years old in its written form. Yes. This is the ancientness of Veda.
In these books, there are some ideas which are simply astounding. What we call our “latest and brightest” discoveries are there already, in simplest language, in the remotest Vedic mantras. This is where the ancient Rishis excel.
From time to time, we shall present some such amazing features of ancient sciences in these columns.
Here is an example of how the Rig Veda saw the position of the earth in space.
Does this Rik Mantra say something about the Gravitational Force or Field?