Maria Wirth | in Devbhoomi Spiritual
Now this ocean analogy of all being one sounded almost like that article on modern physics which I had read in high school. How come? Did the scientists discover this independently or were their theories inspired by the Vedas? Had the scientists reflected on the profound insights of the Indian rishis?
Indeed this had been the case. The great scientists who were responsible for replacing Newton’s paradigm of a universe full of separate ‘things’ with an interconnected, homogeneous Whole were inspired by Vedanta: Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Pauli, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Tesla and others, all knew about and reflected on India’s ancient wisdom.
The Church was surely not amused that the brightest brains in the Occident endorsed Indian wisdom and she might have schemed to blacken this image by teaching schoolchildren all over the world that ‘Hinduism’ means a bad caste system and sinful idol worship. I heard already in primary school about ‘untouchables’ which left a lasting, negative impression about Hinduism. The Brahmins, it was claimed, were the worst. Little did I know then that the Brahmins had taken great pains to memorize and preserve the Vedas for posterity, and the atrocities of the caste system come nowhere near the atrocities by Christians and Muslims in the name of their god.
In 1982, an international conference on the “convergence of ancient wisdom and modern science” was held in Bombay and I wrote about it for a German magazine. The program for the conference explained that India was purposely chosen as the venue as the scientific theories propounded were based on ancient Indian insights. This was as explicit as it could get: Indian wisdom helped scientists to formulate their theories.
Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake, Karl Pribram and other scientists explained that new research in physics, biology, neurology and other subjects clearly pointed to a convergence between ancient wisdom and modern science. Scientists, while searching for the substance of things, had stumbled upon a homogeneous ONE energy. Matter and energy are interchangeable and the three dimensional space and the linear time have become the four dimensional space-time–continuum that is beyond human imagination. There are no separate objects or separate existences. Everything is related and is in perpetual movement. Fritjof Capra likened it to Shiva Nataraj – the dancing Shiva.
So it was now scientifically approved that our senses deceive us and that nothing that the senses perceive truly exists –in tune with the ancient Indian concept of Maya. And science is considered as the highest authority regarding the truth. Is this view justified?
Psychology also got a major facelift at the conference thanks to transpersonal psychology. It was a new branch that was based on the Hindu concept of Atman – the transpersonal or transcendental essence in all human beings. The core of Vedanta are the four Mahavakyas of the Upanishads, which proclaim that Atman (the individual consciousness) is one with Brahman (the universal consciousness), like in “Ayam Atman Brahman”.
Finally, Sanatana Dharma got its due, I felt. The comforting knowledge of unity would surely not stay only in the heads of some scientists but would influence the lives of the common people. After all, according to Hinduism, the goal of life is to realise what we truly are – not a separate person but Satchitananda, – blissful awareness.
My optimism was wrong.
If anything, there were even greater attempts to hide the profound philosophy and the contribution of India to science since the early 1980s and to prevent the common man from appreciating the Hindu way of life.
Let’s take transcendental psychology. At the conference in 1982, Swami Muktananda gave a presentation of the non-dual tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. The participants were taken to his ashram in Ganeshpuri. It was not made a secret that he was the guru of Christina and Stanislav Groff, who organised the conference on behalf of the Association of Transpersonal Psychotherapy.
Yet today, in the internet age, Wikipedia says about “transpersonal psychology” at the start:
“Amongst the thinkers who are held to have set the stage for transpersonal studies are William James, Carl Jung, Robert Assagioli and Abraham Maslow. Commentators also mention the psychedelic movement, the psychological study of religion, parapsychology, and the interest in Eastern spiritual systems and practices, as influences that shaped the early field of transpersonal psychology.”
Not a word about India. Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, which deserved to be mentioned before all other contributors, is missing. The long Wikipedia piece ends with a revealing remark:
“According to Cunningham, transpersonal psychology has been criticized by some Christian authors as being “a mishmash of ‘New Age’ ideas that offer an alternative faith system to vulnerable youths who turn their backs on organized religion (Adeney, 1988)”.
Those Christian authors do not offer arguments to rebut the new (ancient) theory of a transpersonal self but call it names: “mishmash of new age ideas”. They fear that vulnerable youth turn their back on organised religion.
Why do they threat this scenario? Obviously they do not even try to evaluate whether the ‘I’-feeling could indeed be transpersonal and the same in all: whether the new theory could be closer to the truth is not an issue for them. Loyalty to the ‘revealed truth’ overrides it. The mind is stuck in a straitjacket.
A pious Christian cannot allow himself to think freely. The Christian doctrine is the unquestionable truth for him. Of course this applies not only to authors but also to scientists. There may be self-censorship regarding the theories they propose.
Can a pious Christian archaeologist even consider that human civilisation started millions of years ago? How would he explain that God sent the Bible so late to humankind? He would be in serious trouble. A genuine dialogue between science and religion within his mind cannot happen. A Hindu in contrast would have no problem; on the contrary, he is encouraged to think in huge timeframes. Even one mahayuga (cycle of the four yugas) lasts 4,32 million years and there are many much greater cycles.
Could Schroedinger, Heisenberg, Einstein and others have pushed the frontiers of science and even done away with the reality of individual persons if they had been pious Christians? Probably not.
Yet strangely, even today western scientists consciously or unconsciously close their eyes to the huge contributions of India to science. For most of them, the world ends in Greece.
In an interview with National Geographic in 2015, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg talked about great scientists. He went back to Archimedes, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Leibniz, but not a word about India, for example that the Rig Veda, the most ancient scripture in the world, in 10.22.14 already stated that the earth goes around the sun, yet Copernicus is credited with this discovery. Or that the Rishis had estimated the age of the universe correctly. Is Weinberg ignorant about those contributions or why would he not mention for example the Baudhyana sutras which contained the Pythagoras Theorem long before Pythagoras was born, or Aryabhatta who was a path-breaking mathematician and Astronomer of the 5th century CE? Why are Indians not credited with the work they did, but their insights were often lifted and appeared under western or Arabic names? The infinity Foundation is documenting the Indian knowledge of science and technology in 20 volumes and substantiated many such cases.
The interviewer of Steven Weinberg also did not ask about India, but he did ask about “the golden age of Islamic science”.
Weinberg, a Jew, clarified that the scientists were not doing Islamic science, but science and many leading scientists during this golden age were actually irreligious or hostile to religion. He might have said this from personal experience, too. In our modern times, scientists with Jewish names are clearly overrepresented, yet nobody ever suggested, least of all those scientists, that we live in “the golden age of Jewish science.”
Al Jazeera aired a documentary on the great Muslim scientists recently, yet if one looks closer, the source of many of the inventions those scientists are credited with, for example the decimal system or algebra, is India. In India even the steel (Wootz) of the famed Damascus sword was produced.
Dogmatic religions never fostered science. What sadder example can there be than the burning of the great Nalanda University by Islamic marauders in 1193 AD. The collected treasure of the best minds was turned into ash and thousands of students were killed. Voltaire rightly said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Yet times are changing. The awareness that we would be better off without dogmatic religions is growing. Christianity is losing its hold over the mind of its followers in the west. And Islam is more and more scrutinised, too, in spite of media trying its best to oust ‘Islamophobia’ as unacceptable.
But let’s find out why science flourished in India in ancient times and why Sanatana Dharma did not obstruct it. The reason is simple: Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism is based on science, or rather, it is science. Veda (from Sanskrit) means knowledge and science (from Latin) means also knowledge. Science is defined as knowledge gained from observation and experimentation. The rishis added one more method – knowledge gained from inner exploration. This inner exploration or meditation lifts Hindu Dharma actually above science and the arrogance which scientists often show towards Hindu practices is unwarranted and stems from ignorance.
(To be continued….)
(The writer is a German psychologist and author who writes in German and English. Her book ‘Thank you India’ has recently been published. Views expressed are personal.)