Not only you and me from our childhood, but even the most ancient humans have wondered who puts the stars and planets up there in the sky and keeps them in place, who teaches the nightingale to sing, the weaver bird to make a nest, the peacock to dance ? Who paints the glowing rainbow in the sky and creates awesome flowers on earth ? How does a seed hide the blueprint of a huge tree and an embryo has the design of a whole complex future personality - with all the intricate details of looks, features, habits etc. ? What is death - what part of a person dies and what survives ? Is there God ?
If we look at some recent scientific discoveries, we might really think we are close to finding answers to some of these eternal questions.
So, has science discovered God ? Not exactly yet. Stephen Hawking thinks it might be the greatest scientific discovery of all time.
The recent holographic theory says that the world out there is not really the objects as we see them - the table, the computer, the rose, or the human bodies - but merely energy fields decoded by our brains.
This and some other super-scientific research in recent times would seem to effectively bridge the gap between science and spirituality - two sides that have been traditional rivals for so long. Galileo, Copernicus, Bruno and countless other people who believed in science were persecuted by religious authorities. Actually, the conflict was between religious dogma and science, not rational spirituality and science, as we shall later discuss in this article.
In India, Science and Religion seemed to co-exist peacefully. In Vedic times, thousands of years ago, Ayurved - the most ancient medical science - was actually part of a religious scripture (some scholars believe it was originally a part of Atharva Veda, some think it is an Upaveda of Rig Veda). Many Vedic scientists were great Yogis too. The atomic structure of matter was indeed well-known to the ancient Hindus. Vaisesika is one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy, and one of its foremost expounders was Aululya, more popularly known as Kanada ('the atom-eater'). He is believed to have lived 2,800 years ago. Even Sir Jagdish Ch. Bose of modern India did pioneering work that brought physics and metaphysics together.
Today many scientists who are not at all religious, are talking in a language that the religious normally do. Einstein and some other scientists helped us to understand the relationship between matter and energy. Quantum physics helped us further in bridging the gap between energy and consciousness.
Some revolutionary discoveries from the fields of molecular biology, astronomy and alternative medicine that look like pages from the hoary scriptures of ancient India, are :
1. The material universe has had a beginning. Now, those who are in science may call it the Big Bang and the spiritual may think it was actually Aum, the same primal sound or conscious energy as the Hum of Tibetans, or Amen of Christians ("In the beginning was the Word...") or Ameen of Muslims, but both sides agree that the universe did have a beginning.
2. The universe we live in is designed for sustaining life and it cannot be an accident. Evolution of life and intelligence, many agree, was really not an accident. Some scientists now agree that there may actually be an inherent design in creation to sustain and develop life and consciousness.
The celebrated East-West saint Paramahansa Yogananda (who authored the famous spiritual classic 'Autobiography of a Yogi' and surprised the medical world when for 20 days after his physical departure, his body showed no signs of decay), was way ahead of his time in matters both scientific and spiritual. In his another fascinating book, 'God Talks With Arjuna', a 2-vol commentary on the Gita, a footnote reads as follows :
"In the ultimate analysis", declared the noted British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane, "the universe can be nothing less than the progressive manifestation of God".....
The footnote further mentions, a 1993 article in Newsweek asked : "How did wisps of gas and specks of clay come to life ? ... Wherever the ingredients of life first evolved, combining them into something fully alive still seems madly improbable. Pointing to the idea that all this was an accident and not a design, Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer once said the event is about as likely as assembling a Boeing 747 by sending a whirling tornado into a junkyard."
"One intriguing observation that has bubbled up from physics", an article in Time magazine (Dec. 28, 1992) stated, " is that the universe seems calibrated for life's existence. If the force of gravity were pushed upward a bit, stars would burn out faster, leaving little time for life to evolve on planets circling them. If the relative masses of protons and neutrons were changed by a hair, stars might never be born, since the hydrogen they eat wouldn't exist. If, at the Big Bang, some basic numbers - the 'initial conditions' had been jiggled, matter and energy would never have coagulated into galaxies, stars, planets or any other platforms suitable enough for life as we know it".
Stephen Hawking says, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size.”
So can it just be an accident that the right things happened one after another ? Even the science of evolutionary molecular biology can get really very revealing, especially in the mysterious principle known as 'organization' which adds to and in a way completes, the theory of the survival of the fittest.
3. The vastness of the universe.
Until very recently, we thought our own galaxy represented all that there was. Today we know that in the observable universe alone - which is a miniscule portion of the total universe which in turn is expanding ceaselessly - there are a billion times one trillion stars (10 to the power 21). And it is quite likely that there may be millions of planets suited to sustaining life and civilization.
4. The physical world is not what it appears to be.
The world may really be a great fraud - a Maya (illusion or magic) as referred to in India's ancient scriptures - being played on our consciousness ! Modern scientific research confirms it. We see the objects as we do, not because they are that way, but because the brain decodes their energy fields as such.
Decades before modern findings about the non-materiality of the universe, Paramahansa Yogananda wrote :
'Spirit vibrated into matter, hence both Spirit and matter exist. But matter does not exist in the way it appears to us - finite and divided into multifarious forms. The seemingly solid physical universe exists only as an illusion. It is as unsubstantial as a mirage in the desert.'
Now this can get really mind-boggling, as Einstein confessed. Although he was not religious in the way of believing in a personal God, he called the genius behind the universe “an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”
5. Love heals, meditation heals, Aura is real !
Most cardiologists still believe the heart to be a blood-pump but some neuro-cardiologists believe that the heart is much more than that. It even has a brain of its own, with 65% of its cells being neural in nature, complete with dendrite and ganglia. They believe, as we many of us do deep down, that the heart does 'talk' - it knows, intuits and gives feedback.
Another branch of science called Psychoneuroimmunology believes that love heals, and the more selfless it gets, the more is its healing power - at both ends : the giver and the receiver of love. That explains why saints, nursing mothers and selfless volunteers don't usually catch infection from the people they serve, and explains the Helper's High that selfless volunteers feel.
But modern science is yet to understand what is love. The other questions we must ask are : Who beats our heart, who digests our food and flows our breath even when we are fast asleep ? If we lived by our own power, we would never have to die but one certainty, in this world of great uncertainties, is that we all shall die one day. But don't life, love and longing go on ? Many souls not in physical form any more, still influence us more than many of the living do - through their thoughts, their character and their love.
Aura, the halo that the religious once imagined and painted around their prophets in pictures, is now known as a measurable scientific reality. It is the electromagnetic field around us all. There are now high-tech ways to measure this field, and it has been found that meditation, loving compassion, peace etc. enhance this energy field.
Meditation : The brain wave theory says we all need 30 minutes of Alpha Waves (8 to 12 cps) everyday to stay balanced, and what but meditation can best give us that ?
Meditation has great benefits for the business world too. Healthy, happy and motivated employees create the ultimate competitive advantage. In fact, meditation that gives peace and joy which are man's perennial pursuits and love that is a universal need are the most probable pivotal points around which Science and Spirituality may finally be allies.
So is it possible that we may eventually be learning from science what we could not learn from religion ? Is Science finally ready to accept God - if not as a bearded all-powerful being up there on the 7th heaven, at least as our common Highest Self - as scriptures teach us ? Can 'Good' and 'God' be more than just similar sounding ?
What religion could not do (getting along with Science and uniting all - not just all humanity but all forms of life, in fact all that exists - in a single 'continuum' as Quantum Physics prefers to call it), a scientific understanding of secrets of this creation now can. There is a difference between religion and spirituality, of course : religion is the varying outer form of practices, beliefs and customs some of which over years may degenerate into dogma through over-enthusiastic and blind followers, spirituality is the common changeless essence, we could say it is the science behind religion. So when we become truly spiritual which is about how we behave rather than what we believe in, we can essentially understand and respect all religions alike, and yet go beyond any of their divisive dogma, and be very scientific.
Religion which could do so much good, has actually been misused to do so much harm to humanity by reducing it to blind practices, violently divisive dogma and blind belief-systems - but if religions have failed to help humanity, it is not for the fault of their own but the many dogmatic and warring followers who claim 'My God is greater than yours'. Since God to be God must be One, how can that be ?
Scientists can obviously never separate God in a test tube - the creation at best can only look up to the Creator, but the scriptures say that He can be realized as our quintessence. Further scientific research on this can help balance our material and spiritual progress and bring more peace and harmony in the world.
One fervently hopes so !
- Hans Dholakia,
Balanced Human Development Thro' Science-Spirituality Synergy