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August 21, 2011

Page: 28/42

Home > 2011 Issues > August 21, 2011

Relevance of Hinduism in modern era:
A scientific perspective

By Dr Surendra Singh Pokharna

A series of articles on Hinduism in DNA have recently generated several controversies. However, it is also necessary to look at the Hindu philosophy in a scientific perspective, particularly for its relevance in the modern context ? Initially it may look absurd as to how can one link these two concepts. However, a deeper thought on the problems prevailing in the modern society, forces us to examine new ideas from all directions and all philosophies, Hindu philosophy could be one of them. Modern world is dominated by knowledge in general and scientific knowledge in particular. Scientific knowledge in general has mostly evolved in the western countries. With the scientific developments, there took place technical developments and they in turn resulted into economic developments in the western world. These developments which took place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries slowly spread to the whole world. In particular, a new concept of development started getting more and more prominence, that is the concept of economic development. So the concepts of knowledge and direction of development from Hinduism needs to be examined.

After almost 250 years of developments in the field of science, technology and economics, if we look at the ultimate consequences of these developments then a mixed scenario emerges. Several scientific discoveries have revolutionised our thinking and life, which include atomic energy, electronics, biotechnology, modern agriculture, space technology and others. These changes have also resulted into a very large increase in the population, a new value system based on materialistic values, cut throat competition among masses and countries in all walks of life. We have seen two world wars and other wars in which super powers tried to dictate their supremacy on smaller and weaker nations. The modern recessions in the western world is one of the serious consequence of this process. Many MNCs are therefore looking at the eastern markets and are shifting their operations to the eastern world. Unemployment in the world is increasing along with inflation. The current level of corruption and debt related issues in USA are a consequences of a linear model of economic development. The real story seems to be that somewhere this process of economic development which is generally assumed to be linear is now getting saturated and there are no clear directions for future growth which can benefit all the humanity.

These changes have also resulted into an irreparable damage to the life supporting system, that is environment, ocean, soil, atmosphere, etc. Climatologist now say that, just seven years are left before irreversible processes will start on the Earth which will be so destructive and irreparable that life processes which evolved over thousands of years may degrade in few years permanently. It means that the scientific developments of 250 years and their consequences will ultimately prove highly destructive for the future generations. The interesting part of the story is that the modern concept of development has so much entered into the minds of people that even after knowing its negative consequences, everyone is moving in this direction only.

It is here that other alternative criteria of developments and alternative concepts of value systems should be explored. Indian philosophy in general and Hindu, Jain and Buddha philosophies in particular can provide some new ideas and alternative solutions to some of the above problems. One of the most important concept is the concept of knowledge in Indian philosophy. As per this concept, the ultimate knowledge is structured in the consciousness. This concept is very different from the modern concept of scientific knowledge where emphasis is laid only on objective knowledge and there is no place for consciousness or its knowledge. Only in quantum mechanics people talk of consciousness and its knowledge and its role in scientific description.

Now it is generally agreed that scientific knowledge has several limitations which comes because of definitions of conservational laws, the laws of mass, energy, linear momentum and angular momentum, which are the foundations of science. They are all defined for abstract closed, isolated systems. But this is an approximation because all entities in the world are basically interrelated and are influencing each other. Particularly human systems which are open systems and constantly interact with the environment and other systems.

Another important principle of modern science is the Darwin’s principle of evolution which talks of process of selection and is described by a rule known as “Survival of the fittest”. It is now recognised that too much emphasis on the education of the Darwin’s principle of evolution has actually damaged the environment and society has been affected negatively. So much violence in the society and suppression of poor or weak by strong and powerful persons, communities or nations is partly a consequences of this law. In contrast, Indian philosophy talks of a principle of “Live and Let Live”. The two laws are totally different from each other and there is a need to study the differences between the two. The basic principles of Indian philosophies have resulted into a value system, a cultural heritage, a different concept of development which can be termed as spiritual development, which should be compared with the Darwin’s principle of evolution along with a linear concept of economic development. Similarly living in cooperation with other living beings and the nature is a part of this type of evolution. Worshipping of nature and natural resources in India is somehow related with this philosophy.

Another major concept which should be examined is the principle of living in Hinduism that is “Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha”. Here Dhrama comes first, which is therefore the driving as well as controlling force. Artha and Kama that is processes of earning (economic activity) and that of enjoying family life are to be carried out keeping the rules of Dharma and the goal of Moksha into account. Because of the two boundary conditions imposed by Dharma and Moksha, other two activities have stringent controls. So these rules appear to maintain certain equilibrium at individual level and several other levels in the society and the environment. Such a principle of living should be therefore further explored in a Systems Science perspective.

Hence many such detailed studies will provide alternative ways to look at the problems of modern world. Several western scholars are now looking at the East in general and India in particular to explore such alternative scenarios. By doing continuous R&D and teaching and popularising such alternative principles, society can be slowly changed in a more positive way.

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