Science and the Future of Hinduism
A true believer would leave the fate of the earth or the future of any Dharma to the will of God rather worry himself about it or try to play God. Jayaram V
To all those who believe or disbelieve in God, it may not be appealing to know that God is what we experience everyday both internally and externally. He is not separate from our experience, awareness, bodies and consciousness. He is part of the reality that we perceive in our wakeful state and experience in our dreams and deep sleep states. You may deny the existence of God. But you cannot deny your existence. You cannot deny your experience. You cannot deny the existence of a house in which you live unless you are too small like a fly or an insect to grasp its immensity. For an atheist, his existence is a paradox in the context of his faith in the non-existence of existence.
God is this universe, this gigantic and infinite universe. He has many dimensions and manifestations. He cannot be defined or put into a limited concept as a senior citizen of the universe with a long beard. We see Him every day but we do not think what we see and experience in our lives is the sum total of God. We disbelieve in our day to day experience of God, because we have such preconceived notions about Him. We have labeled God in certain ways based upon our borrowed concepts created by men who were just emerging from the caves of prehistoric times and we are not yet free from such limited notions and vision. Until we set our minds free, we cannot see and experience the universe as an extension of ourselves nor ourselves as a part of it. Inside you there is a window to this universe. Only through that window you can experience oneness with it. Only through that window you can fathom its depths and infinity.
If you think you have not yet seen Him, it is because you are focusing on what you have not experienced. It is like when you are served food, instead of enjoying what has already been put in front you, you are waiting for the next great dish to manifest. You do not realize that in that waiting you are missing a great opportunity to experience the joy of being here and now. You do not experience God in the expectation of miracles, but when you know that you are a miracle and your very existence is also a miracle.
If your convictions are borrowed from a book manufactured by a thousand people or from people who have not themselves exemplified it in their lives truthfully and you have never cared to put them to test in your own heart, most likely you will suffer from a crisis of faith at every twist and turn in your life. None can convince you about the existence of God until you arrive at the conclusion by yourself. That journey begins with an enquiry and ends with an answer for the good or for the worst. Like all the rigid things in life and Nature, rigid religions that thrive on dogma and fear will have to deal with the reasoning intelligence of the human mind and survive its scrutiny and endless distractions. If your faith is born out of your life's experiences and convictions, with some validation from the scriptures, you have better chances of experiencing peace and balance. If you solely depend upon ancient scriptures that have been corrupted greatly overtime by human greed, ingenuity and imagination, you are bound to hear the hiss of doubt in the crevices of your heart and shake in disbelief.
This discussion has become imperative because we are on the cusp of history, ready for a quantum leap into a future world that is going to be vastly different from whatever we have seen or imagined before. Despite all the pessimism and self-doubts that assail our minds, I believe, and can see clearly in my mind, that we are about enter into a new world of major discoveries and new innovations. There will be exponential progress of knowledge and technology in every sphere of life, despite the primitive mindset that still enthralls us in certain ways and attempts to roll us back on the descending curve of time into a primitive mindset. Those who succumb to its charms will eventually fail, crushed under the weight of time and memories fossilized in the layers of history. We are marching ahead, rightly towards the destiny that awaits the humankind, which is to learn from Nature and surpass it. For the good or the worse, we are marching into a world that we can only imagine presently and speculate.
New developments in the field of science and technology are going to change our lives profoundly in future and impact our thinking and actions in numerous ways. Of the many inventions and discoveries that may take place and influence our lives, I quote two and examine their possible impact upon our thinking and beliefs. What happens to us, when we reach the point where we become creators of life in our own right? What happens to us when we discover eventually that life evolves automatically in countless ways given right circumstances in different environments? What happens to our beliefs when we realize that creation is nothing more than a process set in motion by certain predisposing factors and natural elements? Let us examine these issues from a religious perspective, with Hinduism in focus.
When we realize that life exists on millions of planets.
As per a recent finding 4.6 billion earth like planets exists in our galaxy alone. The number does not include all the planets in the galaxy, but just earth like planets having a greater possibility of earth like climate. And if you consider this number from the perspective that there are billions and billions of galaxies in this universe, whose number we do not know yet and may even run into trillions, you will realize the magnitude of the possibilities of life in the universe. When you find that intelligent life like ours exists in countless planets in various places, what does it signify? Do we have to suppose that each of these planets may have one or more prophets who may preach their own kind of belief system and suggest a form of God that fits into their dogmas. Say for example, if a lion like being evolves on a planet which can speak and write with intelligence, what would be its religion? Would the god of a thinking lion be the same as that of a thinking rabbit?
Religions that impart a physical personality to God and define Him in certain ways may have to grapple with such concepts in the light of new discoveries. But it is not so with Hinduism. Hinduism envisages God as a four footed being, who created a cosmic person with two feet in the form of man. Fortunately, Hinduism also presents God in various forms and also without form. Hinduism is also comfortable with the notion of an infinite universe pervaded by invisible energies, filled with multiple worlds and vast spaces ruled over by a power that is both visible and invisible, manifested and unmanifested and with form and without form. The Vedas define an existence (sat) in terms of infinite time, the essential unity of matter and energy as aspects of Nature, relative time personifying finity and death, presence of visible and invisible universes, the possibility of time travel and space travel, creation and destruction of worlds, some ideas that may bear resemblance to the modern theories of quantum physics and particle physics, and the possibility of travelling at the speed of light and thought.
There are schools within Hinduism which concur with the belief that creation is a mechanical and replicable process. with or without the intervention of a Creative Being. The Samkhya School suggests that given suitable conditions, causes manifest effects that are hidden in them. Just as seeds germinate when water is sprinkled upon them, creation hidden in Nature in latent form, becomes manifested during each time cycle. Hinduism accepts the basic concepts of Samkhya, but accepts God as the source of creation. It upholds the belief that having created the worlds for His own enjoyment, He sustains them by enforcing order and regularity (rta) with the help of inviolable universal laws (dharma). Prakriti or Nature, acting under His will, produces the diversity, in a repetitive and mechanical manner by creating the five elements (earth, water etc.,) through a fivefold process and mixing them with the triple gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) to form the tattvas and various worlds and beings. Creation is, thus, a reflection of God in Nature. It is like He is looking at Himself in the waters of life and enjoying that reflection. In the hands of Nature, creation is like any other natural phenomena or process, like a rainfall, snowfall, the flash of a lightning or the birth of a baby.
Thus, Hinduism can accommodate multiple views regarding creation and uphold the belief that extra terrestrial life forms exists in different worlds. Hinduism also envisages a universe of multiple worlds forming part of a vast web like creation in the hierarchy of things. Hindu scriptures describe instances of gods being able to travel through time and space; gods and seers creating worlds and heavens with the help of their spiritual powers. They also illustrate the existence of multiple Brahmas and multiple Brahmandas (universes) that appear and disappear in the ocean of life in a day of Brahman. Time (Kala) is a manifestation of God. It is a devourer, who cannot be undone. Therefore, new discoveries about distant planets having life forms may not actually destabilize Hinduism but may force it to reevaluate and reinterpret its current theories in the light of new evidence.
When we succeed in creating intelligent life forms
Today, we have enough scientific knowhow to create new life forms or alter the existing ones. We have the ability to create and recreate genetic materials, or create life in controlled environments. All this knowledge is going to help us immensely when we decide to populate dead planets in our solar system or in distant galaxies or repair our own planet, when we reach a point of crisis sometime in future when it is completely degraded by over exploitation.
However, despite all the progress, the world is not yet ready to face the challenges arising from artificial life forms or genetic engineering. Before we begin to put fully functional biological brains in the robots and future machines, and make them perform intelligent tasks on their own, with little supervision from us, the scientific community in particular and the humanity in general have to grapple with many moral and social issues that may emerge out of such a scenario. For example, if a robot has flesh and blood in its system and can feel pain and pleasure at some point of time, how are we going to treat them? What laws we may need to prevent cruelty? Are we going to support a marriage between a human and a thinking robot sometime in future? Are we justified in bringing out life forms that we may not able to control fully in future or which may begin to compete with us on our own turf? These are questions which no one is yet ready to answer to the satisfaction of everyone. There is always the danger and the fear that humanity may eventually create its own nemesis and unleash a power that is greater than them. Given our propensity to self-destruction, we cannot rule out such a possibility.
Therefore, for the time being, we may not see the emergence of artificial life forms on a large scale. However, someday it is going to happen. Somewhere in a rouge country or a rogue laboratory, where the commercial benefits of gene manipulation weigh over moral and spiritual issues, scientists are going to test their ability to create newer and artificial life forms. We have so far interfered with every natural process we can manage, except playing God. Creation and manipulation of life is the last frontier into which we have not yet ventured fully. However, it is my conviction, that probably by the end of the century we will be there. Or maybe we are already there and experiments are going on secretly in the defense establishments and military laboratories of several nations to a create super soldiers of the future, who will not die, who will not tire and who will not require food and water. And from there it will be a few more steps before we begin to see the emergence of a new generation of menacing fighting machines that can walk, fly or swim and search and destroy enemy combatants without fear or hesitation.
When that happens, what will be its implication upon our society and our faiths? Hinduism is not uncomfortable with the notion of life emerging numerously through artificial means, not necessarily through womb only. Several seers, for example, were said to have born from animals, and even objects. The hundred Kauravas were born from one fetus grown outside the womb in an artificial environment. The Asvins were adept at surgery and replacing human head with that of a horse as they did in case of Dadhichi. We have Hanuman, who was like a Neanderthal and Ganesha, who was first produced artificially and then given an elephant head.
Without faith that can assimilate conflicting ideas, humanity will suffer from a crisis of faith when new knowledge and scientific discoveries increase our skepticism and disbelief in the supernatural and discount the role of an active, caring and responsive God. If that happens, religious authorities in various parts of the world may use their influence to delay the process temporarily, but they cannot stop the inevitable. At some point of time, in the history of our civilization, we have to come to grips with the reality of life and acknowledge that our religions, with their roots in primitive societies, cannot fully explain everything concerning our existence or address the numerous dilemmas we face in the modern world while dealing with our problems. No one can predict future events correctly. But in this and next century, humanity is going to suffer from major crises of faith from time to time. Future discoveries and inventions are going to rattle our age old beliefs and bring a paradigm shift in our thinking, beliefs and attitudes towards God, creation and existence. The world is not going to be destroyed anytime soon, even with all that madness out there. But there is every possibility that in the current century, there will be an apocalyptic change in our thinking and actions.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Om, Aum, Pranava or Nada in Mantra and Yoga Traditions
- Brahmacharya or Celibacy in Hinduism
- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
- Solving the Hindu Caste System
- How To Choose Your Spiritual Guru?
- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary Process
- Wealth and Duty in Hinduism
- Do You Have Any Plans For Your Rebirth or Reincarnation?
- Understanding Death and Impermanence
- Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
- Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life
- prajnanam brahma - Brahman is Intelligence
- Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs From The Perspective Of Hinduism
- The Defintion and Concept of Maya in Hinduism
- The Meaning of Nirvana
- Self-knowledge, Difficulties in Knowing Yourself
- Hinduism - Sex and Gurus
- The Construction of Hinduism
- The Meaning and Significance of Heart in Hinduism
- The Origin and Significance of the Epic Mahabharata
- The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism
- Three Myths about Hinduism
- What is Your Notion of God?
- Why Hinduism is a Preferred Choice for Educated Hindus
- Essays On Dharma
- Esoteric Mystic Hinduism
- Introduction to Hinduism
- Hindu Way of Life
- Essays On Karma
- Hindu Rites and Rituals
- The Origin of The Sanskrit Language
- Symbolism in Hinduism
- Essays on The Upanishads
- Concepts of Hinduism
- Essays on Atman
- Hindu Festivals
- Spiritual Practice
- Right Living
- Yoga of Sorrow
- Mental Health
- Concepts of Buddhism
- General Essays
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