I wrote an article recently about something I’ve been thinking about for awhile: the connection between science and spirituality, two completely congruent topics. I can see universal justice in the world around me in a way that applies to both the material plane as well as beyond.
The article has gotten under the skin of many individuals who feel that science and faith cannot be combined. They debate, did the Big Bang really make a sound? If so, would it be audible to human ears? Was it truly a sound, if no one was there to hear it? (I found a beautiful response to this on Quora by Zac Shaw, likening string theory to “nada Brahma,” a musical universe).
These readers question the relevance of universal laws in spiritual life. But by focusing on minutia we ignore the bigger picture, deflect important questions, and avoid reaching meaningful conclusions. By arguing whether modern scientific theory is superior to faith based on ancient scriptures, we find excuses to ignore the fact that there is something that goes far beyond both theory and faith: truth.
People who don’t believe in God may say that without proof, they have no faith, but that is illogical. Proof in the non-existence of God has never been established, and yet they believe that there is no God, so the faith is there. Similarly, people who blindly follow religious leaders without analysing the true meaning of their scriptures in ways that apply to their lives and the world around them (sankhya yoga) rely on faith.
Author Lisa Worthey Smith has written a blog post on the issues that can arise when we “miss the Creator of the universe for the slide under the microscope”: we lose our perspective, focusing on earthly distractions and trials of today, rather than finding truth, joy, and the strength to press on.
So what happens when we look up from the microscope? It is then that we can finally appreciate the true wonder and vastness of the universe.
To quote Carl Sagan, “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual…The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”
Newton and Einstein (who both became vegetarians in later life) were also fascinated by the universe. Newton has claimed that “it is inconceivable that accidents alone could be the controller of the universe,” while Einstein has added, “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe.”
The more that I learn about science, the more amazement that I feel in Krishna’s wondrous creation. If we have the eyes to see it, we can find Krishna everywhere. As He says in The Bhagavad Gita, “I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.”
No scientist would disagree with the statement that “life comes from life”; this is the law of biogenesis, a biological principle perfectly aligned with chemistry’s conservation of energy: the axiom that tells us that we can’t get something from nothing. But how did life first begin? And when someone dies, why do we mourn their loss and say that they are gone, even if their corpse is lying perfectly intact in front of us? This is because we are not our bodies, and when our immortal souls leave our temporary bodies, our bodies become devoid of life force (praan). Being dead is different from being unconscious, just like a live tree is different from the dried fallen leaves composed of the same organic compounds. As Krishna tells us (BG 7.10), “I am the original seed of all existences.” Life comes from life.
Similar to the way that energy can never be created or destroyed, neither can the soul. Krishna (BG 2.16) reveals that “those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.”
Truth is so important, that it is the only remaining pillar of dharma that perseveres in Kali Yuga (the dark age). After all, God is also known as the Supreme Absolute Truth. True religion, based on eternal duty (sanatana dharma) does not need to appeal to faith, because it is entrenched in reason (for example, by studying the nature of both, we can conclude that the soul endures while the body degrades). Sanatana dharma, like truth, is non-sectarian.
But what is our eternal duty? Everybody’s duty is individual, just as every soul is unique. In fact, Krishna warns us that “to follow another’s path is dangerous” (BG 3.35). Everyone has their own spiritual path. To get meaningful results, introspection and observation is required by both science and spirituality to gain a proper understanding of the bigger picture.
Some people think that I am being flagrantly offensive to compare the laws of the universe with the laws of the divine, but they really are one and the same. Spirituality is scientific.
(Also see: The Bhagavad Gita.)