CHENNAI: If technology is condemned by some, and if pessimism prevails in certain quarters, it is certainly not due to the pursuit of science and scientific method. Clearly, scientific discoveries are exploited for harmful as well as beneficial reasons.
This only proves that injurious application is not an inevitable consequence of scientific knowledge. Science is not to be confined to the present knowledge of nature but has to be viewed as a continuing search for truth by means of observation, hypothesis and experiment.
It is an important principle of scientific method that every conclusion is subject to doubt and improvement, facilitating further discoveries and development of knowledge. Science does not claim to say the last word, for the horizon of knowledge is ever expanding. As a discipline for the pursuit of knowledge and as a critical enquiry into truth, science is indeed of prize value to mankind. However, science is prized by humanity not so much as a search for knowledge for its own sake as for the application of its knowledge to the needs of society through technology.
The advance of technology has resulted in the production of goods of utility and even of luxury, in the development of a transportation system conducive to social mobility, in the manufacture of medicines, and in other obvious benefits, adding to our comforts and conveniences. Technological progress has made possible sufficient leisure for the pursuit of noble ideals of life. All these developments we owe to the knowledge obtained through science. As our technology promises more and better things for the future, we become aware of the value of scientific knowledge.
A pessimistic historian is apt to consider history chiefly a collection of follies and crimes. But an objective view brings to light many historical evidences of goodness, nobility and charity. Man is outgrowing the primitive stage of ignorance, superstition and violence. A galaxy of saints, statesmen, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists has enriched our heritage by their creative contributions. What is striking is the level of moral and spiritual perfection reached by men like the lord Buddha and Jesus Christ.
In the modern age, we have the instance of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa as a witness to the height of blessedness and benevolence. The laws of the survival of the fittest and of competition do not hold in their case, for their self-abnegation and love of man are so complete that they would fain give up their life as so much straw to make others fit to survive. The phenomenon of unity and integration attained by Sri Ramakrishna is a matter of history.
Sri Ramakrishna responded to the scientific challenge; he went afresh to internal nature and discovered truth by means of observation, hypothesis and experiment with the aid of a chastened and pointed mind. The scientific religion which he exemplifies never says ‘believe’ but ‘see’. ‘I see and you too can see. Use the same means and you will reach the same goal and the same harmony’. This is his challenge to the scientists, pessimists and moderns in general, a challenge response to which will land man in true peace and bliss.
Since spiritual realisation is marked by deathlessness and fearlessness, approach to the spiritual tends to banish fear - fear of death even. It engenders in a man a rare courage, a peace that passeth understanding, an unwavering faith, steel will and a joy that is not dependent on material goods. A spiritually awakened person will find meaning in life and discipline himself for study and constructive activities. Morality and philanthropy will be regarded as self-discipline and as a part of the struggle to get free and get back to the ultimate source, the Atman.
By thinking of the all-pervading Atman, the weak becomes strong, the coward turns brave, the misanthrope converts into a lover of mankind; enmity gives place to friendship, war is transformed to peace, exploitation is converted to philanthropy. The personal and social, national and international benefits are obvious when the spiritual approach is brought to bear on the thoughts and activities of mankind. The discovery of the spiritual element in man will help him regenerate himself and avert the explosive situation stemming from misuse of science.
Sincere spiritual striving, personal and public, will go a long way to dispel the encircling gloom and make man perfect even as the Father who is in heaven is perfect. In fine, man’s essential nature being spiritual, a comprehensive solution to present day problems has to be sought in the direction of the eternal, unifying, all-embracing self through broad-basing the scientific structure and material culture on the great, unshakable bedrock of self-knowledge, and through whole-hearted seeking of the self.
Sri Balagangadaranatha Mahaswamiji,71st Pontiff of Sri Adichunchanagiri Mahasstana Math