You are here:
ARTICLES > SPIRITUALISM / RELIGION > Science and Spirituality
Science and Spirituality
By M. S Dadage
At the outset let us contemplate on science and spirituality which are not antithesis but they are two wheels of the same cart or they are two faces of the same coin. Science deals with the physic and spirituality deals with the spirit. One deals with the material and the other with the spirit. One deals with the visible and the other with invisible. In the same way one deals with the outer and the other deals with the inner. One is knowledge and the other is wisdom. One supports the other. They are complementary. Gandhiji, being, a man of peace believed in the right co-ordination or combination of the two. The holy synthesis of the two brings peace, success and holistic approach. Science is lame without spirituality. Real progress or success or peace or Moksha or development or civilization or reformation is possible when science and spirituality go hand in hand or see eye to eye. The conducive co-ordination creates heaven on this earth. Gandhiji knew that the earth has enough to satisfy everybody's need but not greed. He implored for the replacement of greed by love.
The world has been facing crucial financial; problems due to imbalance of science and spirituality or imbalance of knowledge and wisdom. The imbalance is due to lack of self introspection. The lion's share of science has produced tremendous material progress without knowing the jeopardy of the vast production. One is expected to weight the pros and cons without selfish motive and one should look for the welfare of all. One must also keep in mind that whatever glitters is not gold. So the acid test is essential to make use of science which supports spirituality. The goal of the two is to attain Moksha or salvation or to lead a perfect life in which one is expected to see God face to face. Let us ponder on the two aspects separately one by one and see how the confluence of the two contribute to the welfare of the society in which everyone lives peacefully and happily.

If one wants to understand Gandhiji's life and work one must try to understand his spiritual ideas and ideals in the light of which he conducted his struggles against group injustice and tyranny and carried out his reform programmes. According to Gandhi spirituality play a dominant role in devolving inner consciousness. Ordinarily a man does not care for his spiritual good and does what will give him pleasure for the time being and is likely to harm him spiritually.
While writing an introduction to his autobiography Gandhi said, " But I should certainly like to narrate my experiments in the spiritual field which are known only to myself and from which I have derived such power as I possess for working in the political field. If the experiments are really spiritual then there can be no room for self praise. The very purpose of life is self realization and to see God face to face to attain Moesha."
All his ventures are directed towards his goal. He taught a set of values that might make happiness less dependant on material possession. The central evil of the modern world, Gandhi felt, materialism. Gandhiji preached what he practiced and practiced what he believed. He enjoyed inner harmony. Spirituality is a matter of the heart culture of immeasurable strength. Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral. In the opinion of Gandhi locomotion instruments hamper man's spiritual progress. There is no limit for man ambition. Once we were satisfied with traveling a few miles an hour, today we want to negotiate hundreds of miles in a hour. One day we might desire to fly through space what will be the result? chaos. We would be tumbling upon one another. We would simply be smothered. His prediction comes true. He says, "I tell you if by sudden catastrophe all these instruments were to be destroyed I would not shed a single tear. I would say it is a proper storm and a proper cleansing.
He wanted to endeavour to translate politics in terms of spirituality. Every one has a right to acquire spiritual knowledge if one had devotion to God. Spirituality can be received through the spiritual sense.
A man with intense spirituality may be without speech or gesture touch the hearts of millions who have never seen him and whom he has never seen. The most eloquent preacher if he has no spirituality, in him will fail to touch the hearts of his audience. It is dangerous to feel. It is not like many other things which we can perceive analyze and prove through our sense.
Napoleon said there are two powers in the world, the spiritual and the sword. In the long run the sword will be conquered by the spirit. Again true marriage means not merely union of the souls. The ideal that marriage aims at is that of union through the physical. The human love that it incarnates is intended to serve as a steeping stone to divine or universal love.
Gandhi was brought up in a religious atmosphere. He belonged to a Hindu Vaishnava family. He was also influenced by Jainism. He studied the Bible, Tolstoy, Emerson and Thoreau. He was no doubt Hindu but his Hinduism had little to do with forms and ceremonials. He rejected everything that was against reason and humanity. He says, "By birth no one is superior or untouchable." He rarely visited temples except sometimes trough courtesy. He did not go to any temple that was not open to Harijans. In a sense he was a Karma Yogi. In his opinion good works must be performed in the spirit of sacrifice to God of Humanity. He says, " I am endeavouring to see Gods through service humanity for I know that God is neither in heaven nor down below but in everyone. Service to man is service to God.
For Gandhi religion and morality were one and the same. Truth and non-violence were the main principles. Spirituality refers to soul force and non-violence, truth, non-stealing, chastity, non-possession, physical labour, control of palate. Fearlessness, equality of all religions, Swadeshi, discarding untouchability. Gandhiji practiced all these principles in his Ashram irrespective of religion, creed and language. He had to meet many hardships. He admitted Harijans, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists but he never converted them.
All those who believed in the moral law were spiritual even though they were so called atheist. He says tat truth is God. To me God is truth and love. God is ethics and morality. God is fearlessness. God is the source of light and light and yet he is above and beyond all these.
Uttering of Ramanama means one who abides in the hearts of men, the anteryami. He believed in a formless and attribute less God. He frankly admitted the existence of God. Her cannot be proved by reason, yet he is not against reason. Gandhi could not prove His existence by rational arguments which may be convince, he felt the existence in life.
He had great faith in prayer. He conducted prayer both in the morning and in the evening. In his prayer no image or symbol was kept and had no objection to it for those who needed it. Prayers were in praise of God. He says, "Prayer has saved my life. Without it I should have been a lunatic long ago... humbly claim to be a man of prayer... Let every one try and find that as a result of daily prayer he adds something new to his life.
Gandhiji believed in self discipline. His success was due to a life of discipline. Occasional fasting and vow taking helped him to concentrate his mind and will power. Restrictions gave him an opportunity to serve mankind. He was satisfied with a loin cloth. His vow of not taking more than five varieties of food helped him to have limitations. He taught a great lesson of simple living and high thinking. For Gandhiji, soul force or spiritual force was the source of the greatest power. He strove to awaken to soul force within himself and within his fellowmen.
Revolutionary social philosophies had concentrated on changing the society and, the spiritual seeker had concentrated on the inner life. Gandhiji not only bridged the gap between these two extremes, he fused them together so he was a saint and a social revolutionary. True civilization should be built on the basis of spirituality.

Now let us meditate his reflections on science. He was not against science but he wanted to redress it is in the best possible way. Richard Gregg regarded Gandhi as a very outstanding social scientist. He wanted that science should not have any place for exploitation, violence, corruption, injustice, mistrust, oppression. Vinoba said that Gandhi wanted science to redress a right. Science tends to be dry and dull. Our children cannot make use of what they are taught in this field. A science like astronomy which should be taught to boys in the open by actually showing them the star in the sky is taught through books.
Science is one of the few things in which one has to go in for accuracy of thought and accuracy of handling. Those who go for higher education are from middle classes. They have almost lost the use of their hands. The secret and pleasure of science cannot be used or understood if a body does not use his hands. Science is essentially one of those things in which theory alone is of no value, unless our hands go hand in hand with our heads we would be able to do nothing whatsoever. It is unfortunate that we who learn in colleges forget that India lives in her villages not in her towns. Gandhi was not happy with European civilization. We admit that in his anger against European civilization Gandhi had gone to the extremes of condemning all science and all culture.
In the opinion of Gandhi of Gandhi, European civilization is a disease. So Gandhi frankly said that we are on the wrong road. according to Gandhi man is elevated by his spirits and man's spirit can be elevated by mind which is never satisfied. Gandhiji intended to have a humanitarian industrial policy for India which meant to Gandhi a glorification of revival of hand spinning for he believed, that can pauperism which is blighting the lives of millions of human beings in their cottages in this land be immediately removed. He advised all the young scientists to make the spinning wheel a more efficient instrument of production in India's cottages. He wanted that the production should be by masses and not mass production by a few hands. He wanted that every one must be busy with work. Gandhi being a great futuristic person knew the danger of mass production so he opposed science. further he also proclaimed that future measurement will take note not only of the human family but of all that lives." The west can live on exploitation". Gandhiji described European civilization as a 'nine day wonder". Gandhiji said, ' I am as certain that they are endowed with a soul as I am, Years of experience of proselytizing both in South Africa and India has convinced me that it has nit raised the general moral tone of the converts, who have imbibed the superficialities of European civilization and have missed the teaching of Jesus.
Gandhiji opposed the craze for machinery which no doubt saves time and labour at the same time throws thousands on the open streets to die of starvation. Gandhi says, " I want to save time and labour, not a fraction of mankind but for all. I want the concentration of wealth, not in the hands of a few but in the hands of all. Today machinery merely helps a few to ride the backs of millions. The use of machinery increases greed. Gandhiji fought against this with all his strength. In his opinion the earth has enough to satisfy everybody's need but not anybody's greed. He replaced greed by love and he believed that everything would be all right. Machines should not be allowed to cripple the limbs of man.

To meet the world crisis the co-ordination of science and spirituality is inevitable. Gandhi knew the disastrous consequences of European civilization which was the outcome of science. If science and spirituality go hand in hand I am sure that one can create heaven on this earth. There is enough in this world for everyone's need but there is not enough in this world for anybody's greed. All is right with the world if there is proper combination of the two. Had Gandhi's advice in Hind Swaraj been taken into consideration the world would not have been what it is today with its exploitations, corruption, injustice and what not. Even today it is possible to live a simple life with minimum wants if we all follow Gandhi's preaching about science and spirituality. Sustainable development is the need of the hour and that is possible with the co-ordination of science and spirituality. Many know science but few live with the scientific point of view. It should be used to maintain cleanliness and for the purpose of sanity. Science cleans the outer self and spirituality cleans the inner self both of which are essential to keep the world at peace.
Sources: International Seminar on GANDHI AND THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY, Jan. 30-Feb. 4, 1998