- An young medico’s view*
                                                                  Saranya Sridhar, Final M.B.B.S.
                              Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram.


Leaders family gunned down, Massacre of villagers being probed, Computer hackers strike terror into user’s hearts, Teenage suicide increases – exam season claims lives again  -- these are but a few of the deadly headlines that pepper our news everyday. They enjoy a pride of place along with achievements like the Mir station, the Genome project, plastic conductance and other such accomplishments. But, the truth about our world today is that neither the great advances in science and technology nor the diverse religions practiced and propagated today have by themselves been able to ensure peace or the welfare of all the inhabitants of the world.

The last century has been witness to enormous advances in science and technology. Today we possess knowledge of the microcosmic and the macrocosmic universe, we have gadgets to make our lives comfortable and travel and communication are easier than ever before. Science has without doubt led to an improvement of our quality of life, BUT we have paid a price. Anxiety, insecurity, depression..other untold miseries.

We live today in a world of disparity and terrifying inequalities. Science has created a GREAT DIVIDE between the haves and the havenots. On the one hand we have the West who have every conceivable material comfort and on the other we have children in Orissa who do not get even one meal in days. We have not heeded the warning that Bertrand Russell in “the Impact of Science on Society’ issued to us -  “ Knowledge is power, but it is power for evil as much as for good…unless men increase in wisdom as in knowledge, increase of knowledge will be increase of sorrow.”  We are now suffering the consequences of this one sided growth.

To discern the reason for this, it is necessary to delve into the history of development of science. Scientists set about trying to understand the phenomenal world in which they lived. They followed the path of inference and reason. In order to study a system of which they also formed a part they had to necessarily create a divide between the subject and the object. Thus was "ego"; born.  Reason was applied to observations to arrive at principles of the physical world and this resulted in scientific thinking.

To quote Swami Vivekananda: “The history of science is the history of triumph of the spirit of inquiry over mere opinion, prejudice and dogma. It is a remarkable adventure of the human spirit which has borne abundant fruits not only mental but also material.”

However the development of the rational and intellectual mind also led to the simultaneous growth of the EGO and aggression. As we are well aware any action against a fellow creature is the result of a damaged ego. From Duryodhana who was enraged at Draupadi’s ridiculing him to Saddam Hussain who felt slighted, to the militants in every country who perceive a hurt, the common thread that runs through these aggrieved parties is the pronoun ‘I’. Only by submerging the EGO, can this conflict be resolved.

The means to this end lies by following the path of Spirituality. Our association of words leads us to equate ‘spirituality ‘with religion. Here we need to pause a while to differentiate between what Swami Ranganathananda terms ‘Ethnical’ religion and  “Spiritual Religion”. ‘Ethnical’ religion is that into which a person is born without choice, like a Hindu or Christian while  “Spiritual Religion” is that which is the result of a search for truth. Just as a scientist is not born a scientist, but becomes one, so also the pursuit of truth makes one a spiritual person. Being born into a religion does not make a person spiritual.

Philosophers have found that the true essence of spirituality lies in the theory of UNIFICATION-   the non dual essence of reality. “Tat Tvam Asi” – that thou art. The subject and the object are both part of the same unified reality.  All of us humans, non-living objects, the universe all belong to a larger WHOLE .

 Let us take this concept slightly further with a mundane example- There is a bowl of rice. Ten people serve themselves from it onto their plates. Each serving of rice has now been invested with diversity despite coming from the same source. Similarly, all living beings come from one source but have diverse needs and abilities.  Since no two people are the same person, there will always be a conflict of the EGOS.

Thus the paradox of the subject-object duality can only be resolved by submerging the ego.

This truth can be borne out in the confines of a family or can be applicable to our world. If we realise that the Ethiopian, our Bastar inhabitant, we, the Arabs, Pakistanis or the Kashmiri militants all come from the same WHOLE, we would look on them as a part of ourselves.  It is only when we view the other person as a part of the same WHOLE, thus a part of ourselves, does love replace hatred or fear and are we able to coexist in peace. The need is to go from being ego centric to cosmic centric. If the militant were to gain the realization that by harming another human he is harming a part of himself, surely his plans would change? The moment all human beings recognize that life comes from one source and is all part of that same unified whole, conflict would cease and we would have peace in the world.

A number of thinkers and scientists have come to the same conclusion of unification . For example,

Jeans in The New Background of science says: “………The twentieth –century physicist is hammering out a new philosophy for himself. Its essence is that he no longer sees nature as something entirely distinct from himself. Sometimes it is what he himself creates or selects or abstracts; sometimes it is what he destroys.

Erwin Schrodinger aptly sums it up:

“Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular…… Consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that there is only one thing and what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception” (the Indian Maya)
Scientists in the past century have confessed that at the end of their inquiry they become religious and thoughts turn to God or the Unified Whole. Scientists have realised the need for the missing part –the spiritual aspect to their studies to gain the holistic truth.
At the same time it is essential to appreciate that scientific principles apply in the formation of a spirituality whose truth is universal.
Religious leaders including Buddha have time and again rejected what was passed on by hearsay and sought out the truth - in the true spirit of scientific inquiry. 
These quotes from Swami Vivekananda will further strengthen my statement. “There is a small group of men who teach religion from experience. They are called mystics and these mystics in every religion speak the same tongue and teach the same truth. This is the real science of religion. As mathematics in every part of the world does not differ so the mystics do not differ.”  (Italics mine)
The unifying factor between Science and Spirituality is this quest for the ultimate truth.  In both fields the dictum - Truth alone triumphs   “ Satyameva Jayate” holds good.
The fact that scientists have felt the need for spirituality and spiritual thinkers and leaders alike have the realised the importance of a scientific approach to spirituality leads us to the conclusion that a convergence of these attitudes will provide a holistic view and lead to peace and welfare for all humans.

Our society is shifting from one of production based on raw materials and capital to a society of knowledge – the ingredients of which are human resources and information. The inequality we face today can only be remedied by an equality in knowledge and information which can only be realised when today’s science and technology with full awareness of the universal truth becomes freely available, EQUALLY to all. To achieve this and to bridge this divide we must attain the WISDOM that Bertrand Russell spoke of, and the “ Knowledge within” that Eastern Philosophers have propagated.

 A relevant concern would be how this change in perception can be implemented in the humdrum of daily life. Scientific advances should be harnessed to spread the message of truth and enable world leaders to awaken people and educate them. We have very powerful vehicles at our disposal- mass communication media. With global communication being made possible and universal accessibility to ideas and information, it has become easier to spread the word.

“Child is the father of man” – the student of today is the leader of tomorrow. 

Value based education in schools and colleges along with sound scientific knowledge must be imparted to children the world over so as to nurture the holistic outlook. Only through awareness of the UNIVERSAL BELONGING can exploitation and manipulation be resolved. Broadened horizons, a true feeling of brotherhood, a passion for truth and a longing for equality and world peace should be the profile of these agents of change.

These awakened citizens of our global family will ensure that the benefits of technological advances accrue equally to all inhabitants of the world to bring peace and prosperity to all.

 The mantra that should rule everyone’s spirits should be:

Sarve bhavantu sukhinah     sarve santu niraamayaah
Sarve bhadraani pashyantu maa kascit dukhabhaagabhavet
May everyone be happy may everyone be free from disease
May everyone have good luck may none fall on evil days.
Shantih, Shantih, Shantih!!!!     Peace, Peace Peace!!!!

 *(Paper presented at Asia- Pacific Students’ Conference on World Peace  held at Pune on 4th and 5th February 2001.Won First prize for best Theme paper)