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The Paradox of Being Religious and Scientific

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By: M.R. Lalu
India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission gave us a hair-raising moment and a titter of happiness. Numerous scientists at the ISRO have had their time invested for such a precious mission which indeed caught the attention of the international community. We need to wait to see the accuracy of the mission and its success is going to put India into the rare club of nations that could successfully undertake such a prestigious endeavor. India’s space initiatives are economically cheap and not only science and technology but in India its space victories are the finest combination of science and technology and spirituality. So was the case of Chandrayaan-3. A day before the Chandrayaan-3 was to launch, a group of scientists from the ISRO visited the Tirupati temple to seek blessings of the Lord. There was a huge uproar in the social media and other corners questioning the scientists and their temple visit. Why mix spirituality and science was the logic behind the hullabaloo. Since science and spirituality were set as contrasting terms and religions usually keep logic at an arm’s length, outcry in the social media appeared to be rational. Science seeks proof on the divine but religions call for complete surrender to the eternal without a speck of doubt.
Science, in usual terms, rejects belief systems as blind and if there is any science behind such religious practices, they normally do not get any scientific validity unless an accreditation to such practices comes from any foreign establishment. India’s history provides ample evidence to prove that many of its practices were scientific and inventions in India did not happen without spirituality taking an active role in it. All ancient scientific inventions were the results of great seers delving into the depths of supreme spiritual realms with contemplative and logical mindset and the seekers in them had encapsulated the science of eternity in their deepening silence. Rationalists often get irritated when a coconut is broken before the takeoff of a fighter jet or a thread being tied on it as a sign of reverence for the divine. A puja or a temple visit before a major event was a practice in India for generations. Probably the disagreement was about the choice of religious place or worship before the launch or it was purely due to a religion that always remained a subject of condemnation in India. Have the scientists exhibited anything unpleasant when it comes to their faith? Is it necessary to question the faith of the large majority of the country that remained tolerant all through a systematic vilification that ran through its history for centuries? As for Hinduism, it has gone through all such disparaging experiences and even today is easily susceptible and subjected to collective attack from other religions and rationalists alike.
India, without its temples and traditions would turn into a dark space of insensitive and irrational thoughts dictating modernity as the ultimate. Every temple is a space designed and built according to the ancient calculations and engineering that help conserve enormous amounts of energy. Divinity consecrated in deities is believed to have the power to transmit its essential positive effect on the devotee and the devotee in turn becomes a store house of a positive and creative vigor. Even for scientists, there is nothing wrong in following a personal spiritual practice and their holding onto some beliefs is quite a personal affair. Their inner realms of spiritual mind probably lead them to conclusions that their scientific mind might fail to comprehend. The entire exercise of space exploration is an act of human beings’ irresistible thirst to know about the unknown realms of the universe. Without the logic of science being applied on ground, the only way man can conceive the universal reality is with his mental faculty- probably his mind in its meditative mood can drive him across the cosmic immensity and help him imaginatively capture the gist of what the universe is all about.
Not only religious places but religious books also help people to rouse in them boundless hope and give them immunity from all negative emotions when momentous endeavors such as the Chandrayaan-3 take place. Albert Einstein’s ruminations on Bhagavad Gita take the holy text directly beyond the status of a mere religious book. The connection between the Gita, a religious text and science itself was eminently highlighted by him. “When I read the Bhagavad Gita, I ask myself how God created the universe. Everything else appears to be superfluous.” he says. It’s a great beginning for a man when he tries to apply his limited intellectual capability to fathom the unfathomable reality of the creation; his obeisance to a power that his limited intellect could encapsulate helps him garner courage and moral support. This could be achieved by reading a holy book like the Bhagavad Gita or visiting a temple such as Tirupati. It should actually be seen as a personal matter. Beyond calculations and engineering, Indians always believed in a divine intervention without which he always thought his invention and innovation would crumble like sand structures at the seashore. But that does not restrict the scientists to move beyond their intellectual boundaries. If that was the case, no scientific invention was ever possible in India. 

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