Two Banks : One Stream

 

 

By Acharya Chandanaji

 

Man has always been curious to know more about this infinite universe. His curiosity is the natural 'religion' of an active mind. It is the beginning of all progress, and the basis for development. It is curiosity alone that has made man more knowledgeable. It has given us the ability to soar like the birds in endless skies. It has shown us how to swim the gloomy depths of the ocean like fish. When countless stars shine in the night sky and meteorites shower the ground, the human mind instinctively asks, , What are these things? How were they created? Why do they change? What principle governs the suspension of the earth in space? What makes it rotate? Why do the sun and the moon shine and the stars twinkle? Why does death exist? What causes these changes? How do they happen?'

At any moment, thousands of questions pop up in the human mind. It searches constantly for answers to them. These things cannot just be put to one side as incomprehensible. By saying that they are unanswerable, like the Buddha did, does not make the problem go away. The mind will know no peace until these questions are answered.

Both religion and science have attempted to find answers to these mysteries. Science restricts itself to what is observable. It tries to penetrate nature's secrets. It gives us information about the subtle secrets of atoms and molecules. Yet however fine its scrutiny, there is a limit to its scope. As science proceeds by induction and the experimental method, it can never arrive at a final truth. Its judgements are based on probabilities and hypotheses. Religion deals with inner feelings, with the experiment of the soul. It tries to solve questions with a knowledge that lies outside the ken of the senses. The findings of the laboratory cannot match this. Science can observe planets billions of miles away, but it is not able to see into the soul. Religion concerns itself with what lies beyond the realm of the quantifiable or the objectively observable; it is concerned with inner states of being, whereas science is concerned with outward possibilities. Religion's truths are intuitive, founded upon a rigorous process of introspection, whereas science proceeds by conjecture and refutation based on observation. Religion bases itself on subjective experiences, science on objective utility. Science can give us progress; it cannot give us peace.

Science teaches analysis but cannot arrive at synthesis. Religion embodies synthesis, which is the process of bringing things together. It deals with subjective factors and all sorts of human experience. Discoveries made here cannot be broken down into their constituent parts. However, synthesis and analysis go hand in hand, that is why it is important that science and religion re­establish a dialogue.

To day's student refuses to hear any opposition to or criticism of scientific methods. Similarly the devout disciple cannot bear any criticism of his faith or religion. However, it is more important than ever that we understand both science and religion. Without science there is no objectivity in life, without religion there is no sweetness and understanding of human relationships. Science and religion both have their place.

History shows that science condemns religion as regressive and reactionary, while religion has returned the compliment by ridiculing science for being concerned only with base and trivial things. The result is that both have been distancing themselves from each other, and a kind of animosity prevails between the two. When great scientists like Newton in England, Galileo in Italy and Kepler in Poland established their revolutionary theories, they brought about an upheaval in the religious world. Their findings were completely rejected and they became 'personae non gratae'. Similarly reformers like Luther and Jung also met with scorn. This situation is now changing. Nowadays minds have been freed from slavish obedience to fixed beliefs and traditional observances. People have a much greater ability to discern what reality is. An urge to know the truth is science. It is also a genuine religion.

Whenever religion has gone against reality, it has degenerated into idolatry, obscurantism, blind faith and hypocrisy. People started saying that whoever is the most religious is sure to be the biggest hypocrite. By not using our intelligence and our judgment we turn our faces away from reality, allowing hypocrisy to flourish under the umbrella of religion. Religion is not only about incantations, rituals, gods and heavenly forces. We get into difficulty when we forget our own powers and place all our faith in such notions. That's when problems arise and hypocrisy flourishes. The true form of religion lies in worship, discrimination, empathy, faith, inner tranquility, truth, simplicity and mutual help. Man's hidden qualities and potential powers come to light when his inner virtues are developed. This is the domain of religion. No external power or ritual is required to bring it about.

Science itself has begun to accept that these forces exist. The beauty of science is that it tries to discover the truth but does not become pedantic about its answers. Science has changed thousands of its past beliefs because fresh observations bring new understanding. Until a few hundred years ago, scientists believed the earth was only a few thousand years old. Now they know it to be billions of years old. In this way science proceeds by research and experimental testing. It never proclaims anything as the final truth. When we become dogmatic or say that any research or discovery is indisputable, then we are being unscientific. The fact is that science is moving away from the physical world towards a view more compatible with spiritual science. It seems that physics is moving into metaphysics. Physics Professor Frit of Capra of California University, whose popular writings have done much to show the curious affinity between the world-view of quantum mechanics and that of the ancient philosophies of the East, has invited physicists to enter the arena of spiritual science. He says, "In penetrating nature's secrets we have so far only used logic and deduction. Changing circumstances make it necessary to try a new paradigm, the path of intuition. So far scientists have ignored intuition. The time has come for it to be restored to a place of honour."

It is this 'inner knowing' that Tirthankar Mahavir called parinna. It is discriminative intelligence, it is wisdom, it is religion. In discernment alone is religion found. Where it exists there is no prejudice. Along with the right way of seeing, there is love. Alongside creativity, there is compassion. Objectivity alone could make us greedy, contentious, lazy and self-centred. Religion teaches sacrifice, service, harmony and empathy. It puts objectivity in its correct context. In fact science and religion are complementary.

The great scientist Einstein was once asked, "Aren't you afraid of death?" He replied, "Nowadays, I am experiencing something surprising. I find myself becoming one with the universal consciousness. This 'oneness' is so deep that I forget my own separate existence altogether. It seems an entirely unimportant question to me, as to when one comes into or goes out of this world. To my way of thinking, these are just gross and subtle expressions of consciousness." In this way, we see that science is recognising the existence of an inner wisdom and gradually appreciating the constituents of chetna-satta­the realm reached by the minds of the sages, which is indeed the foundation of religion and spirituality.

The coming era may not see the opposition between religion and science that prevails today but instead may well witness their coming together. Science will do research; religion will guide science in its aims and applications. Then science will be more creative and work for the welfare of humankind. It will enhance life by bringing to the fore people's inner abilities.

Man has become unsympathetic and insensitive. His mind has become like a desert - lacking compassion, love and feelings for the greater things in life. That is why he needs religion and a spiritual dimension to his life. Religion waters the arid land and it brings cohesion. It helps people to live together in love and harmony. That is why I feel that religion should not just be associated with ancient observances. We must not imprison religion in traditions thousands of years old. We should make religion a way of life.

Religion is not a stagnant pond; it is a river that has been flowing forever. Water that flows, runs clean and fresh. Religion should have a flow to it that maintains its purity. Religion teaches us the art of living. To accept each other's very existence and individuality, and help and promote growth of each other, is religion, and this is the religion we need today. This is a religion that is truly scientific. I believe that when hypocrisy flourishes in the name of religion, and when religion becomes like a business, there is a selfish and egotistical mind working behind it. Religion shows itself in its divine form where men co-operate with each other, are able to sympathise with one another in their sorrow, appreciate and celebrate the success and joy of others. The teachings of religion need to be more scientific, and science needs to build its foundations on religion's eternal truth. We become connected with this form of religion when we receive proper spiritual guidance.

In order to uncover the past, we dig up the ground and sift through the mud. We penetrate the different layers and analyse the traces of chemical substances found there. We find out about the changes that have happened to the soil. When we come upon the ruins of buildings and the artifacts they contain and find inscriptions on stone, we scrutinise them to find out how long ago they were made and what class of people used them. By asking questions such as these we attempt to reconstruct the story of man's cultural evolution. Like archaeology, our art and literature also tell us the story of the ups and downs of man's thinking and creativity. Against the backdrop of the ages the drama of man's spiritual quest is played out. In the mirror of literature we study the images of the past. We read about the thoughts and experiences of those thinkers and seers who helped man's development by the example of their asceticism. We find out how they uncovered their potential for greatness. Their great thoughts and sayings are harmoniously intertwined in the history of our culture. The fruits of their labour are found in our literature. That is why we should study it. If we want to read the story of man's intellectual development and the emotional changes he undergoes, we can study it in books. The knowledge gained by these seers came through many hardships over a long period of time, but it is easily accessible to us in the form of literature. A little effort on our part enables us to understand the wisdom of the ages. All we need to do is to read our scriptures regularly and so establish a system of svadhyaya (introspective self-study) again.

I think religious education is very necessary today. Proper guidance in this field brings a breath of culture and refinement into people's lives. We talk a lot about faith, worship, rrieditation and religious observances, yet we forget what instilled that faith, inspired that worship, motivated that meditation and hallowed those observances in the first place. Philosophy, the study of the essence of things, did all this for us and now we shamefully neglect it. If we attempt to get to the truth without proper svadhyaya or introspective self­knowledge, it will be like trying to cure people without knowing the first thing about medicine. If an ignorant person tries to cure himself he will just get worse. With svadhyaya and self-improvement, we can learn how to heal ourselves. Svadhyaya is the only way to becoming your own guru. By absorbing the wisdom of the sages, our thinking becomes refined. That is why I would like to suggest that we follow the practice of svadhyaya regularly to enhance our knowledge and enrich our lives.

One does not gain knowledge by becoming a guru. To be a guru, one has to become a disciple first. Being a disciple means being curious and having a thirst for knowledge. It means that a sense of worthiness is beginning to grow within the person. Once one gains inner worthiness, then one is able to be a guru. Religious education increases our eligibility and fitness to do this. It enhances our capacity for gaining knowledge. What I want to say is, if you wish to follow both science and religion, you must practice svadhyaya. Self-study gives us vision, intelligence and a sense of responsibility. It inculcates true values in us. It awakens a limitless potential for the soul's growth. Through self-study, our minds are purified. They become healthier. Our faith becomes clear and strong. Pujya Gurudev Upadhyaya Shri Amar Muniji Maharaj says, "Svadhyaya is an elixir which turns ignorance into wisdom and gives wise men the capability of illuminating themselves and others as well."

 

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Source :  "The Jains Through Time"
Veerayatan's Silver Jubilee A Commemoration-An English Translation of' Samay Ki Parto Mein' published to celebrate the Twenty-sixth Centenary of the birth of Tirthankara Mahavira, English Translation by Sadhvi Shilapiji

Published By : Veerayatan U. K. The Wentworth, Pinewood Close, Oxhey Drive South
Northwood, Middlesex HA6 3ET

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