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Science and Spirituality
HL Dhar
 

Abstract
When it comes to understanding the cosmos, science and spirituality are describing two complimentary aspects of reality - one the nature of the material world we observe around us, the other the nature of mind observing the world. When we consider how these understandings can be applied to the betterment of humanity, we see that science and spirituality are again complimentary. To create a truly sustainable world, we need both the knowledge of science integrated with the wisdom of spirituality.

However, spirituality cannot be measured in scientific parameter which is mechanistic. Spirituality is non mechanistic and such methodology is not known. Attempts to measure spirituality in mechanistic paradigm resulted in reductionism.

 

Introduction
Science is what we can see, observe and prove whereas spirituality we can only feel. Science is about manifestation of outside world, spirituality is the reality felt within, the inner mind observing the world outside.

Spirituality is a belief system that imparts vitality to life's event. It is the courage to look within to achieve ones full potential. It is the qualitative dimension of quantitative aspect of life.

However, science and spirituality have never made easy bed fellows. Their views on the nature of things often seem to clash. And the more our scientific understanding of the world has grown the deeper that clash appears to have become.

Spirituality and Religion
Spirituality is the God related science of developing or freeing the God made inner- most being - the core of all of us "made to the image of God". But true spirituality is free of any church or religion - God has no religion - God is Holy spirit. Although, spirituality may include various forms of religiousness, it is a unique, personally meaningful experience.

However, science is generally resistant to the idea that in human being there could be soul above and beyond the body or some entity besides the body and its structures, an entity which survives the death of the body, for the fundamental reason that scientists cannot conceive of any memory or personality traits existing without the support of the brain or the body.

God in the brain
The western science believes that the real world is that of space, time and matter and all phenomena are reducible to events in that world. It seeks to account for transcendental experience neither as a union with some supernatural deity or as a reflection of the mind's essential nature, but in terms of brain function.
Some recent research which has aroused quite a debate in this area was the investigated changes in the brains of advanced Tibetan Buddhist mediators. When the subjects reported that their everyday sense of self was beginning to dissolve, the researchers took a brain scan. By observing the flow of blood through the brain, they were able to identify changes in brain activity. They found that as the sense of a separate self dissolved activity in the parietal lobe, an area towards the top of the brain, decreased. This is precisely the area that neuropsychologists believe is responsible for the distinction between self and other,1 suggesting that spiritual experiences can now be explained in terms of brain function.

Till recently it has been demonstrated that practice of Saral Meditation make the individual function in the Alpha wave of brain and that one can attain spiritual level, brain functioning at Theta wave and attain superconsciousness.2

Buddhism has probably gone the farthest in charting the mind. Buddhism has no concept of God; it is an atheistic religion - they believe that peace, ease, joy and compassion come from knowing the essential nature of mind. They are inherent qualities of pure awareness - an awareness that is unsullied by the agitation of everyday thoughts and concerns. However, Buddha's thought has scientific background. With his strongly concentrated mind he penetrated deeply into his own nature and found that the entire material structure is composed of minute subatomic particles, which are continuously arising and vanishing. Thousands of years hence American scientific (Noble laureate in Physics) found that in one second a subatomic particles arises and vanishes 1022 times.3

Science and Deep Mind
Science may not have explored deep mind, but others have. They are mystics, ascetics shamans and spiritual adapts of every culture. These people have used practices such as meditation to develop beneath the surface level of mind. They have observed the arising and passing of thoughts and they have looked beyond, to the source of their experience, to the essence of their own consciousness.

Countless people throughout history have entered the laboratory of the mind and performed such inner experiments. These "inner scientists" have published the results of their investigations in spiritual and mystical texts - The Upanishads, The Tao-Ching. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, The Cloud of Unknowing. Their conclusions show a remarkable consistency across culture and time, suggesting that his subjective approach does indeed lead to reliable knowledge about the nature of mind.

Earlier, scientists did no believe in consciousness. Their focus was exclusively on the physical aspects. Today, new physics is probing consciousness as the phenomenon that exists. For, the matter-space-time matrix of the physical universe owes its existence to consciousness.

Meditation and Spirituality
Origin of meditation dates back to 3500 - 2500 BC in Greece followed by India (2700-1500 BC). Meditation was first described in Yoga in the book of wisdom, the Veda about 4000 years ago and presented by Patanjali in an abridged form 2500 years ago. But, meditation found a modern and more disciplined expression in Vipassana meditation of Lord Buddha (500BC).3 However, first comprehensive scientific evidence of its beneficial effects came from his holiness Mahesh Yogi who profounded Transcendental Meditation with Mantra.4 Very recently Saral Meditation based on Transcendental Meditation, but without mantra has been shown to have similar effects.5-7

A special type of meditation called Kundalini Yoga which begins at the inferior hypogastric plexus, then proceeds upwards to the superior hypogastric plexus, cardiac plexus, cervical plexus, the hypothalamic region and ends at the cerebral cortex, has been described.8 By this process, a better voluntary control is gradually obtained over involuntary functioning of organs and tissues, By reducing the visceral activities supplied by the autonomic nerves, the activity of the psychic centre of the brain can be promoted and enhanced. According to Gopi Krishna who gave his personal experience of Kundalini Yoga in great detail, there is a remarkable improvement in psychic activity with a feeling of enlightenment in every sphere of activity.9,10 Meditation is a process by which mind is elevated from gross level to finer aspect arousing self consciousness and to attain super consciousness and individual practising meditation are considered spiritual. In other words meditation is the foundation to be spiritual and practised by all religious faiths.
The practice of Christian Meditation dates back to the beginning of Christianity, its objective is to daily empty the self to experience the fullness of God. Zen meditation practised by Japanese, believe - we cannot receive God's love and it cannot grow in us unless there is some space. When we meditate, we are creating space within us, space that God can fill. Other meditations commonly practised are Suffism as in the Middle-East and Autogenic training as in the west.11 Till recently Lama Gangchen has described 5 limitless meditation - immeasurable love, compassion, joy, equanimity and peace practised for world peace.12 However, Bahai upholds the divine origin of world religion. He restores to a scientific age belief in the divine, while revealing the indescribable unity of religion and science. His message they believe to be form the one creator who gave the 10 commandments, the Christian Gospel, The Koran, who spoke through Krishna, Zoroaster, the Buddha and others to guide humanity to carry forward an ever advancing civilization. He believed in one God, one country (earth) and human kind its citizen.13

Religion, Atheism and Divinity
The world religion is derived from Latin word leligare that means "to connect". The word Yoga is derived from the word Jui that also means the same. So spirituality is all about getting connected to God. Yoga is now a universally sought out medium and spirituality as a subject has become part of the curriculum of leading B-schools in the US and Yoga helps transformation of person to higher awareness level. The true purpose of religion is to elevate our souls so as to bring us close to God as well as sanctity of the world. In order to achieve this goal we must maintain a high level of spirituality.

Although almost all religions believe in God, Jainism and Buddhism do not believe in the existence of God. Their well structured logic is atheistic. Traditionally, atheism is a system of views rejecting faith in the spirits, Gods, life beyond death, etc. Jains consider the arguments about the existence of God as being fallacious. The universe has no beginning, so the question of a creator has no logical basis.

Every one of us is a reservoir of positive energy. Divinity is not somewhere there. So each one of us show strive for perfection and parity of consciousness. In Greek philosophy, Heraclitus, Demectrius, Epicurus and Thales are considered to be staunch atheistic thinkers.14

Buddha's argument was that if God is all prevading why is there so much evil all around? Like Charvaka (an organisation profounder of atheism), the Buddha also rejected the concept of soul but he did argue in favour of a continuity through life and successive lives. Atheism strengthens the divine in man and generates an inexplicable joy. Whoever denies God asserts his own divinity.

Science, God and Spirituality
Modern science having explored deep into the realms of space, time and matter often appear to have done away with God. Modern scientists believe, man has created God out of his own needs and ignorance. Out of ignorance came fear, out of fear came God. Things he could not understand was put to God and a gap was created called "God of the gaps" - the God that was needed to explain the gaps in human knowledge. Over the centuries, science has filled these gaps.1

Before Newton, people believed God moves the Sun and the Moon through heavens. Before Darwin it was believed that God created many species of life, now we account for them in terms of genetic evolution. Steadily, mercilessly, science has filled the gaps.

According to Darwin all species including man evolved from a single cell protozoa, however, he was silent who imbibed life in it. Science has created many wonders, but discovery is followed by many queries to be answered thus creating gaps for itself.

It is now becoming obvious that the material approach has not achieved all that people hoped. It is evident that absolute truth is beyond human reach. We can at best make a guess and draw our own conclusion and these are bound to be far away from truth.

Very recently, it has been suggested that left hemisphere of the temporal cortex is responsible for one's awareness of self. When activity in this cortex gets out of sync as happens in seizure, the left hemisphere perceives the right hemisphere as a "sensed presence" separate from itself, which could be interpreted as God.15

Scientific methods and Spirituality
Anything we observe in the outside world is called a phenomenon, disciplined observation of which is called methodology or scientific method. All scientific discoveries has to be measured through scientific methodology. There has been tremendous progress in scientific technology which is mechanistic.

How our body works, how it functions is partly mechanistic, however, we measure them in mechanistic scale - result is only partial success e.g. medical field particularly, Psychiatry. We try to explain all mental disorders in terms of imbalance in neuro-chemicals and treat them without knowing exactly which neuro-chemical has been altered. Only about 40% of all mental disorders can be cured, in others there might be relapse or even exacerbation.

Spirituality is non-mechanistic. Mechanistic technology has developed to such an extent that today we can even destroy the whole world. But no attempts have been made to develop human skill (human paradigm) to measure spirituality. On the other hand, we tried to measure it in terms of scientific methodology - result was reductionism : today it has come to such a state that it has practically atrophied and in 21st century we do not even know what spirituality means, whether it means anything at all.

References

  1. Deep mind - beyond science, behind spirit. Essay competition for resurgence competition on science and spirituality and published in Resurgence. Oct 2003.
  2. Dhar HL. Mechanism of Saral Meditation without mantra that improves all round quality life. BHJ 2004; 46 (3) : 291-4.
  3. Goenka SN, William Hart. The art of living, Vipassana meditation. Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri, Maharashtra, India 1998;
    32-3.
  4. Scientific research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation - a review. Maharishi International University Press, Fairfield USA 1993.
  5. Shah AH, Joshi SV, Mehrotra PP, Naina Potdar, Dhar HL. Effect of Saral Meditation on intelligence, performance and cardiopulmonary function. Ind J Med Sc 2001; 55 (11) : 604-8.
  6. Dhar HL. Meditation, health, intelligence and performance. Medicine Update APICON 2002; 1376-79.
  7. Shah AH, Joshi SV, Mehrotra PP, Naina Potdar, Dhar HL. Effect of Saral meditation - comprehensive study of short and long term practice. BHJ 2003; 45 (4) : 586-9.
  8. Udupa KN. Yoga and meditation for mental health. The traditional medicine and health care coverage, WHO Geneva 1983; 14 : 134-41.
  9. Gopi Krishna. The awakening of Kundalini New York, Dutton, 1975.
  10. Gopi Krishna. Kundalini - the biological basis of religion and genius. New Delhi, Kundalini Research and Publication Trust1978
  11. Dhar HL. Meditation and Health. BHJ 1997; 39 (4) : 738-41.
  12. Tys Lama Gangchen. Training Buddhist self healing medicine, Buddha Centre. Jalan IPOH, Kaulalampur, Malaysia 1995.
  13. Merchant AK. Festival of paradise, the Bahai Ridvan in the speaking tree. The Times of India, 21st April, 2004.
  14. Vajpayi Kailash. Atheism is a truly divine science in the speaking tree. The Times of India, 29th May 2004.
  15. Bagga Chirdeep, Chakrwarti Samiran, Times insight group. Peace of Mind : Cerebral clues to spiritual bliss. Times of India Sept 27, 2004; p 9.

PREVENTING HIV INFECTION

Provision of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), were the only feasible way to control the spread of HIV infection. Antiretroviral treatment is now cheaper, thanks to initiatives from the pharmaceutical industry and generic manufacture, and its wider availability encourages more people to seek HIV testing.

Male circumcision has also been studied widely as a possible preventive measure. A recent prospective randomised trial of early circumcision compared with delayed circumcision among more than 3000 uncircumcised young men was stopped prematurely because of the considerable benefit of early circumcision.

The possibility of chemoprophylaxis before exposure to HIV has caused both interest and marked controversy. Research on monkeys has shown that the antiretroviral drug tenofovir, given up to 48 hours before and after intravenous exposure to HIV, prevents infection.

Rachael Jones, Brian Gazzard, Yasmin Halima, BMJ, 2005; 1285-86.

 
Director, Medical Research Center, Bombay Hospital Trust, Mumbai 400 020.
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