Swami Vivekananda’s Vision of Science October 14, 2014

swami-vivekanand1Indians celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda this year, we need to look at his life, work, teachings and message from new angles.

It was his passion for knowledge, self-learning, self-enlightenment and exceptional ability to make friends and network that made him very popular. He was indeed India’s first spiritual scientist and scientific spiritualist. We can’t separate his vision of India from his vision of science.

Narendranath Datta’s life was transformed by Swami Ramakrishna in 1881 and India got a new spiritual leader-Swami Vivekananda- who caused a tectonic paradigm shift in the way people looked at parivrajakas or sanyasis. In July 1893, he landed in Chicago, USA. The Grand Unification Theory (GUT) was not in picture. Albert Einstein was 14 and had just started reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements. When Swami Vivekananda spoke at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, this is what he said about science: “Science is nothing but the finding of unity. As soon as science would reach perfect unity, it would stop from further progress, because it would reach the goal. Thus chemistry could not progress farther when it would discover one element out of which all other could be made. Physics would stop when it would be able to fulfill its services in discovering one energy of which all others are but manifestations. All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long run. Manifestation, and not creation, is the word of science today, and an Indian will only be glad that, what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language, and with further light from the latest conclusions of science.”

Swamiji had some kind of intellectual and philosophical influence over the western scientists he came across. According to Swami Nikhilananda – Nikola Tesla, the great scientist who specialised in the field of electricity, was much impressed to hear from the Swamiji his explanation of the Samkhya cosmogony and the theory of cycles given by the Indians. He was particularly struck by the resemblance between the Samkhya theory of matter and energy and that of modern physics.

Swamiji was also exploring a cohesion between Vedanta and modern scientific ideas. Late in the year l895 he wrote in a letter to an English friend, “Mr. Tesla thinks he can demonstrate mathematically that force and matter are reducible to potential energy. I am working a good deal now upon the cosmology and eschatology of the Vedanta. I clearly see their perfect union with modern science, and the elucidation of the one will be followed by that of the other.” The birth of Indian Institute of Science would not have been possible without a push from Swamiji.

He had accidentally met Sir Jamshedji Tata on a ship in 1893. They discussed Tata’s plan of bringing the steel industry to India. Tata wrote to Swamiji five years later: “I trust, you remember me as a fellow-traveler on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India.

I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read”.

Tata sought Swamiji’s endorsement and support for the new scientific research centre to serve India. It was given and today Indian Institute of Science has become a centre of excellence in the world thanks to Swamiji’s holistic vision and blessings.

Vivekananda died at the age of 39. In less than four decades, he achieved greatness and impacted millions not just in India but all over the world. That is why a western admirer had called him ‘young in years but eternal in wisdom’. His vision has become the mission of the workers of the National movements. Today, the flag, nay, the fiery torch he carried, has been taken up by millions of youth across the world.

Let his vision inspire our young scientists.


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