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Law of Love & The Mathematics of Spirituality
By Raju Sitaram Chidambaram
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Raju Sitaram Chidambaram
All right reserved.
Chapter OneVedanta, the Science of Spirituality
This book approaches spirituality using mathematical methods similar to those which one will find in science to explain the material world. The credibility of this approach can be questioned if spirituality is viewed as irrevocably wedded to religions which are faith based and not altogether scientific. Association of spirituality with religion is however a historical fact and raises many important questions about the true nature of spirituality: Is spirituality based on faith or can it, like science, be "evidence-based"? Should spirituality necessarily remain distinct from science or do the two have anything in common? Is spiritual progress possible only by the faithful performance of vaguely understood religious rituals or is there a more substantive, objective basis to it? Is its validity totally dependent on the legends and personalities sacred to religions? Do religions have exclusive ownership of spirituality or is it conceivable that science one day may also contribute to its advancement? Can the benefits of spirituality be actually experienced in this life by all who practice it, or, is the reward some unnamed heaven to be experienced by a chosen few after their death only?
In short, can spirituality be intelligently pursued, rationally understood and actually experienced here and now? Vedanta, the philosophical system on which much of this book is based, says "Yes". Spiritual and material realms are part of the one and the same creation. As such, logically speaking, science and spirituality cannot stand in opposition. We will explore in this chapter the mutual relationship between science, spirituality, and religion and show how each can contribute to the welfare of individuals and society without running afoul of one another. The present chapter will also serve as a brief introduction to Vedanta before we get into a more detailed discussion of this philosophy in the subsequent chapters.
Science vs. Religion
Much has been said and written about the constrained relationship between our scientific and religious institutions. Both are great, vital institutions that have served mankind well, though it is not difficult to find numerous instances where both have also been a source of suffering. Science has been generally a constructive force bringing with it many blessings to the modern man. But it has also been misused quite frequently as a destructive power. Similarly, there is no doubt that the great religions of the world have succeeded in providing peace and comfort to their faithful followers from the stress and strain of worldly life; but they have also been misused to incite intense animosities between groups of people resulting in much suffering. These are well documented facts of history.
Well documented too are the many instances where science and religion have clashed. No doubt, both science and religion seek to be on the side of truth. Confrontation occurs when what religion holds as true is not acceptable to science, or vice versa. The approach taken by science to seek and assert truth is quite different from that used by religions. Science accepts as truth only that which can be verified by any observer at anytime by appropriate objective observations. Consistent with this view, science generally preoccupies itself with questions that can be verified through human observation. Religions, on the other hand, deal with many questions which, by their very nature, are beyond the capability of direct observation. They rely on scriptural authority to assert their views on these questions. To the extent the issues of respective interest to science and religion are not overlapping, confrontation between the two can be avoided.
There is some overlap, however, and clashes do occur. For example, religions do have views on origin of the universe and the genesis of human beings which also happen to be areas of great interest to modern science. Here the traditional religious views tend to be at odds with the results of scientific observations. Similarly, some personal and social customs mandated by religions (dietary restrictions, for example) may be contraindicated by scientific principles. Religious dogmatism is often blamed by scientists for the continuation of the controversy in the face of what they consider as objective evidence. But science itself has been blamed as being dogmatic for its view that basic questions of concern to religion, such as God or life after death, are not worthy of discussion since anything we say regarding these cannot be verified by direct observation.
One may rightly despair whether this stand-off between Science and Religion can ever get resolved. A resolution is possible provided we have a right understanding of science and religion and of the mediating role of spirituality. Vedanta, this author believes, provides us with this necessary understanding.
What is Vedanta?
Vedanta is a highly developed system of philosophy that finds its first expressions in the scriptures of ancient India known as Upanisads. This philosophy has been further developed in other scriptures such as Bhagavad Gt and Brahma sutra and interpreted in the elaborate commentaries of generations of subsequent philosophers. Vedanta contains the highest truths in spirituality; many consider it as the science of spirituality because of the rigorous logic employed in analyzing and discriminating truth. It is a science also because of its emphasis on suggesting practical techniques for spiritual development whose promised goals can be personally experienced by the practitioners in their present life. This after all is what a good science is supposed to be-its theories logically sound and predictions personally verifiable.
It is no accident then that the teachings of Vedanta strike a responsive chord in the hearts of many who sincerely study it. For centuries, great philosophers and scientists around the world have found in it a source of profound wisdom and inspiration. At the same time the real life examples of modern day sages such as Sri Ramana, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Sri Ramakrishna demonstrate the glorious perfection to which any human being can aspire by practicing its teachings. When the German philosopher Schopenhauer exclaims "In the whole world there is no religion or philosophy so sublime and elevating as Vedanta ... this Vedanta has been the solace of my life; it will be the solace of my death" it has to be the result of understanding the logic of this science as well as personally experiencing its benefits. Erwin Schrödinger, whose mathematical formulations laid the foundations for Quantum Mechanics, found in the Vedantic identity of Brahman and Atman "the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world". Coming from a scientist with a keen understanding of the behavior of matter and energy in their most subtle form, this comment is indeed a powerful endorsement of Vedanta.
Vedantic View of Spirituality
The terms spirit and matter are widely used in Western philosophies. The two terms can be best understood by the "seer- seen distinction" central to Vedanta: spirit is concerned with the "seer" whereas matter is everything "seen". The seer itself cannot be seen, asserts Vedanta. The spiritual life of an individual is then something distinct from its worldly life. The worldly life of an individual consists of transactions at the physical level performed with the aid of its sense organs and organs of action, as well as reactions at the mental level, such as thoughts and emotions. The goal of these worldly transactions is to sustain own life, ensure survival of the species, and more generally to satisfy the emotional and physical needs through appropriate interaction with the world outside. The individual finds worldly happiness to the extent it can satisfy these needs.
The spiritual life of a jiva, on the other hand, has the primary goal of knowing the truth about own self, the world, and the Ultimate Reality (Brahman) underlying both the self and the world. It is not enough to know the truth, but one must live that truth by transforming one's life accordingly. Spiritual progress demands changing one's relationship to oneself, to the world around, and to God. The individual realizes peace to the extent it has correct knowledge, and lives established in that knowledge steadfastly.
The happiness in worldly life is obtained through finite actions which can produce only finite results. Therefore worldly happiness is never permanent or complete (i.e. never without some sort of limitation). In contrast, the peace sought after in spiritual life is obtained through knowledge, and not action, and is both total and permanent. It is in this sense that spiritual life is said to lead to Perfection, or salvation, from the limitations of worldly existence. Vedanta teaches the knowledge of own self, the world, and Brahman for our understanding at the intellectual level, and it also prescribes the various practical means by which to realize or live this knowledge so as to attain the promised peace. We need not dwell on this further here since the subsequent chapters of the book are meant to do just that.
Spirituality vs. Religion
Spirituality does not conflict with religion; on the other hand, as mentioned earlier, it is often considered inseparable from religion. This does not mean that the two are the same. For a religion to be effective, it must recognize certain core spiritual truths. This is because the spiritual nature and spiritual development are same in all human beings regardless of time, space, gender, race, nationality etc. Therefore, the various religions that have come into vogue at different epochs in different cultures, even though looking very different, necessarily incorporate many similar, if not identical, basic beliefs about spirituality. Thus, all major religions
1) Place emphasis on controlling the tumultuous mind and living a disciplined, virtuous life,
2) Believe in the existence of a higher power whose Will dictate the events of the world and experiences of the individuals,
3) Preach love and self-less service and require surrender of personal will to the higher Will,
4) Discount the importance of the perishable body in deference to the imperishable indwelling "soul" within each individual,
5) Hold that spiritual practices bring peace and happiness to daily life, and
6) Recognize the potential of all souls to reach Perfection, though some religions suggest that this potential is realized only by own believers.
But religions do not stop with just acknowledging and promoting these spiritual truths. They have found it necessary and useful to surround the core truths with several layers of additional theories and practices. The relevance of these additional layers is not universal since they are the product of the particular time, space, and culture in which they are created. As such they do not have the same absolute validity that the core spiritual truths do.
The anatomy of a religion can be visualized as rings surrounding the central core of spiritual truths (Fig 1.1)
The outmost ring consists of the institutions, the temples and churches, the clergy officiating in various positions, the social customs, dress and dietary habits, religious festivals etc. This is the external face the religion presents to the world. The next layer inside represents the various rituals and sacraments that the followers are expected to observe. Usually, this facet of a religion is not open to everyone, but only to its adherents. The third layer is perhaps the most significant of all. It includes the legends and mythologies associated with the various prophets, saints, and deities of the religion. The personalities, ideals and beliefs introduced in this layer often are the factors determining the character of the religion. The next inner layer immediately surrounding the core is Theology dealing with beliefs regarding God, origin of the world, soul, death, life after death etc. Typically, theology involves abstract concepts and theories which the average follower may not totally relate to, but is expected to accept on faith. Vedanta has been identified in Fig 1.1 with the central core because it is the core spiritual truths that are of primary concern to Vedanta. Paul Hourihan put it very effectively when he said "Vedanta is the essence of religion, the truth embedded in the heart of every religion. Vedanta is the Godhead that makes every religion Divine". This Vedanta, as taught in the Upaniads and lived by the Hindu sages, is remarkably simple, honest, and devoid of any worldly embellishments. It recognizes no institutions, no rituals, stipulates no personality other than own Self, as absolutely necessary for salvation.
As mentioned earlier, the outer layers that distinguish one religion from others are very much the product of the cultural milieu in which that religion was founded. But the spiritual truths at the core of every religion are invariant over time and space and have no cultural or historic connotations. In this respect they are similar to scientific truths which also must be invariant over time, space and culture.
Much of the difficulty science has with religions has to do with the theology, mythology, personalities and rituals found in the outer layers and less so with the core spiritual truths. We will soon return to discuss this important point at length later.
Religion vs. Religion
Conflict among religions is an unfortunate fact of history, a fact that has repeated itself far too many times. What is the source of this conflict? At some risk of over simplification, we may say it is just plain "competition".
Religions do subscribe to essentially the same core truths but frame them in the context of the theology, personalities, institutions, etc that set them apart from other competing religions. In this process, the universal nature of the core truths is often significantly de-emphasized. What is common and unifying is sacrificed in the interest of promoting the brand image of own religion. Some religions are more aggressive than others in pursuing this competitive path.
In this respect, religions may be likened to competing pharmaceutical companies packaging the same generic drug but using different formulations and delivery systems. The formulation can include several ingredients other than the key active agent. The method of delivering the 1 There are other spiritual traditions and philosophical systems around the world which are close to Vedanta. Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Sufism, Taoism, and drug could also differ: it could be administered orally, intra-muscularly, by a patch worn on the skin etc. The basic efficacy of the treatment depends, of course, on the pharmacology of the drug and not on its packaging. But when marketing their product, the companies would like to emphasize the benefits of their superior formulation. This is done in order to maximize their market share. No doubt each formulation and delivery method often has its individual advantages and disadvantages in terms of side effects, cost etc. A patient may therefore have a good reason to prefer one brand over others. But it is also true that no single formulation can be considered the best for all patients. A similar situation prevails in the religious scene. One religion does not answer the spiritual needs of all human beings. The true genius of Hinduism lies in recognizing this very important fact. Hinduism respects all religions as potentially equally efficient. But more importantly, it itself offers not one, but a wide range of options for its believers to choose from, all paths having the Vedantic wisdom as the basis.
There can be no denial of the comfort and support religion provides in one's day to day life. It is something to which many believers in every religion can bear testimony based on direct personal experience. Social scientists and psychologists also agree on the succor religion provides in facing the problems of life. The positive effect of religion and spirituality on health, and on ability to cope with life, has been documented in scientific studies in recent years. However, as far as this author knows, there has been no "head-to-head" unbiased, scientific study in the literature whose results could support a claim of uniform superior efficacy of any one religion over another. As long as the "key active ingredient" in all major religions is the same set of spiritual truths, such evidence is not likely to emerge from future studies either. The conclusion to be drawn here is that the scientifically demonstrable successes of religion are attributable to their common spiritual content and not to the differences in packaging.
Excerpted from Law of Love & The Mathematics of Spirituality by Raju Sitaram Chidambaram Copyright © 2011 by Raju Sitaram Chidambaram. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Vedanta, the Science of Spirituality....................1
Chapter 2: Basics of Vednta....................15
Chapter 3: The Prakrti-Isvara Paradigm....................45
Chapter 4: The Logic of Vedanta....................61
Part II: Mathematical Representation List of Mathematical Symbols....................77
Chapter 5: The Experiencer and the Experienced....................79
Chapter 6: Universal Love and the Fundamental Law of Spirituality....................115
Chapter 7: Sri Ramana's Principle of Personal Will....................145
Chapter 8: A Theory of Vasanas....................157
Chapter 9: The Mystery of Time....................201
Chapter 10: Riddles of Life....................219
Chapter 11: The Love That Cures All Ills....................235
Chapter 12: The Path Ahead- Research and Education in Spirituality....................247
Glossary of Sanskrit Terms (Alphabetically Listed)....................267