traditions (was Re: saattvika tyaagam)

Sankaran Jayanarayanan sjayana at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 19 13:55:24 CDT 1999

"Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM> wrote:


 > > If a person who is supposed to be part of the advaita tradition has
 > taken up
 > > studying modern physics, he is actually studying and practising the
 > works of
 > > another tradition -- in this case, one originating from Archimedes and
 > > Thales onto Newton and Einstein.
 > It would be a stretch to call Physics a tradition.

You really need to read the book by one of the most famous philosophers
(perhaps the most influential philopher) of science in the 20th century,
Thomas Kuhn, "The Essential tension : selected studies in scientific
tradition and change." The title says it all. Or you can try the book,
"Steps in the scientific tradition; readings in the history of science." By
Richard Westfall. Even the philosophers who are opponents of science like
Paul Feyerabend comment that "the scientific tradition is hardly worth a
yawn." I do agree that the term "scientific tradition" is used by me in the
sense of "European scientific tradition," though few philosophers see any
distinction. Hereafter, I shall use scientific tradition" in the sense of
"European scientific tradition" e.g. "The beginnings of Western science :
the European scientific tradition..." By David Lindberg.

Is the scientific tradition classifiable as astika? You had given, sometime
ago on the newsgroup soc.religion.hindu, a set of questions that need to be
answered in the affirmative for a tradition to pass the test as astika:

1. Are the Vedas and their various ancilliary shastras a valid source of
2. Is there a future life or lives?
3. Is there a supreme Being?

The scientific tradition answers a loud resounding "NO" to all of the above
questions. There is no way the scientific tradition can be considered
astika. Try publishing in a Western scientific journal emphasizing the
existence of God and you'll see the problem. Now, I haven't read much of the
Puranas, but I do believe that the Vishnu Purana says that that one is not
supposed to associate with a naastika. A king who did so was re-born as a

By publishing research papers, by conferencing with learned scientists and
making ACTIVE USE of them in one's profession, one takes immeasurable help
from the scientific tradition. One cannot, IMO, be a braaMhaNa proper
practising advaita/Vedic dharma and simultaneously accept a naastika
tradition's viewpoints in one's career. As a friend of mine said, "religious
people who claim that science has done precious little for them, while
continuing to use the results of science to further their careers, are
actually biting the hand that feeds them."

The dharma suutras prohibit a braaMhaNa from even taking up agriculture,
except under special conditions. The Vishnu Purana says that one of the
*duities* of a braaMhaNa is to give and receive alms. That being the case,
I'm not quite sure how many of us, who're indebted to the naastika
scientific tradition, owing our professions to that tradition, can be called

 > It is a set of
 > observable or inferable facts.  Thales or Newton can claim credit for
 > noticing those facts first, but their very nature as facts is due to them
 > being equally verifiable by you or I or anyone.

The point is that the laws of motion, the theory of gravitation, the
existence of protons, etc. were NOT inferred by you or me, but we have
borrowed such knowledge from the European scientific tradition. The truths
of advaita can also be verified by Jesus, or the zen masters, or the Sufi
saints, or for that matter, by anyone. Do we consider them to be a part of
the advaita tradition?

Modern physics is more than mere experimention and observation. Virtually
all physical theories have philosophical interpretations and consequences on
"reality" arising from them. e.g., some physicists do not assign
simultaneous realities to both the position and momentum of a particle, some
say reality consists of pilot waves, and so on on. These are judgments on
*reality*, though definition on what constitutes reality varies from
physicist to physicist (as most theories on modern physics do), unlike
advaita where everyone unanimously agrees that reality is one infinite
conscious being.


 > --
 > Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>


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