Nature of Reality

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Oct 10 14:13:08 CDT 2001

Much of what I wanted to say has already been set forth most articulately
by others in this thread so I'm just going to comment on a few brief items
from various people which I've gathered together into one post.

Shrinivas Gadkari wrote:

> Is this a problem ? In todays world yes.

Define "todays world"  From where I'm standing, this sounds like the kind
of issue my Fathers generation had to deal with.  It seems you are saying
there is some sort of culture clash going on.  In which case wouldn't such
disciplines as sociology, anthropology, history and economics provide more
insight than quantum physics?

A study of history especially is important to show much of what we
consider new and modern developments in thought have already been analysed
and dealt with a long time ago.

> Why should we assume that science and Vedas are non-overlapping.
> I tend to think that science should (in some sense) be a subset
> of vedic teachings.

True but then where is the conflict?

Vaidya Sundaram wrote:

> while there is no reason to suppose that all of science in also present
> in the vedas, it is also possible there are references to day to day (or
> vyavahaarika) science in it (the Vedas). There is I think, as Shrinivas
> says, a possibility of overlap between the two.

I once saw a persons .signature which said "All psychology is biology.
All biology is chemistry.  All chemistry is physics.  And all physics is
mathematics!" In other words there is 100% overlap between the fields of
science.  But just because reductionism is possible does it mean it is
necessary?  If a persons head hurts do you give them an aspirin or some
differential equations?  Would you not stop to admire a sunset just
because you knew the Sun doesn't really set?

The problem with the scientific explanations, is they miss the point of
why we study the shastras in the first place.  It is not for the sake of a
theory but a practical guide to what should be done or not done. This is a
much higher level of abstraction than science deals with.

nanda chandran wrote:

> One thing that modern Advaitins can think about is, ancient Indian
> philosophy, almost without exception had no clue about the existence of a
> brain - as a physical organ which can think.

True.  But for the purposes of philosophy, it is good enough to know there
is an "instrument of knowledge" just as we can meaningfully discuss
sensory perception without knowing the exact structure of the retina,
cochlea etc.

> It is very vital that such a reconciliation be made though. For better the
> understanding of our own physical/psychical faculties, the easier will the
> path become.

All knowledge is helpful and all ignorance is to be avoided but even 100%
perfect physical/psychical understanding is not necessarily enough.  The
central problem according to Advaita Vedanta is misapprehension and
scientific data is also capable of being misinterpreted.

Benjamin K. Badgley wrote:

> Science was it not first created to enhance and aide understanding of the
> written? Is it not then the written also?

This is the idea in Western thought of Science being the "handmaiden of
philosophy."  This makes sense in that environment because the belief
was the physical universe is of fixed dimensions with a finite point of
creation and destruction.  Thus the study of Gods' creation could give
an insight into the meaning of Gods' words.  I don't think we can
accept that based on our assumption that the universe is eternal and
constantly undergoing creation and destruction.  There are a wide variety
of questions science simply cannot answer.  E.g. "Should marriages be
performed during an adhika masa (leap month)?"  What does quantum physics
have to say about that?

Aniruddhan wrote:

> I was wondering whether the purpose of finding an overlap between science
> and vedas is for finding any historical information about the scientific
> knowledge of the vedic people, and if so how justified we would be to
> approach the vedas for this.

It depends on how we define "Vedic people."  The Rshis came from various
background but they were in no way a representaive cross-section of
society.  Without corroborating archaeological evidence we can only guess.
The Mimamsaka view is the Vedas do not deal with ephemeral objects at all.
If I have some time later, I'll post some of their discussion about this.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

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