[Advaita-l] RE: Science and Brahman

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 3 15:38:09 CST 2005

latha vidyaranya <lathavidya at yahoo.co.in> wrote:

>     Namaste.
>   vedanta has a queer way of answering questions peratining to all 
>subjects: whether you ask "how does telephone work?" or "when did Akbar 
>rule India?" or "how pollination occurs?" or "which countries have very 
>poor economy?" or whatever be they.
>   The only answer it gives is "neti - na iti" - no such thing exists!
>   the questions about various subjects that we ask are as foolish as 
>seeking to ligicize the events of our dreams!
>   Hari Om

I beg to differ and would like to modify the above as follows.

If we ask, "How does a telephone work?" "does the fear gene uniquely 
determine fear?"

vedAnta answers, the working of a telephone and the working of genes are not 
the subject matter (vishaya) of vedAnta.

If you ask "does the existence of telephones (or fear genes) imply anything 
about Brahman/Atman?"

vedAnta says, "neti, neti".

In other words, the realms of knowledge are very different. Science (when 
done properly) does a great job of explaining vyavahAra much better than 
most other methods of dealing with vyavahAra. If we are interested in 
vedAnta, however, we need to step beyond vyavahAra at some point, or at 
least be prepared to reach up and try to catch a glimpse above vyavahAra. 
All of science is basically aparA vidyA, while vedAnta aims at parA vidyA. 
Lest I be misinterpreted as rubbishing science altogether, let me point out 
that the veda declares even the veda itself to be aparA vidyA.

In my opinion, those who question the validity of vedAntic truth on the 
basis of the latest scientific discovery are quite mistaken. Equally 
mistaken are those who think vedAnta can somehow be validated by the latest 
scientific discovery.

Take for example, the fear gene. Kartik brought out an excellent point that 
what was done with the mice was behavioral and that it can never be proven 
that the mice did not feel fear. It may certainly be possible, one day, to 
produce animals (including human beings) deficient in the fear gene. It is a 
mere matter of genetic technology. On the other hand, try to answer the 
following - will the production of mutant fearless (if only functionally so) 
human beings remove fear altogether? In other words, will the very concept 
of fear be eradicated in the entire universe? More pertinently to each human 
being, how does the existence of even one mutant fearless human somewhere in 
the world solve the problem of the fear that you yourself feel?

Clearly, whatever the scientific implications of a genetic basis for feeling 
fear may be, it has no positive or negative impact on vedAnta. The same 
holds true for other scientific facts/fictions, e.g. the happiness gene, the 
meditation zone in the brain, the electromagnetic field, androids, 
artificial intelligence, you name it. In fact, vedAnta (along with many 
other Indian systems of philosophy), pointed out long ago that there is a 
material basis for all supposed mental phenomena. Indeed, even the mind 
itself has a material basis, according to vedAnta. It is only if we forget 
this and only if we mistakenly internalize the Western concept of mind vs. 
matter, do we think that such scientific discoveries adversely impact 

I have yet to see a scientific discovery/invention that raises doubts about 
vedAntic truth or in any way provides external support for vedAnta. This 
does not mean that science is incapable of arriving at vedAnta, 
asymptotically. The quantum mechanical implications of non-locality in the 
universe do approach it. Rather, my above statement only means that vedAnta 
is not in need of external support from science/technology nor is it in 
danger of being invalidated by science.


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