THE SCIENTIFIC NATURE OF VEDANTA
While the westerner who did not know branded Indians as a nation of primitive and uncivilized people, the more enlightened ones among them started investigations into what subsequently came to be known as “Indology”, the study of the history of the culture and civilization of this ancient race of people. As a result of this, more and more startling things have come to light and today they stand in wonder and amazement at the remarkable achievements and discoveries recorded by the forefathers of the people who they once considered primitive and uncivilized.
It is obvious that both the scientist and the philosopher are in quest for the truth. While the field of the scientist is the objective world around him, the philosopher had selected for his field of investigation the subjective world inside him.
Generations of wise men in India, just like others else where in later times first started analyzing the objects of the senses, the outer world, to gain more and more knowledge about Nature and her laws and did make great discoveries which changed the course of their lives.
This knowledge was handed down to posterity augmented by fresh acquisitions of every succeeding generation, until some of them, sometime, somewhere, began to realize that the scientific field could not give them lasting peace and happiness which in their wisdom was the only thing worth striving for.
The mysteries of life or the ultimate aim of life itself will not unfold itself if we go further away from life itself which was exactly what the scientists were doing.
To get at the truth, life itself had to be analyzed and that could be done only by looking inward into life itself and knowing man’s real nature.
The result is the profound philosophy of Vedanta to which more and more men and women from all parts of the world are flocking today for light, solace and fulfillment. So in India, philosophy is not a hobby or an escape, but an intense search for truth after having found from experience that mundane achievements only complicate our lives and take us further from our real God.
In fact, the Rishis of yore in India did not make any distinction between science being on the one side and religion and philosophy on the other. The sciences are the Upa-vedas and the Vedangas, and the philosophies are the Veda-upangas, all culminating in the Vedanta- the end of the Vedas.
The common man’s conception about Sanskrit literature is that it is only full of stories about gods and goddesses, their lives, intrigues and jealousies, poetry, religious rituals and hymns, mythology, some advice about conduct in society and a narration on the effect of punya and papa ( meritorious actions and sins) in our life herein after.
It is only the precious few who know that our ancient sages and scholars had covered a vast range of sciences like algebra, trigonometry, geometry, astronomy, calculus, neurology, chemistry, medicine, economics, music, architecture and even sexology.
When we take a glimpse into the antiquity of Indian civilization- which is Vedic civilization- we find that there are historical as well as ethnological grounds to suspect the fact that the ancient Egyptians were originally migrants from India.
Colonel Olcott, the eminent Egyptologist and Indologist says “We have a right more than suspect that India, 8000 years ago sent a colony of emigrants who carried their arts and high civilization into what is known to us as Egypt.”
Modern research scholars are of that opinion that the first treatise containing astronomical data “Vedic Jyothisha” was complied on or about 1350 B.C.E. whereas we find a lot of precious astronomical information and data in the Rig Veda which has now been accepted to be much anterior to that date.
A comparison of sidereal and synodic periods of the different planets as derived from “Surya Siddhanta” on one hand and as derived by modern scientific methods on the other reveals that in most cases they reconcile upto the second or third decimal places.
Scholars like Sylvan Bailley and Dupuis say that Hindu zodiac is the earliest known to man and that the first calendar was made in India in about 12,000 B.C.E ( refer to Bailley’s Historie d’Astronomie Ancienne p. 483 as well as the proceedings of the society of Biblical archeology- December 1901- part 1)
Emmeline M. Plunket in the great work “Ancient Calendars and Constellations” –page 152 says that there were very advanced Hindu astronomers in 6000 B.C.E.
Modern scientists have discovered that there are innumerable galaxies in the universe, some of them hundreds of time brighter than our own. Those who wonder at this information are invited to take a look into our ancient books Yoga Vasishta and Atharvana Maha Narayanopanishad wherein they will find that these things are described with special reference even to the arrangement of galaxies in the cosmic space.
According to Hindu concept of time, on Mahayuga (Kruta, Treta, Dwapara and Kaliyuga put together) is 12,000 times 360 or 4,320,000 years.
People used to believe that this was the result of the imagination of our ancestors running wild. But eminent modern astronomers have now started realizing the basis on which the Hindus of old had fixed these periods. It has now been found out that the duration of Mahayuga namely 4,320,000 years has been based on a particular motion of the earth. It has to be remembered that the earth has different motions, for example:
The daily rotation at over 1,000 miles per hour in 24 hours
The annual revolution at about 66,000 miles per hour in 365.246 days around the sun and;
The motion consequent to the gravitational pull of the giant star Hercules at about 12 miles per second.
As well as the time taken by all the planets to come in a vertical line of mean conjunction with the first degree of Aries since they last occupied similar positions in the same vertical line of mean conjunction at a place 76 degrees east long of Greenwich as they had the basis for the calculation that all the planets occupied the same position at the commencement of each Mahayuga.
Therefore this period was fixed by arriving aver of the number of days taken by each planet to make one complete revolution around the zodiac as well as the motion of the earth referred above, which could be seen to be 4,320,000 years approximately. This fourth motion of the earth has been discovered to be a slow rotation in addition to the rotation causing the days and the nights, completed once in 31,850 years around an axis the poles of the daily rotation (Refer to Maj. Eln. A.W. Drayson FRAS in “Experiences of a Woolwich Professor-1884).
The effects of sunspots on electro-magnetic waves are the resultant disturbances that go to prove that the Hindus were absolutely correct in their astro-physics at about 3,000 B.C.E. if not earlier (refer to Wallis Budge- “Students Ancient History” pg. 189, 360-366).
The Mahabharata mentions that the Vedas contain an account of the dimensions of the earth, sun, moon, planets, certain stars, and constellations and the duration of the four yugas based on systematic astronomical calculations. Heat, liquid, electricity, magnetism, ether and sound are clearly defined (refer to Max Mueller: “The Sacred Books of the East- Volume I).
Our ancestors had discovered that planetary rays affect metals and gems. Quite a number of westerners and even our own Hindus used to dismiss this as Hindu superstition until Mrs. Kolisko in 1936 showed by lantern slides the effect of solar eclipse on gold, silver, and other metals. Needless to say, scientists and astronomers changed their opinions about the scientific knowledge of our forefathers.
Today western astronomers say that the middle stare of the tail of the Great Bear (Sapta Rishis) is a double or a binary Garga and Varaha Mihira had said that Vasishta is always attended by a Sukshmatara (Telescopic star) and Arundhati his spouse. Garga records that during the reign of Yudhishtira, the Sapta Rishis were in the constellations of Magha (Regulus). These clearly show that the Hindus knew of the stellar secrets a few thousand of years before Galileo.
Dirghatamas, one of the great savants of the times, devoted a period of about 50 years of his life to study the movements of the earth, the sun, and the moon and to him goes the credit of having discovered that a year of twelve months of thirty days each leaves a gap of twenty one days in four years. Bhaskaracharya, the celebrated Hindu astronomer and mathematician who is said to have lived around 1,100 A.D. had gone deep into the subject as would be clear from a reference to his famous work “Siddhanta Siromani”.
In the fields of arthimetic, algebra geometry and trigonometry, great names like Apastamba, Aryabhata, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta, Sreedhana and Padmarabha stand out in all glory. Medhatidhi was the first to extend the numerals to billions. Numerals are of Indian origin and the idea of the numerals is said to have basically come from the Vedas.
It is seen that the fact that the square on the hypotenuse of the right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides, was known in India, long before the birth of Pythagoras to whom that theorem is now attributed ( Refer to Aryabhatiya and Sulba Sutras).
In ancient Hindu mathematical treatises, we come across equivalents for debtor, creditor, simple, simultaneous and quadratic equations. “In the whole history of mathematics, there has been no more revolutionary step than the one which the Hindus made when they invented the sign “0” for the empty column of the counting frame.” (Refer to Lancelot Hogben: “Mathematics for the Millions page 47)
The advancement the Hindus had made in medical science has been marvelous. The Hindus call it “Ayurveda”, meaning “the science of life” or “the science of longevity”. When we speak of Ayurveda we pay out silent tribute to three great names: Charaka, Susruta, and Vakbhata. Vakbhatacharya was also a great bacteriologist in addition as would be clear from his definition of a bacteria- “Sookshmat Watcheke Bhavanti Adrusya Keetah.” The Samhitas of the Vedas mention ailments affecting the eyes and the ears, heart, lungs, head and stomach.
Medicinal use of herbs, minerals, and certain animal products were well known. Different types of germs and worms that cause or spread disease are mentioned in the Artharva Veda. Expert diagnosis by simply feeling the pulse of the patient was very common thing among Ayurvedic physicians of those days. It is seem that Charaka and Susruta had perfected 115 different types of surgical instruments and had conducted 13 different type of major operations. It is seen that what we call today “plastic surgery” was well known in those days, especially in military hospitals.
The most remarkable thing mentioned about them is that they developed a method by which in complicated cases of labour pains, they could extract the child from the mother’s womb without touching either the mother or the child with their hands or with any instrument.
Modern science is beginning to realize that caesarian or forceps delivery is not without 115 deleterious effects on the mother and the child respectively.
Sage Bharadivaja in 700 B.C.E. presided over the first “medicinal plants symposium” in the world, and that an account of this symposium is available in the Charaka Samhita.
The science of alchemy, the philosopher’s stone which is supposed to have the property of converting the baser metals into gold had all along remained an elusive substance to the Egyptians and the Italian alchemists who had worked at it for generations. There are Hindu Bhairages living in India even today who easily do this with the help of some herbs. Likewise science always said that mercury is a liquid metal at normal temperature whereas in India there are a set of people among the Hindus who keep mercury on solid state at normal temperature and claim certain talismanic properties for the same. This knowledge unfortunately is kept as a closely guarded secret by those who possess it. They say it is not their ‘Dharma’ to commercialize that knowledge. The purpose here is only to show that this knowledge has existed in India since long among the Hindus.
Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria (A.D. 20-168) said that the earth was stationary and that the heavenly bodies moved around it. Every body’s worship fully believed this until Nicholas Coppernicus (A.D. 1473-1543) came on to the scene, overturned the geocentric theory and replaced it with his Helio-centric theory, the sun in the centre.
About a thousand years before the birth of Coppernicus, there lived a man in India called Aryabhatta (Born 476 A.D. at Pataliputra) the celebrated Indian astronomer and mathematician who is his work “Aryabhatiya” has described the position of earth in the galaxy, the cause of eclipse, quadratic equations, sine and cosine and various rules in algebra and trigonometry.
Sir Issac Newton (1624-1727 A.D.) and his laws of motion and gravitation are well known. But a very few, even our own people have heard the great name of our Bhaskaracharya (1114 A.D.) who lived about 500 years before the birth of Newton. His word “Siddhanta Siromani” describes the mutual attraction among bodies of cosmic space which enables them to maintain their respective positions.
The credit for having discovered the link between cause and effect goes to the sage Kanaada, the propounder of the ‘Vaiseshika Darsana’. And what is scientific study, if it is not the search for a cause or a number of causes leading to a particular phenomenon?