YOGA, SCIENCE, RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
We may begin with a preliminary elucidation of the three terms, science, religion and philosophy. Science may be defined as a quest of knowledge, which lays a special emphasis on detailed processes in order to arrive at utmost precision, and the distinguishing methods of this quest are those of impartial observation, experimentation by working on falsifiable hypothesis, verification in the light of crucial instances and establishment of conclusions which are repeatable and which are also modifiable in the light of advancing quest.
Religion may also be looked upon as quest of knowledge, but the object is to relate the human beings with something that lies beyond the realms of Matter, Life and Mind, and the distinguishing features of the methods are those of practice of beliefs, dogmas, rituals, ceremonies, prescribed acts and pursuits of social, ethical, and other institutional norms.
Philosophy is also a quest of knowledge, but it concentrates on the ultimate or intrinsic processes and substances so as to arrive at the most general and universal features of the universe as a whole and even of that that may transcend into what may be conceived as the original source of the Universe and Man. The distinguishing features of the methods of philosophy are those of: (i) impartial and critical questioning of beliefs (religious or otherwise), conclusions (scientific or otherwise),
and speculations among all of the fundamentals of enquiry; and (ii) application of logical vigour in relating all fundamental processes of the world and underlying assumptions of thought and knowledge in an attempt to arrive at the most indubitable universal and essential conclusions, which may, even though not be verifiable, may yet be found to be rationally incorrigible.
Philosophy is often described as "No Man's Land", since it falls outside the domain of science and religion - the two domains to which the entire humanity is related in one way or the other. Philosophy is something like science and something like religion, but it belongs to neither. It is like science a critical inquiry, an impartial inquiry, and an inquiry that follows the vigour of logic. It is unlike science, because its attempt is to scale the highest heights of the study of the ultimate substance. Its main concern is with essence, not so much with processes or demands of processes in their minute precision. Unlike science, philosophy is satisfied with mere intellectual incorrigibility, even when verification in experience is provided for in regard to its conclusions. As a result, philosophy can freely examine critically the contentions and conclusions of science and there could develop also an elaborate philosophy of science. Philosophical inquiry can even anticipate scientific discoveries; it can even provide guidelines or chalk out possible lines of inquiry for science. The conclusions of philosophy need not necessarily coincide with the conclusions of science; and yet the future developments of science may eventually come to substantiate the conclusions of philosophy. In the intermediate stages, therefore, there could be conflicts between philosophy and science, but since both are critical in their approach, these conflicts do not take serious proportions as has happened in regard to conflicts between science and religion. In recent times, however, science has influenced
the entire domain of knowledge to such an extent that certain tendencies of scientific thought have come to refuse the validity and justification of philosophy, or else, it has tended to provide only a subordinate role to philosophy and allowed it to exist only as a handmaid of science. But whatever be the temporary phases or relationship between science and philosophy, the best way to establish a harmonious relationship between the two would be to allow philosophy its own unique position, its own special methods, and respect its conclusions and even utilise them as helpful guidelines for pursuits of science. At the same time, philosophy should admit that although its own methods or Pure Reason may arrive at rationally incorrigible conclusions, it should accept with humility the truth behind the assertion that what is intellectually incorrigible need not be scientifically or even ultimately conclusive, particularly when its conclusions collide with higher levels of experience which lie beyond the level of Reason.
In India, there has been a tradition that philosophical conclusions, however convincing they be intellectually, must also be shown to be confirmed by the deliverance of spiritual experiences. Therefore, except for the materialistic school of Charvaka, all systems of Indian philosophy provide for a special room where philosophical conclusions are shown to be supported by spiritual experience either as they are obtained directly or as they are obtained through the records of Shruti. On account of this reason, as also on account of the fact that philosophy did not attempt to prescribe to science its own conclusions and respected the experiential and experimental character of science and its conclusions, there was hardly any conflict between science and philosophy. In the West, the conflict between science and philosophy has, in recent times, come into some kind of sharpness, and philosophy has
also come to be increasingly discredited. This is mainly because certain tendencies in pure philosophy came to be a battleground of conflicting philosophical positions, each claiming some kind of incorrigibility and yet not admitting that the quarrel could probably be settled by verification in experience. It may also be added that there have arisen trends in philosophy in recent times which are themselves anti-rational or anti-philosophical and which plead for the supremacy of science or for the supremacy of deeper claims of experience in existentialism or in the philosophy of Will as against Reason as illustrated in trends of pragmatism or in trends of the revolutionary trends for Action.
Philosophy, science and theology have some kind of relationship, which needs to be brought out. Theology is normally connected with a specific religion and it attempts to defend the basic doctrines of that religion in terms of rationality. Theology consists of speculations on all matters, which constitute the subject matter of philosophy. But its tendency is, even though critical, ultimately supportive of the doctrines of a particular religion. Theology tend to support and defend dogma and develops a theory of Reason and Revelation and advocates supremacy of Revelation, even though that revelation has assumed the form of unquestionable dogma. Philosophy, on the other hand, appeals to human reason, and even when it develops a theory of Reason and Revelation, and even of the superiority of revelation, it refuses the authority of dogma, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. If it accepts the superiority of Revelation to Reason, it accepts it only on the basis of repeatable experience, which would verify the contents of revelation.
Science aims at and provides definite knowledge; dogma which claims to be unquestionable and yet which claims
definite knowledge belongs to theology. Philosophy is a field of all the questions of deepest interest to speculative mind, which science cannot answer, or which science as yet within its present limits has not been able to answer. These questions relate to ontology and cosmology; but philosophy also raises the questions that relate to axiology and discusses the questions of purpose, goal and normative standards that should govern the quest of the summum bonum. Even the questions such as that of the distinction between knowledge and wisdom, for which no answer can be found in the laboratory, are dealt with by philosophy.
Science and philosophy have tended to oppose religion and theology, and this conflict arises from the sharpness with which theology or religion is defined as necessarily tied up with dogmatic belief. Historically, it is true that, in the West, science and religion have clashed with each other, and this clash rests on the claim that science is rational, empirical and progressive, while religion is supra-rational or anti-rational, dogmatic and conservative. It is also a fact that science and scientists came to be persecuted in the West, particularly at the commencement of Renaissance, by the Church. Even now, that conflict has not ceased, though scientists are no more persecuted by the authorities who uphold any dogmatic belief.
Evidently, science and religion must remain in perpetual conflict, if religion continues to uphold unquestionable dogma as the source of the knowledge of the truth and science continues to uphold that rationality and empiricism are the only sources of the knowledge of truth. This conflict is further complicated by the fact that although science provides definitive knowledge and science tells us what we can know, the disconcerting fact is that what we
can know is little and what we cannot know by science relates to many things of great importance. The modern trends in knowledge have confirmed that axiological questions which science can never attempt to investigate or answer are indispensable if the right direction of human journey is to be determined and guided on the ground of definitive and ascertainable knowledge. If science cannot answer these questions, humanity must turn irresistibly to that which claims to answer these questions or to discover new means of knowledge by which these questions can be answered.
Sometimes, a compromise is effected. It is contented that in matters of the empirical world, rationality and science must be resorted to, but in respect of axiological questions, religion must be resorted to, even though religion may be anti-rational or supra-rational or dogmatic. But this compromise has been found to be unsatisfactory because compromise seems to be opposed to the inexorable demands of the quest of knowledge. It has been contended that it is not good either to forget the questions that ontology and axiology ask, or to persuade ourselves with the religionists that we have found indubitable answers to them. In the same line of argument, it is, therefore, advocated that the best thing is to teach people how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralysed. But even this counsel does not eventually succeed. There is, therefore, a legitimate pressure to reexamine the interrelationship between science, philosophy and religion and to consider whether all of them can be refashioned in such a way that the conflict among them can be resolved.
Fortunately, there are new trends in all these new fields, which need to be welcomed. The world "religion" has come to be redefined in some quarters. A distinction is being
made between religion and religionism, where the latter connotes dogmatic assertion of a particular religion or religious creed and the former connotes the quintessential nature of religion that is common among all religions which emphasises living contact or experience of the individual in his or her encounter with the totality of the universe or that which lies beyond the universe. Swami Vivekananda, for example, constantly spoke of religion as experiential in character and contended that religion is a matter of experience, a matter of knowledge and a matter of verifiable and repeatable knowledge. He even expounded at length, systems of Yoga and declared that Yoga is veritably a science par excellence - a science relating to those domains, which modern science leaves out of its purview. Dr. Rabindranath Tagore also spoke of Religion of Man, which also seeks to underline the experiential aspect of religion. Religion of humanism is another aspect, which has developed in recent times, which wants to install man and his holistic search of knowledge and fulfilment as the central concern. Sri Aurobindo has spoken of spiritual religion of humanity as the hope of the future, a religion that is non-dogmatic, that is entirely removed from religionism and devoted to the Yogic pursuit of knowledge and action in their integrality.
There is also a powerful trend in recent times to bring about a resolution in the conflict among religions because this conflict hurts even those who want to follow religion but are placed in a sceptical mood when different religions give conflicting answers to the deepest questions regarding the meaning and value of life. Here, again, attempts are made to develop attitudes of equal respect to all religions or to discover common elements of all religions that present to humanity a path of axiological development, which might be free from the disabling conflicts among religions. As idealists many have tended to adopt
this trend; but exclusivism of religious beliefs is so strong that it is doubtful whether and on what lines religions can come together. And even if they come together, the question will be whether this unity or synthesis or harmony of religions will be reconcilable with science. The question is also gaining importance as to whether philosophy will be able to play any important role, and, if so, whether while playing this role, philosophical standpoints of today will need to undergo a major change.
It seems fortunate that in the present web of emerging trends in science, philosophy and religion, Yoga has emerged; for Yoga has specific characteristics which bring it closest to science, philosophy and religion and has yet the potentiality of going beyond all of them so as to provide to humanity a new mode of knowledge whereby world-knowledge, soul-knowledge and God-knowledge can all be integrated.
The methods of Yoga can be pursued without recourse to any dogma, and they require the same rigour as science insists, namely, observation, experimentation, and verification by repeatable experience. Yoga can be looked upon as the experiential basis for philosophical speculations and conclusions, and if rightly used, Yoga can be a bridge between philosophy and science.
But how far these tasks can be accomplished will depend upon one central issue. Modern science has so far tended to concentrate on the knowledge of Matter or on life and mind as embodied in Matter. It has also tended to develop those methods, which have proved successful in studies where empirical observation and measurement are feasible. It is evident that the domains with which philosophy, religion and Yoga deal with centrally transcend Matter or the boundaries of embodied life and mind; the
question is whether science would consent to extend its inquiry into these new domains, and if so, with what methods. The present scientific methods insist on empirical verification, measurement and objectivity; the question is whether science would consent to develop new methods where the domains of inquiry themselves are supra physical, which escape the boundaries of empiricism, measurability and physical objectivism. Indeed, it seems rational to admit that to insist on physical proofs of what is claimed to be supra-physical is illegitimate. But are there, it may be asked, appropriate methods of investigating the supra-physical which can give guarantee against subjective bias, subjective interference and lapse into incorrigible erroneous beliefs? Yoga claims that it has developed methods, which can deal with the supra-physical as rigorously and as objectively as modern science deals with physical phenomena. Yoga claims that its methods can deal both with the physical and supra-physical, and, if needed and encouraged it could develop an integral science of both the physical and supra-physical and their interrelationship.
This is where we stand today in regard to the issues that are confronting the contemporary scientists, philosophers and advocates of religions and Yoga. In the spirit of inquiry, all the emerging trends need to be taken into account, and one could repeat the fundamental spirit of science which is to explore knowledge and to reject all the dogmas, even though some dogmas might have come to be built in the minds of scientists in regard to science itself.