Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ethical commands need to change in response to time and space

Dr. Chitta R. Goswami
At this age of science, a little scientific attitude could go a long way to deliver the mind from being occupied by unexamined postulates gotten from second hand sources. Science encourages us to question everything; it shows us the process of arriving at a conclusion. Another great thing of scientific culture is that it never fails to admit mistakes; it is always ready to accept new discoveries. Knowledge is boundless, nobody can claim that one person or one tradition has exhausted all knowledge. Of course, scientific knowledge and method of inquiry may differ from the knowledge and method of inquiry of spiritual verities. For example, existence of God or the soul may not be established the way the existence of magnetism can be established. All the same, even where external proofs are not feasible and quantification is not applicable, reasoning can help to establish the validity of supernatural verities. Of course, things of other dimensions, even if established indirectly through reasoning, cannot satisfy us till these verities come to our experience directly. Here lies the difference in the method of pursuing two different types of knowledge. Still, we may not give up the scientific approach. Depth psychology is not truly a material science; it should not be tethered to the process followed by material sciences. That is why Biofeedback has been developed as a tool of measuring inner psychological changes. However, biofeedback may not be applied to all the phenomena of inner psychological states or processes; still the scientific approach should not be discouraged. How deep has been one’s state of meditation can be ascertained by checking his/her rate of heart beats, brain waves, body temperature etc. Similarly, it may not be easy to ascertain the depth of some one’s creative inspiration by the use of tools; the product of inspiration would be the measure of the inspiration. It may be more difficult to measure cosmic consciousness somebody might have entered into. Here again, we may have to be satisfied by indirect proofs.
Scientific attitude may help us in many other ways. If we take up the doctrines of different religions, we encounter many contrary statements. For example, Early Buddhists do not believe in a permanent soul, which survives our physical death. On the other hand, Hindus believe in a permanent soul, which takes individuals from birth to birth.How do you reconcile these two propositions? Mere intellectual belief in either of the propositions may make us behave differently; but the objective of both Buddhism and Hinduism is to have the experience the truth since through such experience of the other dimension of truth, one can be liberated from the limitations of knowledge and imperfections of life in general. Can both the statements be equally true? If you cannot reconcile the two, do you accept the Hindu statement just because you are born in a Hindu family? Scientific attitude prompts you to keep your mind open, not bound by a particular doctrine. If you have the urge to verify both the statements, you may have to experiment with the methods attached to either of the doctrines. Thus, it may be possible for you to come to reconciliation. Obviously, a vast majority of people does not have either the ability or the inclination to undertake such a job.These people are urged by the priestly class to stick to their hereditary belief system to avoid sin. This is how solidarity of a common faith is built; this is how antagonistic groups are formed, which at times may lead to communal riots or holy wars. Votaries of truth cannot accept this situation. They need to expose the irrational bigotry of religious enthusiasts.
Religion and the Spirit of Science
The spirit of science may go a long way to relieve human mind of the burden of carrying a load of unexamined dogmas.
Another difference between the scientific and the religious attitude is that science looks for new findings and it is always ready to correct or modify its position in the light of new findings. Religion, on the other hand, sticks to ancient books or beliefs even though these may sound opaque, antiquated and unsuitable for present time and mode of life.Religion tries many devices to validate its stance, sometimes by apologetics, sometimes by fabricating tortured interpretation of the tradition. The world has seen a superb example of this kind of falsehood in Taliban regime of Afghanistan. That regime did, among many other atrocious things, van music and enslave women.
It is depressing to note that the scientific spirit is spurned even in the most advanced country in science and technology. Feverish religionism is most manifest, among modernized countries, in the United States. Thousands of churches in this country are devoted to evangelicalism; they want to convert the rest of the world to their type of enthusiasm for Jesus without whom, they aver, there is no salvation.
Am I suggesting that America has to espouse Indian spirituality? By no means. All that I advocate is that at this age of Globalism, it is necessary to open oneself to different models of other cultures. I have made it clear that Indian spiritual tradition emphasizes the ideal of experiencing the truth by an expansion and deepening of one’s consciousness; whereas Semitic religions have given pivotal place to principles of ethics. I am not claiming that all Indians are striving for the realizing the highest truth. Everybody, not excluding the spiritual aspirants, has to follow certain ethical principles. The West has to realize that ethical commands, however hallowed, may need to change in response to time, space and other factors. posted by Dr. Chitta R. Goswami @ 10:56 AM