Gandhiji on Science and Spirituality
A SEMINAR- CUM- PANEL DISCUSSION
Date:- 30th January 2003
Place:- Gandhi National Memorial, Agakhan Palace, Nagar Road, Pune –411006
Gandhiji’s views on spirituality and religion have great significance for our age. He considered modern Western civilization to be essentially an unspiritual civilization, and articulated an alternative to it, involving essentially retelling of the basic values of great seers of our ancient civilization in the context of present technological age. It was Gandhiji’s firm conviction that in the materialization of his vision lay the true freedom of India, and through India of the world at large. He firmly believed that the basic values of all great religions are essentially the same and true.
Contrary to the widely accepted view that spirituality belongs to the domain of mysticism, for Gandhiji it belongs essentially to the domain of ethics. Unlike for most modern intellectuals, for him “to lead a spiritual life”, and “to lead a religious life” essentially mean the same as to lead a selfless ethical life of love, and non-violence constitutes the essence of ethics; unlike for them, for him “to realize God”, “to realize Truth”, “to realize self”, “to realize liberation” essentially mean the same as to realize an enlightened perfect selfless ethical life of love. Unlike them, he explicitly accepts that spiritual knowledge as well as ethical knowledge is essentially some kind of empirical scientific knowledge. We can do experiment with Truth and non-violence and acquire first-hand scientific knowledge about the deeper aspects of selfless ethical life of love through leading an unselfish ethical life of love and making constant effort to grow spiritually higher and higher and trying to understand it rationally.
For Gandhiji, to acquire spiritual knowledge is not to acquire knowledge through some extraordinary perception about some mystical entity called soul or self, but to acquire knowledge with the help of reason based on one’s spiritual experiences about the distinction between the life of selfless ethical love and the life of selfishness, their true worth for human life and the means to spiritual perfection from the life of selfishness. It was his firm conviction that “the man who discovered for us the law of love was a far greater scientist than any of our modern scientists,” and the “the victories of physical science would be nothing against the victory of science of life, which is summed up in love which is the law of our being;” thus unlike them he would consider seers like Vyasa, Patanjali, Buddha, etc. to be great human scientists: they provide us a true comprehensive scientific theory of the distinction between spiritual and non-spiritual life and the means to transform a non-spiritual life in to an enlightened perfect spiritual life.
For Gandhiji Truth is the ultimate goal of life and non-violence is its means. Unlike for most modern intellectuals, for Gandhiji a liberated human life, i.e. an enlightened perfect religious life, is eternally the best form of life, and a scientific religious culture is eternally far superior to any form on non-religious culture; unlike them, he sees clearly that the peace and happiness which involves in a liberated life is not only ever lasting but also of the highest kind; unlike for them, for him leading a liberated human life necessarily involves leading a life of selfless ethical service to society to the best of one’s ability through some social division of work required for the general good and earning one’s livelihood through it. Any person through conscious effort can progress in the path of Truth from evil to good life, from selfish good life to unselfish good life, from unselfish good life to enlightened selfless good life and from it finally to Truth, i.e. to perfect enlightened selfless good life.
The first step we must take in the direction to have a scientific religious culture is to introduce critical study of ethics from the very beginning of our education: it was his firm conviction that “a child before it begins to write its alphabet and to gain worldly knowledge, should know what the soul is, what truth is, what love is, what powers are latent in the soul. It should be an essential of real education that a child should learn that, in the struggle of life, it can easily conquer hate by love, untruth by truth, violence by self-suffering.
” We must introduce critical ethics education from the very beginning of our educational curricula. We must study critically the views of great religions, and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning the form and content of good life and good society, their value and their means.