There is a general feeling that religion and science are two very different—even opposite—things. This notion is not true; in fact, they may go hand-in-hand to help and improve the life of mankind. In pursuit of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, ancient sages of India made many heroic efforts. Several offshoots of these explorations resulted in the establishment of different fields of secular sciences, which have remained bonded with religion over the millennia.
The ancient Hindu scriptures of the Vedas clearly indicated this trend. Each major Veda has a secondary Veda, which deals with science or another subject of humanity. Rig Veda has the Upaveda ‘ayurveda’, which deals with the sciences of medicine and health. Yajurveda has the Upaveda ‘dhanuveda’, which deals with archery and the military. Samaveda has the Upaveda ‘gandharvaveda’, which deals with music. And Atharveda has the Upaveda ‘sthapathyaveda’, which deals with astronomy, astrology, engineering, and mathematics.
Within these Upavedas is perhaps the beginning of many scientific theories. It is believed that Hindu mathematics was one of the earliest and most advanced sciences. The concept of zero and the decimal system were both discovered in India first and later passed on to the world through Arab conquerors. Ramanujan’s name was associated with the concept of infinity. Aryabhatta, who lived from 476 to 520, was considered to be the first Hindu mathematician known to the world. His treatise on pure mathematics and the eclipse system is hailed in the world of science, even today, with great respect.74
Science in the ancient Hindu system had the full support of the religious authorities. Modern science, on the other hand, had a severe clash and resistance from the Catholic Church. Hinduism like other religions too had to suffer the onslaught. It was finally left to the heroic efforts of great minds like Swami Vivekananda and others, who presented a true picture of Hinduism before the world and restored its lost glory to a considerable extent. There was renewed interest in the ancient teachings of the Vedanta and other Hindu philosophies. Soon, recognition came from many unexpected quarters; among them, the great scientist Albert Einstein and an equally giant literary figure Bertrand Russell. Their interest in Hindu philosophies paved the way for discovering many scientific truths hidden in the Hindu ancient scriptures.
Science undoubtedly plays a vital role in our lives. It is the mind of the man that steers science and directs it toward many achievements. Religion, on the other hand, steers the mind and transforms it toward spiritual realization. Einstein aptly described the synergistic union between the two: “Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.”
It was to the credit and genius of the Hindu mind that it discovered the phenomenon of eternity. In the Rig Veda, there is clear mention of Earth coming from the sun. The Vedas recognized the sun as the primary source of all energy. In the Yajur Veda, it is stated that the sun moves about its own axis, and the earth rotates around the sun, while the moon rotates around the earth.75 The Rig Veda also explains that the earth is held by the sun’s attraction. The position of nine celestial bodies, Navgraha, mentioned in the Vedas is in line with modern astronomy. Hindu sages also described in detail the phenomenon of acceleration (ksanika), momentum (vega), and vibration (spandana). Modern science has nearly accepted all these accounts and recognized the worthiness of the ancient Hindu Rishis, who worked through their superior, spiritual minds without any of the modern technologies. Hindu philosophy also believes that if the mind becomes absolutely pure, it may have powers that are beyond the domain of the secular sciences. The extraordinary feats of many yogis have been verified and acclaimed by experts.
The ancient Hindu Rishis also presented the concept of manifestation and dissolution, and this too is now widely accepted by modern science. These sages of yore gave the world the first terminology for this phenomenon in Sanskrit: sankocha and vikasha. Sankocha means “shrinking,” and vikasha means “expanding.” Coincidentally, modern cosmologists have hailed this concept.76
Since its conception, the Hindu religion has enjoyed great harmony and agreement with “Science”. In fact, spiritual pursuits often went hand-in-hand with secular interests. The fall out after the excessive struggle between Religion and Science in Christianity did not spare Hinduism either. Even so in Hindu society, the two are not totally antagonist now, nor of course is there any direct and deep association. The two seem to be quite independent of each other.
The world has now shown much interest in India’s ancient philosophies. A number of studies have pointed attention to subjects like Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda, and Astronomy etc. to show how these disciplines have stood the critical test of modern science very ably.