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By Professor Nawal Prinja (World Hindu Council)
1:50pm Thursday 22nd March 2012 in Thought for the week
I THOUGHT I would share my views on ‘Faith and Fact’ which I presented at the event held as part of ‘The Evolutionist’ a Darwin Extravaganza at the Manchester Museum. Hinduism links with science and those who are engaged in scientific research to understand the world we live in.
Hinduism views science as study of nature. Nature is seen as creation of God. Therefore, study of nature should lead to better understanding about God.
According to the Hindu philosophy, the path of science and the path of religious belief in God will ultimately merge. Hindu philosophy encourages inquisitiveness and research. In fact, many Hindu religious philosophers were also scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, physicists and medical surgeons. These people were known as ‘Rishis’ – the ‘seers’ who discovered and understood secrets of nature.
Take the example of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Hinduism believes that the nature is dictated by one universal set of eternal natural laws – they are called ‘Dharma’ in Sanskrit. All creation is subjected to them.
What Darwin discovered was an explanation about diversity of life. His theory explained that different species evolve through process of what he called ‘natural selection’. He was right, but he just could not explain why.
Evolution over generations was explained much later when scientists discovered the genetic code. In Hinduism we too believe that the environment has profound effect on one’s life not only just the present life but also on the generations to come. This is called ‘sanskars’. Through the law of ‘cause and effect’ also known as the ‘law of karma’ and the influence of the environment known as the ‘sanskars’ one can see how generations may change – new species may evolve.
We are often challenged when we say that Hindu ‘Rishis’ had laid foundations of modern science in India.
I am asked: “How was that possible?”
Then I give the example of Charles Darwin. For five years on HMS Beagle, the only things he had with him were his power of observation and his analytical mind. That was the process of discovery that Hindu tradition encourages and promotes.
Finally, having studied Hindu scriptures I found no conflict between Hindu philosophy and the modern scientific discoveries.