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ABOUT DR. T. D. SINGH
Dr. T. D. Singh (His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami) received his PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine in 1974. He was a scientist and a spiritualist known for his pioneering efforts in synthesizing science and religion for a deeper understanding of life and the universe. He has contributed papers in the Journal of American Chemical Society and the Journal of Organic Chemistry m the field of fast proton transfer kinetics in model biological systems using stopped flow technique and NMR spectroscopy. He also worked on gas phase reaction mechanisms using Ion Cyclotron Resonance spectroscopy.
Dr. Singh was trained in Vaishnava Vedanta studies from 1970 to 1977 under His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and was appointed by Srila Prabhupada as Director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute in 1974, which is a center to promote studies about the relationship between Science and Vedanta. Dr. Singh organized four International conferences on science and religion - First and Second World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion (1986 & 1997), First International Conference on the Study of Consciousness within Science (1990), and Second International Congress on Life and Its Origin (2004) in which thousands of prominent scientists and religious leaders including several Nobel Laureates participated. He has authored and edited several books including What is Matter and What is Life? (1977), Theobiology (1979), (Ed.) Synthesis of Science and Religion: Critical Essays and Dialogues (1987), Thoughts on Synthesis of Science and Religion (2001), Seven Nobel Laureates on Science and Spirituality (2004), Vedanta & Science series: Life and Origin of the Universe (2004), Life and Spiritual Evolution (2005), Essays on Science and Religion (2005), Science, Spirituality and the Nature of Reality (2005), Towards a Culture of Harmony and Peace (2005), God, Intelligent Design and Fine-Tuning (2005), God is a Person - Reflections of Two Nobel Laureates (2006) and Life, Matter and their interactions (2006). Also, He was the Editor-in-Chief of Savijnanam - Scientific Exploration for a Spiritual Paradigm (A Journal of the Bhaktivedanta Institute) and Tattvajijnasa - Scientific and Spiritual Quest for Ultimate Reality (A Journal of the Bhaktivedanta Institute).
Dr. Singh was also the President of Vedanta and Science Educational Research Foundation, Kolkata since its inception and a founding member of the United Religions Initiative (URI). He was also the President of URI's Manipur (North Eastern India) Cooperation Circle. As an educator, he had established a network of schools in North-Eastern India and supervised and guided over 4000 students at these different schools. He was an accomplished singer, instrumentalist and poet. He envisioned the University of Bhagavata Culture in Imphal, Manipur, India to promote the Universal Scientific and Philosophical relevance of the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Vedanta and other Vedic literatures within the framework of modern cultural and educational milieu for the welfare of humanity. He also established Ranganiketan, a cultural arts troupe in Manipur, India.Dr. Singh had lots of concern for the student community with regard to their holistic development. He felt our younger generations were exposed to the latest scientific and technological developments in various disciplines at numerous colleges and universities around the world, but somehow they lacked spiritual foundation. Hence, he felt the need to organize students' conference to educate them on the interface of Science and Spirituality for promoting an overall growth of their personality. Thus, with this great vision, Dr. Singh conceptualized the series on All India Students'Conference on Science and Spiritual Quest (AISSQ). The first conference in the series was personally organized by Dr. Singh at Vrindavan, UP (December 2005). Subsequently by the will of Providence, Dr. Singh left for the spiritual abode on 2 October 2006. He had made all the arrangements and had done the planning for the 2nd All India Students' Conference on Science and Spiritual Quest that was held in December 2006 in Puri, Orissa. Besides, during his physical presence, he had also planned the venue for the third conference in the series in Tirupati. Today, in his absence, his followers and well-wishers throughout the world are carrying out his grand vision for harmonizing the modern culture through the synthesis of science and spirituality.This volume and the 3rd All India Students' Conference on Science and Spiritual Quest, 22 - 23 December 2007, Tirupati, is a tribute to Dr. Singh on his 70th Birth Anniversary.
SCIENTIFIC AND SPIRITUAL QUEST FOR ULTIMATE REALITY*
Dr. T. D. Singh
Founder Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute
When one looks in night at the vast sky above, question arises in every thoughtful person - How this wonderful cosmic manifestation has come into being? What is the source of this marvelous arrangement of innumerable planets and galaxies? What is the underlying significance of this entire cosmic manifestation? The array of questions keep adding. How have I come here? What is the purpose of my existence? After all, what is the Ultimate Reality behind all this existence? What is the Absolute Truth?The nature of the human soul is to explore the underlying secrets of the visible as well as the invisible worlds, to investigate the unknown and finally to inquire about the nature of the Ultimate Reality or God. The mind, the senses and the intelligence are instruments in this dynamic and most worthwhile exercise. Scientific knowledge is born out of such inquiry. Religious knowledge or spiritual wisdom is also aimed at finding and realizing the same Ultimate Reality.Scientists, in their attempt to describe the Ultimate Reality, however, try to confine it to either a four dimensional quantum box or try to cloth it in some mathematical formula. Einstein spent the last thirty years of his life in search of the so-called 'unified field theory.' Similarly, in recent times many scientists, including Stephen Hawking, have attempted to find a 'theory of everything.However, such sincere efforts have not yet been successful. Hawking has recently expressed that it may never be possible. He says, "Up to now, most people have implicitly assumed that there is an ultimate theory, that we will eventually discover. Indeed, I myself have suggested we might find it quite soon. However, M-theory has made me wonder if this is true. Maybe it is not possible to formulate the theory of the universe in a finite number of statements. ... we and our models, are both part of the universe we are describing. Thus a physical theory is self referencing like in Godel's theorem. One might, therefore, expect it to be either inconsistent, or incomplete. The theories we have so far, are both inconsistent, and incomplete. . . . Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory, that can be formulated as a finite number of principles.
I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I'm now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end..."l The well-known quantum physicist, Werner Heisenberg also said, "it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth.According to Vedanta, the Absolute Truth or the Ultimate Reality is Brahman or God and the purpose of human life is to inquire about this Ultimate Reality, God. The above verse from Srimadbhagavatam delineates a precious guidance to humanity about the purpose and goal of life. It is similar to the very first aphorism of the Vedantasutra (V.S. 1.1.1) which also directs human beings to inquire about God: athato brahma jijnasa, "Now, therefore, one should inquire into the nature of Brahman, the Absolute Truth, or God."Inquiry, jijnasa, is the fundamental quality of life. Everyone inquires about something or the other. In the course of life, one experiences different phases like old age, disease and many kinds of sufferings. Therefore, we want to find out the solution to these problems. Every research work is a kind of inquiry. Srila Prabhupada, Founder of the Bhaktivedanta Institute says that unless, a person is awakened to the position of questioning his sufferings, he is not to be considered a perfect human being. Humanity begins when this sort of inquiry is awakened in one's mind. Therefore, inquiry forms the most important process of acquiring knowledge. We want to know about things that are beyond what we can see conventionally We invent electron microscope, telescope, etc., to satisfy our curiosity. But this is not enough. Our senses and extended senses are still very limited. Can a bird inquire about the meaning of its existence? Innocent and ordinary living beings like birds and animals inquire only of bodily needs. They inquire, 'where is water?, where is food?, where is shelter?', and so on. However, they do not have the capacity to inquire about the deeper purpose and meaning of life. But in the human form of life, one is endowed with the unique ability to inquire beyond these bodily needs. This is the special and unique qualification of the human form of life. When a child is growing up,he inquires from his parents about many things around him, such as 'What is this?', 'what is that?', etc. In this way, the child gathers knowledge from his parents. Since the conscious intelligence is fully developed, human beings can make different levels of inquiry including the deeper questions about life. The most important inquiry of human life should be to find out about the Absolute Truth, jivasya tattvajijnasa.
The ability to inquire about the ultimate truth of life makes the human being uniquely different from all other forms of life. New ion asked why the apple did fall. As an answer to this question, he discovered the law of gravitation, F = Gm1m2/d2, where F is the force of attraction between two bodies having masses m^ and m2, d is the distance between the two bodies and G is the gravitational constant.Thus Vedanta emphasizes that the primary subject matter of the human form of life is to inquire about the science of Absolute Truth, God.According to Vedic scientific views, there are 8.4 x 106 varieties of life (microorganisms, plants, aquatics, birds, reptiles, animals, humanoids and human beings) counted on the basis of different species having similar states or degrees of consciousness. According to the conscious evolutionary cosmic time scale, one gets the human form of life after passing through millions of varieties of life. Human life is most precious and there is no guarantee whether one will get another chance of human life or not in the next birth. It is the only opportunity in which one can get out of the cycle of birth and death in the material world by cutting completely the chain of karma. This is accomplished by the spiritual process ofbhakti yoga, sravanam (hearing), kirtanam (chanting), smaranam (remembering), etc., of the transcendental glories of the Supreme Lord. A serious person would not like to miss this golden opportunity.The Katha Upanishad (1.3.14) in a very strongly and carefully worded tone makes a clarion call to all human beings in the following sloka:
uttistha jagrataprapya varan nibodhata
ksurasya dhara nisita duratyaya
durgam pathas tat kavayo vadanti
Translation: Arise ! Awake ! Please try to understand the boon that you now have in this human form of life. The path of spiritual realization is very difficult; it is sharp like a razor's edge, difficult to tread and hard to cross, so say the learned sages.
'Who am I?', 'what is the Supreme Absolute Truth?', 'what is the origin of life?', 'what is existence?', 'what will be the fate of the human soul when the body dies?' are some of the basic questions that a human being can inquire.
Vedanta and the Ultimate Reality or God
According to Vedanta, there are three aspects of Absolute Truth or God. All these aspects form the foundation of Ultimate Reality. The ancient Vedic scripture known as Srimadbhagavatam or Bhagavata Purana, the most ripened fruit of the Vedic tree of knowledge describes these three aspects of God realization as follows:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yajjnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate
Translation: Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance Brahman (the attributeless Absolute), Paramatma (the indwelling Supersoul), or Bhagavan (the Supreme Lord Himself).Brahman or the impersonal aspect of God realization is achieved by the students of the Upanishads, the philosophical literatures of the Vedas. It is an incomplete realization of God. Similarly, many scientists such as Einstein could grasp the impersonal aspect of God to some degree by their own experience of scientific investigation. Einstein was greatly impressed by observing the order and beauty of the laws of nature, grandeur and the mystical aspects of the universe. He remarked, "I believe in mystery and, frankly, I sometimes face this mystery with great fear. In other words, I think there are many things in the universe that we cannot perceive or penetrate and that also we experience some of the most beautiful things in life in only a very primitive form. Only in relation to these mysteries do I consider myself to be a religious man. But I sense these things deeply... the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science... In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power which is revealed in the comprehensible universe forms my idea of God."4 Paramatma realization is achieved by the yogis. Paramatma is an indwelling partial expansion of the personality aspect of God, localized in all living entities primarily for guiding them in every aspect. It is the Paramatma from within that guides, inspires and gives creativity to the individual in scientific discoveries, musical composition and fine artistic works. However, according to Vedic scriptures, the Brahman and the Paramatma realization is a partial understanding of God.Realization of Bhagavan is the realization of the supreme personality aspect of God and this is realized by sincere devotees and servants of God. According to the Vedas, this is the highest aspect of God realization.
Thus all forms of human inquiry should be utilized in search for the Absolute Truth, God. The purpose of all sciences should be to inquire about the nature of God. A physicist can inquire: what is the real source of the laws of nature? A chemist can inquire: who is the Supreme Chemist behind all the wonderful molecules, DNA, chlorophyll, proteins, etc.? Vedanta explains that if we do research far enough, we will find that the ultimate source is God. As the famous mathematics genius Ramanujan said, "An equation for me has no meaning, unless it represents a thought of God."
When one realizes the Absolute Truth through such an inquiry, he will understand the actual basis of reality. And then, his duty is to glorify the Supreme Lord through the scientific understanding. This is the secret and the real platform of happiness. Presently, scientific inquiry without spiritual knowledge is one-sided. Thus, scientific knowledge, when expanded to include spiritual knowledge, will bring completeness into scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge in search of Absolute Truth, God becomes spiritual.Let me conclude with words of the nineteenth century genius Michael Faraday who introduced the idea of fields and echoes similar wisdom as of the above Sanskrit verse, "We ought to value the privilege of knowing God's truth far beyond anything we can have in this world.
Notes and References:
1.Lecture by Stephen Hawking on "Godel and the End of Physics" at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, March 8, 2003; adapted from http: //www. damtp. cam. ac. uk/ strtst/dirac/hawking
2.Heisenberg, W. Physics and Philosophy, 92 (NY, 1958).
3.Srila Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Srimadbhagavatam,
Canto 1, Chapter 2, Text 11, 102-103 (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Bombay,1992).