Socialism, Secularism and Scientific Temper were the three main aspects of social life very dear to our first Prime Minister. While the first two have come under severe debate in the course of last 50 years of our democracy, the third one has indeed stood the test of time. Few would disagree that whatever India achieved in the post-independence era is mainly on account of this scientific temper he could rekindle in Indians. We are an ancient civilization which has gone over cycles of achievements and failures, but it is a fact that large sections of our society are still immersed in the darkness of superstitious beliefs and customs. It was highly commendable on the part of Jawaharlal Nehru to have emphasized and highlighted the importance of nurturing our Scientific Temper if we are to reclaim our status as the Light of Mankind.
While westerners defined and practiced Science as the systematic study about anything and everything, we in India had reached a distorted notion about it as some sort of an absolute knowledge. It was definitely not so in the very beginning but the wrong notion had crept in somewhere in our progress as a nation. Those who worked behind this distortion had the obvious intentions of monopolizing it because they knew that pursuit of knowledge leads to power. As a result of this skewed definition, while Science became a popular pursuit in the West, we started imposing restrictions on learning Science. The inclination and inspiration to study anything systematically will always result in new discoveries and inventions. And these new inventions will always lead to addition of wealth and development for the society. The fact that almost all inventions and discoveries came from the west in the last few centuries clearly shows the advantage in encouraging Science as a pursuit of knowledge rather than the knowledge itself. While the West flourished in terms of material achievements, it became miserable to survive in the East. Ancient India had made immense strides in Science and it had a society full of wealth & happiness. But subsequently it became a sad story of missed opportunities for millions of our scientific talent just because of the distorted definition.
One thing good about Science as a pursuit of knowledge is that it keeps our minds always open to truth. Science can never be absolute and static because it unravels the truth in stages. A true scientist should always be open to ideas and even the concept of God must be acceptable if logic & evidence are available. There is a popular but wrong notion that scientists must be atheists. This cannot be true because a true scientist should never shut his mind nor approach any subject with prejudice. We can see that Science and Religion are two parallel lines in our day to day lives but they do converge at the spiritual plane. All scientific pursuits will invariably lead to the philosophical realm at their highest levels. Those of us who cannot see beyond the mundane aspects of life fail to recognize the fact that Science and God are not always anathema to each other. Almost all the great scientists have been spiritual at the height of their success and almost all saints have been truly scientific in their approach. The fight is always been between the ordinary led by the half learned midgets on either side for their own selfish ends.
Religion is an integral part of Indian life and there is no way the two can be separated. Future of India as a modern progressive nation lies solely on how our Religions and Science can work together on a practical mundane level. The days of elaborate religious rituals, festivals and customs are over. All our long winding and elaborate rituals will have to give way to brief and quick ones. Most Indians turn to religious functions only during three occasions in their lives ' birth of a new one, marriage and death. At all other times, it is left to the interest and nature of the individual to pursue anything religious. This is especially true of the majority religion in India in which there is no institutionalized clergy to monitor the religious activities of the members. Barring a few irritants, the present version of Hinduism in India has been acknowledged as one of the most liberal and 'easy-to-follow' religions in the world. The world has rejected atheistic communism as a viable ideological alternative to a 'right' system based on liberal democratic religious values. What is required now is to strengthen it by popularizing a new way of life which combines the best of Religion and Science.
In India, we need concerted efforts to merge all the positive aspects of Hinduism with that of Science to reach a hybrid way of life and thought ' let me call it Scinduism. It should be easy to follow, logical in approach but built on the ancient wisdom and culture of our land. Scinduism must do away with the vertical hierarchy of castes and the complete plethora of superstitious beliefs. Our approach to matters like astrology, godmen and miracles must be with an open mind. Seeking the truth in anything must become a natural part of our lives. Healthy debates must be encouraged and people who ask questions must be listened to. Visiting places of worship to reiterate our subordination to a higher power and paying respects in one's own simple way must become an integral part of our lives. Even if there is no God, the practice will definitely help in conditioning our egos and mingling with others in our society. There should be strictures against accumulation of temple wealth beyond legitimate requirements and excess wealth must be used for providing basic necessities for the needy among the people who visit the temple. Many big temples provide free food but helping fewer people in a sustainable way will be a better option. Irrespective of caste, all those who can master the methods must be allowed to become priests in temples. Temples should become centers of excellence for arts and art forms. In short we need to encourage ourselves not only to learn & live with scientific temper but even pray to God with the same fervor.
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