This book presents a unique vision for the New Millennium. It contains a collection of essays and thoughts on the synthesis of science and religion from some of the most prominent thinkers, eminent scholars, religious leaders and scientists of the world, including four Nobel Laureates. The book reflects some possible grounds of synthesis of science and religion. It includes papers presented at the main sessions of the Second World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion held in Calcutta in January 1997, as a centenary tribute to Srila Prabhupada who was one of the most prominent spiritual and cultural ambassadors of the 20th century India. In addition, the volume contains articles and messages contributed by many other luminaries of the world.
THE WONDERFUL THING about science and technology is that they bring immediate satisfaction. Unfortunately, we may easily fall into the trap of thinking that the keys to happiness are material well-being on the one hand and the power conferred by knowledge on the other. The fact is that knowledge alone cannot provide the happiness that springs from inner development.
When we rely too much on the external achievements of science, we pay less attention to the need for corresponding inner growth. Confusion arises about how best we are to conduct ourselves in life. In the past, religion and ethics were closely intertwined. Now, many people, believing that science has disproved religion, make the further assumption that morality itself must be a matter of individual preference. We are also apt to overlook science's clear limitations. In replacing religion as the final source of knowledge in popular estimation, science begins to look a bit like another religion itself.
Should we, therefore, abandon scientific inquiry on the grounds that it has failed us? Certainly not. Nor do I mean to suggest that the goal of prosperity for all is invalid. Because of our nature, physical experience plays a dominant role in our lives. The achievements of science and technology clearly reflect our desire to attain a better, more comfortable existence. This is very good. Who could fail to applaud, for example, the many advances of modern medicine? As with so many things, it is a question of balance.
I believe that in the foreseeable future religion will remain an influential force and an important factor. However, the essential qualities we need to cultivate are compassion and forgiveness. These are the qualities that form the basis of human survival. Religion actually strengthens and increases the positive aspects of our nature. Religion involves compassion, but compassion does not necessarily involve religion.
On the other hand, in relation to science, we should always adopt a view that accords with the facts. If, upon investigation, we find that there is reason and proof for a point, then we should accept it. However, a clear distinction should be made between what is not found by science and what is found to be non-existent by science. What science merely does not find is a completely different matter.
The human senses reach a certain level, but we cannot say that there is nothing beyond what we perceive with our five senses. Even what our own grandparents did not perceive with their five senses, we are finding nowadays with ours. Thus, there are also things that we can perceive with our five senses that we do not understand now, but that will be understood in the future.
An example is consciousness itself. Although sentient beings, including humans, have experienced consciousness for centuries, we still do not know what consciousness actually is, how it functions or what is its complete nature. Such things that have no form, no shape, and no colour are in a category of phenomena that cannot be understood in the way that external phenomena are understood. Therefore, particularly in the field of consciousness I believe that scientific research and development should work together with meditative research and development since both are concerned with similar objects. One proceeds through experiment with instruments, and the other, through inner experience and meditation. This is an excellent example of the potential of a synthesis of science and religion. The challenge we face is to find ways of enjoying the same degree of harmony
and tranquillity as people in more traditional, and perhaps more religious communities, while benefiting fully from the material developments of the world as we find it at the dawn of this new millennium.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION are, undoubtedly, the two most dominant forces that shape the course of humanity, both contributing considerably towards the progress and well-being of humankind. Unfortunately, the two components of the same human mind have been living in entirely different worlds during the past few centuries. This segregation is artificial and has resulted in many unfortunate developments including erosion of moral and ethical values of life in the face of overwhelming technological advancements, continuation of religious fanaticism, etc., causing significant setback in the exploration of truth and reality.
Amidst this atmosphere of indifference and occasional rivalry, many eminent thinkers including scientists as well as saints and theologians, have deeply pondered over the close connection between science and religion and the need for a synthesis of the two. Their reflections are certainly great assets to humanity's search for knowledge and meaning of life and the universe. One such remarkable personality is Srila Prabhupada (1896-1977), the founder of the "Bhaktivedanta Institute" and "The International Society for Krishna Consciousness". We consider Srila Prabhupada to be an unfailing inspiration for us and the fountainhead of the very concept of synthesis of science and religion. The present volumeis being brought out as his Birth Centenary Volume under the title "Thoughts on Synthesis of Science and Religion".
Srila Prabhupada belonged to a saintly tradition which upholds synthesis of truths revealed by various sources. It was thus natural for a saint of his stature to have a profound notion about the many facets of the synthesis of science and religion. He strongly felt that scientific knowledge would always remain deficient if scientists remained unmindful of the vital elements offered by religions of the world in their search for the deeper meaning of our existence.
Srila Prabhupada felt that a synthesis of science and religion would only be possible through the joint efforts and open discussions among the scientists, leaders of all religious traditions and thinkers of the world. He has left for posterity a strong message that life cannot originate from a combination of chemicals and he proclaimed, "Life COMCS from life" — a proclamation quite contrary to the presently accepted view of the majority of scientists of the world. He was hopeful that someday scientists across the world would try out this alternate paradigm scientifically and philosophically in their own way and understand its significance.
Based on this vision and direction of Srila Prabhupada and for promoting synthesis of science and religion in the service of humanity, three international conferences have so far been organized by the "Bhaktivedanta Institute". The first conference, called the "First World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion", was held in Bombay in January 1986, India. This conference was successful in bringing together prominent philosophers, theologians, scientists and scholars from all over the world for expressing their views on the synthesis of science and religion. The second conference, called the "First International Conference on the Study of Consciousness within Science", was held in San Francisco in 1990 , U.S.A. The third conference, entitled the "Second World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion", organized as a birth centenary tribute to Srila Prabhupada, was held in Calcutta in January 1997. This Congress was also successful in generating tremendous interest among scholars by bringing out some new thoughts on the synthesis of science and religion. Moreover, it highlighted the significant contributions of Srila Prabhupada on the very concept of synthesis. The present volume incorporates most of the papers presented at the "Second World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion" as well as some others received subsequently. We sincerely regret for not being able to include all of the articles that were presented at the congress. Despite many attempts we were unable to contact a few of the speakers.
The volume is intended to be an open forum. While preparing it every effort has been made to include contributions covering as many areas as possible. Nevertheless, certain major religions and important fields of science are not represented herein. We eagerly look forward to the inclusion of more comprehensive representations in the future.
The continental system of diacritical markings has been followed in the volume and articles in all its sections are presented throughout in an alphabetical order according to the titles of the authors. Section II, however, is an exception to this, articles therein being arranged in the order of their presentation at the inaugural session of the congress.
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