Religion and Science
I am neither a scholar of theology nor of any other branch of Science. I believe in Truth and truthful living as far as possible in this world full of selfishness from which I do not excuse myself too. I can, however, claim to have experienced some proportionate benefits of truthful living despite my fallibility some of which I am aware of and the rest may be not. None but a person who has understood truth and is living by it can define it and express its benefits, as Gurbani says :-
ਸਚੁ ਤਾ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਰਿਦੇ ਸਚਾ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਕੂੜ ਕੀ ਮਲੁ ਉਤਰੈ ਤਨੁ ਕਰੇ ਹਛਾ ਧੋਇ ॥
ਸਚੁ ਤਾ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਸਚੁ ਧਰੇ ਪਿਆਰੁ॥…
ਸਚੁ ਤਾ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੀਉ॥ …
ਸਚੁ ਤਾ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਸਿਖ ਸਚੀ ਲਇ॥ …
ਸਚੁ ਤਾ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਆਤਮ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ॥ …
ਸਚੁ ਸਭਨਾ ਹੋਇ ਦਾਰੂ ਪਾਪ ਕਢੈ ਧੋਇ॥
ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵਖਾਣੈ ਬੇਨਤੀ ਜਿਨ ਸਚ ਪਲੈ ਹੋਇ} (468)
There may be scientists claiming to work in their labs for knowing Truth but so far none of them has proved his capability for the job in the sense mentioned by Guru Nanak in his above quoted Sabad. I have never read about a scientist defining or expressing the means to know it. Most of us try to define Truth in our own way. Believing both in Science and Gurbani as per their relevant relationship, I can claim some knowledge to observe human behaviour which helps me to some extent to understand how much a person be able to lead truthful life. This write up is based on this knowledge and experience.
Knowledge which a human being is required to possess and make use of in his life time consists of two categories. One category belongs to the spiritual realm which helps him to develop good thought process leading to the understanding of the purpose of his birth and utility of human relationship and brotherhood to achieve which Guru Nanak, millennia after human evolution, said for the first time 550 years ago, ‘ਮਨ ਤੁ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣ॥ ’(441) Earlier there was no concept of the relationship between mn and joiq which were supposed by the religious leaders of yore to be present in statues of different gods and goddesses, who were supposed to be residing at places inaccessible to large number of their ignorant devotees, especially the poor. The other category consists of knowledge pertaining to mundane matters, of sustenance of the body which had no bearing on spiritual progress. When humans use material knowledge within the parameters of spiritual knowledge, both make an excellent combination for leading a healthy, happy and satisfied life. Material knowledge was confined to their requirements of food, water or air etc. and about how to escape from the onslaught of predators. Like other animals, man then was absolutely ignorant of the spiritual knowledge and of the object of his life. But before they could attain such knowledge and could be in a position to take benefit of it, discovery of fire by which they learnt not only to prepare/preserve food but also to protect it from others equally eager to possess it. It also vitiated human habit of preservation and protection, leading to greed and private ownership which divided the society into various sections of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, rulers and the ruled, landlords and serfs, which divisions in addition to caste discriminations introduced later on in India, still exist to the detriment of the social welfare and human rights in spite of the tall claims of the ruling classes. Tactfully posing to be spending huge amounts of money to end all sorts of discriminations, they deceive the masses about equality and create a false aura of satisfaction among them.
In time, humanists appeared, thinking of obliterating selfishness rampant all around in one form or another. Till today, however, it is not much different from the primitive animal behaviour. Rather it has become more so, as in their urge to store for future needs, they never feel satisfied with their ample acquisitions, as compared to the animals who never bother to claim any proprietary right on any thing. How beautiful is the Urdu couplet addressed to man, ‘ਜਾਇਗਾ ਜਬ ਜਹਾਂ ਸੇ ਕੁਛ ਭੀ ਨਾ ਸਾਥ ਹੋਗਾ, ਦੋ ਗਜ਼ ਕਫਨ ਕਾ ਟੁਕੜਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਲਿਬਾਸ ਹੋਗਾ। ’ Thinking about future needs is no doubt a good habit but when it turns into greed and under its influence man tramples on the rights of others, forgetting the benefits of brotherhood, it becomes condemnable.
'ਮਨੁ ਮੇਰਾ ਦਇਆਲ ਸੇਤੀ ਥਿਰੁ ਨ ਰਹੈ॥
ਲੋਭੀ ਕਪਟੀ ਪਾਪੀ ਪਾਖੰਡੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਅਧਿਕ ਲਗੈ॥ ’ (359)
The humanists due to their intuition and qualities were capable of understanding that the Creator-Power provided such factors to humans for their development. They utilized their understanding and knowledge to create a more humane and civilized society in which there would be no exploitation of the less privileged classes. ‘ਅਵਲਿ ਅਲਹੁ ਨੂਰ ਉਪਾਇਆ, ਕੁਦਰਤ ਕੇ ਸਭ ਬੰਦੇ ॥ ਏਕ ਨੂਰ ਤੇ ਸਭ ਜਗ ਉਪਜਿਆ ਕਉਨ ਭਲੇ ਕੋ ਮੰਦੇ॥ ’(1349) All have equal right to live with honour like others. Bhagat Kabir challenged those few who aired their superiority, when he tauntingly asked them ‘ਜੋ ਤੂੰ ਬਰਾਹਮਣੁ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣੀ ਜਾਇਆ॥ ਤਉ ਆਨ ਬਾਟ ਕਾਹੇ ਨਹੀ ਆਇਆ॥’ (324)
Primary object of the enlightened souls was, at that time, to enable men to use natural resources to inculcate in them a sense of brotherhood, love for each other and feeling of satisfaction with their possessions and avoid indulging in practices which went against those objectives. Thoughts about the creation of such an atmosphere continued to develop as time passed. There is no recorded data as to when such thought occurred for the first time but it is understood that depending upon the requirements of different regions of the world, such thoughts were expressed in different areas about more than six or seven millenniums before the birth of Christ.
To bring about discipline amongst individuals and communities, their wise/religious leaders mooted the idea of some supernatural powers controlling the lives of the commune members and also responsible for other events, reasons for the happenings of which they were yet unable to explain. To escape the wrath of these powers, their worship started in different ways in different communities. The object behind all such efforts was to create a congenial atmosphere for the development of human race on right lines, i.e., being helpful to each other with love and without any greed or self-aggrandizement. Since there came up many forms of such powers in different parts of the world, their worship also differed from individual to individual and community to community.
These efforts obviously did not serve the purpose of human evolution to the desired extent as due to belief in different Powers and mode of their worship these could not remove the points of differences not only in intra-community deliberations but in the inter-community dialogue, each claiming that their Power and its mode of worship was superior to others. On such issues they picked up quarrels with each other to establish their hegemony of thought over others. The early human history is full of wars fought between different communities and faiths to establish their superiority.
Western people were materially more advanced than the eastern societies who were proud of their better spiritual and ethical moorings acquired from personalities like Shri Ram Chander, Shri Krishan, Mahatma Buddh and Mahavir who put forth valuable spiritual thoughts as per their perceptions. Based on his study, Guru Nanak Sahib also propounded in the 15th century, a spiritual thought which proved to be more helpful and practical than the earlier ones for establishing human brotherhood. Instead of many powers responsible for divisions, he described the all-powerful Power controlling the Universe as ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮਰੂਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ॥ ’ and everyone appeared as part and parcel of that ‘<>’ with none beyond Him, ‘ਸਭੇ ਸਾਝੀਵਾਲ ਸਦਾਇਨਿ ਤੂੰ ਕਿਸੈ ਨ ਦਿਸਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਜੀਉ॥’ (97)
With Sikh sidhant starts the era of understanding the real Power which created this Universe with a view to establish human brotherhood and unity on this earth planet with happiness on everybody’s face- goal of human evolution as explained in sabad ‘ਆਪੀਨੈ ਆਪਿ ਸਾਜਿਓ ਆਪੀਨੈ ਰਚਿਓ ਨਾਓ ॥ ਦੁਯੀ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਸਾਜੀਐ ਕਰਿ ਆਸਣੁ ਡਿਠੋ ਚਾਓ ॥’ (463) which means ‘God created the Universe and He enjoys it as His own manifestation.’ Describing this Power through ‘<> ’Guru Nanak Sahib brought about a sea change in the understanding of the real purport of that Power interested in evolving mutual love through human life which helped the followers of his faith to prove its utility in creating the required self confidence in the masses that led to the demolition of the well entrenched tyrannical rule of Mughal-Hindu aristocracy combine. The life and death struggle of the Sikhs culminated in their take over of the Red Fort in Delhi in 1783 and establishing their sovereignty till 1849 in north-west India, when they were out-smarted by the British with the help of traitors.
In their fierce fight back to oust the British forces and in resisting the colonial rule thereafter to role its bed and leave India as it found it difficult to face the resistance of the Sikh community which was restless and feeling vanquished because of its defeat in 1849 at their hands. The Sikhs had, therefore, put their weight behind the so called Indian Independence Movement. Earlier than that, they had liberally participated in Kama Gata Maru revolt and, later on, organised the Indian National Army headed by General Mohan Singh, Gurbax Singh Dhillon and Shahnawaz Khan.
Let us now have a peep in the pre-Guru Nanak period both in the Indian Subcontinent and Europe when religion was preached to be the premise, more of the masses than the well-to-do people, whose lone concern was dirty politics devoid of religious morality which could facilitate achievements of their material comforts. They were roasting the roost with ‘fate’ laden doses of religion to keep the masses content about their plight in the hope of better days for which they were told to pin their hopes on life after death. The European countries were far behind in spiritual matters than the Eastern countries.
Agriculture and allied professions being the main stay of different communities, civilizations took roots mostly around rivers where because of large expanding tracts of fertile land large populations settled for agricultural purposes. Industrial revolution of the eighteenth century in Europe which was already in tight grip of materialism and individualism, brought about the most far-reaching influential transformation of human culture since the advent of agriculture eight or ten thousand years ago. It changed human labour, consumption, family structure, social structure and even the soul and thought of the individual. Economy was overwhelmingly agrarian, land being owned largely by wealthy aristocratic landowners as in India who leased the land to tenant farmers who paid for the land in real goods that they grew or produced. Most non-agricultural goods were produced by individual families that specialized in one set of skills like wagon-wheel manufacturing, shoe making and cloth weaving etc. With the Industrial revolution, most capitalist activity focused on the growing manufacturing industry. In the absence of spread of intrinsic knowledge of Sikh religion which was based on dignity of labour and brotherhood of man under Guru Gobind Singh, it developed into a struggle between the capitalist bourgeois, represented by caste Hindu hill chiefs assisted by the imperialist Mughal government on one hand against the proletariat. Prior to that period, because of Guru Nanak’s teachings, the Sikhs had already started scripting history of human values where handful of Sikhs imbued with the love of humanity had created restless nights for the rulers. Hegemony of Hindu and Muslim aristocracies having fake faith in religion was shattered by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in 1710 much before the French revolution of 1789 based on equality and fraternity, when Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, apart from establishing rule of the masses, distributed large chunks of land owned by the aristocracy amongst the tillers of the soil making them the land owners.
Industrial revolution in Europe was mainly in the technology sector. The process of unraveling the mysteries of nature by the scientists which later on led to many discoveries about material world, not beyond, of course, what Guru Nanak had already described in spiritual and material terms, was still in its infancy being cradled and pieced together in experimental labs set up by them. Sikh Gurus who preached Guru Nanak’s thought were not scientists. Their lab was not confined to a room with certain material norms. Their lab comprised whole of the Universe in which behaviour of mankind was their special subject of study because it was the contented man who was to create a congenial atmosphere for the establishment of Heaven, which prior to Guru Nanak, had only theoretically adorned the pages of scriptures of other religions. Guru Nanak contented citizens and rulers from the insatiable greed for more wealth and more territories. ‘ਤਖਤਿ ਰਾਜਾ ਸੋ ਬਹੈ ਜਿ ਤਖਤੈ ਲਾਇਕ ਹੋਈ॥ (1088) His teachings reflected the establishment of Heaven (Be-gumpura). He had visionary knowledge of the cosmos by virtue of which he claimed that there are many suns and earths. Scientists could prove the veracity of this truth more than four centuries later. No scientific discovery has been aimed at creating citizens and rulers of Guru Nanak’s vision which all world leaders now feel, is the need of the day.
Science-discoveries on medical side are on physical plane only with no concern with the spiritual needs of the persons. Russian revolution which was socio-economic and political only, failed to deliver much publicized equality in human beings because of absence of knowledge by which inner peace of mind could be achieved. Sikh Gurus during their period spanning from 1469 to 1708 when there was no science as we know it today, condemned the intake of intoxicants, smoking and extra-marital relations as leading to diseases like liver-cirrhosis, throat and lung cancer and Aid or HIV etc. Gurus were not scientists. Still whatever they said because of their spiritual vision and approach to life problems, medical science is proving them to be true now.
Gurbani, while dealing with physical side about maintenance of good health and other physical needs, helps spiritual growth also when it places taboo on food which produces bad thinking in these words, ‘ਬਾਬਾ, ਹੁਰ ਖਾਣਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਖੁਆਰੁ॥ਜਿਤੁ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨੁ ਪੀੜੀਐ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ॥ ’(16) This ivkwr, bad thought process, is the root cause of all ills. Science has commercially facilitated the production of junk food that creates so many ailments. It has done nothing to control this ivkwr. Its discoveries have been confined to material aspects alone of the human life and who can deny that instead of bringing peace in the world, science discoveries have led to more and more tension in the world because of the unending race for possession of more and more wealth, territories and lethal weapons with a view to exploit the natural resources of the weak nations. Science has failed to bring unity and peace to the human race.
At Haridwar, Guru Nanak started throwing water in reverse direction to others who were offering it to their dead. When questioned for this behaviour, he replied, he was irrigating his fields in the West at Kartarpur Sahib, about 400 miles away which distance was much shorter than that of their dead, supposed to reside in the Heavens above. His object was to shake their faith in their futile religious actions and he succeeded in doing so and this practice is on the wane now.
Science can vouchsafe his statement distance-wise, but can do nothing in the field of mental satisfaction which has its roots in spiritual knowledge. It is still unable to explain how to control mind; why good works and good habits bring good rewards and make life happy; why one feels the pinch of serious injury sustained by another person in some accident before his eyes although he has no biological relationship with the injured person; why we feel the urge to help others in need; why truthful life is more valuable and for what purpose the humans take births again and again. Is it not for accomplishing the byZmpurw target by humans who being God’s image ‘ ਮਨ ਤੂ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥ (441) are supposed to reform themselves through various circles of life and death? It is for this reason that Guru Arjan Sahib says ‘ਭਈ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਦੇਹੁਰੀਆ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਮਿਲਣ ਕੀ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਰੀਆ॥ (378)
God willed the Universe to come into existence for the sake of humans who came into being much later than their material needs. Everything moves subject to the will of that Power as described in Asa di Var Mahala Pehla, ‘ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਪਵਣੁ ਵਹੈ ਸਦਵਾਉ॥…ਸਗਲਿਆ ਭਉ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਸਿਰਿ ਲੇਖੁ॥ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ਸਚੁ ਏਕੁ॥ (464) Some people especially the scientists believe that Universe/Nature came into existence before the Power which we call God who is subject to the natural laws. Those who say so forget that no creator has ever become subordinate to his own creation. How come God is considered to be following natural laws of which He himself is the author? Even our President, an insignificant factor before God, without whose assent no law can come into force is not subject to many of them in many cases.
Science deals with the material aspects of life only which in addition to supplying comforts to material life has contributed to the worries and unrest only, whereas, Guru Nanak, in tune with the will of God, addressed the practical problems standing in the way of achievement of over all peace and a worry-free world. Knowledge of his teachings has brought about a miraculous change in the thinking of world leaders who want to establish peace in the world by following the Sikh teachings. World of Science is still dwarfish before the spiritual world and it is yet beyond its comprehension how the Sabad ’ ਧੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਆਈ ॥ ਤਿਨਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਚਿੰਤ ਮਿਟਾਈ ॥ (628) works and removes tensions as no scientist has ever laid any formula by which tensions could be removed as none of them has ever been in commune with God to understand and express His will. It was the understanding of this bani, not of any science formula, which helped the Sikhs to have no tension in doing sacrifices like having their skulls rather than hair, removed in order to uphold the values of faith. Science has so far failed in appreciating the spiritual needs of the people while Gurbani teachings have proved their efficacy both on physical and spiritual side. Keeping in view much quoted phrase ‘hwQ kMgn ko AwrsI ikAw, pVHy ilKy ko PwrsI ikAw’ scientists with all their frailties should desist from interpreting or criticizing Gurbani. Instead they should better proceed to unravel the efficacy of spiritual thoughts and provide guidance to the ailing humanity for falling in line with it so as to achieve the object set forth by Guru Nanak.