Swami Vivekananda on Science and Education
From time immemorial, the ultimate truth of nature is an enigma and a mystery to man. He took two broad routes to fathom it, one through probing of the external and second through inward journey. While the first path is taken by the western mind, the second path was chosen by the ancient sages of India knowing that the first path cannot lead to the truth unambiguously. This is what Swami Vivekananda spread in his message the world.
Swami Vivekananda on Science
Before we understand Swamiji’s views on Physics, it is very important to understand the difference between classical science and intuitive science.
- Classical science follows reason, logic and instinct
- Scientists make observations of natural phenomena and then through experiment try to simulate natural events under controlled conditions. Scientists will then gather the empirical evidence and will generate their hypothesis to explain the phenomenon.
- Classical science has tremendous impact on man by improving the quality of life, unravel the mysteries of the universe and remove barriers of subjectivity and objectivity.
However, Swami Vivekananda cautions that, “Science stands on its own feet and in its own light and challenges comparison with any other sciences. There have been charlatans and magicians and cheats and more here than any other field. This is because that the more profitable the business, the greater the number of charlatans and cheats. But that is no reason why the business is not good”.
Intuition is distinctly different from instinct, logic, reason and intellect. It is the highest mental faculty dormant in man. It is above reason and is acquired by the life forms through repeated experiences and gained through transformation. It is voluntary and spontaneous and finds a solution for a given problem in a completely different place and situation.
It is an inherent means of knowledge gathering and often leads to what science can achieve and sometimes even beyond that.
Swamiji’s views on instinct, reason and intuition is clear when he said, “Reason is the vehicle one rides to reach a certain point beyond which one cannot move. Intuition goes beyond reason but reason with unbiased mind is the only guide to reach there. Instinct is like ice, reason is like water and intuition is the subtlest form like vapor and each one follows the other”.
Swami Vivekananda’s views on Physics
On theory of relativity – Though the theory of gravitation had been established during the 19th century, it could not resolve the inter-relatedness and inter-dependence of 4 major parameters i.e. space, time, matter and energy. At this juncture Swami Vivekananda endowed with Vedantic knowledge proclaimed that it can be deduced that the 4 are not only inter-related but also that energy and matter are interchangeable in the space and time domains. However, there was no mathematical formulation available at that time. In fact, he had written to Tesla to formulate a necessary theory related to energy and matter and their inter-convertibility.
Tesla was very much impressed to hear from Swami Vivekananda his explanation of the Sankhya cosmology and the theory of cycles believed by the Hindus. He was struck by the resemblance between Sankhya theory of matter and energy and modern physics.
Swami Vivekananda had said: “We have matter and force. The matter, we do not know how, disappears into force and force into matter. Therefore there is something which is neither force nor matter, as these two may not disappear into each other. This is what we call the universal mind.”
The mathematical proof of this principle came only 10 years later when Einstein published his paper of relativity and formulated E=mc2 and mentioned that matter is just potential energy.
A corollary to the theory of relativity is the existence of Ether. In Feb 1895 Swamiji wrote an article on Ether which appeared in the New York Medical Times. He wrote, “We are forced to find that Ether cannot explain space because we cannot but think of ether as in space. And therefore, if there is anything which will explain this space, it must be something that comprehends in its infinite being and the infinite space itself.” Hence he was the first to reject the Ether theory long before Einstein did so in 1920.
On theory of Unity – Once Swamiji had said in the then Madras: “One atom of the universe cannot move without dragging the whole world with it”. Again in London he had said, “One man contains the whole universe. One particle of matter has all the energy of the universe at the back”. He has also said that each mind is connected with every other mind and wherever it is located, it is in actual communication with the whole world!
These intuitive scientific proclamations are hard to be experimented to prove or disprove. But with the advent of Quantum physics, many gaps have been bridged. The famous Nobel winning Soeren Prell theory implies that at a deep and fundamental level the separate parts of the world are connected in an intimate and immediate way as any change in one immediately and unmitigated causes changes in the other.
More than a century after Swami Vivekananda’s short but extraordinary life, his intuitive words on science have left distinct mark on the pages of world’s history of science and his words are even more relevant today than ever before.
Swami Vivekananda on Biological Sciences
However, Swami Vivekananda did not agree with it in the light of his own profound intuitive knowledge on the subject. Swamiji asserted that he whole of this universe is present in the cosmic fine universe. He said, “Certainly it is true that man cannot be simply an evolution. Every evolution presupposes an involution. This involution and evolution is on throughout the whole of nature.”
This is in tune with new developments in the field of biology. Eminent Nobel Prize winning cell biologist Christian de Duve and Brian Goodwin’s research shows that Darwin’s theory works for small aspects of evolution and there is no significant support for gradual evolution of hereditary mutations adding up to large scale aspects of evolution.
Swamiji profound knowledge on science shows us that the basis for good scientific knowledge among the masses is proper education. Hence we shall see what Swami Vivekananda’s ideas about education were.
Swami Vivekananda on Education
Goal or Objective of Education
According to Swami Vivekananda, the basic purpose of education is the total development of human personality. Everyone is endowed with certain capacities, which remain dormant, although in a potential form. He had said “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man”.
Swami Vivekananda believed education is the process by which these inherent potentialities in human personality manifest themselves in completing his or her total development. This total development of human personality includes intellectual and moral development. Most of the present day school and college curriculum only aim at intellectual development.
He said “To me the essence of education is the concentration of mind, not just collection of facts”. He had further said “The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – Is it worth its name?”
His method or procedure of education
Just as in the case of a plant, one cannot do anything more than supplying it with water, air and manure while it grows from within its own nature, so is the case with a human child. Swami Vivekananda’s method of education resembles the heuristic method of the modern educationists. In this system, the teacher invokes the spirit of inquiry in the pupil who is supposed to find out things for himself under the bias-free guidance of the teacher.
Swamiji lays a lot of emphasis on the environment at home and school for the proper growth of the child. The parents as well as the teachers should inspire the child by the way they live their lives. Swamiji recommends the old institution of gurukula (living with the preceptor) and similar systems for the purpose. In such systems, the students can have the ideal character of the teacher constantly before them, which serves as the role model to follow.
Swami Vivekananda, in his scheme of education, meticulously includes all those studies, which are necessary for the all-around development of the body, mind and soul of the individual. These studies can be brought under the broad heads of physical culture, aesthetics, classics, language, religion, science and technology. According to Swamiji, the culture values of the country should form an integral part of the curriculum of education. The culture of India has its roots in her spiritual values. The time-tested values are to be imbibed in the thoughts and lives of the students through the study of the classics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gita, Vedas and Upanishads. This will keep the perennial flow of our spiritual values into the world culture.
Education, according to Swamiji, remains incomplete without the teaching of aesthetics or fine arts. He cites Japan as an example of how the combination of art and utility can make a nation great.
Swami Vivekananda on women education
Another important aspect of Swamiji’s scheme of education is women’s education. He realized that if the women of our country get the right type of education, then they will be able to solve their own problems in their own way. The main objective of his scheme of female education is to make them strong, fear-less, and conscious of their dignity. He observes that although men and women are equally competent in academic matters, yet women have a special aptitude and competence for studies relating to home and family.
Swami Vivekananda was one of the first among Dharmic teachers to understand the importance of science and technology. In the first place, Swamiji saw that poor countries like India would be able to overcome poverty and backwardness only by mastering technology. Secondly, Swamiji saw that science is not contradictory to the eternal spiritual principles, which is the foundation of Indian culture. Both Science and eternal principles of Dharma are concerned with truth. Science seeks truth in the physical world, whereas dharma seeks truth in the spiritual realm. He put his thoughts into action when he urged JRD Tata to setup IISC for the sake of furthering science education in India.
Swami Vivekananda had famously said, “Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and run riots there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making and assimilation of ideas.”
He states it emphatically that if society is to be reformed, education has to reach everyone-high and low, because individuals are the very constituents of society. This is the idea which the Sangh also has adopted. In 1986, inspired by the efforts of early Vivekananda volunteers, a group of young Swayamsevaks who were also educationists began work with the primitive tribes in the dense forests of Jharkhand. Thus the ‘Ekal Vidyalayas’ were started then. Today the Ekal movement is the largest, grassroots, non-government education movement in India, operating in over 39,525 villages and educating over 11,14,060 children in rural India. Ekal Vidyalaya goes beyond mere literacy. Apart from its goal of achieving the national standards of Minimum Level of Learning (MLL) for its students, Ekal Vidyalaya also seeks to empower the village community for its own self-development. Ekal Vidyalaya solicits complete involvement of the local community to achieve this goal. Can there be a better implementation of Swamiji’s vision of education?
Finally, to end, let me quote Swami Vivekananda that will summarize all that he has said on science and education. He said, “If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library”.
by Prashanth Vaidyaraj