- Science, Worldviews and Education
- The Science and Religion Dialogue as Natural Philosophy | Metanexus
- Secular religion
- Glossary Definition: Metaphysical
- Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives
Continual developments in our understanding of the human thought process reveals that science cannot solely be relied upon to explain reality, for the human mind cannot be seen as simply a mirror of the natural world. For example, since the act of scientific observation itself tends to produce the reality it hopes to explain, the so-called "truths" of science cannot be considered as final or objective. This fact manifests itself over and over again, as scientific truths and laws continue to break down or yield to new and better explanations of reality.
What becomes apparent, therefore, is that the process of human interpretation in the sciences, as elsewhere, is both variable and relative to the observer's viewpoint. Under the skeptical analyses of the philosophical movements known as postmodernism and deconstructionism , all of these facts have resulted in a modern repudiation of both metaphysics and science.
Their criticisms are based on the cultural and historical relativity of all knowledge. These two philosophical "schools" deny any existence at all of an objective or universal knowledge. Thus, metaphysical claims stand today between the absolutist claims of science scientism and the complete relativism of postmodernism and deconstructionism.
Science, Worldviews and Education
To return to the previous topic, click on your browser's 'Back' button, or select from the topics list. These ceremonial and ritualistic occasions regenerate the religious life and bring harmony to those who take part in them. During these ceremonies, priests recite various holy books and scriptures and give discourses on many scriptures, including the epics and the Gita.
Local customs make a unique contribution to these events in each region but never go against the tenor of the Veda. From India's inception, its history has been one of invasions and conquests, commencing with the Aryans and culminating with the British colonization.
The Science and Religion Dialogue as Natural Philosophy | Metanexus
Many diverse ideologies have gone into making Hinduism what it is today. An outstanding consequence of Hinduism's eclectic origins is that it has sufficient tolerance and patience to forge new syntheses without totally losing its direction and basic spiritual content. In the medieval era, for example, when the Moguls dominated India, Hinduism survived by incorporating some of the better aspects of other faiths.
This is true also of India's response to the Christian rulers and missionaries under British colonization. Hinduism's acceptance and assimilation of such varieties and polarities of faiths emerged from an underlying truth, eloquently expressed by the Vedic seers in the phrase "Truth is one, Sages call it by various names" Ekam Sat vipra bahudha vadanti.
This is one of the greatest pronouncements in the Rig Veda and provides the foundational philosophy of the Hindu faith. Swami Vivekananda considered this statement the Magna Carta of religion Ranganathananda Enlightened Hindus have a deep faith in syncretism, that is, in the practice of incorporating the best principles and elements of all religions. Thus, Hinduism displays an understanding of an underlying and overarching unity, a hard-earned tolerance for all aspects of truth, and a willingness to incorporate the truths of other faiths.
As such,. The main sources of people's knowledge of Hinduism are in the oral tradition, passed down from parents to children; sermons delivered by itinerant preachers; discourses given by priests on a daily basis at the temple or at the numerous religious festivals, rituals, and ceremonies; the daily prayers to male or female deities in temples or at the home altar which most Hindu households have, no matter how affluent or poor ; and interchanges during pilgrimages to holy shrines at the four cardinal points of India. On these pilgrimages, people exchange and absorb religious ideas from other pilgrims, especially the legends and myths connected with the shrines.
This is not to deny that conflicts have ensued but to suggest that they are not in accord with the fundamental tenets of Hinduism. Given the heterogeneity of Indian society, one might ask whether these conflicts would have been much worse without this philosophical and spiritual underpinning. Related to Hinduism's syncretic tendencies is the Indian understanding of the term secularism. India's society is pluralistic, with a variety of cultures, ethnicities, races, languages, and religions.
One of the major issues that occupied Gandhi and Nehru was determining what position on this multiplicity of religions would best suit an independent India. This position would have to define "clearly the relation between religion and politics and between religion and the nation-state" Joshi , p.
Secularism was the approach chosen, but a secularism with a politically convenient and distinctly Indian interpretation. Mahatma Gandhi summed up the secular approach of India as follows:. Hindustan belongs to all those who are born and bred here and who have no other country to look to. Religion is a personal matter, which should have no place in politics. Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India and Gandhi's chosen disciple , had a similar appreciation of the question of secularism and felt that it was not merely a question of tolerating other religions — it was a question of social and political justice, of creating an equitable society Joshi Thus, the preamble to the new Constitution of India declared the country "a sovereign secular, democratic republic.
If this idea had been truly accepted, it would have laid the foundations for an integrated development, because it would have created the conditions for subcontinental harmony. But of all the various types of socialization and conditioning, the religiocentric bias yields least to any kind of pressure to change. It is very difficult to let go of the central tenet of each religion that makes believers claim, "our religion is the best!
If India is to realize its goal of interfaith harmony, then Hindus must use the syncretism of Hinduism to take the lead in this process. India's experiment in "secularism" is now about 50 years old and bears many scars; it has not managed to avoid carnage and violence, including the great strife during the partition of India into India and Pakistan. On numerous occasions, communal violence has occurred between Hindus and Muslims. These events indicate that the ethos of secularism has not percolated into the psyche of the common person in India.
The experiment, however, goes on, and perhaps with deep knowledge, understanding, appreciation, and respect for one's own religion, as well as for the religions of others, India's secularism will fully succeed. Outside India, interfaith understanding and interfaith movements are also growing in every corner of the world; these beliefs, I feel, will form the basis of global unity and integrated development. In examining the question of Hinduism's role in economic development, I take as an example an argument put forward in the early part of the 20th century by the sociologist Max Weber.
For Weber , the caste system and the Hindu religious beliefs of karma, samsara, and kismet Urdu for fate meant that Hindu society was otherworldly in orientation and not geared to respond to new economic challenges. Weber, however, did not seriously consider other factors — colonialism and repeated invasions — that led to the conditions he observed in India. Moreover, Hinduism is a lived and in many respects still oral tradition: it is very difficult to understand from texts. Thus, although Weber's viewpoint is scholarly, it is not holistic. A number of social scientists have, in fact, rejected his perspective.
On the basis of research among entrepreneurs, Singer et al. Singer et al. Moreover, the economist Arvind Sharma suggested that the basis for a strong work ethic can be gleaned from Hindu scriptural tradition Brzezinski The reason why India has seen little economic development might be found in the nonparticipatory policies and practices that have always governed its primarily agricultural economy.
Farmers, especially those with small holdings, have been exploited by the landowners, bureaucrats, and rulers; for the landless, the situation is still worse. As a result, in most parts of India the benefits of agricultural production have accrued only to those who exploited both the people and the resources and refused to share these benefits with those who worked for them or with the general population. The most recent spate of economic development in India began with the unification of the various preexisting nation-states into a single sovereign Republic of India on 15 August ; at that time, India's leaders confronted a host of historical problems but failed, for various reasons, to fully enlist the progressive and reformist ethos of that period, including its participatory, indigenous methodologies.
I will return to this issue when I discuss Gandhi's sarvodaya or welfare of all model of village-based economic development and Nehru's preference for the heavy-industrialization model. Westerners raise some pertinent questions when they encounter Hindu-based social action and development strategies: Does belief in reincarnation, karma, and samsara have a deleterious effect on people's awareness of, or their action on, social problems, such as poverty and the denial of women's rights?
Glossary Definition: Metaphysical
Further, to what extent is "fatalism" a major influence in people's daily life, and is it based on Hindu religious belief? Does the caste system create and reinforce inequity? The concepts of reincarnation, karma, and samsara are closely interrelated and convey the belief in the "cycle of birth and rebirth," the immortality of the soul, and the idea that "as you sow, so shall you reap. Fatalism is the attitude of people who believe and act as if their efforts, whether great or small, will make no difference to the ultimate outcome of plans or actions. This attitude would result in utter indifference to efforts to bring about development.
Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives
Yet, karma in Hindi and bhagayavad in Sanskrit do not carry the negative connotations of fatalistic passivity and laziness; rather, they carry the positive connotation of reconciliation after the event. This is the approach, in practice, of a vast section of Hindu society; these people use it to accept gracefully and with great courage, calmness, and strength the outcome of adverse economic and social situations.
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Karma suggests that such circumstances must stem from people's own deeds, yet karma also imparts confidence that people have the strength and capacity to shape their own future in this life and in subsequent ones. I feel that this understanding of karma has, on balance, a positive rather than negative effect on poverty alleviation, women's rights, and developmental activities in general because it allows people to sustain their hope during inevitable setbacks and to believe that their endeavours will yield fruit.
Besides, the existing socioeconomic system adequately inculcates norms of competition, individuality, and ceaseless striving to better the situation in one's family, business, or career. This has removed all but a token recognition of the passive side of fate and fatalism.
Even though Hindus refer to "fate" whenever they encounter a life event they cannot control or even understand, they exert strenuous efforts to follow their desires and achieve their goals. This dual approach is consistent with passages in the Gita that clearly refute Weber's argument. The Gita preaches constant action in all that one does and deep meditation as part of action. One is instructed not only to strive in all spheres of life but also to do this in a cool and detached manner, keeping all the consequences of action in view. Hinduism is therefore not a religion that teaches passivity; rather, it is both outward and inward looking, with a logical connection between these dimensions.
The caste system also causes great comment and consternation. Each caste is related to a varna, of which there are four: brahmin, kshatriya, vaisya, and shudra. Each of these has a role to play in society:. Brahmins are in charge of ritual and religious matters;. Kshatriyas are warriors and allied to the defence of society;. Vaisyas are the merchants and given to commercial pursuits; and. Shudras serve all people belonging to the other varnas. Another group of people, who live outside the caste system, were once known as the "untouchables" and then as dalits 11 ; contact with an untouchable was considered polluting by caste Hindus.
Many Hindus believe that the varna into which one is born is due to fate or karma, because varna is immutable. Although the practical effect of this system has often been inequality — with rural, illiterate, and often destitute people bearing the brunt of exploitation by higher castes — it can be argued that this was not the intention of the varna system as set out in ancient Hinduism.
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The functional, rather than hierarchical, nature of the varna system is manifest in Balinese Hinduism:. In the history of Hinduism, the doctrine of varnas appears before the doctrine of karma. This raises the suspicion that the doctrine of karma may have provided a post facto rationalization for a birth-oriented division of society that was already in place when the doctrine of karma became widespread.