A Passing Thought

Since time immemorial, man has been obsessed with the question of who (or what) we are, where we came from, how life should be lived and so on. And over the ages, and still today, spirituality and religion have been the path in the search for answers to these questions.

But over the last few decades, it seems like science has a better way to offer. Disciplines like evolutionary psychology, neurology and anthropology seem to tell us much much more about what we are, and why we are the way we are than spirituality ever could.

Spirituality seems to be obsessed with something that’s ideal and unattainable, probably because of man’s innocent desire for perfection, but often exploited by spiritual ‘gurus’ to keep the masses coming to them for answers. Science, on the other hand, looks only at what we actually are, thereby creating a possibility of using that knowledge to make our lives more sensible.


6 thoughts on “A Passing Thought

  1. My thoughts: Spirituality and Science both has one primary goal (of course with many sub-branches sometimes with conflicting goals) – that is the search of “happiness”. And it really doesn’t matter who gets to that goal first or who is right or wrong – the only thing thats important is the goal – of being happy. The question of “who or what we are” is just one of the many questions which people look for answers, and again, we can pick the most accurate answer around – if science has one, then good.

    Not so surprisingly, the human being is such a massively complex system, especially the brain, that saying “I will be happy once I have all the pieces of the puzzle in place” is probably a more unattainable ideal – because life span obviously is limited and the question is do you want to spend your life span chasing pieces of the puzzle or you just want to lead a happy life however long it may be. Science might one day complete the entire puzzle, but of course its going to take some time.

    That is where “spirituality” comes in – without analyzing too much about how the brain works or what exact chemical is released to trigger which part of the brain, from experience over the years, people figured out the recipe to leading the most absolute happy life. Now, the principles of leading a happy life ended up being manifested in innumerous number of forms – temples, God, worship, spiritual philosophies, vedanta, advaita, religions, buddhism, jainism etc.. etc.. – but everything eventually means to convey the same thing – how to lead a happy life.

    Now about the spiritualiti’es goals being unrealistic – its not unrealistic, but its awesomely tough to practice no doubt, and hence the reason world doesn’t have as much happiness as it should ;-). Thats one of those things maybe science will figure out – as to why the principles of happiness are not that happy to practice, why we are wired against principles that make us happy !!


    PS: As a part of the process of discovering what is the way towards happiness, when people started meditating and doing penances, they discovered that the mind has some massive capabilities – and termed it I think hatha yoga, some of which are having scientific explanations now in terms of things like “neuro plasticity” etc.. I will bring this book along with me when I come to India – http://www.amazon.com/Brain-That-Changes-Itself-Frontiers/dp/067003830X – its a fascinating read on the wonders of the brain, real case studies by a doctor. So, again, the boundary is not black and white.

    1. I’m not going to attempt to be very analytical and try to debate, but just thought I’d add to my earlier thoughts.

      The advances over the last few decades in the branches of science I’ve mentioned above seem to suggest that many of the very problems which spirituality aims to overcome or transcend seem to have been created due to structural and cultural changes in society over the last few millenia, and more recently in the last couple of centuries leading us to be living in a system or environment that’s very different from the one our brains are evolved for. And striving for transcendence to stay sane in the system is fine, but if we really want to start working on improving the system, spirituality has virtually nothing to offer.

      1. We can change the world however we want, but as long as human beings can “think”, the demons of the mind will still remain the same. Of course that doesn’t mean the world shouldn’t be improved, of course it should be improved, and that will take care of a ton of unnecessary / artificial problems today, but inspite of all that our minds will still be left with that feeling of dissatisfaction :). Its like the story of the beggar going to beg to Akbar and saw that Akbar is kneeling down and praying with his hands open and beggar was like Akbar himself is unhappy, now what can I beg from him.

        And, yes, some things just cant be debated :), it has to be purely realised by oneself. So I would also leave it at that.


  2. I don’t think it is a new concept. Freud has a very interesting book written on the subject. I felt the origin of nature worship particularly interesting.

    1. Thought of adding… In the famous story “Adventure of the empty house,” Dr Watson turns away from the crime scene in disgust and knocks against an old man who was carrying a few books. While helping him, Watson cares to notice that the title of one of them was “the origin of tree worship” and “it
      struck me that the fellow must be some poor bibliophile, who, either as a
      trade or as a hobby, was a collector of obscure volumes”.

      Anyway it has not much to do with the subject matter. But I thought it was interesting, as the topic would have been in discussion for a long time.. 🙂

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