(Excerpts form Hinduism Beyond Rituals,Customs And Traditions)
Hinduism is an academy of sciences. It finds its dwelling in the realm of metaphysics besides accepting the environment of physical realities where most sciences reside. That is what distinguishes the ancient Indian sciences that these go beyond the empirical confines to explore and analyze the spiritual realities as well.
As Hindu scientific tradition deliberates on the sociological and metaphysical experiences and phenomena, it strives toward integrated acceptance of both palpable and impalpable spiritual realities in the creation of knowledge.
However, there are limits to human quests both in empirical and metaphysical studies when it comes to knowing what role God played in the creation of this universe. The Rig Veda Chapter X, Para 129 in the Hymn of Creation (Nasadiya Sukta) says:
Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.
This is one of the most interesting statements in the Hindu theism.
As we are involved in the dialectics of His involvement in the creation of the universe and having a personified assumption of He being “up there”, there are other aspects of God too. These aspects or forces are parts of His or Her multiple operations as well.
Rigveda seems to have downplayed on the issues of when, where and whys about the creation of the universe. There are more perspectives, puzzles and issues influencing the universe besides contemplating on its creation. And all these aspects together constitute or define his or her roles. God is more than our mindset imagination of being a super human governing this universe.
A simple and brief, but still far from complete, characterization of God can be: the sum total of everything and every process in this universe and beyond is God. Everything, known or unknown that exist is what a universe is all about.
In the philosophy of science, all these things or entities and processes are the truths. The latter are in conformity with facts and realities as well as fidelity to Nature’s command. These are analyzed in an elaborate and well-thought-of aspect of Hindu metaphysical studies.
Cosmology, ontology and epistemology are the branches of indigenous Hindu school of philosophy. These facilitate relationship of science and Hindu metaphysics. And help the latter in evaluating its entities or concepts. Cosmology is one example of this alliance.
In the Hindu cosmology, the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe is explicitly marked out. The known Hindu scriptural belief is that once the universe is created it lasts for 8.64 billion years, and then destroyed to be born again. The time period of 8.64 billion years is divided into four epochs for which the Sanskrit word is Yuga.
It is also assumed that the present period of the universe is the last one. But still we have 432,000 years left for the ultimate dissolution. The Lord responsible for this demolition is Shiva, while Lord Brahama is the creator and Lord Vishnu is the preserver of a universe each time it is created. Together these lords form the Trinity or Trimurti in Hindu religion.
In the observational cosmology of the modern times the Big Bang theory corresponds with that of Hindu cosmology including the timeline for each universe. In the later case the difference is of few billion years from 8.64 to 13.8 as per some advanced calculations. The Big Bang theory extrapolates that it is not the beginning of one creation, but part of the ongoing infinite cycle of universes created, expanded and destroyed.
Ontology And Epistemology
The twin sciences of ontology and epistemology are the existing rationalism of the Hindu school merging with the modern philosophy. Saint Gautama, a second century a.d. Hindu philosopher, not to be confused with Gautam Buddha, introduced these disciplines. In his treatise, Nyaya Sutra, ontology is termed as Prameya, and epistemology as Pramana.
Ontology in its simplistic explanation deals with detailed description or specifications of a concept. It seeks a systematic account of entities in a particular domain of knowledge. In other words an established or non-established concept is subjected to verifiable understanding thru the science of ontology. And this is where Hinduism finds its commitments under the guidelines of Prameya or ontology.
Epistemology studies the nature and assembly of concepts. A picture of true or false emerges thru epistemological analysis. The epistemology or pramana liberalizes the Hindu faith to seek logical reasons, thoughts and ideas. It encourages us to seek explanation of concepts or beliefs, for example reasoning behind rituals and dogmas. Hindu epistemology seeks pramana or evidence in a statement of knowledge.
Nyaya is a school of Hindu philosophy which extensively recognizes and deals with reasoning and argumentation in order to establish logic. It enacts rules, procedures and techniques in the conduct of debate. Basically Hindu epistemology is the study of method of acquiring knowledge to know its validity or invalidity. This treatment scrutinizes the Hindu faith to test rationalities in a concept or dictum. The Nyaya School is based on four ways in the pursuits of knowledge. These are perception, inference, analogy and authoritative verbal testimony.
Despite the fact Hinduism has a built-in system to check and discard the intrusion of pseudo sciences, exalting claims of ancient scientific discoveries and achievements are often made without logical and demonstrative explanations.
The tendency is damaging to Hinduism as it can generate false pride among its followers.
There have been towering declarations and postulations that ancient Hindu seers discovered the aviation technology. Planes were built which not only fly forward, but backward and sideways as well. These seer-scientists had expertise in missiles and rocketry technologies. Plastic or cosmetic surgery and reproductive genetics were the fields of advancements in biological sciences. And there had been extraordinary feats in most other spheres of human endeavour.
However, all the lofty claims can be grounded thru the guidelines laid out in the ontology and epistemology aspects of Hinduism for lack of specifications and descriptive pramana or evidence. These belong to the category of pure imagination.
Pseudo or false claims do survive in the pool of human imagination which can provide the inspiration for both scientific and metaphysical explorations.
And whereas pseudo sciences face barriers of rationalism and pragmatic details, the respectable status of Ayurveda needs to be challenged as well for its extensive use of lead in preparations of its medications.
Rhetoric and baseless claims of superiority in the fields of science and technology do discredit Hinduism. Nevertheless, reasoning, rationalization, assent and dissent are always embedded in the Hindu philosophical traditions. And all these aspects reflect the democratic face of Hinduism.
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An interesting perspective to determine the basis of teachings in Hinduism. Unfortunately, there are many push for dogmatic beliefs which they enforce and ward off questions that go against Hinduism like you rightly point out.
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