“They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.”
By Kanchan Banerjee
Vivekananda and Science
The progress of material science especially in the field of communication, energy and health are at a pace now that never happened before. While it is human nature to explore and discover nature’s secrets, nature has no say on how the knowledge is used. We are capable of developing technology most of which are for the good of mankind, but not all. Some especially in the field of weaponry, genetics and usage of various forms of energy and chemicals potentially threaten not only the health but also the very existence of our civilization.
Our usage of technology and living within the constructs of technology challenges our physical and mental health every moment. There comes the need for a higher level of mental and physical abilities, balance, a renewed morality and a more encompassing ethical as well as justice system in this changed world. We must rapidly be able to change and cope with the change in knowledge of nature, universe and its application – minds and hearts must catch up to the power of brain, else we may face more trouble and crisis in history.
That’s why years after Swamiji’s departure from the world scene Einstein summed up Swamiji’s warning “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Here, by ‘religion’ he suggested the true spirituality and not just any dogma is necessary in order to guide human morals and the conscience of leaders and citizens.
Vivekananda, being a monk was equally knowledgeable of the science of his time. He wanted his countrymen to go back to their scientific innovation tradition. He was friends with top scientists of the world like Tesla and others. He was equally popular in science as well and religions sections of the world parliament of the Columbian expositions.
Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest scientists of that era who specialized in the field of electricity, was much impressed to hear from the Swami his explanation of the Samkhya cosmogony and the theory of cycles given by the Hindus. He was particularly struck by the resemblance between the Samkhya theory of matter and energy and that of modern physics. later Swamiji wrote:
“Mr. Tesla was charmed to hear about the Vedantic Prana and Akasha and the Kalpas, which according to him are the only theories modern science can entertain… Mr Tesla thinks he can demonstrate that mathematically that force and matter are reducible to potential energy. I am to go see him next week to get this mathematical demonstration. “
Swamiji was hopeful that Tesla would be able to show that what we call matter is simply potential energy because that would reconcile the teachings of the Vedas with modern science.
The Swami realized that “In that case, the Vedantic cosmology [would] be placed on the surest of foundations”.
Tesla understood the Sanskrit terminology and philosophy and found that it was a good means to describe the physical mechanisms of the universe as seen through his eyes. It would behoove those who would attempt to understand the science behind the inventions of Nikola Tesla to study Sanskrit and Vedic philosophy.
Tesla apparently failed to show the identity of energy and matter. The mathematical proof of the principle did come until about ten years later when Albert Einstein published his paper on relativity. What had been known in the East for long time was then known to the West.
The meeting with Swamiji greatly stimulated Nikola Tesla’s interest in Eastern Science.
Swamiji later remarked during a lecture in India, “I myself have been told by some of the best scientific minds of the day, how wonderfully rational the conclusions of the Vedanta are. I know of one of them personally, who scarcely has time to eat his meal, or go out of his laboratory, but who would stand by the hour to attend my lectures on the Vedanta; for, as he expresses it, they are so scientific, they so exactly harmonize with the aspirations of the age and with the conclusions to which modern science is coming at the present time”.
Dobson Telescope famed John Dobson, a Former Ramakrishna order monk, wrote:
“There were some physicists in India, long ago, who built their physics into their language and left it there for all to see. And they said that the whole Universe is made of energy, and that even if we divide it up into mass and energy, as we all usually do, it’s still only energy (Shakti).
Swami Vivekananda translated that Sanskrit to Nikola Tesla at Sarah Bernhardt’s party in New York on the thirteenth of February 1896, and asked him if he could show that what we see as matter can be reduced to potential energy. Tesla gave that information to his close friend Mileva Maric, Einstein’s first wife, and she put it into the most famous equation (E = mc2) that ever hit the fan, that what we see as mass is only energy. That’s the information that I conveyed to Gargi (Marie Louise Burke), first by word of mouth, and then in writing, shortly before she died.”
Though there is no direct evidence to prove Dobson’s claims, it is well known that Swamiji had close relationship with both Tesla and Bernhardt and also Tesla was close to Mileva Maric.
According to Swami Nikhilananda: “Nikola Tesla, the great scientist who specialized in the field of electricity, was much impressed to hear from the Swami his explanation of the Samkhya cosmogony and the theory of cycles given by the Hindus. He was particularly struck by the resemblance between the Samkhya theory of matter and energy and that of modern physics. The Swami also met in New York Sir William Thompson, afterwards Lord Kelvin, and Professor Helmholtz, two leading representatives of western science. Sarah Bernhardt, the famous French actress had an interview with the Swami and greatly admired his teachings. “
Not much information is available on the outcome of those meetings.
(This is part 8 of a 9 part series)