Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
This is my favorite topic. In the East, science and spirituality go together. If you read the Gita or any of the Upanishadas, they say gyaan vigyaan – science and spirituality must go together.
In fact, in the six systems of philosophy, the first three are material sciences. They say, if you understand one single atom thoroughly, you will be liberated. 'Padartha gyanath moksha'. You have to understand one single atom thoroughly and you will find liberation. They don’t talk about God at all!
Vaisheshika, Nyaya, and Sankya, are the three darshanas. The body is made up of 8 things – water, earth, air, fire, ether, mind, intellect, and memory. All these are made up of the chitta, or consciousness. Three of these are subtle—or less concrete—that is, mind, intellect, and memory. And five are much more tangible – earth, air, water, fire, and ether.
You have to study these eight first, and then you will come to that one thing, that is, consciousness, which makes up everything else, including these eight. Realizing this oneness is what is called samadhi or meditation.
Have you heard of Prof. Dürr? He was one of the top nuclear scientists of the world. He said to me once, "Gurudev, these days, when I give talks, people think I am talking Philosophy!" (laughs from the crowd)
He said, "for 40 years, I studied matter just to discover that it doesn’t exist! What exists is simply wave functions. Everything is only waves!"
So, this quantum physics is like learning Vedanta. When you learn Vedanta, you realize that, wow, this is what was said thousands of years ago! They said what appears is nothing – it is just a dream. It is just an appearance – not a reality. They said long, long ago that the sun rising and setting is only an appearance. It is not moving around the earth.
If you go to any Hindu temple, they keep all the 9 planets there. Sun is at the center and all the planets are around the sun. So, it wasn't Galileo who found out that the Earth is spherical. In the Vedic times, the earth was called Bhugola, which itself means "spherical". This tells us that they knew the shape of the Earth so many thousands of years ago.
There is an ancient, 200 AD temple in Cambodia. There, you can see Vishnu carrying the sphere, that is, the Earth in his hand. So, people knew this a long time ago.
Science and spirituality are not contradictory. Science is learning what is this? And spirituality is subjective knowledge – asking who am I? Or, what is all this made up of? That is spirituality. So, they complement each other.
In fact, rational thinking is something Eastern philosophy has always encouraged. They don’t say "first you believe, and then you can get an experience one day".
There are two ways in this world, and both have their own value. The Occident says, you believe first and then you can know one day. The Orient says first you know, and then whether you believe or not is up to you, but you know first. Knowledge comes first. That’s why, the Orient has never ever in the history of mankind persecuted any scientist. It has never happened. They have always encouraged scientists as a part of the system.