SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL DURING THE INAUGURATION OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ‘SCIENCE AND SPIRITUAL QUEST’
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to be inaugurating the National Conference on ‘Science and Spiritual Quest’, which will be focusing on the theme, “Integrating Capabilities with Values”. I congratulate the organizers of this Conference – the Delhi Technological University, an institution imparting education in engineering, technology, applied sciences and management; and the Bhaktivedanta Institute, a centre working for dialogue between science and Vedanta.
Science, alongwith its inventions, innovations and findings, have done much to serve the cause of humanity. It has given us greater understanding about our Universe, discovering new stars, new planets and how planets rotate on their axis. Science has given us explanations of how sound and light travel, it has decoded the DNA structure, and provided details of the composition of various acids and alkaline substances. Science has also given to us new instruments and tools that have wide-ranging applications. It has also taught us how to process materials and use them in a variety of ways. Scientists have developed telephones, cameras, radios, railway engines, cars and aeroplanes. Science has contributed to finding responses for enhancing food production and eradicating diseases. Endless is the list of the discoveries of science. I witnessed the exhibition outside this Hall, and I appreciate the innovative innovations of your students. It is now advancing to newer horizons of human endeavours, with pioneer work being done in many fields like Information-Technology, Nano-Technology and Bio-technology.
Even as science advances, human beings continue to seek answers to basic questions like who are we, where do we come from, why are we here? These questions are fundamental to what is called a Spiritual Quest, a process of self-realization, and a search for universal truth, and for a higher purpose of life. As Rabindranath Tagore said, “Great civilizations in the East as well as in the West have flourished in the past because they produced food for the spirit of man for all time; they tried to build their life upon their faith in ideals, the faith that is creative.” Spiritualism transcends theological divisions, and attempts to provide answers to the human race, about the meaning of life and guiding them towards a noble path. It is a pursuit for peace, an adherence to goodness and kindness, an effort for overcoming anger and greed, and a commitment to work with dedication for human welfare. The many sages, philosophers and thinkers who have traversed the path of spiritualism, have imparted to society at large, and millions of people solace and guidance, telling them that even as we prosper materially, we must never forget the innate goodness which is present in every human being, and always strive to follow the path of virtue, righteousness and dharma. Their message was the message contained in all religions, that the human race is one, and we must strive to work for the broader objective of the welfare of humankind, rather than being selfish and working only for ourselves. Those who are in pursuit of spiritual quest, work selflessly without looking for self-aggrandizement. I appreciate the holding of this Conference, which focuses on a dialogue on science and spirituality, and is in keeping with a long tradition of conversation between scientists, philosophers and spiritualists.
The two forces – Science and Spirituality have had the deepest influence on human development. Are these two antithetical to each other? This question has been discussed and debated often. It has arisen in the minds of many scientists who have spoken on this issue. Most famously, Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century, said, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind”. It projects the inevitable need to understand, without prejudice to the importance of science and scientific temper, for the welfare of humanity, the obligation to look beyond science and the necessity to look within oneself in order to complete the personality that is human. It is generally thought that to be scientifically minded is the opposite of being spiritually minded and vice-a-versa – but this is not so! Philosophers, thinkers and leaders have articulated views on the link between the purpose of science and spiritualism. I recall thoughts of leading figures to illustrate views on this subject. Swami Vivekananda, a great spiritual leader, was of the view that art, science and religion are three different ways of expressing a single truth. Gandhiji, the Father of our Nation and leader of our freedom struggle, described Satyagraha as a purely spiritual weapon. Pandit Nehru, our first Prime Minister, felt that without science, one would perish and also without spirituality one would perish and hence, the two were essential, if the modern world was to survive and progress.
Science and spiritualism have many commonalities. Both require a disciplined approach. Both require open, questioning minds. It is the interplay between science and spirituality that provides a balance between material advancement and developing a deep consciousness. When spirituality and science work together it can be greatly beneficial. To take an example, persons suffering from heart disease, can be treated through medicine or surgery or even a heart transplant – the methodologies of science. Spiritualism can bring about a transformation in their thinking and make them good-hearted persons, who have feelings for humanity. A heart transplant cannot transform the heart, and transformation of the heart cannot come without the heart being in tact. Hence, when science and spirituality have a complimentary and supplementary relationship, this can make the life of an individual holistic and complete and, at the same time, bring about stability in society, as well as peace and harmony in this world.
The 21st Century, will I am sure see accelerated development in various disciplines of science and technology. It will also be a testing time for scientists and society. There will be many choices to be made regarding the use of inventions and innovations. The question of how to use science for beneficial, and not destructive purposes will be an important issue. Similarly, the question of harmony of science with nature is very important. Climate change has produced new challenges. Science has not only the possibility, but also the responsibility to provide solutions to conserve, and preserve the environment and nature. Human beings too, need to realize the importance of maintaining ecological balance. We would also need to see how to retain our humanness in a technologically sophisticated world.
As I am speaking at a Conference organized by a University, I would like to emphasize that universities, medical universities and agricultural universities, should engage themselves in socially relevant research, and in innovations that can bring benefits to the people and the country. The education system must look at the holistic development of the youth of the country. Education is about knowledge. It pushes the frontiers of knowledge. It should be the aim of the youth to become intellectually competent and technically skilled. Knowledge without values is, however, incomplete. Education without values, is like a flower without fragrance. Education should impart values to the youth that makes them sensitive to fellow human beings, and the environs around them. It is a value system that can prepare the younger generation to become responsible citizens. Values provide an anchor in life, as well as the ability to take decisions, however difficult. They make one strong and capable of withstanding the trials and tribulations of life. Also, if students were equipped with the right value base, along with the capabilities created by science and technology, they will serve society with devotion and commitment, creating prosperity and happiness.
I once again I convey my best wishes to the organizers of this Conference. The discussions and exchange of views here, should promote greater appreciation of the role of both science and spirituality in the whole world.