For thousands of years, we, in India, have had complete freedom in education. No one was arrested or burnt alive because of his thoughts. Let us take an example. In India, we have always had sacred feelings towards the Vedas?the treasure of knowledge and their seers. About them and those who created them, the materialist Charvak has said, ?Trayovedasy kartaarah bhandadhoortanishaacharaaha.? That is, those who created the three Vedas are hypocritical, cunning and evil. Despite such distorted statements, Charvak was never ill-treated. In fact, he was also accorded the status of a philosopher.
Let us see another example. In the Mundakopanishad, it is written that Shaunak, the head of a big gurukul went to Sage Angira and asked him that the knowledge of which element amounted to knowing everything? In reply, Sage Angira said, ?There are two elements?one is the metaphysical, which gives us the knowledge of the ultimate (Para Vidya) and the second is the physical, which gives us worldly and heavenly happiness (Apara Vidya). However, comparatively speaking, metaphysical learning is better than physical learning.? Explaining physical learning, Sage Angira said, ?The Veda and its subordinate branches are Apara Vidya, i.e. physical knowledge; still the society continued to honour him.?
For thousands of years, blind faith or proof of scriptures did not have the last say in India. Instead, logic and actual experience had recognition. Hence, in his lectures on Gita Adi Shankaracharya has said, ?If hundreds of Shrutis (Shrutis of Upanishads are considered beyond logic as they are born out of solid experiences) say that fire is cool and a non-illuminator, they cannot be considered as evidence because it is in opposition to actual experience.? (Gita Adhyaya 18, Shloka 66 ?Shankar Bhashya).
To know what India'sview on experiments was, one must note portions of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi'sspeech at the golden jubilee session of the Indian Parliament?
1. ?Today, we are told to look westwards for any scientific discovery. What is happening in the US and Germany, or in Japan or France? However, 200-250 years ago, circumstances were absolutely the opposite and 1000-1200-1500 years ago, things were even more reverse. Before I mention India'sancient scientific traditions, I would like to say that what is told to us is really and illusion. We are told that experimental sciences were born in the west; that the west taught the world to experiment, that before that there was no experimental science and if there was any scientist in India, he was merely a theoretician, who had invented the zero, the infinite. That Bhaskaracharya brought out some mathematical formulae and that experimental sciences came from the west. All this is nothing, but an illusion. Famous Indian scientist Acharya P.C. Ray says?
?When the Royal Society, and important institution in the field of science, was established in 1662, philosophical experimentarians like Hobbes, Locke, etc. used to make fun of its founders Boyle, Hooke and Christopher and for hours, people used to discuss whether a dead fish was heavier or a live one.?
On the other hand, Acharya Ray gives an example of what the conditions were like in India. There are two books related to Hindus chemistry. One is Resendra Chintamani and the second one is Rasprakash Sudhakar. These were written respectively by Rasayan Shastri (chemists), Ramchandra and Yashodhar, who were born in the 13th century. In this Ramchandra says, ?Whatever I have heard from scholars and read in the Shastras, but have not proved myself, have not been included in this book. On the contrary, I have written only what I have proved by experimenting, with my own hands under the able guidance of my teachers.?
Furthermore, Ramchandra says that a real teacher is one who can, through experiment, prove what he has taught and a scholar is one who can prove it again. Those who can do so are real teachers and pupils; the rest are like characters in a play.
Yashodhar, who was also born in the 13th century has expressed the same concept in his book, Rasprakash Sudhakar?
Swahasten Kritam Samyak
Jaaranam N Shrutam Maya.
Swahasten Bhavayogen Kritam
Samyak Shruten Hi.
Swahasten Krito Maya.
Drisht Pratyay Yogoayam
Kathitona Ch Sanshayah
?I have not just heard of Jaaran (causing decay condiment, a digester, oxidising of metals), but have also done so with my own hands on the basis of the knowledge that I have heard of earlier. On the basis of that, I proved the creation of the third metal myself.?
2. All the musical instruments that were made here are examples of experimental science. These were not mere elemental or theoretical analyses, but were born out of examination, inspection and experimentation. Musical instruments are the sage of the analysis and the use of the creation of sound; its various forms and effects. Natyashastra, written by Sage Bharat, is an example of how it was created by experimenting. In the 33rd chapter of this epic, its author Muni Bharat gives a description of how the mridanga and the other instruments came into existence. A sage named Swati lived in a gurukul in ancient times. There was a holiday in the gurukul and scarcity of water. So, Sage Swati went out in search of water. He reached a water body where lots of lotuses were blooming. Their leaves were spread over the water in the pond. Suddenly, it became cloudy and, after a strong breeze, it started raining heavily. The water started flowing all over the land. A beautiful sound was heard when the water fell on the leaves. Sage Swati was amazed to hear the beautiful sound that was created by water falling on lotus leaves. When examined, he realised that the leaves were of different sizes?some big, some medium and some small. Because they were of different sizes, even the sound of water falling on them was varied. A deep sound was heard from big leaves, a soothing sweet sound from the medium ones and a touching, sentimental sound from small leaves. He merged with the scene and the sound; and in deep thought and feeling, returned to the ashram with the big, medium and the small leaves and started experimenting as to how he could create the same sound. At first, he experimented with water, then with other means. In this process, musical instruments like the mridanga, the panav and the dardur muraj, etc. were created.
These examples tell us that we in India always valued reasoning and proof more than blind faith. We have had the freedom of thoughts and experiments since those times, when the west could not imagine it even in a dream. Hence, acquainting and familiarising our present generation with the scientific tradition of our country will be a medium to free the country form its inferiority complex and develop the feeling of self-sufficiency and self-respect.
(The book is available with Ocean Books(P)Ltd.,4/19, Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110 002.)