The debate whether Vedas are in reality books of sciences or are they just religious scriptures that aim at institutionalising religion as answer to all unanswered questions of life, humanity and spirituality has been there for more than a century now. The question was raised vociferously for the first time by Swami Vivekananda in 1893 when he stated at the Chicago World Conference of Religions that Advaita is an answer to the natural science'ssearch of energy to sustain this world. The debate moved on and continued to haunt both scientists and spiritualists alike. There is an open mistrust between religious scholars and scientists, for they both enter unknown territories with different approaches. While science believes in universal evidences and facts, the religion looks for incidental evidences that are real and has day to day interpretations. Nevertheless it is important to understand that there is a vast area where both science and religion intersect and both claim credit for them. The debate is simple because the territories of science and religion are artificially created territory for the respective hegemony of scientists and religiousmen. The fact of the matter is existence of only two territories?Truth and Untruth.
I feel the difference between Vedas and the modern sciences is the presence of value system in the Vedas. In its quest for objectivity, the modern sciences certainly will help children to know how to access websites, but nothing in sciences will tell them not to access sites of pornography. The new technologies in fulfilling the needs of mankind may harm the environment, for the sciences do not have inbuilt value system that governs the usage of new technologies for the overall benefit of universe. While the absence of value framework in sciences makes them scientific, the presence of values makes even the scientific knowledge in scriptures equivalent to myths and mysteries. While it is important to make the scriptures free from superstitions and discriminatory practices and rituals, it is equally important to build value system in sciences. Also, it does not mean that values by themselves are not subject to challenge.
While there are a few who claim Vedas as but science, there are others who look for elements of modern sciences in Vedas. There are some who claim that Hindus were aware of many products of modern sciences by just citing examples of events in religious texts such as use of Vimana in Ramayana, use of advanced weaponry in Mahabharata or relating birth of 100 Kaurava brothers to in vitro fertilisation and such other events, where there is a lookout for ?modern practices? in ancient traditions. There are others who analyse, research and interpret Vedas and decipher the elements of modern sciences in them. Justice Dhananjay Deshpande'sbook, ?Modern Sciences in Vedas? comes under the second category of books. This is alike to an earlier book titled, Vedic Physics: Scientific Origin of Hinduism by Dr Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a physical scientist, who like Justice Deshpande tried to interpret scientific knowledge contained in Vedas.
The first three chapters of the book are aimed at making the readers revisit their own understanding about Vedas and to make them approach Vedas with a scientific bent of mind. There are details about how science is approached by many a revered scientists by claiming that science is not necessarily at all times universal truths, instead it is a self correcting apparatus. The author quotes Einstein, ?the search for truth is never completely final but always subject to question and doubt?.
In the following three chapters the author tries to interpret how Vedas look at creation of universe. Almost similar to the Big Bang theory, his interpretation of the Veda is that ?the potent ray with energy inside was the first stage of creation of universe. Energy, elements and space contained in unperceivable universe spread everywhere?. He also cites that Vedas do not say or admit that universe is created by the Lord Brahma or Vishnu. Those are all concepts from mythology, while Vedas go for truth.
The book also tries to explain various present day mysteries through the lens of Vedic verses. Some such aspects are Shape of the Universe, Creation of stars, Akash Ganga, Milkyway, Comets, Sun'smotions, Black holes, Solar spots and photosynthesis. He ends the book with proving that ?time was treated as an element?.
The author has approached Vedas by not taking the literary meanings of Vedas, but tried to find out the concepts explained in them. The book combines ancient learning with modern sciences, and tries to bridge it. However, at many places there have been extreme inferences without the kind of rigour that the author has shown in some of the chapters. The book has fallen prey to author'sown ambitions to cover the wide spectrum of modern sciences in the Vedas, rather than starting from Vedas to look at its possible contribution to modern sciences. At times the compromise was on the so-called scientific rigour and analysis. It becomes good enough reason for the scientists not to take cognizance of the existence of this book.
The book, in fact, is an impressive work that offers a good understanding of not only what Vedas stand for but also on how to approach the Vedas as a reader and as an interpreter. The book is written for all kinds of readers in a simple language and providing minute details so that even those who do not understand Sanskrit can immensely benefit from it. It is a reflection of not only author'shard work but also his interpretation of justice and the world as such.
(Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kulapati Munshi Marg, Mumbai-400 007.)