Swami Vivekananda – an intuitive scientist

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This is a brief summary of the book written by T.G.K.Murty in 2012 on 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami ji. (Vijai Singhal)

Swami Vivekananda was a multifaceted genius. While his spiritual eminence is well known, his insights in physical sciences are lesser known. He was well acquainted with the scientific thoughts of his time and was remarkably accurate in his observations and conclusions with regards to many scientific notions.

Swami Vivekananda was born on 12th January, 1863 in Kolkata. His pre-monastic name was Narendranath Datta. His father, Vishwanath Datta was a successful attorney. Early is his life he came under the influence of Sri Ramakrishna, a mystic and priest of the Kali Temple. He made lot of spiritual progress under his guidance. After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami jiwent on a long pilgrimage to explore the length and breadth of India. In 1893 he decided to attend the World Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago, USA to represent the Hindu faith. He became an instant celebrity after his talk. He gained lot of popularity and attracted lot of followers. He spent 3 years in America and England giving talks and organising spiritual retreats. On his return back to India he established the Ramakrishna Mission and Math in 1897. He went for his second trip to the West in 1899. He passed away on 4th July, 1902. The Ramakrishna Mission has centres all over the globe spreading the teachings of Vedanta.

The power of intuition is an important ingredient of creative thinking which leads to innovative discoveries – Eureka moment. Our sages did possess the intuitive power through concentration of mind doing meditation and have made lots of very significant contributions in science and mathematics. The concept of zero, infinity and the decimal number system were developed in India. Swamiji saw interrelationships among Sankhya philosophy, cosmology, gravity and relativity. He also pronounced that energy and matter are interchangeable in space and time domain. On his suggestion, Nikola Tesla, the mathematician and physicist tried to formulate a theory on the above.During his tour of the United States and Europe, Swamiji met many of the well-known scientists of the time. He met in New York Sir William Thompson, Lord Kelvin and Professor Helmholtz – leading representatives of science in the West. The mathematical proof of the principle that Swamiji was looking for did not come until about 10 years later, when Albert Einstein published his paper on relativity and his famous equation E=mc2. This is what Swamiji was looking to get from Tesla.

On biological sciences, Swamiji did not fully support the Darwin’s theory of evolution which emphasised survival of the fittest. Swamiji said: “Taking for granted that Darwin is right, I cannot yet admit that it is the final conclusion about the causes of evolution.” He further said: ..”in my opinion, struggle and competition sometimes stand in the way of a being’s attaining its perfection. If the evolution of an animal is effected by the destruction of a thousand others, then one must confess that this evolution is doing very little good to the world.” In animal kingdom instinct prevails; but the more a man advances, the more he manifests rationality. A number of modern biologists do not support Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. The Nobel Laureate Brian Goodwin declares that struggle and competition have no special status in biological dynamics where what is important is the pattern of relationships and interactions that exist and how they constitute the behaviour of the system’s integrated whole.

In the interest of brevity, I cannot describe some other aspects of Swami ji’s contributions, which this small book gives a good account of.

– Vijai Singhal

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