Vedantic Concept of Life and Modern Science

The Vedantic concept of origin of life was discussed in a paper presented by Phalguni Banerjee at the International Conference on Science and Spirituality for World Peace. The paper talks about the failure of modern science to provide any satisfactory answer regarding life and its deeper reality. In the paper, Phalguni Banerjee points out that a synthesis between the Vedantic idea and modern science can expand the domain of our scientific conception of Life and find some satisfactory answers. The paper was recently published in KangalaOnline.

Some excerpts from the paper

Over the years in an attempt to understand life, modern science has made extensive attempts to understand only the molecular constituents like RNA and DNA in the bodies of living entities. In this regard Dr. TD Singh, founder director of Bhakivedanta Institute, attended a lecture on the origin of life by the world-renowned reductionist, Professor Stanley Miller. Dr Singh asked him during the question and answer session, “Suppose I were to give you all of the ready-made bio-molecules – DNA, proteins, lipids, sugars, etc. – would you be able to produce life within a test-tube by combining these molecules?” Professor Miller replied, “That I don’t know.”

The Vedantic idea is directly opposite to the idea of chemical evolution. Srila Prabhupada presented it in a very profound and simple way as, ‘Life comes from Life.’ According to Taittariya Upanishad, ‘asadva idamagra asit’ or Brahman or Consciousness existed before the manifestation of the material world. Thus Vyasadeva, the compiler of all Vedic literature exhorts that the prime duty of the human form of life is to inquire into the original basis of existence, which is Brahman or consciousness, “athato brahma jijnasa”. Furthermore consciousness is one of the prime symptoms of life. Thus according to Vedanta life is really a very deep reality and the full realization of the characteristics, meaning and purpose of life requires the conception and help of more than any material principle.

According to Vedic knowledge the nature of dead matter and life are completely different. For example, consciousness is one of the symptoms of life which dead matter does not possess. The major problem, which appears in the present approach of modern science, is that it assumes (without having sufficient scientific evidence) that life is of the same nature as that of matter and then tries to understand life. This approach has been adopted by science for years and due to that ‘till date we don’t have any theory in modern science which could give us a clear scientific idea about life. Scientifically, the origin of matter as well as of life is not known.

Furthermore, Matter also comes from life. It begins the study of origin of life by including a divine or spiritual element coined as spiriton by Dr T. D. Singh. The vedantic paradigm is an ancient paradigm and has been well studied within the traditional schools of Vedanta throughout the ages. Thus the Vedantic conception of life is that it is non reducible to matter, like atoms, molecules, chemicals and forces. According to Vedanta an ignorance of the original conception is the cause of sufferings. But when the actual Origin of both matter and life is understood, then peace and harmony are simultaneously achieved. Thus there is a great hope if scientists of the world can come together and study the question of Life by including the spiritual conceptions of world, including the Vedantic conception. Today in science, in a strictly materialistic approach, we are facing many difficult and intractable questions. Thus a synthesis between the Vedantic idea and modern science is sure to expand the domain of our scientific conception of Life.

The full text can be found at KanglaOnline.

Phalguni Banerjee is a Research Scholar in the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Kharagpur. The conference was held at Imphal on November 23-24, 2007