|Having negotiated many turbulent years of history, mankind had settled into a peaceful way of high-tech living. Science and spirituality blended perfectly to make possible a way of life previously unimagined. A peep into this harmonious world is provided through the eyes of Tilak and Shanti...
TRelaxed in front of the holographic pictures projected before him, Shanti watched with excitement as Tilak's tele-link, HAL, relayed the previous week's lecture of Vignanswarup Swami...
"We humans are always excited at beginnings and ends. Such was the case a hundred years ago with the ushering of an event for which we had waited 1,000 years - the year 2001. The end of a fascinating millennium and the beginning of an even more promising one. It had been an epoch of radical revolution. Man's thirst for progress had caused the technological juggernaut to revolve ever faster. The age became a consumer's paradise promising instant gratification. It was an age of shrinking gadgets and exploding progress. It became a dream world where chemists could turn an ear of corn into a silk purse. Bioengineers could put a little bit of wolf into sheep and a little bit of sheep into a wolf. People talked about designer jeans as well as designer genes. Discoveries and inventions continued over- whelmingly.
"Science continuously supplied the lubricant needed for the perpetuation of the revolution. It had become a magic wand for human passions. It worked for saints as well as for sinners. It worked for the young and the old, the proud and the humble. It had no preferences, no morals, no feelings, no restraints. The physicist used it to decipher the beauty and grandeur of nature's grammar. The businessman paid generous bonuses to it as an ideal servant who got things done, made money and never complained. The researcher wrung it to extract every last bit of information about the world.
"Its fury became unleashed on everything around it. If nature attempted to conceal her secrets, Science exposed them publicly with magnifications of 5-millionfold. No animal, vegetable or mineral could keep itself hidden. If God's gifts were too bulky for utility, Science chopped them into tiny pieces suitable for scrutiny. If the bits were too small, Science joined them together into larger units. If the cow was too large, a smaller one was bred. If seeds were not desired in fruits, seedless varieties were developed. It peeped into every nook and crevice it could find.
"Then things changed."
Shanti turned to his info-link and commanded it to go into Multi-link mode, a feature he very much appreciated in Windows 2100. In a flash, living pictures depicting life in those days began appearing next to the hologram of the lecture. The tele-link instantly requested and fetched the historic images from the archives at the Global Library of Records and displayed them for Shanti's convenience.
The lecture continued: "It may have begun in January 1939, when a tiny fork of light was photographed at a lab in a country named Germany - yes, they had actually partitioned themselves into invisible borders known as countries. With the discovery that an atom could be split with the release of a tremendous amount of energy, an awesome force became a new toy at man's disposal. Within a short span of six years, an innocent observation was transformed into the most awesome weapon of death - the atomic bomb. A single such bomb smothered a hundred thousand lives! A mad scramble led to the development of thousands of such beasts of doom. For 4 billion years, the sun, the moon and the earth were the only driving forces in changing our planet's climate. Soon, man entered as a bright-eyed, new contender, with enough firepower at his disposal to annihilate the world many times over. In just one generation man and his machines introduced 25% more Co2 into the atmosphere. In return for the 'favour', the earth retaliated by increasing global temperatures by as much as 5 degrees, turning the earth into a sweltering greenhouse.
"It reminded one of the wisdom of Don Juan, a fictional character in Carlos Castenada's novels: 'In the art of life, man invents nothing, but in the art of death he outdoes Nature herself. The marvelous force of life of which people boast is but a force of death. Man measures his strength by his destructiveness.' The ancient Greeks often narrated the tragedy of the mythical hunter Acteon, who accidentally saw Artemis, the goddess of chastity, bathing on Mount Cithaeron. For that offense, he was changed into a ram, to be chased by his own fifty hounds until they killed him. Science became the Acteon of the 20th century, offending Nature's chastity, only to be hounded by its own creations.
"Life's pace began to increase exponentially. Express-ness became the engine of the age. Holiday Inn Express, Pizza Hut Express, American Express, Kodak Express, instant coffee, microwave dinners, Concords, fax machines in cars were but a few signs of the rush. Machines were meant to save time; instead people found themselves incessantly huffing due to the mad hustle. Tempers also became quick and a new disease was born due to the sustained rush: 'Attention Deficit Disorder'. Man forgot that slowing down can show when to speed up.
"Eventually, though, we learned to slow down. After a millennium of progress, Religion taught us to turn inwards. We had to! It was the only way for man to regain his identity as man, a species much more advanced than animals. After all, if cannibals begin to use knives and forks, can it really be called progress?"
Shanti glanced to the side as the words, "Without introspection, man loses his identity as man. (Pramukh Swami Maharaj - 1997 CE)" hovered next to the holographic images, a handy feature of the Reference preference of his info-link. Reading the name, he couldn't help regretting the fact that he had missed the rare Suvarna Tula 'video' which Tilak had talked about. He promised himself that he would take time to view it later. But for now, he focussed on the lecture before him...
"Actually the source of Science's significance had always been that it helped the plight of man. But in its outward search using the 'Science for the sake of Science' maxim, it reached a point of diminishing usefulness for humanity. Chesterton was once prompted to state, 'It is extremely difficult to believe that man who is obviously uprooting mountains and dividing seas, clearing forests and tearing down temples is really a quiet old gentleman who only asks to indulge in his harmless old hobby and follow his harmless old nose.' When an atom is split and a hundred thousand innocent lives are smothered and the world is thrown into anxiety for centuries thereafter, how can a layman believe that the splitting of the atom was a commendable accomplishment resulting from inadvertence?
"Eventually, though, man heeded to the wisdom of the sages. Proving the fact that certain principles are so universal that they apply for all time, Confucius's advice appeared reasonable: 'The ancients, who wished to preserve the clear and good character of the world, first set about to regulate their national life. In order to regulate their national life, they cultivated their family life. In order to cultivate their family life, they rectified their personal life. In order to rectify their personal life, they elevated their heart. In order to elevate their heart they made their will sincere. In order to make their will sincere, they enlightened their mind....'
"And so, men began to enlighten their mind, not only by reading books, but by introspection and by prayer. It had sounded strange initially - closing one's eyes, folding one's hand, visualising the image of God and praying - but it was rejuvenating. Man accepted the fact that he was not a physical entity having spiritual experiences; he was a spiritual being having physical experiences. He turned his face from 'para-vidya' [worldly knowledge] towards 'apara-vidya' [transcendental knowledge], which the ancient rushis had always talked of. Man's turning back reminds one of the story of Naradji and Sanatkumar mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad."
Shanti whispered into his info-link and asked for the story to be displayed in brief. The previous images faded temporarily while the story came into view:
"With a genuine thirst for knowledge, Naradji approached Sanatkumar and asked, 'Enlighten me, O Great One.'
Sanatkumar replied, 'Before we proceed, first tell me what you have already studied.'
Naradji gave an impressive list, 'I have studied the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sam Veda, the Atharva Veda, the Purans, grammar, mathematics, astronomy, the art of weaponry, the fine arts.... Yet, I lament as I do not yet know myself.'
Sanatkumar replied, 'What you have listed is only information.' So saying, he began to give Naradji true knowledge which was above mere information.
Having narrated the story briefly, the info-link continued with the lecture being displayed before.
"So, towards the end of the millennium, in an epoch of quantum physics, supercomputers, microrobots and possibilities of cloning, people slowly began to look deeper. Despite an apparent contradiction, Science slowly moved from a dogmatic denial of realities beyond its reach towards appreciation of their possibilities. Scientists soon became more comfortable with using the word 'God' in pondering questions of meaning and order. Scientific revelations about supernovas, black holes, quarks, and the big bang suggested to many scientists that there is a 'grand design' in the universe. In fact, a well-known Australian physicist, Paul Davies, claimed in 1992 CE, 'The presence of intelligent, self-aware beings in the universe can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here.'
"Science even supplied a new language and a new set of symbols for believers to more easily accept concepts such as God, the soul and eternity. Einstein's theory of relativity, which challenged the traditional Newtonian view of absolute time, suddenly added new meaning to scriptural references of lifetimes of billions of years, as in the case of Brahma, whose day lasts 8,640,000,000 human years. Speculation in Science about such things as parallel universes, time dilation, black holes and worm-holes provided substance to beliefs about heaven and eternity.
"Soon, views about life and death began to change. Life was viewed as a bridge, and death was not the end. The ancient Jewish told a parable about twin foetuses lying together in the womb. One believed that there is a world beyond the womb where 'people walk upright, where there are mountains and oceans, a sky filled with stars.' The other hardly believed those foolish ideas. Suddenly the believer is forced through the birth canal leaving behind the only way of life it had known. The remaining foetus is saddened, convinced that a great catastrophe has befallen his companion. Outside the womb, however, everyone rejoiced, for what the remaining brother, still left behind in the womb, had just witnessed was not death but birth. People became more and more convinced of life after life and about life before life.
"And so, here we are, at the beginning of 2101 CE.
"The shift of paradigm has brought sweeping changes in lifestyles and experiences. The foresight of Dr. Von Braun, the director of NASA towards the end of the 20th century has proved correct: 'For only with God re-instated in the hearts of the world will He provide us with ethical guidance through the dangers of technological revolution.'
"Of course, now, even after the Great Enlightenment, towers of commerce certainly are not torn down, nor are gadgets of convenience destroyed. Necessity, not indulgence, has become the criteria. Man has turned to building mandirs - there was now one in every single village, town and metropolis suburb on the planet. Classics brimming with wisdom are read. Prayer and worship are an integral part of daily life...."
"Pause," yelled Shanti into his info-link, causing the lively images surrounding his room to freeze still. Shanti also paused for a while and thought over what he had just heard. Since his childhood days in the Children's Forum, he had learned about the importance of pausing, recalling and processing. 'Shravan, manan and nididhyas' is what the Vachanamrut called it. He became lost in thought....