The Hindu tradition does not draw a clear line separating natural sciences from the humanities. Everything is seen as part of knowledge (Veda).

Navaratna Rajaram

As noted in an earlier article, the Hindu philosophic tradition does not separate the natural sciences from the humanities and even philosopy.. The same was true of the West until the nineteenth century. Such great thinkers as Rene Descartes. They called the natural sciences like physics, natural philosophy. Newton for example called his great work Pricipia Mathematica Philosophia Naturalis, meaning “mathematical principles of natural philosophy.” In it he considered sciences like mechanics, astronomy, gravitation theory and also optics (in a separate work.) He went on to create the necessary mathematics, which led to what we now call the Calculus but Newton called Theory of Fluxions. But Newton used mainly geometric methods, and it was left to Laplace a century later to describe Newtonian Gravitation and related theories using Calculus and create what he called Mecanique Celeste (celestial mechanics), which is how it is taught and  studied today.

It is worth noting that the most advanced degree offered by most universities is still called Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. In Newton’s time colleges offered doctorates in four disciplines: Theology, Medicine and Philosophy. The word philosophy comes from Sophia, the Greek goddess of learning or knowledge, comparable to Saravati in our tradition. Philosopher is anyone who loves knowledge.

Philosophy like Veda (or Vidwat) looks at all learning as part of knowledge (or Veda). We can take a brief look at this as propounded by Krishna in Chapter 7 of the Bhagavadgita (the Gita)appropriately called Jnana-Vijnana Yoga. As is well known the Gita is the form of a dialog between Lord Krishna referred to as Sri Bhagavan (the Blessed Lord) and his disciple Arjuna addressed variously as for mother KuntiKaunteya (son of Kunti, his mother), Dhananjaya (winner of wealth), Partha (son of Pritha- another name for his mother Kunti), Pandava (son of father Pandu) and Bhaarata (scion of the Bharata dynasty).

Sri Bhagavan said: Hear O Partha, you who are with unbounded affection are devoted to learn from me, free of material possessions, power, wealth, know me (my knowledge) without doubt or confusion.

I shall teach you philosophy (jnaana) both material and spiritual so there is little left for you to know. One person in a thousand perhaps aspires for this knowledge. And one of these may come to know this philosophy..

Earth, water, fire, air and space, mind and thought, self-awareness– know these as my different attributes. These eight entities constitute my physical existence. O mighty one, quite apart from these learn of my soul that comprise the energy of my existence that supports the living energy of the universe.

O Dhananjaya, know that all living things are composed of  these two entities, matter and energy. I am the source of the beginning and the end of the world.

There is nothing beyond these that source and sustain the world. The universe is sustained by me like chain of beads by a string.

Of water, I am the liquid. Of sun and moon, I am the light. I am OM (sacred sound) in the Vedas. In the skies, I am space and in men, I am manliness.

I am the pleasant fragrance of the earth, and heat in the fire. Life in all living things, and wisdom in every sage.

O Partha, know me as the seed ancient of all living things, and wisdom in the wise and the brilliance in all brilliant ones.

O best of the Bharatas, know me as strength of the strong free of greed and emotion. I am the life sustaining jst desire of all things living.

Wisdom, force and ignorance too are born of me. I am in them but they not in me. I control them but they not me.

The three controlling traits of wisdom, force and ignorance, and their consequences drive all living things. One driven by them cannot know me for I am beyond them.

Possessors of these three divinely ordained traits find it hard to transcend illusions created by me. Those that pray to me with devotion shall overcome these illusions.

Those whose souls are seized by these are demonic creatures and deluded ones do not pray to me.

O Best of the Bharatas, in four ways do persons pray to me. Doer of good works desirous of wealth, one in distress, one seeking knowledge and the wise.

Of these the wise person, the who devotedly prays to me eternally seeking knowledge is most dear to me.

All these are noble but he that prays for knowledge embodies me For he that is eternally seeking knowledge shall reside within me.

I, Vaasudeva am the embodiment of knowledge after many lives of devoted study. One who becomes wise with knowledge acquired after many lives sees me as one who is hard to obtain.

O Arjuna, I know what happened, that which is happening and what shall happen in future. None can know me without complete devotion.

O Bharata Prince, all things in creation are drowning in ignorance because of their ignorance of what causes happiness and sorrow.

But those who worship me free of attachment from these evils worship me with strong devotion.

Author’s note: First point to not is this chapter of the Gita like rest of the work is not really a prayer book.  I would describe it as metaphysics based on practical philosophy.


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