How Compatible Are Science And Spirituality?

Dr. Janki Santoke, Speaking Tree, March 26, 2015.

Are science and spirituality compatible? Before attempting to answer that question, let us ask, what is science? Science is a systematic body of knowledge based on observation, experimentation and theoretical explanation of observed phenomena. Science is a rational approach to understanding the natural world.

What is spirituality? Spirituality means pertaining to Spirit, God or the Transcendental. It is the search for the transcendental Reality. When this search is on rational grounds, it is called philosophy or vedanta. Every Religion is made up of three parts: rituals, mythology and philosophy. Rituals are prescribed acts such as havan. Mythology is made up of all the stories told to communicate its ideas. And philosophy contains the ideas, principles and laws that religion elucidates. Mythology and rituals are used to communicate the philosophy which is abstract.

Certain similarities as well as differences could be observed between science and spirituality:

The method of science is the method of philosophy. It uses rationality to explain observed phenomena. It generalises based on observations and creates laws. Newton saw the apple fall and generalised that all mass exerts gravity. Buddha saw four sights that conveyed suffering and generalised that sorrow is inherent in human life.

Science using its laws makes gadgets and inventions for common use. Religion using its laws makes rituals and mythology for people. Not everyone can directly use high knowledge. Rational and abstract thoughts are communicated through rituals and stories. They make abstract concepts understandable and applicable.

The goal of science is acquisition of knowledge to improve quality of life. The goal of spirituality is also the same.

There are some differences too, between science and spirituality:

Field of study:
Science studies external phenomena while spirituality studies the internal phenomena of the individual. Science tries to improve the lot humans through improvement of the world (living conditions). Spirituality tries to improve the lot of humans by improving the individuals who contact the world. Clearly, science has done a wonderful job of studying and improving the world. Yet the human being is no more happier than before! Can anyone assert that our great- grandfathers and grandmothers were less happy than we are now?

The End:
Science provides knowledge that knows no end. As Tennyson says, knowledge is like the ever receding horizon. The closer you move, the further it gets. However, spirituality has a goal or end to knowledge. It is the realisation of Transcendental Reality. Those who have obtained it seek no more. They are the Buddhas, Ramas and Krishnas of the world. There is nothing for them to seek or obtain any more. They have arrived in every sense of the word!

Guarantee of happiness:
Science cannot provide a guarantee that if one does it and does it well one will be a happy person. But spirituality guarantees that if one does it and does it well one will be a happy person.

Thus science and spirituality have similarities and some differences. Spirituality does not oppose science. In fact a good scientific education is distinctly useful in the pursuit of philosophy. Good training in rationality is a great foundation for spirituality. For spirituality without science can deteriorate into blind faith and mindless rituals. But science without spirituality is denying for us the experience of our full human potential.

4 Responses to How Compatible Are Science And Spirituality?

  1. S.Lakshminarayanan says:

    Rational, clear, crisp and compete. These traits are running through all your writings. Add R to 3 Cs and that is the DNA of Dr. Janki’s writings.

  2. vilas wagholikar says:

    Very clear, in simple words you have explained the necessity of science and spirituality. The seeker will go through your more articles.Are your discourses in Hidi? Good Day!

    • janki says:

      Hari Om,

      Thank you.

      There is one Hindi video on the youtube channel Team Janki Santoke.
      On this website there are also articles in Hindi which have been published in Dainik Bhaskar. These are periodically updated.
      Hari Om

  3. Shripad Mahashabde says:


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