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Advaita for the 21st Century

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Research and Education in Spirituality

Raju Chidambaram

Following a BA in mathematics, a Master's degree in Statistics and a doctorate in Operations Research, he has spent over 30 years working in satellite communications. Since 1978, he has been associated with the Chimaya Mission in Washington, DC and he is now using his skills in problem solving and background in the use of mathematical tools to try to state the teachings of Vedanta mathematically.

The results of these studies from 2000 - 2007 have been presented in papers at various conferences.

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ISBN: 978-1456795007
Format : Paperback
Pages: 308
List Price: £12.73, US$19.95

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THE PATH AHEAD- Research and Education in Spirituality

It is hoped that the discussions in this book have demonstrated that

  • Spirituality can be studied and taught as a science in its own right, with minimum appeal to religious conventions
  • A mathematical approach has the potential to make our understanding of spirituality more precise and deep, thus helping to communicate the scientific principles behind spirituality with confidence and clarity
  • Spirituality and modern science are not only not in conflict, but are complementary and mutually supportive; and
  • Educating people, especially the youth, in spiritual principles is of paramount importance in countering the numerous negative forces that threaten mankind with crises and calamities.

The theory of vāsanas and the concept of spiritual detachment, it has been shown, are central to a mathematical description of spiritual evolution. The implications of the theory are by and large consistent with the teachings of Vedānta and this can be taken as a validation of our overall modeling approach. The Law of Love, which is an immediate and primary result of the theory, is echoed by all religions. Interestingly, the concept of time has a pivotal role in our theory of spirituality as it does in Physics. Many scientists and philosophers have previously commented on similarities between Vedānta and modern physics. Therefore, the many parallel features that have been shown to exist in the theory of spirituality advanced in this book and in Einstein’s theory of time and space should not come as a total surprise. However, we must hasten to add that the validity of Vedāntic truths does not in any way depend on the veracity of today’s scientific theories. The fact that our theory uses Vedāntic principles also should not restrict its relevance in any way, since these principles are universal, with no religious or cultural context.

Research In Spirituality
Notwithstanding its possible accomplishments, the theory of spirituality presented here before the reader is not the final, definitive, word on the subject, but only a first step in opening a potentially new field for exploration, discussion and research. Research in spirituality will be necessarily a multi-disciplinary effort and it can in the long-term make a positive impact on the world. There is opportunity here for students of philosophy, psychology, religion, mathematics and science to collaborate.  The work will involve not only building new edifices defining spirituality as a science, but also dismantling the old historical scaffoldings binding spirituality to unnecessary religious dogma.

Ideally, as in other branches of science, the implications of the mathematical theory need to be verified through observations. The Law of Love, for example, states that an individual's measure of contentment in daily life increases with his or her unconditional love and understanding for other beings. The statement makes intuitive sense, yet it is nevertheless a hypothesis that can benefit from scientific verification through carefully designed studies. This will most likely require developing psychological measures and neurobiological correlates for the underlying spiritual concepts such as detachment, universal love, contentment in daily life, and vāsanas. The field of Psychometrics, with its array of techniques for measuring various human psychological traits, will be valuable in such research. Functional MRI and such other modern brain imaging techniques have already been applied by researchers studying spirituality and could be useful to verify the various results of the mathematical models. A second result implied by the theory that could be potentially tested is the observation that as a jīva evolves higher in the spiritual path, the personal will power required to stay in the witness mode decreases. 

Further work is required in some key areas in order to complete the mathematical theory. The model presented in Chapters 5-8 represents the “feed-forward” process in Fig. 2.6 of how detachment determines the probability of identifying with the Self or Non-Self at any given moment. However, we do not have yet a mathematical basis to describe the “feed-back” process which determines how an individual’s vāsanas and detachment are modulated by spiritual practice.  It is reasonable to assume that it is the elements of suffering and knowledge inherent in life experiences that are important here, but we do not have at this time a model to represent the cause-effect relationships involved. Also, as discussed in the chapter on Sri Ramana’s Principle of Personal Will, the will power of a jīva figures prominently in its spiritual development. But we lack a sound basis to even define this spiritual will power of a jīva…

Education in Spirituality
The vital need for education in spirituality has been emphasized at many points in this book. Materialism, though by itself not an evil, can be a recipe for calamity unless it is properly balanced by a holistic spiritual outlook. Today, education in spirituality is imparted mainly through religious institutions. The quality of the education suffers in the process since religious messages get priority over spiritual truths. What is unifying and ennobling in the spiritual teachings tends to be overlooked in favor of ideas that promote respective religious agenda. The sad result is that, instead of uniting mankind under a common spiritual banner, the present day religious education often perpetuates barriers that artificially divide people from people and at times even sets one group of people against another.

This must change and can be changed. It can be changed if it is appreciated that spirituality is a science rather than the appendage of any religion, and therefore it can be taught as a science with little reference to any particular religion. This is the other message that this book endeavors to convey. It should be possible to put together a robust program for youth in schools and college that teaches the basics of spirituality. It would teach the students the essentially identical spiritual nature of all human beings and impress on them the fact that the proper nurture of our spiritual personality is necessary for true happiness, peace and harmony. A mathematical approach, such as in this book, is useful in communicating clearly the underlying principles, but is not an absolute necessity. The course will necessarily include relevant material from sociology, psychology and cognitive sciences and draw upon the accumulating scientific evidence on the efficacy of meditation and other spiritual practices. Exposure to emerging concepts in Physics and Biology will make the students comfortable that spirituality and science are indeed in agreement. A survey of human history to illustrate the dangers of material prosperity without social conscience, and religion without spirituality, would also be pertinent. An objective review of world religions will be a very useful part of the course but it should be directed towards respect for all religions and understanding how they can help in spiritual development.


Page last updated: 17-Jul-2012