Spirituality has wisdom science lacks
Once, four people were walking in a forest. One had excellent knowledge about the anatomy of animals. By examining even a small fragment of a bone, he could tell from which animal it had come. Another one knew how to reconstruct the body of the animal from a single bone. The third one knew how to revive the life of any dead animal. The fourth person, however, had no such knowledge, but he had wisdom.
After walking for a while, they came across a piece of bone lying in the forest. The first person examined it carefully and determined that it was the bone of a royal Bengal tiger. The second person reconstructed the body of the tiger from that bone. The third person was about to instill life into the tiger's body when the fourth one shouted, "Stop! Don't do it. The tiger may kill us!" But none of the three would heed the warning. The fourth person, to save his life, immediately climbed up to a high branch of a tall tree.
When the tiger came to life, it attacked and killed all three people who knew how to recreate a terrible tiger but lacked the wisdom to save themselves from it.
The three with much knowledge but no wisdom in this story represent modern science and technology. Despite all the blessings of science, the world has not yet become utopia. Science has created material comforts but failed to create peace. It has acquired knowledge but no wisdom. It has improved the quality of life but not the quality of mind.
The fourth person in the story, who had lifesaving wisdom, represents spirituality, which is at the core of all religions. Just about all the great religions of this world have tried to teach humankind to love everybody and not to commit violence to anyone.
Hinduism, the oldest among the major religions, teaches that nonviolence is the greatest of all virtues. It also says that one who treats one's friends and enemies equally is a true devotee of God.
Buddhism teaches that hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. It is appeased by love. Christianity teaches its followers to love even their enemies. Most religions give a message of peace, universal love and tolerance.
One can acquire such wisdom only from genuine spiritual experience, the fruit of many years of sincere spiritual practice. Such spiritual practice consists of living the life according to the teachings of these great religions. These teachings unite humankind through selfless love and universal sympathy. While selfishness divides, selflessness unites.
If we boil down the essential teachings of these religions, we shall discover that they all teach selflessness. This selflessness is the only panacea to cure this world of its illness of unhealthy competition, intolerance and animosity. That's why the world could perhaps do without science but never without religion.
Swami Bhaskarananda of Seattle, the spiritual guide for the Vedanta Society of Hawaii, will lecture on Hindu understanding of the mind at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Oahu YWCA, 1040 Richards St., Room 307. The free public series will continue on Sundays through June 4.