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The contributions of India: the seer-scientists and the renaissance in India by Vasant V. Merchant

Sacrificer           Vasant V. Merchant
Sacrifice code       wfor0376
Sacrifice date       25 march 2009

The contributions of India: the seer-scientists and the renaissance
in India.

by Vasant V. Merchant

The glorious heritage of India has been shaped and fostered from the
Vedic and Upanishadic times. The Vedas are the earliest poetry and
prose of humanity. The Upanishads have been described as the epic
poems of self-knowledge, world-knowledge and God-knowledge. The vast
galaxy of seer-scientists, philosopher-poets, savants and sages and
the divine incarnations that traversed the paths of temporal
knowledge-Apara Vidya and spiritual knowledge-Para Vidya have molded
the Indian psyche and spiritual paths and left behind a rich and full
history of thought that ranged from science, philosophy, religion and
the living arts of man. They blossomed in an environment of respect
and freedom of thought and expression and scientific inquiry. No new
system of philosophy or spiritual knowledge came about or flourished
unless the founder of the new system was thoroughly familiar and had
carefully examined all the existing previous philosophies. Thus, the
six systems of Indian philosophy-viz. Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya,
Jaina, Buddhist, Vedanta-dwaita and advaita-dualistic and non-
dualistic systems et al developed a mutual harmony, and amity,
wholesomeness and integrity in their core.

The renowned Chinese writer, philosopher and philologist (1895-1976
CE) opined, "India was China's teacher in religion and imaginative
literature and the world's in trigonometry, quadratic equations,
grammar, phonetics, as well as in philosophy she inspired Boccacio,
Goethe, Schopenhauer and Emerson."

>From the times of Vedic period (8000 BCE), the great culture of India
has presented humanity with a gold mine of discoveries and inventions-
ranging from aviation technology (800 BCE), to medicine and botanical
science (Ayur Veda), (600 BCE), to atomic theory (600 BCE), plastic
surgery (600 BCE), to Yoga (200 BCE), to chemistry (100 CE), to
astronomy and mathematics (476 CE), to cosmology (3000 BCE),
astrology and astronomy (499-587 CE) and the great masters like Swami
Vivekananda, Paramhansa Yoga- nanda, Ramakrishrna Paramhansa, Sri
Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas K. Gandhi and others. The
historian Will Durant has said, "Mother India is in many ways, the
mother of us all." (The Story of Civilization; Our Oriental

Among the seer-scientists and geniuses of India were the pioneers of
science and spirit. Their lives were dedicated to peace and piety,
acuity and achievements that continue to inspire humanity toward
further progress and happiness of human beings inspite of the ravages
of time, the fall of empires over the centuries.

Travelers to India may come and go, but there will always be a
Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Zoroaster, Confucius, and Lao Tsu and other
statuettes and art effects being displayed that bring out the mosaic
of Indian peninsula-from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the multi-racial,
multireligious colors, customs and traditions and festivals.

India's priceless heritage is unveiled by Acharya Kapil (3000 BCE),
as the founder of Sankhya philosophy. He is believed to have been
born in 3000 BCE to the illustrious sage Kardam and wife Devhuti. His
pioneer work through the Sankhya School of Thought was to bring light
on the nature and principles of the ultimate soul and spirit
(Purusha) and primal matter (Prskriti), cosmic nature and creation.

Acharya Kapil's concept of transformation of energy and profound
commentaries on the soul (atman), nature, matter and the subtle
elements of the cosmos places him in a class by himself, incomparable
to the discoveries of other cosmologists. He contended that Prakriti
and Purusha are the mother of cosmic creation and all energies. With
this he contributed a new chapter in the science of cosmology. His
extraordinary and extrasensory perceptions, observations and
revelations on the secrets of creation, brought him the recognition
as the Father of Cosmology.

Acharya Bharadwaj (800 BCE) was a pioneer of aviation technology. He
lived in the holy city of Prayag in a hermitage. An ardent apostle of
Ayurveda, he also excelled in mechanical sciences. He authored
the "Yantra Sarvasva" which includes discoveries that are not only
outstanding but astonishing-e.g.: in space science, aviation science
and flying machines. He described three categories of flying machines-
viz. 1. that flies on earth from one place to another; 2. that
travels from one planet to another; 3. That travels from one universe
to another.

His designs, techniques and descriptions are found very impressive
even by engineers of today. He describes aviation technology thus:

a. Profound secret: the techniques to make a flying object machine
invisible through the application of sunlight and wind force.

b. Living Secret: the technique to make an invisible space machine
visible through the application of electrical force.

c. Secret of reconnaissance/eavesdropping: the technique to listen to
a conversation in another plane.

d. Visual secrets: the technique to see what is happening inside
another plane.

Archarya Bharadwaj's brilliant and innovative discoveries have earned
him the distinction of being a pioneer in aviation technology.

Acharya Charak (600 BCE) has been called the Father of Medicine.
Charak Samhita is his most renowned work-considered the encyclopedia
of Ayurveda. Even after two millennia, his principles, diagnoses and
cures retain their potency value and truth.

Through his inquiries and investigations, he revealed his innate
genius the facts of human anatomy when there was much confusion about
science of anatomical theories in Europe. He studied blood
circulation, embryology, pharmacology, diseases like diabetes, heart
disease, tuberculosis, in addition to the human anatomy. In the
`Charak Samhita' he described the functions and the medicinal
properties/qualities of 100,000 herbal plants. The influence of diet
and nutrition, and activity on the body and the mind are emphasized,
and correlation between physical health and spirituality are explored
in contributing to diagnostic and curative science as well as mind-
body relationships in healing and health. More than two centuries
prior to the Hippocratic oath, he prescribed an ethical charter for
medical practitioners.

Acharya Charak has made landmark contribution to Ayurveda. In the
annals of history, they are etched among the noblest and greatest

Medical knowledge about the duration, intensity and extensity of
pregnancy was known in Ayur Veda. Vedic people were the first to know
the exact length of pregnancy with its gestation, incubation and
developmental periods from the embryonic and conceptual stages. The
grave importance of the psychic factors during pre-natal and other
phases of pregnancy-like the importance of the mother's thoughts and
also those of the father's in influencing the child with samskaras-
psychic impressions was recognized. Awareness of the relationship of
the endocrine system to gynecology and obstetrics was appreciated
(nadi-grantha sashtra).

In the archaeological findings of the ancient Indian civilization
from Harrappa and Mohenjodaro, excavations of carvings, statues and
structures were found with figures with acromegaly (disturbance of
pituitary gland), dwarfism, scrofulous conditions from thyroid gland
and other endocrine disturbances in treatment by the physicians.
Patients were lying on a flat platform or surface restrained by side
railings from falling and strap like mechanisms for restraining
mental patients. Remnants and parts of animal hospitals for treatment
of birds and animals were found. Coins with Taurus and Lion Seals
were discovered. Presently, the largest bird hospital exists in New
Delhi, retirement homes (ranches) for old cows and horses, were
provided. About five years ago, old mules and donkeys (retired from
the wing of Indian army) were placed in retire. meat facilities in
Gujarat in rural communities.

Acharya Kanad (600 BCE) was the founder of atomic theory. He was a
genius in philosophy, who founded "Vaisheshika Darshan" system.

He was born in Prabhas Kshetra near Dwarika in Gujarat. He was known
as the pioneer expander of the law of causation, realism, and the
atomic theory. He classified all the objects of creation into nine
elements-viz. earth, water, light, wind, ether, time, space, mind and
soul. He has said: "Every object of creation is made of atoms which
in turn connects with each other to form molecules." Nearly 2,500
years before John Dalton, Kanad's statement ushered in the Atomic
Theory for the first time in the world.

Kanad also described the dimensions and motion of atoms and their
chemical reactions with each other. T.N. Colebrook, the eminent
historian has succinctly pointed out, "compared to the scientists of
Europe, Kanad and other Indian scientists were the global masters in
this field."

Acharya Sushrut (600 BCE) was recognized as a genius in medical
science. He has written in great de. tails, the first ever surgical
procedures in "Sushrut Samhita," a unique encyclopedia of surgery.
Achary Sushrut was born to sage Vishwamitra.

Sushrut has been called the father of plastic surgery, and the
science of anesthesia. He was known to perform Rhinoplasty-
restoration of a damaged nose, and other challenging procedures on
the eyes, and operations-when surgery was in its infancy in Europe
and the rest of world.

Twelve types of fractures are described by Sushrut in "Sushrut
Samhita" and six types of dislocations. His description of human
embryology gives details of 125 types of surgical instruments
including, scalpels, lancets, needles, catheters and rectal speculums-
which were primarily designed from the jaws of birds and animals.
Additionally, different stitching methods and the use of horse's hair
as thread and fibers of bark are discussed. Three hundred (300) types
of operations are included in great detail.

The ancient Indians pioneered cranial surgeries, caesarian and other
surgeries, and amputation. Sushrut was a giant in the arena of
medical science.

Acharya Patanjali (200 BCE) was called the father of Yoga. One of the
most unique contributions of India to the world is the science of
Yoga. Contrary to the misconception about Yoga meaning only the
physical exercise or certain physical postures, Yoga means in
totality, the physical, psychological and spiritual integration of
the being to discover and realize the Ultimate Reality through Yogic
practices. The word Yoga comes from the word "to yoke"- the lower for
the purpose of the higher. True Yoga is transformation of
consciousness, as Sri Aurobindo has explained.

Acharya Patanjali hailed from the district of Ganda (Ganard) in Uttar
Pradesh. He prescribed the control of prana shakti- life force, vital
breath, for regulation and control of the body, mind and soul,
conducive to good health and happiness. Acharya Patanjail
expostulates 84 yogic postures which are aimed at effectively
enhancing the efficiency of circulatory, respiratory, central nervous
system, digestive and endocrine systems and several other organs of
the physique. Patanjali speaks of eight (8) limbs of Yoga, which are
instrumental in the attainment of ultimate bliss, in integrated state
of consciousness--i.e. Samadhi. This can be attained through certain
disciplines-viz. Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratvahara, dhyana,
dharana, the ultimate stage being Samadhi. Popularity of Yoga is
based on its scientific approach and benefits that are perceived to
be medical, physical, psychological and spiritual.

Acharya Patanjali will always enjoy a pride of place since Yoga is
honored as one of the six main systems of Indian philosophy, and will
be remembered for his teachings of self-discipline and self-
realization leading to self bliss.

Nagarjuna (100CE) was an extraordinary wizard of science. He was born
in the unknown, nondescript village of Baluka in Madhya Pradesh. He
produced many discoveries and innovations after twelve (12) years of
dedicated research in the fields of metallurgy and chemistry. His
master works were used as texts. They are "Rasa
Ratnakar," "Rashrudaya," and "Rasendramangal" are his renowned
contributions to the science of chemistry. In comparison to the
medieval chemists/scientists in England who failed in their
alchemical efforts Nagarjuna had discovered the secret of transmuting
base metals into gold. As an alchemist, he also had a spiritual
dimension-that of transmuting lower consciousness into the higher

He is the author of medical books like "Arogyamanjari" and "Yogasar."
His writings are prolific and versatile. He wrote twenty-four (24)
books. His knowledge is profoundly scholarly. He was appointed the
Chancellor of the famous University of Nalanda. His discoveries are a
milestone that continue to astonish the scientists of today.

Aryabhatt (476 CE) a master astronomer and mathmatician was born in
476 CE Kusumpur, Bihar. Aryabhatt's intellectual brilliance remapped
the boundaries of mathematics and astronomy. At the age of 23, in 499
CE, he wrote a text on astronomy and an unparalleled treatise on
mathematics called "Aryabhatiyam." In this text, he formulated the
process of calculating the motion of the planets and the time of
eclipses. Aryabhatt was the first to proclaim that the earth is
round, it rotates on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in
space- 1000 years before Copernicus published his heliocentric
theory. He is also acknowledged for calculating [pi] to four decimal
places: 3.1416 and the sine [pi] table in trigonometry. Centuries
later, the Arab mathematician, Mohammed Pon Mussa in 825 CE credited
the value of Pi to the Indians, and said: "This value has been given
to the Hindus." Aryabhatt's most spectacular contributions is the
concept of zero (0), which reached the Mediterranean, and Europe
through the Arabs and travelers across the seven oceans. Without the
concept of zero, modern technology would have been non-existent.
Metaphysically also the zero has played a significant role in
Sunyavada in Hinduism and Buddhism and the importance of zero
principle as vacuum (sunyata) in physics-mathematics in the creative

Aryabhatt is rightly reputed as the colossus of mathematics.

Varahamihir (499-587 CE), an eminent astrologer and astronomer was
honored in the court of King Vikramaditya in Avanti, Ujjain as one of
the nine gems. The author of the book Panchasiddhanta Varahamir holds
a prominent place in the realm of astronomy. Varahamihir in India and
Ptolemy in Egypt (100 CE?-165 CE?) were both scientists par
excellence and showed that the genus of astronomy was astrology. In
the book, "Bruhad Samhita" and "Bruhad Jatak," Varahamihir delineates
the path of the moon and the planets and notes that their luster is
not because of their own light but due to the light of the sun. He
reveals his discoveries in the domains of geography, and geological
sciences, botany, constellation science and zoology concerning animal

Varahamihir's treatises deal with plant pathology, preventative and
curative measures for various disease afflictions of trees and
plants. His knowledge and unique contributions to astronomy and
astrology still survive even to this day.

Bhaskaracharya II (1114-1183 CE) was a genius in Algebra. He was born
in the village of Vijjadit-Jalagaon, in Maharashtra. His
distinguished work in Algebra, geometry and arithmetic catapulted him
into name and fame. "Lilavati" and "Bijaganita"--two of his works are
among the most important and unparalleled and a tribute to his
profound intelligence. These have been translated into different
languages of the world. In "Siddhanta Shiromani"--his noted treatise,
he deals with planetary positions, eclipses, cosmography, astronomy
equipment and mathematical techniques. His book "Surya Siddhanta"
highlights the force of gravity, which he has explained thus: objects
fall on earth due to a force of attraction by the earth. Therefore,
the earth, planets, constellations, moon and the sun are held in
orbit due to this attraction.

Bhaskaracharya was the first to discover gravity. It was 500 years
before Sir Isaac Newton's discovery. A champion among the
mathematicians of ancient and medieval India, Persian and European
scholars were inspired to do further research on the works of
Bhaskarcharya and earned fame and popularity. Kahlil Gibran, (1883-
1931), from Lebanon (author of "The Prophet"), a philosophical-
literary savant wrote: "The heights of heavens attract me but the
force of gravitation pulls me down," speaking about the paradox of

Bhagwan Swami Maharaj (1781-1830 CE) born in Gujarat inspired a moral
and spiritual message in the 19th century. He employed the method of
dialogue and interaction with his aspirants in his
book; "Shikshsapatri," and his sacred text "Vachanamrutam."

Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-), born in Chansad, Gujarat, has applied
India's ancient wisdom to create architectual and spiritual marvels
like Akshardham and the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in London. He has
emphasized that (Vedic) rishis (seers) were great scientists who
gifted society with discoveries that brought peace and progress to
humanity. Today, however, he cautions, scientific discoveries and
inventions have to be tempered with Vivek, power of discretion to use
for what is good and beneficial for humankind.

The Renaissance in India

A historical look at India from the last thousand or even hundred
years, one cannot help but notice the phenomena of saints, sages and
spiritual personages, in addition to the intellectual, literary,
artistic, scientific and spiritual geniuses that have contributed to
the Renaissance of India. This range includes Vivekananda, ka Tirtha,
Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Anandmayi Ma,
Shivananda, Neem Karoli Baba, Nityananda--to mention only a few--
among great individuals. In this galaxy of stalwarts, these
individuals are not necessarily the products of any one organization
or any school, nor are they "clones of one another."

In the words of Dr. David Frawley in his book: Arise Arjuna in "The
Value of Hindu Culture for the World" (pp:203-204) he clearly points
out that "if we look at the West or the Islamic world over the last
thousand years, it is difficult to find such a number of people of
spiritual realization. Without a cultural support such a great
assembly could not arise or would not be appreciated. While these
sages are the fruit, the culture is the field that nourishes the
trees (teachings) on which they grow." The Vedas are the roots, the
source from which these personages have derived their inspiration and

Dr. David Frawley continues in his penetrating analysis of Indian
culture, and points out, "the worship of the Gods and Goddesses,
Hindu devotional meditations, pujas and rituals are little known or
understood in the West. Many Western followers of Hindu Yoga have
never entered a Hindu temple or seen a puja performed, except as a
curiosity." Their acquaintance with Yoga is only though Hatha yoga-
physical postures-asanas, and their understanding only surfacial of
the real meaning of Yoga, as alluded in the early part of this
article. Dr. Frawley reiterates that "Ayur Veda," the medical system
is only now getting some recognition in the West. Vedic astrology is
just beginning to surface and looks like it will become quite popular
at least in astrological circles. Hindu music has made quite a mark
of its own from the Beatles to Ravishankar, its rhythms and melodies
have brought joy and unity. Sanskrit poetry, drama and aesthetics,
the most extensive, intricate, profound and spiritual in the world,
are little known or appreciated. Even the poets of the Western world
who aim at a symbolic or mystical approach do not have an idea as to
how extensively this realm had already been explored in India with
such figures as Kalidasa. The Vedas and Upanishads, the great
fountainheads under these multiple currents are largely unknown by
those who teach and preach, including in the academia.

A new trend in India is now to introduce Vedic science, Sanskrit, and
Vedic studies from an Indian point of view--with a new historical
reorientation in schools and universities. The Vedic worldview is
universal in its outlook, and its horizons are far and wide reaching.
India must not revel in its past glory and grandeur and rest on its
past laurels. She must re-think and re-evaluate the direction of her
growth and progress in the light of the roots of her indigenous
culture to give birth to the possibilities of new freedom of thought
and action commensurate with her ethical and spiritual values. She
must weed out the deadwood, dross and debris with the spiritual
passion of Shiva to destroy ignorance and evil and the ills of
society. She must keep the genius of her identity and synthesize the
ancient with the modern, overcome the inadequacies, negativities and
limitations of the past and preserve, nourish and create new changes
in the present and the future with the persistence and powers of
Vishnu to unite and integrate to regenerate and recreate with the
powers of Shiva.

The challenge is indeed clear for it holds the potential, power and
promise to fulfill the work of galvanization with gigantic energy,
valor, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and dynamism. She must foster
individual and collective responsibility.

As Sri Aurobindo says: "true knowledge is that which unites." It must educate, awaken and transform the consciousness. That is the mission of the scholar--teacher: Peace through integral development.


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