The Alf Keeling memorial Lecture 2017 – “Science and Spirituality in Hinduism” by Dr Girdari Bhan.

On the evening of November 9th, the hall of St Ambrose Preparatory School was filled for the occasion, with over 70 people attending the lecture which was timed to celebrate Interfaith Week 2017. Azhar Rasul, Chair of Altrincham Interfaith Group, welcomed Dr Girdari Bhan and then Poonam Kakkar, a Hindu member of the AIG committee, introduced Dr Bhan and described all he had done for interfaith, working in interfaith both locally and nationally, being co-Chair of the Interfaith Network for the UK and Patron and Ex-President of the World Hindu Council UK among many other roles.

Dr Bhan began his talk by stating how Interfaith was an opportunity to inform people about who we are. He said how there was a widespread assumption that Science and Religion were at loggerheads, and cited the debate between Creation and Evolution as an example. He pointed out that Science is based on reason and is validated by experiment and evidence, it deals with the material world. Religion is based on faith and revelation. Spirituality, however, deals with philosophical issues.

He explained how the ancient Hindu texts are packed with scientific knowledge, with no dividing line between science and spiritual knowledge. The seers held, however, that science must be validated, and withstand all challenges. The Hindu view is that the universe goes through cycles of creation and destruction, that time and space are relative, with no fixed span.

He then said how the ancient texts described many of the features of our cosmos -  the existence of atoms, the concept of planetary motion, the evolution of complex from simple life forms. He said how ancient civilizations had mastered many advanced techniques including brain surgery, metallurgy, dentistry (teeth with fillings had been found, thousands of years old),were aware of the existence of disease-producing entities (i.e. germs) and emphasised the importance of hygiene. In mathematics, the concept of zero was recognized and the ancients could calculate up to 1053.

He said that Hindus believe that knowledge comes from the Supreme Being and that we just discover things that are already there. We are also confirming ideas expressed long ago by the ancient seers.

After a brief foray through the world of astronomy and particle physics, and comparing the Old Mechanistic View with the Modern View, Dr Bhan concluded that everything is subject to the cosmic laws of nature. Humans are not the centre of creation, and he reminded us that human rights are not superior to the rights of other beings. He urged people to be open minded, and to treat knowledge with respect. There should be no conflict between science and religion.

After a few questions, Azhar thanked Dr Bhan for a most interesting address and he was presented with a beautiful lily. We then mingled and chatted with drinks and biscuits.

Many thanks to all who helped to set up the hall, provide and serve the refreshments, and to St Ambrose Preparatory School for allowing us to use their facilities.

Carolyn Jones

(Hon. Sec., Altrincham Interfaith Group)