Forwarded and posted at SPN with permission of Jagpal S. Tiwana Scientific vision in SGGS and interfaith dialogue By Hardev Singh Virk Published by Singh Brothers, Amritsar Publication year: Nov. 2007, Pages: 156, Price: Rs. 225 A Review by Dr. D. P. Singh Dept. of Physics, Govt. Shivalik College, Naya Nangal-140126, Dist. Ropar, Punjab. E-mail: drdpsn @hotmail.com Religion and Science represent two great systems of human thought. Both of these seek objective perceptions in their attempts to comprehend existence and reality. The fundamental distinction lies in the direction in which they look in pursuit of their aims. In both cases a subtle interplay between theory and observation is involved. Both approaches are intellectual as well as empirical. Professor Hardev Singh Virk's book titled 'Scientific Vision in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Interfaith Dialogue' offers an exciting bridge between religious studies and natural sciences. He has made a splendid in-depth study of Sikhism and its relationship with science. The book contains 12 Chapters. In the Prologue, the author traces a brief history of the kindling of his interest in Cosmology. Then he articulates the purpose of the book to show glimpses of Scientific Vision in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) by interpreting its text in the light of scientific theories. Prof. Virk stresses that Interfaith dialogue is the need of the hour for promotion of world peace. He points out that twenty-first century will be a witness to two types of dialogues for the promotion of world peace and harmony: (i) Science-Religion dialogue, and (ii) inter-faith dialogue. The author has a strong faith and conviction that SGGS has the potential to play a leading role in both these dialogues. Science and Religion are not polarized in the Sikh text. Sikh scripture brings us face to face with the concreteness and reality of the interdependence of all life, and of our own microcosmic and macrocosmic interrelationship. Science, with its observations and factual data, doesn't clash with Sikh sacred scripture; they reveal its intrinsic vigour, its far reaching insights and its contemporary relevance. These facts emerge most convincingly in Prof. Virk's interpretation of Sikh scripture in the light of scientific theories of evolution, cosmology, nature of reality and time. In the 'Glimpses of a Scientific Vision in SGGS' author points out that the spiritual / mystical vision in SGGS is compatible with modern science in its approach to cosmology, nature of reality, relation of microcosm to macrocosm and consciousness. The concept of supreme reality as presented in SGGS is unique, scientific and revolutionary. It is not a mere abstraction. Its realization is possible through the practice of Sabda and Naam. SGGS envisages the Creation of the Universe out of Sunya, which is devoid of matter but not of energy. The author points out a beautiful analogy, with quantum concept of Creation - out of nothing, as a vacuum fluctuation. Elaborating on the 'Cosmological Ideas in Science and Religion' the author has given an overview of the various cosmological theories and models proposed in both science and religion. The cosmological hypothesis, as propounded in SGGS, has been compared with other texts, both of oriental and occidental traditions. After a detailed analysis, the author opines that Sikh Cosmology as enunciated in SGGS is most scientific and compatible with the modern cosmological theories of science. In describing 'The Concept of Reality and its Physical, Metaphysical and Mystical aspects' the author has pointed out that there has been a dynamic change in the physical interpretation of Reality from Aristotle to Einstein. As the Reality is trans-empirical so it can be comprehended through intuitive experience rather than sense experience. Guru Nanak's intuitive insight into the metaphysical realm, presents an integrated view of the basic Reality that is monistic but whose manifestation is pluralistic. According to SGGS, Reality can be realized through Guru's sabda. The wonderful concept of Sunya was introduced in Sikh scripture by Guru Nanak to explain the pre-creation state of the universe. Sunya is not equated with void or emptiness rather it represents the state of equipoise where Absolute Lord exists in primordial trance. The concept of Nature has played a predominant role in science and religion since ancient times. After discussing its development over the centuries and in Newtonian world-view, the author has elaborated on the impact of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics on its various aspects. Talking about the Hindu and Muslim viewpoints about Nature, the author points out that Guru Nanak's vision of Nature is far more comprehensive than his predecessors both in the East and West. It is a holistic vision, which can act as a platform for a dialogue between science and religion. After a detailed deliberation about the Concept of time and its development, the author points out that the 'Creation of Time' as enunciated in SGGS is analogous to creation hypothesis of 'Big-Bang'. Time has a beginning and an end and it can't be treated as absolute or eternal as God. On the basis of a comparative study of the various theories of the origin of life in the universe, the author concludes that the cause of this phenomenon is still a mystery for the scientific world, although Charles Darwin's hypothesis of natural selection is the most successful theory of organic evolution till date. The author points out that according to SGGS, God is the creator of life in this universe. He adds that Guru Nanak accepts the theory of evolution in his own characteristic manner without taking recourse to the concept of natural selection in the Darwinian way. A set of fundamental beliefs, attitudes, values etc., which constitute a comprehensive outlook on life and the universe is called a world-view. With suitable quotes from SGGS, the author describes that the world-view in Sikhism dialectically unites the idea of God and the world. God himself transforms into creation, which is changing His nirguna (Transcendence) form into sarguna (Immanence) form. The world is neither maya nor a perversion. It is a dharamsala, a place for righteous actions. Prof. Virk expresses that there is a perfect correspondence between the epoch of 'big-bang' and the creation out of sunya phase as enunciated in SGGS. The most important concept in the Sikh world-view is the creation of an ideal man, the 'Gurmukh' of Guru Nanak or the 'Khalsa' of Guru Gobind Singh. In this world-view, withdrawal, monasticism and asceticism are rejected and instead, a householder's life is accepted. Guru Nanak declares that liberation is possible even while enjoying bounties of life as a householder by living truthfully. 'Inter-faith dialogue' and 'Science-Spirituality dialogue' have an important role to play in this era of globalisation. The conflict between Science and Religion, which had started after Renaissance in Europe, has retreated during the new millennium. The author points out that we are now living in a world where a dialogue between Science and Spirituality has become possible. He emphasizes that a new 'holistic' view is needed to see Reality in its concrete wholeness - a view that would see the whole in the parts and the parts in the whole, envisioned as dynamic becoming and not static being. This would not mean a negation of reason but going beyond it, to the realm of spirit. Recent advances in Quantum Physics support the idea of a cosmic spirit pervading the cosmos and inter-relationship of individuals in world society. Talking about the global perspectives in Sikh Philosophy, the author tells that it has a universal appeal for the mankind irrespective of its religious and cultural affiliations. In the holistic vision of the Sikh philosophy, God, nature and man are integrally bound to each other. In the last section of the book, Prof. Virk elucidates the concept of Interfaith dialogue and its importance in present times. He stresses that such dialogue issues forth in a spirit of fellowship and recognizes the whole in each part. The author has described Interfaith dialogues in Sikh Religion, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. He has elaborated on various common points in Sikh Religion and other religious systems especially about Concept of God, Creation of Universe, Concept of Salvation, Heaven and Hell, Ethics and Morality. The author points out that Sikh religion, despite its doctrinal newness and distinct identity, shares with the other religions certain recurring archetypes that have shaped different cultures and civilizations arising the world-over. The author has been successful in bringing out the unique identity of Sikh religion in relation to the Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, on the basis of some essential elements common to these religious systems. Prof. Virk has summed up the discussion with an article titled 'Religion, Science and Mankind' (authored by D. P. Singh) to emphasize the inter-relationship in Science and Religion. It is concluded that, during present times, coherence of both these systems is a sine qua non factor for attainment of everlasting peace, prosperity and spiritual enlightenment of mankind. Prof. H. S. Virk has done a momentous work in projecting the divine thought of Sikh Gurus to the modern world through this book. Scientific Vision of Sikh Gurus comes out brilliantly through this work. His thesis is strongly supplemented by appropriate quotes from SGGS. Though there has been some repetition of Gurbani quotes and textual material in the book yet it does not take the reader astray rather it helps in making the things clear. Though the book is a gist of research papers prepared/presented at various conferences/seminars by the author, yet each article is complete in itself and is a treat to read. The younger generation of the Sikhs is likely to gain much from this treatise of scientific and spiritual knowledge. It is pertinent to add that this is one of the best books ever authored on this topic till date. I strongly recommend that this book should be on the shelves of all libraries and be distributed by all Gurudwaras. It is imperative that the Sikh youth of today are encouraged to read works of this nature.