“Both science and spirituality are exploring the nature of reality. The key difference between science and spirituality is their domain of inquiry, and consciousness is the playground in which thoughts come and go,” says Chaitanya Charan Das.
Also known as the Spiritual Scientist, Chaitanya studied engineering at the top schools in India. He attributes his analytical mind to his decision decades ago to live as a monk.
He and his fellow monk, Shyamananda Das spoke multiple times about science and spirituality to my 2023 “Embrace the Grace” India travel group.
Dissecting terminology, Chaitanya explains that science is about theory, experimentation, and the study of matter (measurable elements). On the other hand, spirituality is about philosophy, religion, and the study of what matters.
Most of us study science in school. We experiment in the lab to test out theories and hypotheses. We learn about the importance of measuring results.
Religious studies on the curricula at private, faith-based schools. But science and religion are rarely in the same forum. Religious courses do not include quantitative tests or measurements. Furthermore, it is less common for students to learn about spirituality, and religiosity is not the same as spirituality. At times, there can be a considerable disconnect.
While science may prove that water is two parts of hydrogen and one of oxygen, there is no numeric formula for spirituality.
According to Chaitanya Charan, science can improve things outside us. Spirituality can improve the world inside us. Spiritual growth includes enhanced inner clarity and transforming our consciousness.
Finding that inner clarity is not as easy as turning on the burner under your pyrex test tube. In fact, our level of consciousness is more like a flame. It flickers. Our consciousness can be blazing and then diminish to a dimmer. Plus, our monkey mind doesn't stay focused. Thoughts come and go just as our body temperatures and moods undergo fluctuations.
Science is more about memorization and testing equations. But spirituality has no perfect answer or recipe.
“The spiritual quest is a quest for answering what really matters [in life.] Different people access spirituality in different ways,” says the Spiritual Scientist. “There is rationale and revelation in spirituality.”
Science has not only formulas, but precise steps. On the other hand, there are infinite possibilities with spirituality, and a rational mind acknowledges there can be one purpose with many paths. John’s way or Lucy’s way may differ, yet they can both be right. Chaitanya and Shyamananda frequently remind us that all paths lead to the top. As long as you begin the process, keep going, and don’t turn back, you can get there.
The word philosophy means the love for truth, and many scientists consider themselves truth-seekers.
The monks say philosophy without religion is speculation, and spirituality requires patterns of religion. Therefore, the two go hand in hand.
Shyamananda Das explains, “The word religion comes from the Latin religare meaning to bind together. Yet, religion can erode, corrode, and explode. Religion [at times] is seen as abusive, not fair, or irrelevant.”
Genuine religion offers communities and individuals great benefits. Chaitanya Charan’s reference point for religion is “a set of practices to prove or disprove what philosophy says. Religion can shower us with spiritual satisfaction. However, it becomes a cause of conflict when there’s no philosophy. Religion without philosophy can lead to fanaticism,” says Chaitanya.
Unfortunately, that narrow-mindedness misinterprets the teachings and ignores that all paths lead to the same place.
“The Dalai Lama represents tenacity against the suppression of religious freedom,” adds Shyamananda. “When asked about his views on divinity, he said he respected all bona fide avenues. However, the teachings of Lord Buddha charmed his heart.
“In the Jewish tradition, they don’t take the name of God in vain. Muslims say Allah. India is like a super mall of [male and female] divinities. My heart is charmed by Krishna. But how can I say Chinese food is better than Mexican, or Krishna better than Allah?”
Conflicts arise when religious leaders and individuals proclaim their way as the only way. That leads to what Chaitanya refers to as misguided missiles. “What causes violence and war are selfishness, exploitation, and materialism. No wonder people often associate religion with dogma and unwavering rules.”
Throughout history, people have used their interpretation of God’s words or religion to prop up their own greatness. Those are reasons to reinforce the links between religion, philosophy, and spirituality.
There is not just one interpretation of the word devotion. Often, it is related to religiosity. But, sincere devotion allows us to experience something higher.
It can become a powerful redefiner of our daily life.
According to Chaitanya Charan, “Devotion raises and revises our vision above, and of, the world. The act of devotion can free us from life’s burdens and help us experience something higher.
"If we practice devotion regularly, our vision of the past, present, and future will change. For example, often, we tend to be fretful of the past, resentful of the present, and fearful of the future. If we connect to the divine, we see that the past was not a chaotic lot of mistakes. We become grateful.”
Following are suggestions to take your current ties to science, religion, philosophy, or devotion to the next level.