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Subhash Kak • 2 years ago

Here are some additional remarks that address the questions that have been raised:

1. The point of mentioning Vedanta and Vaisesika was to stress that one needs harmonious attitudes, that is one needs both philosophy and physics. The darsanas in themselves are not the issue. I am speaking of attitudes in great generality. I believe during the post-independence period we have been driven more by ideology rather than practical considerations.

2. As the article stresses, the impoverishment that India suffered during the British Rule was the primary reason for the decline. That is why it was shocking to hear Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thanking the British for our bureaucracy and the English language (as the greatest things that had happened to India). That is a very superficial view of the history of the British period.

3. The real comparison to make is why Japan, which had isolated itself for centuries, was able to pull itself in the mainstream of science and technology in just 50 years or so in the latter half of the 19th century (and it didn't need English either). Or perhaps China which is in the process of doing so now as can be seen from the number of publications and patents that are coming from it.

4. Who is more responsible: Indian politicians or Indian bureaucracy? What kind of systemic changes are needed? I believe thoughtful people want the Modi Government to do something about these basic issues.

once again • 2 years ago

Science is logical deduction

Western philosophy also follows the pattern of logical deduction
Indian philosphy is not logical deduction

Indian philosphy is intutive knowledge, insight

once again • 2 years ago

Now how to use an insight
To make a gadget

Insight, there is no head and tail to it
It's just an out of blue flash

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

Insight means spiritual insight. Ancient Rishis were kind of scientists. Only they dealt with "inner science" of consciousness.
Scientists today are talking about Consciousness as giving rise to everything around it.
So, when Descartes said "I think therefore I am", he was wrong.
The correct statement is "I am, therefore I think".
Inner Scientists (Rishis) could connect with that consciousness, the source of everything.
WE live in an age when scientists are piercing matter to find the truth. There is nothing material. Everything is a play of vibrations. Even what you consider solid is a vibration at a certain rate that makes it seem like solid. Beyond these vibrations is a field that unites everything. Ancient Rishis could access at that field and "Intuit" the nature of the universe.
For example, it is well known (and someone like Sri Yukteshwar talked about it in "Holy Science" in 1920s) that our Sun has a duel. Scientists have already found that most stars they have viewed has a duel but have not found yet a duel for our Sun. They, however speculate that our Sun must also have a duel star though it is not visible.

Om Shankar • 2 years ago

Hold on. I think, therefore, I am - is perfectly right. Here, I is referred to the will of the existing entity.

If you say - I am, therefore I think - I can instantly ask you - why do you exist, and what's the need to think.

Lokesh • 2 years ago

Lil confused.

To me "I'm, therefore I think" makes more sense.

Thinking is a function of the brain, That which is me, does not need thinking to be relevant. For example when one is in comma or when in deep sleep, One still exists though brain does not generate thoughts.

Thinking is a function, which needs "me" as prerequisite. Thus I exist before thoughts.

"why do you exist?"

I don't know, I can make up theories, or find one from scriptures, that does not help me really know "why"

Also it is not necessary to answer "Why I exist" to prove "I exist and that facilitates thinking."

"what's the need to think."

Survival, I think. Body through evolution is engineered for survival. Both Instinct and thinking are developed out of evolution.

And that too is not relevant in the argument of Whether "I think because I exist"? or "I exist because I think"

Om Shankar • 2 years ago

Nope. You are completely wrong here.

You are taking for granted the thinking process, and your body's existence as you.

You are identifying body as your self, but not the will. In all famous philosophies, including Indian, no one identifies body with "I"

The "think" is metaphorical in "I think, therefore, I am". Not everyone can understand it.

Don't you think "I am, therefore I think" is too common and simple to state. We all already know that.

Why do yo think? Survival? You again take evolution for granted (most scientists do not believe that). The instinct clause is wrong, what decides instinct? Even that is questionable and scrutiny.

Instinct and thinking are developed out of evolution - why? Why is the need to evolve? you will say it is instinctive to evolve, instinctive to most primitive cells, or in the DNA? So you make a loop of it, unable to be proven individually!

You say: it is not necessary to answer "Why I exist" - well, why? that's the place where you are taking for granted.

I think, therefore, I am - has a deeper meaning than the easily understood other version that you say.

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

You probably need a primer on spirituality.
That statement "I am, therefore I think" is the essence of Vedanta.
"I" in the statement "I am" refers to your consciousness, not the body.
Consciousness creates everything. Everything came out of Universal Consciousness (aka God).
Quantum Physicists are now recognizing this. They call it by a different name, that is all.
Go to the link (Holographic Universe) I have provided in this very forum and it will tell you all about it.
In this model of "Holographic Universe", mind (or brain) is only a receiver.
We do not "think" the thoughts. The space around us is a "quantum soup" of thoughts that our brain just tunes into.
Nothing is ever created. We only rediscover old truths in a new form. That is all.
If you are confused, I do not blame you.
The universe is vastly more complex than any of us can imagine. But do watch that youtube video series. It is very good.

Om Shankar • 2 years ago

1. "consciousness, not the body" is the most common thing pointed out by all spiritual literature - there is no need of any primer for this, even if one was not following Vedanta, but some other literature
2. "Consciousness creates everything" - really? who told you? From where did that consciousness come up? What's the origin of the same? So that's like a half-knowledge
3. "If you are confused, I do not blame you" - Seems to me that you are as good an amateur as I am myself, or anyone else.
Just bewildered by scientific research, vastness of Universe, and mysteries presented in interesting scientific ways, holographic universe and all.

And are very excited to see the application of Science and it's inclination towards Vedantic literature. Welcome.

Vedanta itself is just one of the 6 schools of Indian philosophy, which has multiple branches. Only one of them, Advaita, talks about there being a supreme consciousness and you being the same - but that has been refuted by equally talented and analytical research by Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, Bheda-Abheda - all being equally scientific, if not more.

Looks like you need a primer on Indian Vedic philosophy. :p

once again • 2 years ago

An insight happened
If you soaked it, that's meditation
Or one more thing you can do h insight - express it
That's art

There is indian spirituality and also its really significant art which is of great worth

once again • 2 years ago

Kanad had no laboratory

He was a vagabond

Vineet Menon • 2 years ago

Great article, Mr. Kak.

As Rajiv Malhotra also stresses the problem with Indians in general about how we all becomes super Vedantin when asked about religious views and claim to believe to see 'God' in everything, but the moment you turn to other Vishishika realms, you begin to see 'ego' or the 'I' sense appear almost instantaneously.

This is what is wrong with Indians 2 centuries ago, this is what is wrong with us, now. I hope we start focussing our attention, both academically and spiritually towards the 'material aspect of the world before it's too late.

Govinda S. Upadhyaya • 2 years ago

This article is challenge to traditional scholar 'who always show great love of past but do nothing to prove it.''

RamDarshanSharma • 2 years ago

Not really, Mr Upadhyay. In present day India, you can not be recognized as a scholar unless you hate ancient Hindu contribution to knowledge and its practical applications. And, unfortunately, you did not read/understand Mr Kak's article. He does not display any hatred for our past. It may be in your mind. No where in the article. He only contends that Vedanta was preferred over Vaiseshika, but both philosophies are born out of great minds. Why not read Kak's article again, and acquaint yourself a bit with Hindu philosophies. I assume you are a Hindu, and not an anti-Hindu. An anti-Hindu does not have to read any thing, as ridiculing Hindu ancient past needs ignorance.

Bihari • 2 years ago

This question has no easy answer. But we should seek an answer not for the sake of seeking it, but to understand how not to miss the bus in the times that come.

Bihari • 2 years ago

The devastation brought about by Islamic Jihad should not be underestimated. Wherever Islam spread, arts and sciences suffered. They say Islam had a scientific golden age, but they did not. Most of those guys were Persians whose work was appropriated by Islam.

Vijayendra Acharya • 2 years ago

Very disatisfactory article for me - the author here seems to be in great haste to arrive at certain conclusions instead of going deeper into the muddled issues.

The notion of science as it emerged from Europe is essentially hypothetico-deductive, based on experimental proof, causual determinsm, null hypothesis, synthetic priori, logical atomism, phenomenalism etc - these epistemic building blocks of Western science and philosophy came in as specific to responses/attempts at questioning and transforming the old precepts of Chritian theology and Anrahamic religious culture at large into secular and scientific axioms.

The Indian approaches have instead been based on integral cosmic universalism, multi-level causuality, differential methods of adducing proofs in different schools of philosophy, cyclical conception of time, space and energy, logic, rationality and language as limited experiential constructions and reconstructions of the human mind

The conception of the "Western scientific and technological revolution" from Indian point of view should thus, be of mere episodic significance. While there are of course significant differences between Western science and Indian approaches to science there is no conflict between the two. Conflating them together to appeal popular imagination however. barely helps to furter the debate nor clarify.

Govinda S. Upadhyaya • 2 years ago

Even respecting your opinion, still there is strong question why Bhartaiya couldn't develop modern sciences ? only theories can't make perfect but need to go level of 'empiricism'.
except some, need to be proved yet and praise for new prospective

Vineet Menon • 2 years ago

Indian logic ('nyaya') is much comprehensive than the so called Aristotelian Logic. The shades of gray and uncertanities were never studied in the modern pre-20th cent. logic.

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

The author says:

(I think it is wrong to speak of Nalanda, which was burnt down around 1200, as similar to the modern university. Nalanda was a Buddhist institution devoted primarily to religious subjects.)

Not true.

There were many non-Buddhists. In fact, Hiuen Tsang a scholar from China was the Vice-Chancellor of Nalanda after doing his what would amount to a post-doc. He visited India during 7th Century (during the reign of Harshavardhana) and stayed on at Nalanda for many years and has written extensively on the University.

Hindu texts were taught and included Vedic texts, ritual, Samkhya, and the Vedāngas such as linguistics, reasoning, medicine, law, astronomy and city-planning. (from Wikipedia)

Excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) reveal that the monasteries belong to the Gupta period (5th cent. CE), now considered the beginning of Nalanda University, where subjects like theology, grammar, logic, philosophy, metaphysics, astronomy, and medicine were taught. The Gupta kings were a major patron of Nalanda, as was Harshavardhana, the powerful 7th-century ruler of Kannauj.

White Elephant • 2 years ago

I see the main cause to be lack of interest in travelling to foreign lands, particularly by ships, and learn the scientific progress there.

RamDarshanSharma • 2 years ago

Surprised by the article. The author's contention that privileging of Vedānta over Vaiśeṣika was a contributing factor for scientific explosion and industrial revolution not happening in India is laughable. First, he does not explain why it happened, if it really did happen. Also, did Vedanta or Vaisesika philosophies not exist when India was leading the world in science and technology till eleventh or twelfth century, and in wealth even a few centuries later? Second, the author seems to be oblivious of the fact that Vedanta or Vaisesika were confined to a handful of scholars, and had no influence on the masses when Hindu contributions to science and mathematics were at peak. Just to inform the readers of this article, the Sages of Vedanta or Vaisesika were long forgotten, and Itihasa (Ramayana and Mahabharata) and Puranas were ruling the hearts of common people as well as philosophers, religious leaders, artists and poets by the golden period in India's history, the Gupta Dynasty period (about 300-600 AD). And that trend continues to date. Then what changed? The answer is simple, a common sense answer. India could not protect itself from foreign invasions. Although there was continuous invasion, the later Gupta period was one of on going war, but not total defeat or subjugation. But there was no peace which is essential for all around progress, not only in science but every branch of intellectual pursuit and material progress. An almost total defeat occurred about 700 yrs ago. AND THAT IS THE ONLY REASON THAT THE SUBJUGATED HINDUS HAD THE PRIORITY OF THEIR SURVIVAL RATHER THAN CREATING NEW SCIENCE, ART OR PHILOSOPHY THAT CONTINUOUSLY EVOLVE. India did not lag behind only in science and technology, but also in arts, literature and philosophy. No Michael Angelo or Leonardo da Vinci is visible. Or even a Marx or Freud. A defeated nation can never be a leader in any field. I wonder how Dr Kak does not see that. British siphoned the wealth to the extent not done by early invaders. Today, India should be proud of all its great achievement of the ancient past, including Vedanta and Vaisesika philosophies. They are complementary rather than contradictory. The only matter of great shame is the continued slavery of several centuries which still persists in the minds of anti-Hindu Hindus. India can recover and attain some of its past glory if it refuses to submit before the cultural and intellectual subjugation being attempted on it even now.

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

I agree with what you have written, especially about the British impoverishment of India. Most Indians do not know this and I have actually heard many praising the British for their contributions to India in the form of Railways, Telegraph etc!

I hope everybody reading this clicks the following link. The article was written by one Sutherland who was an Amerian writing for
The Atlantic magazine in 1907. Article link:

This article explains succinctly how India was impoverished by the British materially and intellectually.
Muslims did cause a lot of damage but many eventually settled down and started empires. British had no intention of ever settling down and viewed India as a Holy Cow to be constantly milked.

Ram Chadalavada • 2 years ago

Fantastic article! I think the point is how to ensure that India doesn't miss the bus again! One can neither be complacent on the accomplishments of the past nor can spirituality distract grihasthas from focusing on their and lokakalyana.

Jishnu • 2 years ago

Why India "missed" scientific revolution?

1. For India's uninterrupted stream of knowledge that had been flowing even through invasion times from times immemorial, there was simply no need for a "revolution" of knowledge or science or scientific temper in India any time.

2. The reason why west took over and Indian scientific advances stopped is one and only one: colonizing.

The argument that Indian scholars of yore could have concentrated more on vaiseshika and that it would somehow have resulted in scientific advances is made by many, but that doesn't quite account for the fact that Indian sciences were well ahead of west even through Islamic invasions.

Arup Dasgupta • 2 years ago

Is there any proof that our ancient texts were looted and lie in the vaults of the Universities of Oxford, Vatican and Harvard? Is that why no Indian scientist has made an attempt to study and take forward the Darshana of Vaisesika? We are bringing back ashes and swords, why not these alleged text allegedly looted and allegedly lying in the vaults of Oxford, Vatican and Harvard?

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

There is nothing new under the sun.
Everything is a rehash of the old.
If you understand the concept of Yugas (which the modern day scientists are slowly warming up to!), you will understand that what the ancient rishis understood through spiritual insight is being rediscovered by modern scientists through rigorous experimentation.

Jay • 2 years ago

If necessity is the mother of
invention, Indians did not find it was necessary to do anything. As a matter of
fact Britishers killed the spirit of India and they slaved Indians to the point
that we started disliking or mistrusting anything Indian. Even today, this
damage can be seen in the society. Indians lost faith and became poorer both intellectually
and financially.

As for the article I think it is
shallow and was rushed to publication. More is expected from someone of the
caliber of Dr. Kak.

XM • 2 years ago

Interesting title, a decent start, but incomplete & far from comprehensive analysis. Please connect with Bharat Gyan - Dr DK Hari and update.

It had a lot of stuff before the Brits & Moghuls came around. Bharat was much ahead of everyone - Aircraft - Viman shastra & Navi-gath- navigation included. ... This was exactly why everyone came to India.. attacked or came as East India company.

Did you ever hear of East China/ Japan/ Africa Company? Its called Singular focus on that Nation/ Location that had everything.

Guest • 2 years ago
Denny crane • 2 years ago

Vaimanika Shastra has been proved to be a 20th century composition. Its ideas are creative but quite useless.

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

Can you authenticate what you are saying?

XM • 2 years ago

Ah! they said the same for Yoga, Ayurveda and what not.. The science existed, whether all of it is still available and can be used/ implemented may be questioned.
PS: Please look up detailed accounts about Vasco Da Gama & Christopher Columbus and you'll find how far behind they were in Naval tech; the word Navig-ation & Navy comes from Navigath & Naav.

No where in english language will you find a water vessel ever referred to starting with N.

Denny crane • 2 years ago

Vaimanika shastra is a 20th century composition created by one subburaya shastri. While Indians certainly had advanced navigational skills, Navigate and navy are not from Sanskrit. They derive from Latin Navis which like the Sanskrit Nau has has a common origin in the proto-indo-european language. Indian have had a lot of achievements in the past better to study them than to make random claims

XM • 2 years ago

I challenge you to look up actual records about Vasco Da Gama, his fear of open seas and the story of how he reached India. PS: Please look up detailed accounts about Vasco Da Gama & Christopher Columbus and you'll find how far behind they were in Naval tech;

XM • 2 years ago

Denny crane was intelligent and used fancy big words like "Proto Indo European" that most people get dazed by and what not and then just went senile due to Parkinsons and only Alan Sure - AS could help fix his blunderings :P

Just some humor :P

My dear, Sanskrit is the most ancient of languages and Latin took and learnt things from the "wisdom" of the land of knowledge - Bha-rath - Look for the meaning of that Word.

And for random claims that you make, I point to you to Dr. DK Hari as part of Bharat Gyan who has done 'genuine legit' research and will tell you more on this.

navigationSanskrit: Navgati, "science of sailing" — Nav, "sailor or ship" + gati, "pace or speed" in Sanskrit.

Here is where Navigation comes from.

And the next thing I guess is you will find some Latin word that uses Gati or similar for speed.

Tiruvalluvar • 2 years ago

Title suggested a conclusive essay, but it ended up pondering.

In one word: islam.

Susheel Jalali • 2 years ago

In all countries the university/academia and the nascent or unborn industry had to overcome the scepticism amd obstructions of their ruling and religious overlords (of different hues and power) to pursue certain kinds of approaches, experiments and objectives. Wherever the license, liberty, innovation, discipline, finesse, determination and liesure time along with need and opportunity came together, progress was made - whether in arts, literature or sciences. It so happened that due to British conquest and atrocities (despite many of their own subjects opposing brutality), occurred at the same time when the steam engine was
just invented and being applied to larger machines and factories, when economies of scale were demanded by marketplace to produce items (specially cloth and clothing) in larger scale, and cotton from India was forcibly taken at a pittance as raw material, causing the industrialization to occur in Britain. Inevitably, continuous efficiency improvements are necessary, which resulted in ultimately factories being set up near the source of raw material in India as well.

In any case, the Industrialization march had crucial lock-step contribution of Indian workers through Cotton supplies, and Indian Sacrifices of their looms, livelihoods, capital and markets (though forced).
Had Indian traders and manufacturers taken half the energy of Europeans to find better and Alternate routes to Europe to sell their wares/ products for a better price and provide better service to Europeans, India would have had continued prosperity and also imbibed and exchanged valuable research and industrialization progress with the West in more humane and equal manner without anybody being colonized or enslaved (except of course small kingdoms merging and demerging like they used to or one of them becoming larger and all surrounding ones flocking under its banner).

They could have achieved this even after the discovery of
route by Europeans. For almost hundred years, they had this chance of learning or taking their rivals artisans or workers and making them work in opposite direction, but why did they not get the idea or execute it? Could be a mixture of ego, ignorance, lack of confidence, superstitions, no vision/ will, This shows that the gap of advances made in West was so high that an initial interaction was not enough for an exchange of scientific conversation to take place at a meaningful scale and depth.

gopinath l • 2 years ago

II agree it is intriguing how we fell from a position of preeminence to one of ignorance. No doubt British Rule was responsible to a large extent.

Jaidev • 2 years ago

I read with great interest the articles in this column by Dr. Kak. I congratulate him for making these ideas that originated in the Indian thought systems more accessible to general readers. They are quite informative but at the same time very biased with the nationalistic feelings. There is nothing wrong in being nationalistic and have pride in one's own cultural heritage, but the insatiable desire to show that everything that happened in the world had its origin in India is highly misguided. These articles fail to recognize that human brain, and hence the mind, has the same structure no matter who we are - Indians, Chinese, Japanese or Westerners. Because of this common underlying mental structure, people think along similar lines. Thus it is not always necessary that only one group of people under the sky discovered all the wisdom and knowledge of the world, while the others simply stole or learnt from them. Such articles that pick and choose references to suit their underlying hypothesis of the superiority of one group of people over others demonstrate lack of critical thinking. For example, there was more than 2100 years gap between Kanad and Newton. Who stopped us from putting Kanad's ideas into mathematical formulations provided by Newton? Why are interpreting them now in terms of the modern science? Lifting a few verses in Sanskrit out of their context and interpreting them in the modern context can be misleading.

Dr. Kak claims that Britishers destroyed our culture and economy - maybe he is right. But, even if we go by this hypothesis, there was ample time for us to develop mathematical equations for the laws of motion or formulating our knowledge of planetary motions the way Kepler did, before the Britishers arrived in India. Where Dr. Kak makes a serious mistake in his assessment of modern science is that science is not merely a matter of making qualitative assertions about the nature and its forces. It also involves making precise mathematical formulations expressing these laws of nature, based on which one can generate hypothesis to test their further implications; and thus grow the body of knowledge.

So, instead of repeating the mantra that we did it all, which sounds like an underdog's way of making himself happy, we should first of all enjoy the wealth of knowledge created by the humanity all over the world; and if we are so keen of rejuvenating our past history, then we should ask ourselves: Why did we loose it all? Here is a hypothesis: After the Indian mind hit the Vedantic philosophy, we became complacent that we hit the jackpot, we got the key to the supreme knowledge; and assuming the world was only an illusion, we lost interest in it. This is how Vaisesika - which is the study of particulars and physics - got sidelined. So essentially, we did it to ourselves. We lost interest in the world!

Thank You,

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

What you assert is bunkum. Laughable!

Vedantic philosophy is one philosophy. There are others. Nobody said that philosophy should in anyway obstruct scientific thinking.

Also, what makes you think, when the Vedantists said "world is a maya", they were not telling the truth.

You may be surprised to know that modern day Quantum physicists are coming pretty much to the same conclusion.
They are proposing a model called the "Holographic Model" of the Universe according to which Universe is nothing but a holographic projection of what consciousness (they do not use the same exact word) projects through the brain for our senses to perceive.
In other words, what we view is an "Illusion"!
If you have the patience and time, go to the following link to learn all about it:

Jaidev • 2 years ago

I am glad that you can laugh! But please read my note again, carefully.

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

Sorry if I sounded rude. That was not the intention.
I am not an expert on what ancient Indians did or did not do. But we should keep an open mind to all possibilities.
This is a strange and wonderful universe. Truth cannot be invented but can be rediscovered. What modern scientists are doing has already done by various cultures, civilizations in the past albeit in a different manner.

Guest • 2 years ago
Jaidev • 2 years ago

Charan, thanks for bringing these links to my attention, but the issue is that mere anticipation does not make it a full theory. And if it was a full theory why was it not published before? Why are we discovering it all now? Are we on another trip to show that Newton and Kepler also stole these theories and formulae from us?

Sridhar Kaushik • 2 years ago

Again you are forgetting that the thing about publishing, proving rigorously by experiments etc is all a Western idea and is very recent (probably 400 years old). Ancient Indians would not have cared and there was no way to prove materially something that was arrived at intuitively.
Please do not underestimate the power of intuition. Einstein is said to have intuitively arrived at the conclusion that matter and energy are inter-convertible but spent years proving it in a way that would be acceptable to the scientific community.

Guest • 2 years ago
Jaidev • 2 years ago

Sure, blaming others of stealing our ideas is alright but asking questions about the validity of such statements is ideological and anti-Indian? I am not surprised that Dr. Kak thrives on such audience that is uncritical in thinking and doubts the intentions of those who question his theories of others taking the credit for the work done by Indians. If his ideas have any merit and are backed by solid evidence, then he can publish them in reputed journals, instead of writing in social media.

Guest • 2 years ago