Convocation Address

Dr. H R Nagendra

Chancellor of S-VYASA Yoga University, Chairman of Task Force of AYUSH Govt. of India


Science started in the West nearly 44 decades ago with Newton and Descartes as the forefathers of the scientific approach in search for reality that philosophers had done for centuries. Hypothesis and its testing methodology by objective experimentation, observation repeated experimentations and inference became the specialty of modern scientific approach. Breakthroughs after breakthroughs in science supported by modern technology (applications of science to make our lives comfortable) transformed our societies towards the current life style of the high tech era.

For nearly four centuries we had based our progress in this Descartes- Newtonian mechanistic world view. Marching from an era of superstitions and blind beliefs to the age of science and technology, we are now witness to a society of affluence and wealth with beautiful telephones, colour TVs.

The core of the deterministic approach is to find the main cause to a given phenomenon. All other causes have little or no influence. And that is the way science started. Else, to understand the world in all its subtlety would have been impossible. We consciously kept aside all such subtle phenomena which were complex. It was a very practical approach by Descartes and Newton. For the gross aspect of the world around us this deterministic approach worked very well. Newton’s laws of motion, laws of hydrostatics, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Dalton’s atomic theory, etc., have all worked very well. Our Mechanistic World view got well established. It carried the western world on the path of growth for nearly four centuries. This is the story of the West.

As described above, the Descartes – Newton deterministic approach and a corresponding mechanistic world view had kept us on the path of progress for nearly four centuries. This is called classic mechanics. The blow to this classic Mechanistic approach-a single cause to a given phenomenon came with advent of quantum mechanics and the probabilistic approach to understand the phenomenon of photo-electric effect, electron behavior and many more aspects of the subatomic world. According to the probabilistic approach there could be more than one equally valid cause to a given phenomenon. Light, for example could behave as a wave or a particle-the dual nature of light, which cannot be explained by classic mechanics. The laws of Newton were replaced by the Theory of Relativity. The Relativistic Mechanics, which explained the subtle phenomena of sub-atomic dimensions and extremely high speeds of the world, reduced itself to Newtonian Mechanics at normal speeds and usual dimensions of the gross world. [6]

Further, in search for Reality the science found energy as the basic fabric of the whole physical universe condensed in the formula E=mc2, Coupled with the scientific findings related to the laws governing it contained in classical and quantum mechanics, we fathomed the vast physical universe from extremely small fundamental particles on one end and extremely large physical universe of astronomical dimensions on the other end.

Thus the quantum and relativistic mechanics provided a set of more generalized laws governing the micro world of the atomic and subatomic region associated with very high speeds

The core of the probability theory is the flexibility or the loosening of the rigidity of the deterministic approach. The one to one correspondence in this approach represents the linear model. The critical faculty of the mind was predominantly at the base of the deterministic approach and flexibility a component of the creative faculty of the mind is manifest in the probability theory. The dual nature of light was a totally new concept in the fields of science. The hard core scientists’ rigidity that light can either be particles or waves could not be broken up easily. The long cherished deterministic approach of finding the main cause for a given phenomenon could not be changed suddenly. Only when mathematical formulation of relativistic mechanics reduced to the Newtonian laws by Einstein came forth, could the scientific community accept the change and widen their perspectives. The gross aspect of creativity – flexibility percolated into the rigid realm of the critical faculty. But this was only a beginning of a new era. As we started progressing into the micro world and the macro universe, our notions underwent greater changes. The inclusion of creativity in the form of a creative entity like observer, life or consciousness started becoming mandatory.


In modern physics we expanded our realm of investigations to include subatomic particles and the fundamental particles, and the laws governing them started getting probed. High energy physics, weak and strong interactions became the branches dealing with these laws. Computer technology and electronic gadgets made possible the discovery of extremely short lived particles. Looking at them would change their behavior. The concept of ‘the world out there’ and an objective experimental approach with a ‘non interacting observer’ which hitherto formed the basis of science, were shaken. In their models, the physicists started trying to incorporate a creative observer. The flexibility provided by the probability theory is not enough to understand the laws of the subtle world. A more ‘creative’ formulation (which can reduce itself to the probability theory and deterministic approach in gross situations) is the need of the hour in physics, today. [4] ‘Beyond Quantum Physics’ is the subject of talks and discussions of many leading physicists and today the limitations of the relativity theory are well recognized. Thus, it appears that new discoveries in physics would probably change our mechanistic world-view totally, in years to come. [3, 5]


The region of life sciences also has started going beyond the four centuries old Newton-Descartes mechanistic world-view. [1]

Life has been regarded as an off shoot of matter. DNA and RNA - the fundamental units of life - are basically complex arrangements of molecules and thus are simple matter. It is the special mode of arrangement or the specific structure of DNA and RNA molecules that initiates the life process. Hence this life is an offshoot of matter and there is no need to consider a separate existence for life have been the strong belief of all hard core scientists even today. This matter-based vision of life in particular and of man in general [4] has been cherished and adopted in the medical world as well. The principles of modern medicine and surgery are based on this world- vision. Dealing with the gross ailments like bacterial infection and contagious diseases at best at the cellular level, if not at the levels of nerves, hormones or muscles, with medicines has, no doubt, yielded results until now. However the viral diseases, the psychosomatic and psychiatric problems, which are on the ascent in the modern world, have started posing far greater challenges to medical research. Dealing with man as a machine by either repairing or replacing his organs through complex surgical operations has no doubt made possible the heart transplant, kidney transplant, etc. but there are no solutions to the modern stress related life style disorders.

It is these challenges that have triggered new thinking of life scientists to reconsider their matter-based world- view. A more holistic understanding of man has become mandatory. ‘Life’ is being considered as a separate entity from matter by theoretical biologists. Some new models and hypothesis to include life as a self- regulating entity or a self- propelling process along with the flexible subatomic particle behavior are emerging in the field of biology, which will have a far- reaching consequence in human history.


The field of neurosciences has advanced greatly and the processes of the brain are understood much better than ever before, thanks to the availability of hi-tech electronic gadgets as fMRI. PET, Polysomnography, Brain-Atlas, etc. The finding that the left half of the brain is the seat of the critical faculty and the right one of the creative and emotional faculties of man was a great breakthrough. The connections between the right and left nostril breathing are also getting established. The role of hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain, governing stress reactions and autonomic functions, is now understood in great detail. Yet, it is a mystery to those in the brain research as to how new circuits are formed and what governs the creative process in the brain cells and its circuitry. As brain research progresses, man realizes the existence of an intricate, invisible, creative hand in all the brain processes. Hence scientists in the brain research have started incorporating ‘CONSCIOUSNESS’ as an independent creative entity governing the processes of the brain. The traditional matter based world-view that the mind is nothing but a complex process and the working mode of the brain and its circuitry, are being reluctantly given up. Yet the research on ‘CONCSIOUSNESS’ has to go a long way. [4]

Science, over the last 4 decades, is in a transition. To move beyond the physical in search of Reality. To understand prana, mind, emotions, intellect, consciousness, etc and brings them into the folds of scientific explorations. Consciousness studies have become the frontier areas of research not only in psychology, parapsychology or philosophy but also in hard core sciences as physics, chemistry and mathematics as also in biological sciences. This scientific revolution is augmented by the shattering blows received in handling the modern life style ailments as Asthma, Diabetes, Cancer, HIV, CAD, etc which have become incurable. A belief of modern science that “everything in this creation is governed by matter, the laws of the physical world and there is nothing else beyond atoms and quarks” is shattered to the core and the modern scientists have opened their minds towards consciousness studies.

On the other hand, the technologies have started dealing with extremely small particles of the physical universe where quantum mechanics has to be brought into picture. Quantum coupling, super conductivity, quantum tunneling, etc have become the basis for super computer technology and micro miniaturization technologies. Consciousness studies are becoming more relevant today than ever before with all conferences allotting a total session for presentations and discussions on “Consciousness Research”. No more is the study of consciousness related to esoteric, mystic, philosophical realms but is becoming the region of research among the top researchers of our globe.

Most philosophical traditions in India centered round consciousness research. But there were also groups of thinkers who believed in the matter-based approach of modern science postulating that everything is material and our life ends with the death of the body. Taking care of the body for enjoyment through sense pleasure for which money is needed became the value of such groups as Charvakas. They believed not in mysticism, independent existence of mind without the body, rebirth and much less on gods and goddesses. While most mystic traditions and ritualistic believers accepted the ‘consciousness-based approach of the Vedic heritage, they fathomed not the philosophical depths in which Sanatana Dharma (the ancient science) of the Vedic traditions were rooted. Historians apart, the believers of Sanatana Dharma as a “science of being” found the truths of Vedas eternal, Apaurusheya - not manmade and realizable by systematic training and purification of our external and internal instruments. Sanatana Dharma contained in Prasthana Traya (auruti, smote and nyaya prasthana) as the essence of Vedas enunciated pure consciousness as the fundamental Reality and the whole creation as its manifestation.

Five main layers of consciousness constitute the total creation - according to Taittareya Uapanishat. In its most fascinating presentations, it reflects the subtle methodology of hypothesis and its revelation through experimentation observations, repeated experimentations, subtler observation finally leading to inference, very much akin to the most modern scientific tradition of the West. Repeated several times by large number of experimentalists (Sadhakas or disciples) guided properly by their teachers (Gurus) had left this tradition no more concealed in mysticism or subjective as many believe even today. Sanatana Dharma is just a science - science of the subtle. As we grow subtler and subtler, no more can we stay objective as observers observing the changes without interfering with the changes - as we have realized in Quantum physics. The edifice of objective experimentation in modern science - we realized - is valid only at the gross, macro world and holds no more validity as we move to the quantum region of subtleties. The observer starts interfering with the phenomena outside. The explorations naturally turn inwards - bringing subjectivity as a necessity.

In his systematic exploration to get to Brahman or Reality as the basis of all creation the student Bhrugu guided by the master Varuna unravels the layers of consciousness from its grossest manifest - Annamaya Kosa. At this level of ‘Anna’ the consciousness is a reality of the physical. Modern science applies fully here. All truths found by modern science are valid at this level. Progressively his teacher sends Bhrugu back for subtler and deeper explorations. He in turn fathoms Prana, Manas, Vijnana and Ananda as the other progressively subtler and causal layers of consciousness. Each layer of consciousness is considered to be a Kosa, a body or a covering, each layer having its own laws and structure.

Unlike philosophical explorations which centers round intellectual sharpening, the Upanishadic experimentations are transformational processes of personality at the physical, mental, emotional and intellectual levels of the truths was no more an academic exercise but a life changing process. For example, a modern scientist or a philosopher of great renown could still be a slave to his senses, suffer from stresses and the associated hazards of health, victim of sorrow and misery as a common man. He/she could still be petty, selfish, corrupt and a hazard to the society. But a Sadhak, an explorer of Sanatana Dharma has to undergo a total transformation of his personality towards a divine, purified, happy and blissful, healthy and selfless being spreading peace and harmony in the society. Greater will be his influence in promoting love and bliss everywhere as the realization grows subtler and deeper through the layers of consciousness from Annamaya Kosa to Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya Kosa. There is self-fulfillment through attainment of great equipoise, peace and bliss inside seeking not anything from outside for happiness. Whether or not he/she possesses amenities or facilities, his /her life turns a model life of increasing inner bliss and spread of its fragrance outside in his behavior.


Yoga concretizes this wisdom-base of Upanishads into our day to day life and provides a basis for social transformation.[7]

The social philosophies in action today have started showing up their inadequacies in solving the problems of man. The basic drives used in the construct of the social dynamics considering the macro forces operating in the social growth processes are either too crude akin to the animal instincts (fear) or based on ignorance about the science of happiness (economics as the whole and soul of social growth and sex as the main drive to achieve all happiness). Yoga way of life offers a newer understanding of the social dynamics for the construct of an ideal society. Not only does the Yoga way of life provides a frame-work for the intelligent management of forces within (the inner micro world), but it also provides the right basis for the macro transactions in the society. Apart from providing a philosophical base to the social dynamics, a wholesome approach based on the comprehensive wisdom of Sanatana Dharma is provided for the society.

Yoga not only provides techniques for our growth from our animal level to heights of perfection, it carves out a way of life for us. Yoga as a science of Holistic living offers us a way of life characterized by peace and tranquility, harmony and health, love and happiness, precision and efficiency. The drive for such a way of happy life is not an indiscriminate instinctive drive of an animal-man. The drive is featured by discrimination, right understanding of happiness, harmony, a calculated adoption of a suitable value system congenial to the accomplishment of increasing happiness and orchestrated through an enchanting life of health. Peace and Efficiency.

And that is the yoga way of life which answers the quest of man. Hence, Yoga is now once again coming to the fore to prove its role as vital to human growth and well being, to social harmony and peace which alone can make an ideal society. We are in a transition to move from an era of science and technology to an era of yoga and spirituality. Swami Vivekananda proclaimed that this transformation can come only through a new education system which incorporates the best of the WEST with that of the EAST.


The last four centuries in our globe have brought about immense changes in our understanding of Nature around us. Corresponding educational modifications have become mandatory in the society. The modern educational system has changed quite fast to keep up with this growth in understanding. Yet, a bigger change appears to be in the offing.

Swami Vivekananda was very clear in portraying this needed right concept of education - “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man”. It is not mere cramming of information neither is it a mere sharpening of the intellect. It is a process of transforming a man to a MAN, a process by which man raises himself from his sleeping animal level of instincts, to a normal level and then becomes a great man, superman, divine man and ultimately reaches divinity itself. This process is verily yoga. Hence, education and yoga are almost synonyms. In Mundakopanishad, the wide spectrum of education has been divided into two categories - Para and Apara in response to an ardent student seeking true education from a seer. He asks him thus:

Kasminnu bhagavo vijnate sarvamidam vijnatam bhavatiti

(Mundakopanishat 1.3)
(by learning which I know everything Sir, please teach me that equation. In answer to this fundamental question, the teacher introduces two types of education):
Dwi vidye veditavye para caiva apara cha.
Para (divine) and Apara (secular) are the two vidyas to be learnt.
(Mundakopanishat 1.4)
Tatra aparah Rgvedo Yajurvedah Samavedo
Atharvavedah, siksha kalpo vyakaranam niruktam, chando jyotishamiti.

(Mundakopanishat 1.5)
The apara vidya includes the four Vedas Rgveda, Yajur, Sáma and Atharva and the six Vedáñgas (supporting scriptures) - epistemology, code of rituals, grammer, etymology, meter, and astrology.
Aptha para yaya tadaksaramadhigamyate
(Muïdakopanishat 1.5)

The para vidya (divine) is that actual process by which one reaches that perfection or ultimate reality. While the first concerns itself with the knowledge of the four external universes and the internal world, the second refers to the actual process of getting as it, experiencing it by a total metamorphic transformation of oneself.

A total personality development and not merely cramming up information is what it suggests. Hence, the holistic vision of education propounded in the Upanishads include both the secular and the divine emphasizing true education, the process of transformation as primary and the secular as secondary. This is what is termed as “Spirituality based Education” to bring about a spiritually-oriented culture in the society featured by love and harmony, efficiency and co-ordination, bliss and fearlessness, affluence supporting the growth of the ethical value system, etc.,

Swami Vivekananda enunciated “Concentration and Detachment” as the principles of true education to achieve the goal of total development this is what Pataòjali portrayed in his second sutra while defining yoga:
Yogah citta vritti nirodhah
(Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1.2)
Yoga is total mastery over mental modifications.
A capacity to concentrate which helps to overcome the randomness of the mind and a skill to vanquish all thoughts totally and remain silent are the two-fold processes of mastery or control over the mind. Thus, the fundamental part of education is to achieve this mastery. What we are at, mostly in our education, is the former and not the latter, a skill to calm down the mind as beautifully portrayed in the great text of yoga – Yogavasistha.   
Yoga is a skill to calm down the mind
This aspect of relaxation and detachment is the missing part in our educational process. And that is the new dimension to be added into our curriculum.
To meet the demand of modern life-style, full of speed stresses and tension, an all-round personality development is mandatory. Integral yoga is what is suggested by Sri Aurobindo. The physical, mental, intellectual, emotional with spirituality at its base have to be blossom in our personality through education system that we develop. This also should bring a fourfold consciousness-civic sense, patriotic urge, service zeal and spiritual aspiration to become a useful component of the society. This approach towards a total growth of man forms the basis of the holistic vision of education..

Thus yoga is a process of all-round personality development by

  • Deep relaxation at muscular level,
  • Slowing down of breath and maintaining balance at Práïic level,
  • Increasing creative and will powers at mental level,
  • Sharpening the intellect and calming down the mind at intellectual level,
  • Enhancing the happiness in life and equipoise at emotional level and
  • Manifesting the innate divinity in man in all aspects of life.

Yoga is not only a process for leading man towards this astounding hidden inner personality of man by bringing mastery over the body, mind, intellect and emotional faculties, but also a powerful tool to manifest those hidden potential powers in him.

As man progresses, his zeal to perfect himself grows. In the process, he learns and understands the expressions of nature around him. The inner growth and outer expression go hand in hand. He starts manifesting the inner divinity in his behavior. His lower animal pulls and emotions - arishadvarga, the six major enemies of man namely kaama (intense desire), krodha (anger), lobha (miserliness), moha (infatuation) mada (arrogance) and matsarya (jealousy) diminish continuously. His slavery reduces. He starts becoming the master by gaining control over them. And that is the growth process which is in tune with spiritual growth.

Yoga is a science applicable to all, irrespective of age or sex, caste or creed, religion or sect.

Research Perspectives
Extensive and in-depth research performed over the last4 decades in VYASA has clearly shown the way for meeting the challenges of Education, Health, management, etc of the modern era (8).

1.    Capra, Fritjof. The Turning Point. Simon and Schuster, NY, 1982
2.    I. Prigogine, The End of Certainty. The Free Press, NY, 1997, pp. 107-129.
3.    T. Rothman, and G. Sudarshan, Doubt and Certainty. Perseus Books, Massachusetts, 1998, pp. 21-43.
4.    A. Goswami, Self Aware Universe, The Putnam Book of New York, 1993.
5.    Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems, Anchor Books, Doubleday, New York, 1996.
6.    A. Einstein, and M. Born, the Born-Einstein Letters. Walker, NY, 1971, pp. 82.
7.    H. R. Nagendra, Yoga, its Basis and Applications. Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashan, Bangalore.
8.    Research Contributions of Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashan, Bangalore.