I would like to present the point of view that both technology and spirituality are important to achieving happiness. In fact, I wrote my first editorial on how spirituality and technology are related in the Times of India almost 12 years ago , but I am revisiting it to show how happiness fits into the picture.
First of all, this idea is not new. Our ancient rishis understood the importance of technology in a yogi's life. One of the oldest books on yoga is the Patanjali Yoga Darshan and almost one-fourth of it is devoted to how a yogi can achieve superhuman powers so as to free himself from the vagaries of nature. These powers do not come naturally but must be obtained by the practice of Sanyam (combination of concentration, contemplation and Samadhi) on different parts of the body.
Patanjali focused so much on achieving these powers as he felt that by overcoming the challenges of the natural world -- something we do regularly with technology -- a yogi's life could be made easy so that he/she could devote his/her energies to the pursuit of truth, happiness and the attainment of salvation from the cycle of birth and death.
"God is nothing else but this marvellous universe which follows its own scientific laws. Spirituality is nothing else but understanding ourselves and the laws of universe through the tools of science and technology."
Technology, of course, is a double-edged sword. It can be used to help humankind, but also to destroy it. Yet we need to understand that it is not technology but humans using technology who wield it to cause harm. Thus, atomic energy can produce unlimited power with very little carbon footprint, but atom bombs can destroy all life on this planet.
Technology also gives us an ever-increasing access to choices and may fuel our greed. The fear of missing out, after all, is very high. Thus all the development models based on technology will become untenable if we do not put a cap on our greed for materials, resources and energy. Spirituality can give us wisdom so as to keep our greed in check and may allow us to use technology judiciously for us to live a happy and meaningful life.
What is spirituality?
Spirituality is concerned with the matters of spirit. When we think deeply and for a long time about anything, whether it is an idea or an object, then the brain has a tendency of focusing on it like a laser and in that process the object vanishes from the vision field and only its germ or the spirit remains. Then complete knowledge of that idea or object results. This is the mechanism by which all great discoveries are made. It is this deep thinking on anything which makes us spiritual and gives us a sense of peace and happiness.
Spirituality gives a certain perspective in life. As a person progresses on the path of spirituality his or her priorities in life change. The focus of life shifts more towards getting personal happiness through mental peace and less on material needs and desires. Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein are examples that show how by living very simple lives they were able to produce the highest quality of thought.
Spirituality also helps us to have a compassionate view of nature. As we evolve spiritually we become more tuned to it which helps us in preserving it. Besides it helps us live in harmony with each other and enables everybody to work together for the common good. This is also the genesis of non-violence.
Technological progress unravels many of nature's mysteries and shows us its greatness. For example, humans felt that they had invented fibre optics. However, scientists have found that the root systems of plants are excellent optical fibres -- something that has existed in nature for millions of years. This knowledge could only come once we had enough technology for creating fibre optics, lasers etc.
Similarly a new science of biomimicry is developing, where we are finding that nature, which has billions of years of headstart on us, has far better answers than we have produced. It is the realisation that our technological progress will take a quantum leap by copying nature's designs. Many of our inventions have been preceded by nature's designs millions of years ago.
Thus as we progress in the technological area, we will discover the great laws of nature and ultimately God. For God is nothing else but this marvellous universe which follows its own scientific laws. Spirituality is nothing else but understanding ourselves and the laws of universe through the tools of science and technology.
I also feel that as we become more spiritual we will also become a technologically advanced civilisation. This is because when we apply our sharpened brains to any problem, then solutions result. The nature of the brain is such that as we make it powerful it wants to increase the experience -- the mind-expanding process includes the understanding of world, cosmos and universe. This obviously includes the desire to travel in space and intergalactically. That can only be achieved by very advanced technological progress. Thus a necessary condition for large-scale spiritual progress is to have technological progress.
Similarly, quite often technology and wisdom have gone hand in hand. Though we have developed weapons of mass destruction, the collective wisdom of mankind has not allowed us to annihilate each other. It is also a fact that many more people used to be killed in wars when technology was very rudimentary. In today's wars fewer human lives are lost.
Most wars are resource related. As we advance spiritually and technologically we will stop waging wars since the resources available will be converted uniquely and more efficiently to provide creature comforts to all of humankind. I am sure that as the level of technological progress increases we will also use it judiciously to further raise our levels of consciousness and not to harm mankind. The power of technology for mass communication also teaches and spreads the message of moderation.
"As we advance spiritually and technologically we will stop waging wars since the resources available will be converted uniquely and more efficiently to provide creature comforts to all of humankind."
As individuals we create technologies for our own selfish needs and, depending on our spiritual progress, may or may not use them for the betterment of mankind. But collectively, spiritual and technological progress follow the natural evolution of humans towards an advanced civilisation. And all our individual shortcomings are swept away by the stream of evolution for general good.
We feel and enjoy this world though the sense organs of our bodies. Getting a human body is the most important gift to us. Almost all technological interventions are to enhance this sense-world interaction. In coming years, technology will provide us tools to create a much more hospitable planet in which the majority of humankind will be able to live comfortably. It will help us repair our bodies and produce designer drugs which will make us live longer with less disease. In fact the whole basis of yoga according to Patanjali is to make the human body fit for spiritual experience and happiness. Our future medicines will allow us to do this. This increased level of physical comfort will allow us a quantum jump in our quest of spirituality and, ultimately, happiness.
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