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Thursday, October 7, 2021

Some Reflections on ‘Science and Religion’ by Swami Ranganathananda (Part 3 of 3)

By Ezenwa Onwugbenu

Science and religion are two phases of one search for truth. Science investigates external nature; religion investigates internal nature; and both are complementary. Let me illustrate this with two examples.

First: Sri Ramakrishna says, “Brahman and Sakti are one… just as fire and its burning power are one… just as milk and its whiteness are one… just as a gem and its brightness are one.”

Two scientific principles can be inferred from this statement: (1) the inner configuration of a substance reveals the cause of its outer qualities; and (2) the inner configuration is microcosmic, and the outer quality is macrocosmic.

The inner configuration of fire is a rapid flux of oxidation reactions. The outer quality is heat and light. If we examine the outer qualities: How hot? How luminous? We cannot find the cause of heat. The cause can only be found through investigation of the microcosm, namely, the chemical process of combustion.

The inner configuration of milk is tiny protein micelles. The outer quality is whiteness. If we examine the outer qualities: How thick? How whitish? We cannot find the cause of whiteness. The cause can only be found through investigation of the microcosm, namely, the light refraction and scattering by casein micelles.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Dr. Lewis Janes, a Son of Providence: "Philosopher, Patriot, Lover of Man," Part 3 of 3

By Fred Richardson

Dr. Janes continued his work right up until his untimely death in September of 1901. His passing occurred at Greenacres after teaching a class on Comparative Religion. It was reported that his last words were: “It’s a beautiful world.”  The meaning of this was debated by his colleagues, but one can be assured that the Swamis would have known exactly what he meant. He was laid to rest in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence Rhode Island under a simple, humble gravestone.


Upon his death there were several services held in his honor at the societies he was involved with. At each service there were numerous eulogies and tributes given and letters read which were put into a book entitled: “Lewis G. Janes – Philosopher – Patriot – Lover of Man.”  These were delivered by people of many different spiritual persuasions and backgrounds and are a clear testimony to how highly he was held in esteem by all. This book is available online and is well worth reading. It allows one not only to learn more about Dr. Janes but to also appreciate his colleagues who were pioneers with him in the early days of "Interfaith Dialogue." 

The link is: http://www.vivekananda.net/PDFBooks/Lewis_G__Janes.pdf

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Dr. Lewis Janes, a Son of Providence: "Philosopher, Patriot, Lover of Man," Part 2 of 3

By Fred Richardson

It is most likely that Dr. Janes first met Swamiji in Brooklyn in the spring of 1894. However, it is known that he did spend time with Swamiji in the summer of 1894 at the Greenacres Religious Conference, whose motto was: “Love Truth more than Victory.”  Greenacres was the “embodiment of the ideals of the World Parliament of Religions.” Here they were both Presenters who listened to each other’s talks and most likely spent a fair amount of time discussing their shared interests.  This is born out by Swamiji’s comments in a letter to Mrs. Hale: “There is my friend Dr. Lewis G. Janes of NY, President of the Ethical Culture Society of Brooklyn who has begun his lecture. I must go to hear him. He and I agree so much.”

It was during this time that Dr. Janes offered Swamiji a place at his Society in Brooklyn where he could hold regular classes and public lectures rather than just traveling from place to place. These classes began in December of 1894 and continued for the next several months.  In Marie Louise Burke’s words: “These classes were considered to be the real beginning of Swamiji’s work in America.” 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Dr. Lewis Janes, a Son of Providence: "Philosopher, Patriot, Lover of Man," Part 1 of 3

By Fred Richardson

In the early years of Swami Vivekananda’s time in America there were a number of individuals who stood out in their support of his Mission. Some of them are well known to us, while others appear more in the background and are perhaps less appreciated. One of these individuals was Dr. Lewis G. Janes. His name comes up occasionally in books and letters in relation to Swamiji, but who was he and what role did he play in the establishment of the message: “Truth is One, Sages call it by various names”?

Dr. Janes was born in Providence RI in 1844 to a family with deep roots in New England who espoused the values of freedom and equality for all. They were adherents to Emerson’s Transcendentalism, the Abolitionist movement to end slavery, and the Universalist Church with its main principle of the “Inherent Worth and Dignity of every person.” He was educated in Providence and matriculated at Brown University. He was unable to complete his degree due to illness but was a self-taught scholar who in 1895 received an Honorary Master’s Degree from Brown for his intellectual achievements. Prior to this he had been the President of the Brooklyn Ethical Cultural Society and belonged to the Free Religious Association where he was “devoted to the spirit of free inquiry.” 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Some Reflections on ‘Science and Religion’ by Swami Ranganathananda (Part 2 of 3)

By Ezenwa Onwugbenu 

In recent centuries, dogma-based religions have been eclipsed by a more scientific worldview. However, the triumphant sciences have not strictly held fast to the spirit of free inquiry. Rather, in not-so-subtle ways, the sciences have put on the same inflexible modes of mind characteristic of the authoritarian creeds of old. I think we see this most clearly in the medical sciences. Let me illustrate this with two points.

First: Modern, science-based medicine operates on the peculiar idea that only synthetic compounds are to be used in drug therapy. This dictum ought to be considered a mere “article of faith” or “creed” because it has absolutely no scientific basis.

If you enter the word “turmeric” into the search engine on PubMed.gov, a biomedical research database, you will find thousands of research articles on this herb. A collative study of this literature reveals that certain compounds in turmeric, known as curcuminoids, have over 250 pharmacological actions and a therapeutic effect on over 900 diseases and absolutely zero side effects. Other common herbs like ginger, beetroot, and neem also yield a good amount of research evidence, in both animal and human studies.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Young Adult Retreat Reflections 2021

By Kanna Pichappan

The discussion of “Who Am I?”, our young adult retreat topic, began three days before the retreat when Swami Yogatmanandaji sent us the study material: Swami Vivekananda’s lecture, “The Real Nature of Man.” The packed schedule of the retreat, featuring lectures by Swami Yogatmanandaji, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, and a stroll in the park, left minimal time for our minds to wander elsewhere and kept us focused on spiritual growth. My sincere thanks go to Swami Yogatmanandaji, the volunteers who worked tirelessly, and my fellow devotees for their wonderful company! I truly appreciate the love and care that everyone at the Vedanta Society of Providence showered on us! 

A few learnings from the retreat:

  • W. asked, “Am I my body”? Our body is nothing but processed food… So, is “I”=Body=processed food?

This idea was monumental for me because it prompted me to ask: Am I a combination of rice, dahl, and pancakes?

  • If we have no body, it means we were never born and will never die. The purpose of our body is to serve as an instrument for God’s work. We discussed that instruments, such as cars and machinery, don’t become attached to the work they are doing. In the same way, we can do work while (1) knowing that the work does not belong to us, and (2) not becoming attached to the results of the work.

The implications of this seem tremendous! The vast majority of my worry and misery stem from association with “me and mine” (ex: my college applications, my reputation). It seems that if I can do the work but not associate the results with myself, our fear and sorrow can vanish!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Some Reflections on 'Science and Religion' by Swami Ranganathananda (Part 1 of 3)

By Ezenwa Onwugbenu 

I have recently been reading a book titled Science and Religion. It is a transcript of two lectures given by Revered Swami Ranganathananda. It is a thought-provoking study to say the least. Here are a few initial reflections.

First: Positivistic science and dogmatic religion are two sides of the same coin, in that both are doctrinal systems that obstruct a free, broad-minded search for Truth. The doctrine of positivistic science broadly denies the existence of the metaphysical, and the doctrine of dogmatic religion broadly denies the direct experience of the metaphysical. The end result is that both systems firmly bind man to the sense plane of experience. The scientist merely gathers and classifies sense data. The religious man merely believes in stories beyond sense data. Both are comparably ignorant of the inner world of man. Both are comparably fixed to a set of inflexible, authoritative principles. The scientist limits all his search for truth to matter; and the religious man limits all his search for truth to one or more scriptures.

Second: Positivistic science and dogmatic religion are motions of cowardice. Both share a singular lack of courage to expand the domain of their inquiry, and this self-imposed limitation leads both into varied ruts of illogic. Let me give two examples: