In one of his lectures, Rishi Dayananda discussed Western Philosophy, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the effects of English education. He refused to accept the theory of evolution that postulates that man descended from apes. If the law of evolution is constant, how is it that for thousands of years, we have never seen a young ape develop into a human being? If the phenomenon of apes evolving into humans happened in former times, why is it that a similar result has ceased to happen in these later ages? The Rishi dealt with the subject at length and brought forward, with formidable polemical skill, challenging arguments in support of his contention. English-speaking university students, listening to the lecture, knew that the Rishi had never before attended a science college and were surprised on hearing the Swami’s arguments which no one among them could have disputed. These youngsters admitted that they were under the impression that the principles of physics, chemistry, and other sciences taught in universities had been first discovered and taught by Europeans and that other non-European nations, especially Indians, were not aware of these before. On hearing this from the students, Rishi Dayananda lamented the fallen state of India and said: I ask that you identify a theory of science which you consider to be of modern origin and I will prove that it is taught in our ancient Shastras. Those in attendance started to ask questions like the fixedness of the sun and the earth’s motion, the nature of rain and clouds, the five elements, the fixed and moving stars, the celestial regions, the planetary system, moons, earthquakes, and even more. Quoting from the Shastras, and using language remarkable for its precision and intellectual depth, the Rishi replied to all the questions with proofs that no one controverted. No sooner was a question raised than a verse in reply was forthcoming. He quoted Veda Mantras dealing with the law of gravitation. The Rishi emphasized that Vedas are books of knowledge, both spiritual and scientific, that religion must harmonize with science, and that religion would have little value if it could not be presented as a science of life. Listeners testified that they could grasp and appreciate the Rishi’s rendering of the verses from Vedas and Shastras. The subsequent silence among the questioners pointed to the convincing nature of the answers.
DR SATISH PRAKASH