Are all Hindu rituals and traditions based on scientific principles?

Yes. But perhaps not in the way we sometimes think. There is a reason human beings engage in rituals and it applies to all rituals across all religions and even secular rituals. I have written about this before[1].

The sense in which this question was perhaps asked reveals a somewhat disturbing tendency that has prevailed for some time now — the seeming inability to distinguish between the scientific method and specific scientific findings.

When a proud Hindu claims that Hindu rituals are scientific, he or she is usually just drawing a parallel between the ritual and a certain known scientific fact. This parallel is often forced and a result of wishful thinking.

Science is not a position. It is a method. It is an ongoing sequence of experiments and deductions through observation that reveals truths about the world we live in. If these truths had been revealed without using these methods, they would not deserve to be called scientific. And it is for this exact same reason that Hindu rituals cannot be called scientific, no matter how strong the parallel drawn.

Every argument defending a ritual on the basis of what “the ancients knew” can be readily dismissed on account of there being no experimental data to justify the practice.

There is real danger in such behaviour too. Once we begin considering a body of knowledge as valid because it corresponds with modern scientific findings, there is no end to the evils that such an intellectual surrender can be put to.

If you care to look, “scientific” justification of female genital mutilation (of the Islamic variety) are available. As are “scientific” reasons for drinking cow urine and “scientific” explanations of how the Biblical flood actually occurred.

Falling in love with the “science” label without engaging in critical thinking and understanding how the scientific method works is a slippery slope. Are we really going to leap off that cliff?

The next time someone makes a claim like this — “Hindu rituals are based in science” — please ask them to justify that claim. And if they can’t tell them that they cannot expect to be taken seriously. If they persist, tell them they are doing a disservice to Indian culture and are the reason behind its downfall.

Footnotes

[1] Vijayendra Mohanty’s answer to What is a ritual?

#culture, #hinduism, #science, #scientific-method, #superstition