A Vedic Truth in the crucible of modern science

Sri Jagadish Chandra Bose is an immortal name in the scientific world. He was the scientist of scientists, not made but born. Yet to say that he was only a scientist is not to say all. J.C. Bose the seer was as great as J.C. Bose the scientist. He represented a novel type in the world of science. He was the forerunner of a new age of scientific research. He had moved the frontiers of intuitive science towards a fresh attainment. A man of deep faith, a perfect example of artless living and lofty thinking, an embodiment of all that is good and inspiring was Jagadish Chandra.

Sarvam prana ejati nihsrtam (Everything springs up from life and makes movements therein).

This eternal message of the Upanishads ceaselessly reverberated in the innermost recesses of the discoverer of "plant sensitivity." The world has come to learn from this son of India the secret of observing a plant shivering, suffering, struggling, perhaps even reciprocating love. In a word, but for him the modern world would have remained quite in the dark about the deeds and misdeeds of the plants so near and dear to the Mother Earth and us as well. His approach to the scientific world was absolutely original. Although his apparatus did not demand of him a heavy charge, yet, strangely enough, by virtue of his skill he won the greatest honour.

In 1900 an international exhibition of scientific research was held in Paris. Many eminent scientists from all parts of the world gathered there to offer their contributions. The spiritual giant Swami Vivekananda happened to attend it. Highly impressed by the admirable achievements of those scientists, his heart pined to see a son of Bengal who could walk shoulder to shoulder with those mighty figures. Suddenly, to his astonishment, the magnetic personality of J.C. Bose caught his attention. He was overjoyed to find his Bengali brother eclipsing his colleagues. His assertion about Bose was:

"Today Jagadish Bose — an Indian, a loving son of Bengal — heads the list of the galaxy of scientists. Three times three cheers for Jagadish Chandra!"

Let us also not miss a thrilling and arresting report that appeared in a London daily:

"… if you watch his astonishing experiments with plants and flowers, you have to leave an old world behind and enter a new one. The world where plants are merely plants becomes mercilessly out of date, and you are forced abruptly into a world where plants are almost human beings. Professor Bose makes you take the leap when he demonstrates that plants have a nervous system quite comparable with that of men, and makes them write down their life-story."

Now, lest metal should be displeased with him, the seer scientist revealed to the world that metal, too, possesses signs of life. Life is within, life is without each object. To quote Sri Aurobindo, the Master of Integral Yoga, "A bridge has been built between man and inert matter. If we take Dr. Bose's experiments with metals in conjunction with his experiments on plants, we may hold it to be practically proved for the thinker that Life in various degrees of manifestation and organisation is omnipresent in Matter and is no foreign introduction or accidental development, but was always there to be evolved. Mind, which modern Science has not yet begun to rightly investigate, awaits its turn."

To Professor Bose, scientific research was nothing other than the life principle itself. As the spiritual thirst in him was great, he made bold to say in a wonderful speech delivered at the Royal Institute, London, that "They who behold the One, in all the changing manifoldness of the universe, unto them belongs the eternal truth, unto none else, unto none else."

Bose gives a revealing intimation of the Truth that man must seek brotherhood today so that he may grow capable of liberating himself from the clutches of the feelings of superiority that threaten to eclipse the sun of true civilisation.

"Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality."
  — Goethe

The Indian scientist sees eye to eye with the mighty poet. He takes one step further:

"Nothing is as far from truth as saying that the world is indebted to some particular nation for its progress in the sphere of knowledge. All countries of the world are interdependent… This attitude of interdependence forges the bond of unity and determines the pause and progress of civilisation."

In this positive assertion we do observe that his cosmopolitan heart is smitten almost beyond cure with a vision of endless brotherhood.

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
  — Bacon

Verily Jagadish Chandra's Avyakta (The Unmanifest) is one of the few to be chewed and digested. Here the style is vigorous, the analysis and arguments telling. Reading between the lines of this unique work of his, we can easily form the idea that he was an expositor of rare rounded knowledge. While presenting the book to his life-long bosom friend Rabindranath he writes:
  Around you are entwined the memories of years of my joy and sorrow... Today I send into the glare of your sunlight the glimmer of my glow-worm.

Rabindranath's immediate reply too is arresting and it throws much light on Jagadish Chandra's literary genius. His letter runs:
  Much of your Avyakta is well known to me... Although you have Science as your first love, yet well could literature claim that coveted place. It is only by your inattention that she stands neglected.

The seer scientist successfully crossed the barrier between physics and physiology. He crossed also the barrier between the living and the non-living just to inform the world of his rare realisation that there is but one Truth which simultaneously embraces all branches of knowledge. He admitted the fact that public life and various other professions will be apposite spheres of activity for aspiring young men. But he desired something more from the chosen few: "I call those very few who, realising an inner call, will devote their whole life with strengthened character and determined purpose to participate in the infinite struggle to win knowledge for its own sake and see truth face to face."

"You have left us nothing to do!" Such was the glowing tribute paid to Bose by the scientists of Vienna after observing his investigations, so complete and perfect. Their sincere appreciation of Bose clearly indicates that he stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries in the world of science.

While presenting his works to Bose, George Bernard Shaw, who is known all the world over for his challenging plays, for his love of fun, his keen wit, his sharp criticism, writes:

"From the lowest physiologist to the greatest Physiologist of the world."

The matchless novel Jean-Christophe reached the hands of the Indian scientist from the French savant Romain Rolland with an extremely significant message: "To the discoverer of a new world."

It is imperatively necessary to write a few words about his wife, Lady Abala Bose. She was a personality of tremendous executive drive and precision. She was at once his guide and disciple as necessity demanded. Sister Nivedita and many other eminent figures remained beholden to this venerable woman to the end of their lives.

I am tempted to bring Socrates onto the scene. The matchless philosopher was addressed by his own wife, Xanthippe, as "Public Nuisance Number One." And when a bucket of filthy water was emptied over the husband by his better half after she had delivered a wifely lecture, the wise heart of the philosopher voiced forth: "Rain always follows thunder."

Strange are the ways of Providence. To the scientist his better half proved a veritable blessing. To the philosopher his better half proved a deplorable misfortune — although his compassionate philosophic heart could never subscribe to this view. Back to the scientist. No doubt, there is a great possibility even for the most materialistic science of today to become intimately united with the higher spiritual knowledge. But when can that fated day dawn? The moment the scientists will endeavour to discover truth not solely with the external gross senses, but also with their subtler and deeper senses. For a happy synthesis between science and spirituality, between Matter and Spirit, is not only possible but inevitable.

The Bose Institute, which was to him a Temple and not a Laboratory, he dedicated to the Nation on the 30th of November, 1907. Basu Vignan Mandir proved a stupendous success in his life. The seer scientist has left an imperishable memorial of himself in his Mandir.

Bose's internal life was sanctity exemplified. He was a repository of gentleness and kindness. His life was as clean as it was simple. His was a long record of scientific research — selfless service to humanity. His manifest earnestness and zeal and easily winning personality had endeared him not only to the Indian souls but to those in the West. Truth to tell, as a seer-scientist the world has not seen his like again.