Introduction

The spectacular advances of science during the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the new Millennium have had the most immediate impact on a personís life and destiny. By keeping itself as a value-free enterprise, science, through these advances, has offered a tough challenge to the questions of meaning, significance and purpose of life, which are the core concerns of religion and spirituality.
 

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Since both science and religion are the finest products of the human spirit and are necessary for the survival of the human race, it is incumbent on scholars from diverse disciplines to start a fruitful dialogue that leads to a dynamic exploration of the intimate connection between the two. Although a small group of enlightened, energetic and daring scholars have taken upon themselves the task of seriously investigating the interrelationship between science and religion, much more needs to be done through the initiation of an open and vibrant dialogue among scholars of varied disciplines.

Until 1960 almost all the literature dealing with the healing and other beneficial effects of yoga, meditation and contemplative practice on the human personality was theological, philosophical or popular in nature. Scientists seemingly ignored this important realm of human experience. It was only during the past 40 years that students and teachers of yoga and meditation offered themselves for scientific study. Swami Rama, Zen Priests, Himalayan Yogis, and mediators trained in Transcendental Meditation and Vippasana allowed themselves to be tested under laboratory conditions to demonstrate the efficacy of their meditative techniques. Encouraged by positive findings, scientists, who at first had approached these investigations cautiously, began to regard meditation and contemplative practice as genuine subjects of study. A number of scientific studies indicated that the yoga and meditative experience induced significant changes in the individual and social behavior of the practitioner. (Malhotra: Instant Nirvana, 1999)

More recently a number of universities, including such prestigious institutions as Harvard, MIT and Cambridge, have supported medical research on alternative therapies such as acupuncture, tai chi, yoga and meditation. This research has led to some significant results. It has been shown that yoga, meditation and diet can reverse the build up of plaque that leads to the blockage of arteries. The American Urological Associationís research indicates that meditation might be effective in slowing down prostate cancer. Cambridge University researchers found that a certain form of contemplative practice helped chronically depressed patients. Others have reported that meditationís healing power boosts the immune system of patients with breast cancer. Some studies suggest that meditation and yoga could replace the therapeutic use of Viagra, while others indicate that, in addition to significant physical changes, meditation is conducive to producing altered states of consciousness. (Time Magazine, August 4, 2003)

At present there are more than 10 million people in the USA who practice some form of yoga, meditation or contemplative practice, such as physical exercises for improving bodily health, breathing exercises for cultivating emotional control, and meditation exercises for gaining spiritual strength; and the worldwide number of practitioners of yoga, meditation and contemplative practice is growing at a fast pace. What appeals to people at the grassroots level is the holistic and ecological view of yoga and meditation regarding the total person in possession of complete physical, psychological and spiritual health. This is an intriguing model for medical and humanistic sciences to contemplate during the twenty-first century. As more people have been becoming more inward following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, they have been asking serious questions about the meaning, significance, purpose and value of life. This has lead to an increased scientific interest in the practice of yoga and meditation and their impact on the spiritual development of a human being, and is a primary consideration in the establishment of our proposed local society.

For more information contact Dr. Ashok Malhotra at 607-436-3220, the Department of Philosophy at 607-436-2456, or the Center for Social Responsibility at 607-436-2651
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