Dr. Thoudam Damodara Singh (1937-2006), also known as His Holiness Bhaktisvarūpa Dāmodara Swami is the founding director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. He was one of the world’s pioneer exponents of science-spirituality dialogue and inter-faith peace initiatives. He identified the cause of many of the problems in the world today such as terrorism, environmental issues, and social and religious conflict to be due to a lack of understanding between the fields of empirical science and religion. As the International Director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, he wrote more than thirty books, gave hundreds of talks and seminars, and organized numerous scholarly discussions and international conferences on topics related to the science and spirituality nexus.
His tireless efforts were revolutionary and brought together some of the best minds in the world – Nobel Laureates, scientists, spiritualists, and world leaders – to a common platform of constructive dialogue and action for a more peaceful world. While traveling extensively around the world, he built bridges between communities, cultures and ideologies. Everywhere he went, he sought to cultivate the human spirit of inquiry, love and peace. Primarily, he emphasized the need for a new paradigm of life beyond the mechanistic model of atoms and molecules, to include that of consciousness, meaning and purpose.
Dr. T. D. Singh was born in the ancient state of Manipur, which is situated in the hilly Northeast region of India. After receiving a scholarship from the Indian government for his excellent academic results, he obtained his PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry, from the University of California, Irvine, USA in 1974. He contributed many papers in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and the Journal of Organic Chemistry in the field of fast proton transfer kinetics in model biological systems using stopped-flow technique and NMR spectroscopy. He also worked on gas phase reaction mechanisms using Ion Cyclotron Resonance (ICR) spectroscopy.
While in the USA, in 1970, he met his spiritual teacher, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda who belonged to the ancient Vaiṣṇava Vedanta lineage. Under his guidance, Dr. T.D. Singh began advanced studies in the philosophy of Vedanta. In 1974, Śrīla Prabhupāda founded the Bhaktivedanta Institute and appointed Dr. T. D. Singh as Director.
Dr. Singh is renowned for his ability to synthesize two apparently different paradigms of epistemology in Western science and Eastern spirituality. For example, he coined and defined the term ‘spiriton’ in reference to the conscious energy which exists in all living beings, and which has not been described by material sciences.
In addition to his contribution to science and spirituality, Dr. Singh was a key member of the United Religions Initiative (URI) founded by Bishop E. Swing under the auspices of the United Nations. Through the URI, Dr. Singh played a very active role in getting religious leaders from several parts of the globe to meet and work towards greater understanding of each other. Referring to this work, he jokingly used to say “I am performing the chemistry of culture.” Despite his stature as a world figure, Dr. Singh was personal and humble in his dealings with whomever he met. Dr. Singh’s life, works and teachings mark a new chapter in humanity’s quest for the Ultimate Reality by combining a scientific and spiritual approach.
Dr. Singh was an outstanding person and a good friend…Dr. Singh’s contributions to the understanding of religion and the relation between science and religion have been important and will have along standing influenceDr. Singh was an outstanding person and a good friend…Dr. Singh’s contributions to the understanding of religion and the relation between science and religion have been important and will have along standing influence
Charles H. Townes,
Nobel Laureate in Physics (1964)
In very lively and friendly discussions we touched scientific and spiritual questions related to the genetics and the evolution of living organisms. These debates benefited from a deep, mutual understanding, in which the importance of devoting particular attention to the interface between scientific knowledge and spirituality was highlighted. While Dr. Singh particularly appreciated my scientifically based views on the process of biological evolution, I enjoyed his spiritual views on traditional wisdom as well as his open-minded readiness to co-integrate on common grounds our knowledge and beliefs in order to improve our humble understanding of the great complexity of life.
Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine (1978)
I very much enjoyed the meeting and discussion I had with him in May of 2005 on science and faith. It is heartening to know that his students and colleagues will endeavor to carry on his important vision of helping humanity through the interface of science and spirituality.
Ahmed H. Zewail
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1989)
I remember with fondness the stimulating conversation we had during his visit to Gaithersburg on June 10, 2005. I thank God for Dr. Singh’s work on the relationship of scientific and religious thinking, and pray that his efforts will continue to be fruitful in bringing greater peace and harmony to all.
William D. Phillips
Nobel Laureate in Physics (1997)
Dr. T.D. Singh was always simple and unassuming. This little man had a big heart in a troubled world, which means that he carried a lot of burdens that most of us chose simply to ignore, but also experienced joys that most of us can only imagine…we honor him by best continuing his work with the same humility, rigor, commitment, and compassion that he exemplified in his life.
Founder, Metanexus Institute
You are not only a genuine religious leader of profound esteem in your own tradition but you are an important interfaith leader who is held in high regard throughout the world. The United Religious Initiative recognizes you as dear friend and as a pioneer in bringing people of faith together to pursue peace among religions.
William E. Swing
Founder United Religions Initiative (URI)