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  • Buddhism and science have increasingly been discussed as compatible, and

  • Buddhism has entered into the science and religion dialogue. The case is made

  • that the philosophic and psychological teachings within Buddhism share

  • commonalities with modern scientific and philosophic thought. For example,

  • Buddhism encourages the impartial investigation of Naturethe principal

  • object of study being oneself. Some popular conceptions of Buddhism connect

  • it to discourse regarding evolution, quantum theory, and cosmology, though

  • most scientists see a separation between the religious and metaphysical

  • statements of Buddhism and the methodology of science. In 1993 a model

  • deduced from Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development was published

  • arguing that Buddhism is a fourth mode of thought beyond magic, science and

  • religion. Buddhism has been described by some as

  • rational and non-dogmatic, and there is evidence that this has been the case

  • from the earliest period of its history, though some have suggested this aspect

  • is given greater emphasis in modern times and is in part a reinterpretation.

  • Not all forms of Buddhism eschew dogmatism, remain neutral on the subject

  • of the supernatural, or are open to scientific discoveries. Buddhism is a

  • varied tradition and aspects include fundamentalism, devotional traditions,

  • supplication to local spirits, and various superstitions. Nevertheless,

  • certain commonalities have been cited between scientific investigation and

  • Buddhist thought. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in a speech at the

  • meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, listed a "suspicion of absolutes" and a

  • reliance on causality and empiricism as common philosophical principles shared

  • between Buddhism and science. Buddhism and the scientific method

  • More consistent with the scientific method than traditional, faith-based

  • religion, the Kalama Sutta insists on a proper assessment of evidence, rather

  • than a reliance on faith, hearsay or speculation:

  • "Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity,

  • for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas, do

  • not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of

  • religious texts, not by mere logic or inference, nor by considering

  • appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming

  • possibilities, nor by the idea: 'this is our teacher'. But, O Kalamas, when you

  • know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome, and wrong, and bad,

  • then give them up...And when you know for yourselves that certain things are

  • wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them."

  • The general tenor of the sutta is also similar to "Nullius in verba" — often

  • translated as "Take no-one's word for it", the motto of the Royal Society.

  • Buddhism and psychology During the 1970s, several experimental

  • studies suggested that Buddhist meditation could produce insights into a

  • wide range of psychological states. Interest in the use of meditation as a

  • means of providing insight into mind-states has recently been revived,

  • following the increased availability of such brain-scanning technologies as fMRI

  • and SPECT. Such studies are enthusiastically

  • encouraged by the present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who has long expressed an

  • interest in exploring the connection between Buddhism and science and

  • regularly attends the Mind and Life Institute Conferences.

  • In 1974 the Kagyu Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa predicted that "Buddhism

  • will come to the West as psychology". This view was apparently regarded with

  • considerable skepticism at the time, but Buddhist concepts have indeed made most

  • in-roads in the psychological sciences. Some modern scientific theories, such as

  • Rogerian psychology, show strong parallels with Buddhist thought. Some of

  • the most interesting work on the relationship between Buddhism and

  • science is being done in the area of comparison between Yogacara theories

  • regarding the store consciousness and modern evolutionary biology, especially

  • DNA. This is because the Yogacara theory of karmic seeds works well in explaining

  • the nature/nurture problem. William James often drew on Buddhist

  • cosmology when framing perceptual concepts, such as his term "stream of

  • consciousness," which is the literal English translation of the Pali

  • vinnana-sota. The "stream of consciousness" is given various names

  • throughout the many languages of Buddhadharma discourse but in English is

  • generally known as "Mindstream". In Varieties of Religious Experience James

  • also promoted the functional value of meditation for modern psychology. He is

  • said to have proclaimed in a course lecture at Harvard, "This is the

  • psychology everybody will be studying twenty-five years from now."

  • Buddhism as science Buddhist teacher S.N. Goenka describes

  • Buddhadharma as a 'pure science of mind and matter'. He claims Buddhism uses

  • precise, analytical philosophical and psychological terminology and reasoning.

  • Goenka's presentation describes Buddhism not so much as belief in a body of

  • unverifiable dogmas, but an active, impartial, objective investigation of

  • things as they are. What is generally accepted in Buddhism

  • is that effects arise from causation. From his very first discourse onwards,

  • the Buddha explains the reality of things in terms of cause and effect. The

  • existence of misery and suffering in any given individual is due to the presence

  • of causes. One way to describe the Buddhist eightfold path is a turning

  • towards the reality of things as they are right now and understanding reality

  • directly, although it is debated the degree to which these investigations are

  • metaphysical or epistemological. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has written

  • the following on Buddhism and science: In Buddhism there are two kinds of

  • truth: conventional truth and ultimate truth. In the framework of the

  • conventional truth, Buddhists speak of being and non-being, birth and death,

  • coming and going, inside and outside, one and many, etcand the Buddhist

  • teaching and practice based on this framework helps reduce suffering, and

  • bring more harmony and happiness. In the framework of the ultimate truth, the

  • teaching transcends notions of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and

  • going, inside and outside, one and many, etcand the teaching and practice based

  • on this insight help practitioners liberate themselves from discrimination,

  • fear, and touch nirvana, the ultimate reality. Buddhists see no conflict

  • between the two kinds of truth and are free to make good use of both

  • frameworks. Classical science, as seen in Newton’s

  • theories, is built upon a framework reflecting everyday experience, in which

  • material objects have an individual existence, and can be located in time

  • and space. Quantum physics provides a framework for understanding how nature

  • operates on subatomic scales, but differs completely from classical

  • science, because in this framework, there is no such thing as empty space,

  • and the position of an object and its momentum cannot simultaneously be

  • precisely determined. Elementary particles fluctuate in and out of

  • existence, and do not really exist but have only a “tendency to exist”.

  • Classical science seems to reflect the conventional truth and quantum physics

  • seems to be on its way to discover the absolute truth, trying very hard to

  • discard notions such as being and non-being, inside and outside, sameness

  • and otherness, etc.… At the same time, scientists are trying to find out the

  • relationship between the two kinds of truth represented by the two kinds of

  • science, because both can be tested and applied in life.

  • In science, a theory should be tested in several ways before it can be accepted

  • by the scientific community. The Buddha also recommended, in the Kālāmatra1,

  • that any teaching and insight given by any teacher should be tested by our own

  • experience before it can be accepted as the truth. Real insight, or right view,

  • has the capacity to liberate, and to bring peace and happiness. The findings

  • of science are also insight; they can be applied in technology, but can be

  • applied also to our daily behavior to improve the quality of our life and

  • happiness. Buddhists and scientists can share with each other their ways of

  • studying and practice and can profit from each other’s insights and

  • experience. The practice of mindfulness and

  • concentration always brings insight. It can help both Buddhists and scientists.

  • Insights transmitted by realized practitioners like the Buddhas and

  • bodhisattvas can be a source of inspiration and support for both

  • Buddhist practitioners and scientists, and scientific tests can help Buddhist

  • practitioners understand better and have more confidence in the insight they

  • receive from their ancestral teachers. It is our belief that in this 21st

  • Century, Buddhism and science can go hand in hand to promote more insight for

  • us all and bring more liberation, reducing discrimination, separation,

  • fear, anger, and despair in the world. Buddhism and relativity

  • Buddhism shares with science the understanding of relativity. The

  • relativity of phenomena is often used in Buddhist teaching to counter dogmatic or

  • rigid views, like the relativity of size to break the belief in "small" or

  • "tall". In Nāgārjuna's Treaty on the Middle Way, in the chapter 3 "Analysis

  • of motion", it is even shown that motion has no independent existence and does

  • not exists intrinsically, more than one millennium before Galileo who wrote:

  • "Let us therefore set as a principle that, whatever be the motion that one

  • attributes to the Earth, it is necessary that, for us who partake of it, it

  • remains perfectly imperceptible and as not being".

  • In the Heart Sutra, which presents the view of emptiness, it is said that

  • phenomena have no "defining characteristics", which is a claim of

  • relativity since, in the absence of a reference system, nothing can be said

  • about anything and therefore objects have indeed no intrinsic

  • characteristics. In this Sutra, it is also said that phenomena are "not

  • decreasing nor increasing", which is in agreement with Noether's theorem showing

  • that, because of relativity, there are conserved quantities in physics, like

  • energy. Buddhism mainly focused on the emptiness aspect of objects whereas

  • science developed more the relative aspect.

  • Buddhism and quantum physics The Heart Sutra explains that: "Form is

  • emptiness, Emptiness is form", which fits closely Nottale's theory of quantum

  • physics, which proves that matter and space are not different.

  • Notable scientists on Buddhism Niels Bohr, who developed the Bohr Model

  • of the atom, said, For a parallel to the lesson of atomic

  • theory...[we must turn] to those kinds of epistemological problems with which

  • already thinkers like the Buddha and Lao Tzu have been confronted, when trying to

  • harmonize our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence.

  • Nobel Prizewinning philosopher Bertrand Russell described Buddhism as a

  • speculative and scientific philosophy: Buddhism is a combination of both

  • speculative and scientific philosophy. It advocates the scientific method and

  • pursues that to a finality that may be called Rationalistic. In it are to be

  • found answers to such questions of interest as: 'What is mind and matter?

  • Of them, which is of greater importance? Is the universe moving towards a goal?

  • What is man's position? Is there living that is noble?' It takes up where

  • science cannot lead because of the limitations of the latter's instruments.

  • Its conquests are those of the mind. The American physicist J. Robert

  • Oppenheimer made an analogy to Buddhism when describing the Heisenberg

  • uncertainty principle: If we ask, for instance, whether the

  • position of the electron remains the same, we must say 'no;' if we ask

  • whether the electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no;' if we ask

  • whether the electron is at rest, we must say 'no;' if we ask whether it is in

  • motion, we must say 'no.' The Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as

  • to the conditions of man's self after his death; but they are not familiar

  • answers for the tradition of seventeenth and eighteenth-century science.

  • Nobel Prizewinning physicist Albert Einstein, who developed the general

  • theory of relativity and the special theory of relativity, also known for his

  • massenergy equivalence, described Buddhism as containing a strong cosmic

  • element: ...there is found a third level of

  • religious experience, even if it is seldom found in a pure form. I will call

  • it the cosmic religious sense. This is hard to make clear to those who do not

  • experience it, since it does not involve an anthropomorphic idea of God; the

  • individual feels the vanity of human desires and aims, and the nobility and

  • marvelous order which are revealed in nature and in the world of thought. He

  • feels the individual destiny as an imprisonment and seeks to experience the

  • totality of existence as a unity full of significance. Indications of this cosmic

  • religious sense can be found even on earlier levels of developmentfor

  • example, in the Psalms of David and in the Prophets. The cosmic element is much

  • stronger in Buddhism, as, in particular, Schopenhauer's magnificent essays have

  • shown us. The religious geniuses of all times have been distinguished by this

  • cosmic religious sense, which recognizes neither dogmas nor God made in man's

  • image. Consequently there cannot be a church whose chief doctrines are based

  • on the cosmic religious experience. It comes about, therefore, that we find

  • precisely among the heretics of all ages men who were inspired by this highest

  • religious experience; often they appeared to their contemporaries as

  • atheists, but sometimes also as saints. See also

  • References Further reading

  • Sarunya Prasopchingchana & Dana Sugu, 'Distinctiveness of the Unseen Buddhist

  • Identity' Donald S. Lopez Jr., Buddhism and

  • Science: A Guide for the Perplexed Matthieu Ricard, Trinh Xuan Thuan, The

  • Quantum and the Lotus Tenzin Gyatso, The Dalai Lama XIV, The

  • Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality,

  • McMahan, David, “Modernity and the Discourse of Scientific Buddhism.”

  • Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 72, No. 4, 897-933.

  • B. Alan Wallace, Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness

  • B. Alan Wallace, Buddhism and Science: breaking new ground

  • B. Alan Wallace, Choosing Reality: A Buddhist Perspective of Physics and the

  • Mind, Robin Cooper, The Evolving Mind:

  • Buddhism, Biology and Consciousness, Windhorse

  • Daniel Goleman, Destructive Emotions, Bloomsbury

  • Rapgay L, Rinpoche VL, Jessum R, Exploring the nature and functions of

  • the mind: a Tibetan Buddhist meditative perspective, Prog. Brain Res. 2000 vol

  • 122 pp 507–15 External links

  • Full text of 2004 paper examining effects of long-term meditation on brain

  • function Full text of 2003 paper examining the

  • effect of mindfulness meditation on brain and immune function

  • The Mind and Life Conferences Buddha on the Brain - Dalai Lama on the

  • Society for Neuroscience's annual conference

  • [Science meets Dharma] Pratityasamutpada.

  • http:philpapers.orgKOHPIE

Buddhism and science have increasingly been discussed as compatible, and

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Buddhism and science

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    Benjamin Shih posted on 2016/12/27
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