BUDDHISM INVOLVES INNER TRANSFORMATION THROUGH INTELLECTUAL EFFORT AND SCIENTIFIC REASONING
Posted on May 18th, 2013

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane Vancouver, Canada

No useful purpose is served by explaining to or arguing with those who depend exclusively on religious books and accept their words without question or without debate. No monotheistic religion respects the human mind. Spiritual wisdom is lost when one embracesƒÆ’-¡  monotheism. Understanding the human mind is the central theme in the Buddha Dhamma. It is up to us to decide where we are heading and it all depends on our intelligence not on any so called ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-holyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ book. One may read the Quran or Bible or whatever, and examine whatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s in it. Ultimately, you are your own savior. Blind faith in any ideology/religion will not take you anywhere – no matter who uttered the words. In the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Kalama Sutta the Buddha speaks of the utter futility of depending on others for oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s salvation. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Be a lamp unto yourselfƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ is what the Enlightened One said.

ƒÆ’-¡ Our understanding of the workings of human mind and psyche itself, have been the result of the scientific reasoning and intellectual efforts of a small number of individuals. Without the free creative work of philosophers and physical, social and medical scientists, man would still be living in the fear and delusion-filled, superstitious primitive world when supernatural spirit beings, were first created in the human imagination to explain that which was unexplainable in the natural world. The Buddha is foremost among these philosopher-scientists.

ƒÆ’-¡ SUPERNATURAL NONSENSE AND BLIND BELIEFS

ƒÆ’-¡ Buddhists strive to attain inner transformation through intellectual effort and scientific reasoning. Supernatural nonsense and blind beliefs are contrary to Buddhist teachings. One of the great tragedies of European history was the overthrow of the rational naturalistic ethical philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome, by supernatural nonsense and beliefs dictated by Islamic and Christian power centres during the Dark Ages (450 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬”…”1000 CE or about 1000 to 1500 years ago). This greatly restricted the freedom of thought of the mass of people.

ƒÆ’-¡ However, during the last 2000 years manƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s knowledge of the truth concerning himself and the universe has expanded exponentially because of the work of free thinking philosophers and physical, social and medical scientists ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬”…” Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas James, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, Bertrand Russell to name just a few. In the centuries to come, man will continue to gain wisdom to avoid illusionary paranormal beliefs which foster alienation, hatred, greed, and self destruction.

ƒÆ’-¡ Fear of the unknown, the mystery, remains in the psyche of man. Like a long caged animal, man fears venturing into new mysterious and untested territory and relinquishes his freedom by holding onto ancient comforting, but illusionary beliefs. The attainment of knowledge and truth will continue to be suppressed in those people clinging to ancient pre-science mythological beliefs when faced with the unknown, the unexplainable, and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-short-circuitƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ their thinking usually motivated by fear, with the human cop-out ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬”…” ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-god caused itƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬.ƒÆ’-¡ 

ƒÆ’-¡ Today, Muslims and Christians (most of the racist Tamil terrorists are basically Christians) engage in suicidal activities, in suicide terrorist attacks and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-holy warsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ These Muslims and Christians cling fanatically to the belief that by faith to the end they will be awarded a never ending life of joy and pleasure in a paradise. They have sidestepped reason, and forfeited this life because of belief in a mythical jealous Allah or God.

ƒÆ’-¡ Life is for living, in the fullest, helping to make the world a better place for those we share it with and for those who follow. This is what Buddhist teaching is all about. Only through compassion for others, through positive aspiration of individuals, followed by positive action can we hope to make this a brighter and better world. If we allow us to be brainwashed from childhood with illusionary paranormal beliefs and wait for an Allah-god to act we can expect no progress. We have the power to achieve peace for ourselves and peace on earth, if we develop and use our wisdom to do so.

INNER TRANSFORMATION

ƒÆ’-¡ Inner transformation is what Buddhists strive to attain. This is primarily by oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s own efforts. The mind is central to Buddhists. Gaining peace and tranquility of mind is what Buddhists seek because it is with such a mind that one can experience true happiness. There are some deep rooted aspects of the human nature which keep clouding our mind, disturbing its calm, not allowing us to keep our mind at ease. They make our mind instable and keep it away from tranquility. These deep rooted aspects of human nature are greed, hatred and delusion or the so called three mental poisons of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-lobha, dosha and mohaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬. They cause us to like and get attracted to certain things and to dislike and run away from other things (aversion). They are responsible for unwholesome deeds that we commit as we travel through life. On a psychological and emotional level they prevent us from seeing things from a balanced perspective and more importantly, because of them, our sense of reality is always twisted and distorted.

ƒÆ’-¡ STATE OF THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD

ƒÆ’-¡ In the world today, we see that the impact of uncontrolled greed goes far beyond the individual level. We see how it creates economic disparities among nations and communities, and between countries. Besides, we see that the greed of the human race is undermining the right of other living beings to exist. Violence is rampant in the contemporary world. Some of the historical hatred is bound up with religious causes or identities, and finds expression in terrorism that is plaguing the world today.

ƒÆ’-¡ The Buddha sought to help people minimize the destructive effects of the deluded impulses and in fact, to transform them into the impetus or momentum for happiness. The Buddhist approach to peace starts from the fundamental act of surmounting the inner poisons. Through spiritual practice the energy inherent in our deluded impulses can be transformed in its entirety into the illuminating ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-flameƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ of enlightened wisdom and inner tranquility. The three poisons can be subdued so that they no longer produce confusion and disruption and no longer drive us to act in a strange and destructive manner.

ƒÆ’-¡ Private spirituality and morality alone cannot address and contain overall suffering of others ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬”…” or the community at large. Suffering has a social dimension and its relief involves engaging in the lives of others through compassion, sacrifice and service. This is the spiritual path observed by committed Buddhists. Merely feeling sorry for those who suffer or meditatively channeling compassion to them or performing rituals on their behalf is of little value today. We need to be more actively involved by finding more direct and tangible ways of helping the suffering and relieving them from their misery. This is a more meaningful spiritual path. As Buddhists, we are committed to relieve suffering of others, and promoting peace. Compassion towards all living beings is one of the fundamental goals of Buddhist life.

ƒÆ’-¡ DEPENDENT ORIGINATION

ƒÆ’-¡ According to the BuddhaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s teachings, all living beings and indeed all phenomena are interdependent; all things occur and exist only through their interrelationship with all other phenomena and this fabric of relatedness is of infinite extent both temporally and spatially. Herein lies the basis for the principle of mutually supportive coexistence of all beings so central to Buddhist thinking.

ƒÆ’-¡ In Buddhism, greed, hate and delusion are not merely grounds of wrong conduct or moral stains upon the mind; they are the root defilements or the primary causes of all bondage and suffering. The entire practice of the Dhamma can be viewed as the task of eradicating these evil roots by developing to perfection their antidotes — dispassion, compassion and wisdom. These defilements cause harm and suffering both personal and social, and their removal brings peace and happiness. The practices taught by the Buddha are effective means for achieving their removal.

4 Responses to “BUDDHISM INVOLVES INNER TRANSFORMATION THROUGH INTELLECTUAL EFFORT AND SCIENTIFIC REASONING”

  1. Ben Silva Says:

    yOU ARE RIGHT DOCTOR- Buddhists can do reasoning, as the conduct of Nalanda Buddhists and Buddhists in the silk road show.The problem is people who are blinded by religion mind virus, will believe anything, just like what you are doing right now.

  2. Sunil Vijayapala Says:

    mmmm scientific reasoning? – well the moment you attempt to mix an ‘unconditioned’ doctrine with ‘conditioned’ phenomena, as in science the argument falls apart. rational thinking and logical thinking are both hammered out by so called philosophers through their own thinking which may be flawed or not. Buddha categorically denied this type of approach and dismissed many ascetics. empirical observation not rationality as observed in philosophies in especially the west, is the base of Buddhist doctrine. science is a narrow yardstick we utilize to observe the universe. it may sound true but with time theories fall apart, including Einstein, impermanence at its best. other than this flaw the article is great reading.

  3. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha ascended a mountain summit together with his recently converted disciples. Gazing at the view below, Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha began to expound: “Indeed, this world is burning with many and various fires. There are fires of greed fires of hatred fires of foolishness, fires of infatuation and egoism, fires of decrepitude, sickness and death, fires of sorrow, lamentation, suffering and agony.” Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha conveyed his essential outlook on the nature and cause of suffering.

    What he was trying to convey was his understanding that the phenomenal world that we inhabit is engulfed in the fires of suffering originating in deluded impulses. These fires of greed, hatred and ignorance, raging fiercely in the hearts of people, are the basic cause of the suffering of human existence. Therefore, Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha urges us first and foremost to come to a clear understanding of the root cause of suffering.

    Here, the deluded impulse of “greed” indicates uncontrolled desire for, and attachment to, material comforts, for wealth, power or fame. Desires of this kind grow and multiply without cease, and since their fulfillment cannot bring true and lasting happiness, a person in their grip is condemned to endless torment and frustration.

    The deluded impulse of “hatred” describes emotions such as resentment, rage and envy, that are triggered when our egocentric desires are not fulfilled. Unless controlled, these escalate into various forms of destruction and violence. Simply put, the deluded impulse of hatred is the violence that grows from an egocentric view of life.

    “Ignorance” refers to willful ignorance of reality, or the true nature of life and the cosmos. Thus it is this deluded impulse that generates discord and rebellion against the principles that govern the functioning of the cosmos. The wisdom that illuminates and reveals the true nature of the cosmos is referred to as “enlightenment,” while this kind of willful ignorance is referred to as “fundamental darkness” because it clouds and obscures the light by which we might see things in their true nature. Of all the deluded impulses, Buddhism considers ignorance the most fundamental.

    Buddhism views these impulses–greed, hatred and ignorance–as poisons inherent in life; together they are sometimes referred to as the “three poisons.” What Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha sought to teach his disciples is that the flames of the three poisons and of all deluded impulses originate in, and spew forth from, the inner lives of individuals to engulf families, ethnic groups, nations and eventually the whole of humanity.

    We see this in the world today, where the impact of uncontrolled greed goes far beyond the individual level; it creates economic disparities among racial and ethnic groups, and between countries on a global scale. The avarice of the industrialized nations has deprived people in developing countries of the conditions by which their basic needs can be met. And the greed of the human race is undermining the right of other living beings to exist.

    Violence is commonly found within families, in schools and in local communities. Deep hatreds that trace back to distant historical events give rise to intractable ethnic and racial conflicts. In some cases, such historical hatred is bound up with religious causes or identities, and finds expression in terror and random killing.

    Willful ignorance of the true nature of existence signifies a state of rebellion against, and denial of, the basic principles of life and the cosmos. As such, it distorts all aspects of life, from individual lifestyles to family, ethnic and national values. In other words, this kind of willful ignorance can be found in all value systems, ways of life, and views of nature that put one into rebellious conflict with the very principles that support one’s own existence, the principles that, ultimately, govern the functioning of the living cosmos.

    By sharing his enlightened understanding with others, Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha sought to help people minimize the destructive effects of these deluded impulses and in fact to transform them into the impetus for happiness.

    In India, the equivalent of “peace” is “shanti,” which means the state of inner tranquillity. It also means the enlightened condition attained by Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha sometimes referred to as “nirvana.” With respect to the state of inner peace, a Buddhist text describes this as follows: “Tranquillity of mind comes from having successfully transcended greed, hatred and ignorance.” As this passage makes clear, the Buddhist approach to peace starts from the fundamental act of surmounting these deluded impulses or inner poisons. The state of having brought these impulses under control, however, is not a static and private inner peace. Rather, it is limitlessly dynamic, expansive and evolutionary in its nature.

    The thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist Nichiren expressed this with the following image: “Burning the firewood of deluded impulses, we behold the flame of enlightened wisdom.” In other words, through spiritual practice the energy inherent in our deluded impulses can be transformed in its entirety into the illuminating “flame” of enlightened wisdom. Thus, the three poisons can be subdued so that they no longer produce confusion and disruption; they can no longer drive us to act in a bizarre and destructive manner. It is for this reason that this transcendence of deluded impulses is known as inner tranquillity.

    In the state of tranquillity, the light of enlightened wisdom shines brilliantly, unblocked and unhindered by the clouds of deluded impulses. If one surveys the Buddha’s teachings, from the earliest scriptures through the subsequent Mahayana tradition, one can see that the core of Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha ‘s enlightenment was his awakening to the “law of dependent origination.” This concept has been expressed in various ways and was developed in great depth and detail in Mahayana Buddhism; its essence is the interdependence of all living beings and indeed all phenomena. Dependent origination teaches us that all things occur and exist only through their interrelationship with all other phenomena and that this fabric of relatedness is of infinite extent both temporally and spatially. Herein lies the basis for the principle of mutually supportive coexistence of all beings so central to Buddhist thinking.

    Each human being exists within the context of interrelationships that include other human beings, all living beings and the natural world. In other words, each person is sustained by the interdependent web of life. By awakening to this principle we are able to expand instinctive self-love into an altruistic love for others; we are able to nurture the spirit of tolerance and empathy for others.

    The doctrine of dependent origination also provides a theoretical foundation for peace. In terms of concrete action, it manifests itself as the practice of compassion. In Buddhism, compassion indicates the practical ethic of always maintaining an empathetic involvement with others. It means sharing their sufferings and unhappiness, working alongside them to overcome the deluded impulses that are the root cause of suffering, transforming these into happiness, benefit and joy.

    Ignorance is considered fundamental among these deluded impulses precisely because it blinds people to the reality of dependent origination, the unavoidable and all-encompassing interrelatedness within which we live. This ignorance gives rise to the greed that drives people to seek the fulfillment of their desires even at the cost of the suffering of others. It also leads to the kind of uncontrolled rage that seeks the destruction of a situation in which one’s desires are frustrated. It is for this reason that the deluded impulse of ignorance is considered equivalent to a fundamental egocentrism. It is a blind and finally self-destructive egocentrism because it violently severs the strands of the web of life that supports one’s own existence.

    The state of mind of one who ceaselessly strives to transcend this fundamental egocentrism is that of inner peace and tranquillity. The heart of such a person is lit with the wisdom of dependent origination, and overflows with the spirit of compassion.

    Buddhism’s core contribution to peace is to be found in the struggle against the deluded impulses that, rooted in the depths of the inner life of the individual, cause so much suffering and destruction in the whole of human society. In Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha ‘s Lotus Sutra, the destructive effects brought about by the deluded impulses are described as “defilements,” and classified into five stages, from the innermost and most personal to that which stains an entire age or era. These are: defilements of desire, of thought, of the people, of life itself and of the age.

    T’ien-t’ai, a Buddhist philosopher active in China in the sixth century, described the five defilements in the following manner: “The most fundamental of these five are the defilements of thought and of desire, which result in the defilements of the people and of life. These in turn give rise to the defilement of the age.” “Defilement of desire” points to deluded impulses such as the three poisons themselves. “Defilement of thought” refers to excessive and unreasoning attachment to specific ideas or ideologies. According to T’ien-t’ai, the defilements of thought and desire are the most fundamental and, through their impact on individuals, bring chaos and disruption to families, nations and states. Passed on from one generation to another, these defilements give rise to the “defilement of life,” instilling historical hatred and violence among different peoples, ethnic groups and nations. These defilements finally influence all people living in that era, resulting in the “defilement of the age.”

    Modern civilization increasingly exhibits the aspects of what Buddhism would term the “defilement of the age.” Signs of this include rampant materialism, the ruthless domination and exploitation of nature, and unbridled consumption. Since the end of the Cold War, our world has been spared major outbreaks of conflict stemming from attachment to ideology, that is, defilement of thought. However, the kinds of conflicts that are flaring up are rooted in the irrational passions, such as extreme nationalism, that Buddhism would classify as “defilement of desire.” These are considered even more deeply rooted in people’s lives and therefore even more difficult to control.

    In a world where deluded impulses cast the pall of their negative effects in the form of the five defilements described above, Buddhists have, I believe, a particular mission to contribute to the realization of peace on all planes. In other words, we should not be content with our inner peace of mind but should broaden our horizons and extend our endeavors to include abolition of war–that is, peace of the global human community–as well as peace with the natural world, through truly sustainable development and harmonious coexistence with the global ecosystem.

    Bodhisattva practice, compassionate action based on the Buddhist understanding of life, can contribute to the realization of peace in its three dimensions (inner, community and ecological peace).

    First let us consider inner peace, or tranquillity of spirit and mind. In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who carries out altruistic acts and seeks to contribute to human society by fully manifesting the qualities of wisdom and compassion. A bodhisattva strives first to transform his or her own life; the locus for this struggle is the realities of human existence and the sustained effort to alleviate people’s sufferings. In this way the bodhisattva strives to generate joy for both self and others.

    The practice of the bodhisattva has been expressed in contemporary terms as “human revolution.” The inner state of one striving for the realization of human revolution can be considered that of spiritual tranquillity; the state of inner peace expounded in Buddhism is a dynamic condition brimming with wisdom and compassion.

    In resolving the global challenges confronting humanity, political, economic and scientific measures must be pursued together with a transformation of human consciousness. We should establish a lifestyle of conserving energy, recycling resources and pursuing spiritual values. Our overarching goal should be to cultivate a shared awareness of our common humanity and of solidarity with the living organism that is Earth. As we move toward that awareness, we must develop the wisdom to properly direct toward beneficial ends of the life sciences, including the burgeoning field of genetic engineering. The outlook of the world’s religious and ethical traditions can and must make an important contribution.

    A Buddhist approach to peace offers important common ground with other traditions. The cause of a truly comprehensive and lasting peace can most effectively be furthered by ceaselessly expanding circles of friendship and understanding through dialogue, exchange and cooperation.

  4. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Bird eats insects
    Insects eat dead bird.
    Circumstance and time always change
    You may be powerful today.
    But Time is very powerful than you.
    Do not devalue or hurt anyone in life
    One tree makes thousands of matchsticks..
    But you only need a single matchstick to burn thousands of trees.
    Be good and do good !!!

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