Can the Science of the West be ignored in contemporary Buddhist thinking?
Posted on January 19th, 2017

R Chandrasoma

This question is asked because the expositions and exegeses of learned Buddhists – chiefly the Bikkshus – are time-shifted in the illustrative paradigms employed to bring out a religious truth.

Thus India at the time of a great spiritual efflorescence about two and a half thousand years ago is the favoured background for the illustration equally of moral perfidy and spiritual grace in mankind.

These ‘stories’ are invariably magical to those whose science and cosmology reflect the contemporary idiom in the elucidation of Nature’s mysteries. To declare that Hells and Torture-chambers lie below our feet seem grossly offensive to children of our age.

The concept of ‘punishment’ is, itself, a left over from mankind’s first attempts at establishing a moral order in society. Equally, the ‘reward’ of heavenly status to ‘do-gooders’ smacks of deals in a market-place.

The devas and pretheyas that haunt these ‘abodes’ do not have a recognizable natural history nor do they conform to those physical laws that tightly define the limits of viability of living systems.

They are fictions – but why is this fiction made an indispensable part of a religion that has lofty spiritual goals? Must arahats fly through the air like giant condors as evidence of their greatness?  Can beings other than us – alien beings in today’s terminology – be part of any serious religious discourse given our advanced knowledge of life and matter – a knowledge recently and painfully acquired by a conquest of the impositions of a wildly wayward religious tradition?

Let me conclude these brief observations by noting that the brain is the ‘organ of mentality’ and all scientific attempts to understand our relationsip with the externality which we call our ‘world’ is based on a comprehensive understanding of how our brain works.

Alas, the ancients knew nothing of that great organ within our head and  built up a phony system rooted in Galenic medical lore and the ‘elements’ and ‘essences’ of Late Hellenistic Science.

It is this ancient rubbish that Buddhist monks of our Fair Isle have joined to spiritual truths that are only muddied by such associations. We have a new generation of educated young people who are Buddhists by descent bur are repelled by a crude folk-Buddhism that is forced on them as the genuine article. Not surprisingly, elderly women alone listen to the monks.

7 Responses to “Can the Science of the West be ignored in contemporary Buddhist thinking?”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Buddha began by saying purest octat is the smallest form that can be found and consciousness (vinnana) and chitahsika are two other componenets. There it is explained the begining of the material component and the wararess componenet of the material (negative or positive charge ?).

    Science is based on materials. They have come to the smallest stage which is superstring. But, they know there is no way to set up experiments to find whether the superstrings exist or not.

    I think they explained the double slit experiment when they considered the importance of consciousness (awareness of the sourrounding by smallest particles too).

    You can read, lot of theoretical physicists reching to Dalailama to explain abhidhamma in order to explain gaps in theoretical physics. You tube clips are available on those.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    It would be foolish to put all our eggs in the basket of ‘science’. Science is based on various models which are able to explain and predict outcomes in the physical world to a very high degree of accuracy with observed reality. This degree of accuracy is relative to the time and age when different models of the world held sway of mankind’s thinking. Each of these models served its purpose until they were replaced by others in due course having failed to stay the course with ‘observed realities’.

    The models of geocentric world of the Abrahamic religions to the heliocentric Copernican world and then to current Standard Model of the Big Bang and Quantum Physical realities are just the same. They too will eventually be replaced by more ‘advanced’ models as more and more ‘observed realities’ become apparent. This would very well be a search ad infinitum!

    Lord Buddha’s teachings admonish the followers to develop their minds to understand the ultimate reality by attaining Enlightenment. Until such time we pass through different realities each according to one’s understanding. The world of a child to that of a Physicist are different – each as meaningful as the other to the individual.

    Just as Newtonian mechanics gave way to Einsteinian Relativity and Quantum Physics – these theories too will things of the past in the future.Therefore it is just too premature to ask Buddhists to tag onto the so called ‘advanced knowledge of life and matter’, for an ultimate reality through science alone is yet to be achieved.

  3. Christie Says:

    The basic philosophy of Buddhism is “Cause and Effect”.

    The Buddhism that is Hindufied is a different kettle of fish.

  4. anura seneviratna Says:

    “……………chiefly the Bikkshus – are time-shifted in the illustrative paradigms employed to bring out a religious truth. ”

    Attempting to extract a “RELIGIOUS truth” out of today’s corrupted Buddhism into a ritualistic godly religion diverting from the true path of wisdom in infinite NATURE is a tragedy. Pristine Buddhism (Buddhi, Wisdom) is natural science while today’s science is modern science mainly on the physical world but can interact on certain levels of knowledge.

  5. S.Gonsal Says:

    The writer could have explained what is “science” first. Similarly he should have sought a definition to “Buddhism”, because both these WORDS are in his BRAIN only ( as he himself explained ) and probably depend on the chemical reactions, structure and power sources of his brain.
    Another person will understand very differently depending of the “science” or that person’s brain.

    According to my brain, Buddhism is not about “ultimate reality” , “folk stories” , “astral travel” and “magic” but understanding of how the “mind of beings” ( not BRAIN) or “mentality” works to translate that work to “action” and use that to betterment of all beings.

    Similarly, “science” to me is a more ambiguous thing but again is a process developed to understand how the “world” works and using that knowledge to earn money and “physicality”. Interestingly any part of that “science” which attempts to improve “mentality” has been documented simply stealing from “Buddhism”.

    It is my duty to add , if my good old friend Dhramasiri premits, both main political camps are out there to attack Buddhism, one directly and one very subtle way showing they are there to protect Buddhism. The 2nd camp is more dangerous to me because they prefer to alter Buddhism to bring it closer to Chrsitianity or make it simply a “message of peace”.

  6. S.Gonsal Says:

    Sorry, the 3rd paragraph shall be amended as follows.

    “Science” to me is a more ambiguous thing but again is a process developed to understand how the “world” works and using that knowledge to earn money and improve “physicality” . Interestingly any part of that “science” which attempts to improve “mentality” has been documented simply stealing from “Buddhism”.

  7. S.Gonsal Says:

    There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
    -Trump

    I ask the author, why don’t you ask Americans to embrace science than a ficticious God ? WHat’s worng with us following our old folk-Buddhism then ?

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