The Origin of Species According to the Buddha
Reviewed by: Dr. Harischandra Wijayatunga

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Charles Darwin was a naturalist who lived in the 19th century and died in 1882; that is 126 years ago. He is world famous as the propounder of the concept of The Origin of Species by Natural Selection.

At the time he proposed this theory the Western world was firmly under the Judaeo-Christian teaching that the world, as it was then known, had been created by God in six days, was created flat, and was stationary, while the sun and the moon, also created at the same time, were in motion.
All the hills, valleys, rivers and oceans were also created on this same occasion. In creating animals each species was created separately. That means elephants were created as elephants, goats as goats, apes as apes, ants as ants and all other animals as they are seen today.

There was no connection between species. Even by the time of Darwin the dark clouds of Judaeo-Christian thinking that covered the earth for centuries had not passed away. It had only begun to thin out at places.

By Darwin's time the findings of Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler had removed the flatness of the earth and it had been shown to be a sphere. The roaming sun was suddenly stopped and the hitherto stationary earth was made to rotate and orbit round the sun.

For certain major activities God had been made redundant. Of course the great scientists who made discoveries that changed the world had to pay a heavy penalty for these ideas considered blasphemous by the authorities.

Not only common man but even very educated people of the time could not digest new scientific findings, James Usher, Archbishop of Ireland, not satisfied by merely accepting creation as a biblical fact sat down to make a calculation of the exact date and time of creation.

After a deep study of the Holy Bible and a meticulous calculation he announced that the world was created by God at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday the 23rd of October 4004 B.C.
James Hutton, a Scott geologist studied the erosion by rivers and concluded that mud and debris that gets carried away ultimately settles down in the sea bed and when the floor of the sea rise hills get formed.

The rate of sedimentation coupled with the thickness of the sedimentary layers show that the earth must be very very many years old. It cannot be a mere few thousand years as shown by Usher.
Flora and fauna

Charles Darwin set about going round the world in a ship studying flora and fauna in different parts of the globe. He observed, for the first time, the startling fact that different species of animals have evolved in course of time and they seem to be related to each other through a common ancestor.
He further observed that species have acquired different characteristics under different environmental conditions and situations. Darwin came to the conclusion that among living beings there is a struggle for existence.

In the process the vast majority of them get marginalised and ultimately perish. Only the fittest manages to survive and procreate.

This is how the Darwinian theory of evolution through the survival of the fittest came into being. But as a corollary to this theory man became quite unexpectedly closely related to the higher apes. No wonder Darwin had to face a barrage of opposition, on both counts, from the followers of the church.

Arguments both for and against Darwinism began to appear in an unprecedented rate. Those who were for Darwinism eagerly perfected it adding further evidence while those who took a stand against it dug deeper into their bastion, the Holy Book. Darwinism enlightened the world and angered a few. For the fundamentalist the Commandments of God is very clear.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me....Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God ...' [Exodus 20]. In another place the God says 'What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.' [Deuteronomy 12; 32]. Clearly Darwin is adding something and also diminishing something from the story of creation.
Darwin's theory had a massive impact on contemporary thinking. But if his theory of survival of the fittest is accepted as equally applicable to all members of the animal kingdom, including man we come to two awkward positions viz; What is wrong in Judaeo-Christians annihilating Muslims? And in return, is there anything wrong in Muslims bombing Judaeo-Christians? Both are after all trying to decide who is the fittest to survive. If survival of the fittest is natural from where does the U.N. get a mandate to protect small nations of the world? Is protection of small nations unnatural? Is Darwin the scientist giving ammunition to a receding God? These are very serious situations for all to ponder.

Mahinda Weerasinghe, [M.W.], the author of this book, has no qualms. He is a structural engineer by profession and a Buddhist by conviction. He is educated and well informed and has mastered not only Buddhist scriptures but modern Buddhist writings as well as works on cytology, embryology, psychology, reincarnation etc.

I think the present book is his second publication, the first being A Cosmic Struggle [New York, 1984]. The depth to which the critical mind of the author penetrates undoubtedly shows that he is not merely repeating scriptures but applies them to the world renowned Darwinism and takes it to an utterly new territory away from much maligned chance and luck.

According to M.W., whatever the world may say, the survival of the fittest as discovered by Darwin is only a partial truth. He says Darwin rediscovered the wheel minus some spokes. In reality it is the luckiest who survive. It is the luckiest who happened to be at the right place at the right moment who survives.

It may be or may not be the fittest; M.W. clearly shows that the basis for adaptation of animals to various environmental conditions is not the urge of the species to survive but the sensory gratification of the individual, a fact first propounded by the Buddha 2500 years ago.

The Buddha discovered that all component things are subject to change and are impermanent and are constantly changing. There is nothing unchanging, permanent and immutable. According to the Buddha there is no status quo and every component thing is in a state of flux [anicca]. This is a fundamental law of Buddhism.

'Those who have grasped the Law of Dependent Origination have relegated God, creation, soul, genetic blunders, and natural selection, to the dust heap of history', says M.W. p l08.
Species originate not due to chance or due to failure of genes [the ultimate bodies inside chromosomes that carry hereditary characters] to rearrange in the proper order. The author repeatedly shows that according to the Buddha what is crucial is not survival but sensory gratification. He asks what survival is for, and what is the motivation for survival?

Since the time amoebae living in the primordial ocean came to dominate this planet they were not just aimlessly floating for mere survival but some of them picked up sense bases to give them a thrill.
This opened a whole world of sound and taste, of vision and touch, indeed consciousness and odour p 50. These early animalcules and microbes not satisfied with mere survival and procreation developed their sense bases and got adapted and proliferated into various species and filled the oceans.

In course of time some of them crawled out of the water and became amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Ultimately the last group gave rise to apes and finally to human beings, the animal with the highest degree of sensibility.

In short evolution is not due to Natural Selection of the fittest and elimination of the weak but survival due to craving and sense gratification. This according to the Buddha is bhava, in Pali, translated as 'the process of becoming'. It is the cause of existence and evolution.
Buddhist concepts

M.W. has compiled a list of 9 basic Buddhist concepts vis-a-vis sensory becoming or evolution and also a list of 5 core concepts of Darwinism as enunciated by Prof. Ernst Mayr, an authority on evolutionary theory. He compares the two and states that the components of Darwin's theory are compatible and can be replaced by those of the sensory becoming theory and it fits in like a glove.p.133.

The Buddha's principle of craving or sense gratification is equally applicable to all animals including human beings. However the principle of Darwinian survival of the fittest is applicable to some human beings only, namely the Judaeo-Christians.

Among scientific circles the validity of Darwinism in the plant kingdom is in no doubt, The evolution of plants from the tiniest unicellular free swimming Chlamydomonas through algae, mosses, ferns, gymnosperms and finally to angiosperms or the flowering plants and even to giant Redwood trees can be easily traced.

For convenience restricting ourselves to the flowering plants only, after successful pollination and equally successful fertilisation, but yet some times, it does not proceed to give a seed. Why? In an analogous situation among human beings M.W. states, 'No wonder his [Buddha's] contention that a man and a woman are not sufficient for the purpose of procreation.

They are no more than contributors and sponsors of spermatozoa and the ova, with the coded information of the phenotype [observable features] i.e. The blueprint of the unborn foetus. There would be no bonding of the sperm and the egg unless a third fusing partner, gandhabba [linking consciousness] is present. This third element is the most vital element of the combination p. 109.
For successful formation of a seed in a plant is a gandhabba essential? Whether it is essential or not, I think, it should have been elaborated one way or the other.

Vegetative reproduction in plants is well known. There is vegetative reproduction among certain animal species too. Amoeba itself reproduces simply by dividing into two.

If the tiny animal called Hydra that is living in water is cut into two parts, each part grows into a new Hydra. So is the Hat worm called Planaria. Its pieces too grow into new Planarias. Is a gandhabba involved in this type of reproduction of animals need clarification?

Prof. Richard Dawkins, one of the world's top intellectuals, and the author of several works on science and philosophy, is an avowed atheist. In one of his latest publications, namely, The God Delusion, [Bantam Press, 2006], the professor states, 'I am not advocating some sort of narrowly scientific way of thinking.

But the very least that any honest quest for truth must have in setting out to explain such monstrosities of improbability as a rain forest, a coral reef, or a universe is a crane and not a skyhook. The crane doesn't have to be natural selection.
Admittedly, nobody has ever thought of a better one. But there could be others yet to be discovered.'
Has nobody thought of a theory better than Natural Selection?
Buddha's explanation
In all probability M.W.'s attempt will no doubt dispel this sorry notion as the Buddha's explanation of the origin of species has now been brought under the limelight. We have to thank M.W. for the great service he has done by digging it out of the scriptures in Pali and supplying English translations wherever possible.

In the Christian world the only alternative to Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest and Natural Selection is the Intelligent Design advocated by the followers of the Church.

This is nothing but creation under another name and is not a real alternative at all. It raises an even bigger problem than it solves. The problem is who designed the designer. For intelligent design there is a massive lobby especially in America. In Pennsylvania they went to the extent of filing a court case to stop the teaching of Darwinism in schools. Instead they wanted intelligent design taught in schools. For intelligent design there is a massive lobby especially in America. In Pennsylvania they wanted intelligent design taught in schools.

After all the evidence of experts in biological sciences and experts in theology and submissions of lawyers, Mr. John E. Jones, the District Judge, gave a historic judgment stating that intelligent design is not science. This case has been referred to in my book Irshya Karayage Ana [Godage,2006].
The Origin of Species According to the Buddha is rather heavy reading but fully worth it. Without doubt it proves that Natural Selection is not a matter of chance or luck but is due to sensory greed and lust.
- Dr. Harischandra Wijayatunga

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