Buddhism as the Foundation of Science
Bhikkhu Prayudh Payutto
National Science Day Lecture, given at the University of Chiang Mai,
Northern Thailand, on August 16, 1991.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
A doubtful progress
AT THE OUTSET we must acknowledge the innumerable blessings bestowed on us by science. Nobody will dispute the enormous value science has. In order to be able to give this lecture, I have travelled all the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in only one hour. Back in the days of King Rama I, you would have had to wait three months for me to get here, and for that matter I probably wouldn't have come at all. We must acknowledge science's contribution to travel, be it by plane, train or car.
Looking around at communications in the present day, we see radio, telephone, fax machines, television, video, satellites and so on, all of which have arisen from scientific and technological advances.
Other obvious areas of development are in the medical world, where so many contagious diseases have now been virtually eradicated. Cholera is now quite rare, in Asia it is almost extinct. Bubonic Plague no longer exists. Smallpox has all but vanished. We no longer have to fear these infectious diseases. In olden times a person could die with only an infected appendix, but nowadays an appendectomy is a relatively simple operation. Even brain operations are getting easier. Sophisticated tools for accurate examination and diagnosis are more and more accessible. X-Ray machines are being replaced with computer X-Ray machines, and now we have ultra sound and MRI. It's almost no longer necessary for the doctor to examine the patient, the machines do it for him. These are all examples of extremely valuable technological advances.
Then we have electricity and countless labour-saving devices. Printing and publishing have progressed astonishingly. Machines which were once thought to be quite complex, such as clocks, are now considered trifling. House clocks used to be very large, heavy and difficult to use. You had to rewind them or reset their weights every day. Now we have quartz clocks. They are simple, cheap, and much more accurate than the old clocks. Writing implements are so common and cheap: twenty years ago you would have to really look after your pen, but now they're so cheap you just use them and throw them away. Everything is so plentiful and convenient. Now human beings are going into space and developing computers, which are at the cutting edge of technology.
The field of biology has seen the development of genetic engineering, which may produce new or specially adapted species of plants and animals. It's almost impossible to list all the technological advances we have with us today.
But on the other hand, when we really look into it, we find that science, and in particular technology, has created a great many problems for humanity as well. In the present time, particularly in the highly developed countries, there is even a fear that the human race, and indeed the whole world, may meet destruction at the hands of this technological progress. It might be a very instantaneous kind of destruction, at the flick of a switch, so to speak, or it could be a slow and gradual kind of destruction, as the gradual deterioration of the environment, a very critical problem at this point in time.
Even within the immediacy of our everyday lives, we are threatened by dangers. We can't be sure whether our food has been soaked in chemicals or not. Sometimes plants and animals, our food supply, are treated with hormones to boost their growth. Pigs are given special additives to make their meat turn a pretty red colour. Poisonous substances are sometimes used in foods as preservatives, flavour enhancers or dyes, not to mention the uncontrolled use of pesticides (x). Some of the people who sell these foods wouldn't dare eat them themselves!
(x) All of these practices have occured in Thailand in recent years.
The alienation of science and nature
In this light, science seems to have intruded onto the natural world. Our perception is that science and nature are separate entities, in spite of the fact that science is the study of nature and has always existed alongside it. Science is essentially one with nature, but these days most people feel that what we call science is not natural. Products of technology are often called 'artificial': we have 'artificial lungs', 'artificial kidneys' and so on. Science seems to be an intruder on nature.
This 'manipulation of nature' implies that the world of nature may in due course become a world of science. When science has completely invaded the world of nature, we may be left with only a scientific, or 'artificial' world. Human beings are natural beings, living in a natural world, but in the future we may find ourselves living in an artificial world. If we want human beings to live harmoniously with this artificial world it may be necessary to adapt the human body, becoming artificial people living in an artificial world. At the present time this isn't the case, we are not compatible with our environment. When we are out of touch with nature, we are bound to experience problems.
In this light, scientific progress does not seem to have been very harmonious. Science, in its attempts to 'improve on' the human environment, seems to have turned it into a scientific world. Many new and exciting inventions have been made, but science has not been able to adjust people's lives to meet them. The progress of science has transformed the external physical environment into a scientific, or artificial, world.
For human beings, possessed of both body and mind, that part which should correspond to the external physical world is the body. But what we find instead is that the mind has adapted. Science has transformed people's minds into artificial minds: minds which esteem science and aspire to artificial things, minds that are alienated from nature. There is conflict here, both internally and externally. Internally, the mind and the body are at odds with each other, while externally, this biological, physical body is at odds with the scientific world. While still a purely natural organism, which needs pure air, pure water and pure food, the body is experiencing problems with these very things. The air, water and food are not pure, they have been altered by science.
At this juncture it may be necessary for humanity to decide on a course to take, whether for a natural humanity living in a natural world, or whether to attempt to make a 'scientific human' for the scientific world.
Two kinds of technology
That application of science which effects the changes in the natural world, changing it into a so-called artificial world, is that which we call 'technology'. However, technology is dependent for its existence on the knowledge obtained through science. Technology is the tool, or channel, through which humanity has worked to manipulate nature in the pursuit of material comfort, but at the same time, the dangers which threaten humanity are also contingent on this technology. Technology is thus both an instrument for finding happiness and a catalyst for danger.
Now in answer to all this, scientists can counter that the word 'science' refers to Pure Science. Pure Science seeks only to discover and tell the truth, it is concerned only with the search for knowledge. Whatever anybody wants to do with this knowledge is their business, it is no concern of science. Pure Science tends to shake off responsibility in this regard.
Science tends to accuse technology of using the knowledge gained by science for its own ends, but technology hasn't used this knowledge exclusively to its own ends. Technology was initially aimed at bringing benefit to humanity, but nowadays we have two kinds of technology. One is the technology which is used to create benefit, while the other is used to seek benefit. What we need is technology that is used to create benefit, but the problems of the present time exist because modern technology is of the kind that seeks benefit.
If we can constrain ourselves to creating benefit, the repercussions arising will be few and far between. But whenever technology is used to seek benefit, problems arise, as we can see in the present time. Therefore we must clearly distinguish between technology for the creation of benefit and that which is used to seek benefit.
The place of ethics
It is a matter of utilization, be it the wrong utilization of scientific knowledge, the utilization of technology for seeking benefit, or even utilization in order to destroy the earth. The problems resulting from technology have arisen entirely as a result of its utilization by human beings. Because the problem arises at human beings, it boils down to a matter of ethics, or morality.
These problems can be simply and directly solved, in the most decisive way, only when people have morality. Only then will technology and science be used for constructive purposes. Even though there may be some harmful consequences, arising from lack of circumspection or ignorance, their prevention and rectification will be on the best possible level.
Mankind has looked to science and technology to bring benefit to human society, but science and technology hold no guarantees that they will bring only the benefit that humanity hopes for. These things are entirely at the disposal of the user, to create harm or benefit, depending on how they are used.
If we ignore morality or ethics, instead of creating benefit, the most likely result is that science and technology will bring problems, stressing as they do the unrestrained production and consumption of goods with which to gratify the senses, feeding desire and greed (raga and lobha); escalation of the power to destroy (dosa); and increasing the availability and intensity of those influences which lure people into delusion and carelessness (moha). In so doing, technology tarnishes the quality of life and pollutes the environment. Only true ethics can alleviate these destructive influences.
Without ethics, technological progress, even the beneficial kinds, tends to increase the propensity for destruction. The more science and technology advance, the more keenly does destruction seem to threaten mankind; the more they are developed, the more is ethics necessitated, and the more will the stability and well-being of humanity be dependent on it.
In any case, this subject of ethics, although a simple and straightforward one, is largely ignored in modern times. Most people want to live without problems, but they don't want to solve problems. As long as they do not want to solve problems or deal with ethics, they must be prepared to suffer problems.
Science and technology cannot be separated
Science and technology have always supported one another. It's not only Science that has fostered technology's growth - technology has also been a decisive factor in the development of science. What is it that has enabled science to progress to where it is now? The scientific method. An essential part of the scientific method is observation and experiment. The earliest forms of observation and experiment were carried out through the five senses - eye, ear, nose, tongue and body, particularly the eyes for looking, the ears for listening and the hands for touching.
However, human sense organs are limited. We can see a limited number of stars and a limited portion of the universe with the naked eye. As technology developed, the telescope was invented. The invention of the telescope enabled science to make a Great Leap Forward. Microscopic organisms, invisible to the naked eye, were made visible through the invention of the microscope. Science once again made advances. Pure Science, we can see, has relied heavily on technology for its progress.
It is obvious how these two disciplines have affected each other. The tools used for scientific research are products of technology. That is why science and technology have been inseparably connected along their path of development. In the present day, scientists are looking to the computer, the instrument of the future, to further their quest for truth. The computer is capable of collecting and collating vast amounts of information, much more than the ordinary human mind would be capable of. In the future, the computer will be indispensable in the testing of hypotheses and the formulation of theories.
All in all, the benefits created by science appear to the mass of people through their technological manifestations. Humanity must, however, learn to choose between technology for creating benefit and technology for seeking benefit.
Reaching the limits, finding no answer
At the present time, the advances of science have been so vast that it seems to be approaching the limits of the physical universe. Science has limited its investigations to the physical world, but as it approaches the limits of that world, it is turning to the psychic world. Quite a number of scientists are becoming interested in the mysteries of the mind. What is mind? How does it work? What is consciousness? Does it arise from a physical source? Or is it entirely separate from the physical world? These days computers have Artificial Intelligence. Will the development of Artificial Intelligence lead to computers with minds? This is a question some scientists are speculating about. This indicates that science is beginning to encroach on the boundaries of the mind.
Looking at modern methods of observation and verification, we see that they have transcended the limitations of the five senses. Previously, the five senses on their own had been sufficient instruments of observation - the naked eye, the ear and the hands. Later we relied on instruments to expand their limited capabilities. Whenever the senses became incapable of perceiving any further, we resorted to these technological instruments.
But now, even with these instruments, we seem to have reached our limit. At this stage, scientific investigations are reduced to mathematical symbols. The language of mathematics is used to convey the meaning of scientific concepts, reducing the universe to a world of symbols.
As observation, experimentation and analysis enter the sphere of the psyche, science retains its basic attitude and method of experiment, and so is reduced to guesswork and belief. There is a lot of belief, or preconception, in this kind of observation. As it approaches the borders of the mind, it remains to be seen whether science can in fact enter into it, and by what means.
Values and motivations
Let us go back now and look at the birth of science and how it has developed to its present state.
Even though Pure Science would like to be distinguished from Applied Science and technology, nevertheless Pure Science shares some of the responsibility for the harm resulting from these things. In fact, in the last hundred years or so, Pure Science has not really been so pure. This is because there is a set of values implicit within Pure Science, one which the scientific fraternity is not aware of; and because it isn't aware of this set of values, science unknowingly becomes a subject of its influence.
What is the source of science? All sciences, be they natural or social sciences, are in fact based on sets of values. Take economics for example. What is the origin of economics? What is its source? Want is the source of economics. What is want? Can it be observed with any of the five senses? No, it can't. It is a quality of mind, a value. The discipline known as science claims it is free of values, but in fact it can never be truly value-free.
Now, where is the source of physical science? The source, or motivation, of science is the desire to know the truth of nature, or reality. This answer is acceptable to most scientists, and in fact it was given by a scientist. The desire to know nature's truths, together with the belief that nature does have constant laws, and functions according to cause and effect, are the two basic premises on which science bases its quest for the secrets of nature.
The foundation of science is within this human mind, at the desire to know, and at faith. Without these two mental qualities it would be impossible for science to grow and develop.
The motivation which drove the early developments of science, and which still exists to some extent, was the desire to know the truths of nature. This was a relatively pure kind of desire. In later times this desire to know was suppressed by the Church during the Dark Ages. The Christian Church established a court for appraising the extent of people's faith, known as the Inquisition. Those who doubted the word of the Bible, or who made statements which cast doubt on it, were brought before this court and put on trial, and if found guilty they were punished. Galileo was one of those brought on trial. He had said that the earth revolved around the sun, and was almost put to death by poisoning for this teaching. At the last moment he pleaded guilty and was absolved; he didn't die, but many others were burnt alive at the stake.
At that time there was overt suppression of the search for truth. But the stronger the suppression, the stronger the reaction. So it came about that this suppression and constraint of the Dark Ages had the effect of intensifying the desire to know the truths of nature, and this desire became instilled into the thinking of Western cultures, where it has remained until the present day.
Even so, this drive can still be considered a relatively pure desire for knowledge. The science we have nowadays, however, is no longer so pure. The science that has developed in the present time has been influenced by two major value systems, or preconceptions, which have impregnated the progress of science and controlled the direction of its research and learning.
What are these two values? They are:
l. The drive to conquer nature, or the understanding that the prosperity of mankind hinges on the subjugation of nature.
This way of thinking stems from the Christian belief that God created mankind in his own image, to take control of the world and have dominion over nature. God created nature, and all of the things within it, for man's use. Mankind is the leader, the hub of the Universe, the master. Mankind learns the secrets of nature in order to manipulate it according to his desires. Nature exists for man's use.
One Western text states that this idea is responsible for Western scientific progress. The text states that in ancient times, the East, particularly China and India, were scientifically more advanced than the West, but owing to the influence of this idea of conquering nature, the West eventually overtook the East, and has remained ahead up to the present time.
So the first major value system is the belief in Man's right to conquer nature, which provided the incentive (and the justification) for such actions. Now we come to the second major influence:
2. The belief that well-being depends on an abundance of material goods.
This line of thinking has also exerted a very powerful influence on the West's industrial expansion. Originally, industries in the West were created to address the problem of scarcity, which is found throughout Western history. Life in Western countries was beset by hostile elemental forces, such as freezing winters, which made farming impossible. People in such places had to live exceedingly arduous lives. Not only were they subject to freezing cold temperatures, but also food shortages. Life was a struggle for survival, and this struggle led to the development of industry.
Now what is the opposite to scarcity? The opposite of scarcity is plenty. People in Western countries thought that when the problem of scarcity was solved, they would be happy. This, then, was the impulse behind the development of the Industrial Revolution - the awareness of scarcity and the desire to provide sufficiency, which in turn was based on the view that material abundance was the prerequisite for happiness.
This kind of thinking developed into materialism, which in turn became consumerism, to which a significant contribution was made by the industrialists, under the influence of the first line of thinking mentioned above. The first idea mentioned just now was the belief in man's dominion over nature. Coupled with the idea that happiness is dependent on an abundance of material goods, we have the belief that nature must be conquered in order to produce material goods with which to cater to man's desires. These two ways of thinking are interrelated and reinforce each other.
It seems as if the pure desire for knowledge mentioned earlier has been corrupted, coming under the influence of the desires to conquer nature and to produce an abundance of material goods, or materialism. When these two values enter into the picture, that pure and clean desire for knowledge becomes an instrument for satisfying the aims of these secondary values, giving rise to an exploitive relationship with nature.
The assumption is that by conquering nature, mankind will be able to create unlimited material goods with which to cater to his desires, resulting in perfect happiness. The search for methods to implement this assumption follows on from that. So much progress has taken place in recent times, especially since the Industrial Revolution. It has even been said that the science which has developed recently, in the Industrial Age, is the servant of industry.
We can probably all agree that the prosperity experienced in recent times is a prosperity of industry. At this time, however, while Thais are entering wholeheartedly into the Industrial Age, the West is outgrowing it. Thailand would like to call itself a NIC (New Industrialized Country), but the Westerners have passed through that stage now, into a Post' Industrial Age, the Age of Information. Science is the important factor in either case. Science may claim that it has paved the way for industry, but industry says, "Science? That is my servant!"
Together with the development of industry we have observed the gradual appearance, in ever-increasing severity, of the harmful effects contingent on it. Now, with the danger that threatens us from the destruction of the environment, it is all too clear.
The cause for this is these two ideas: the desire to conquer nature, and materialism. Together they place mankind firmly on the path to manipulating, and as a result damaging nature on an ever increasing scale. In addition, these two impulses are the cause for mankind's internal struggles, the struggle among individuals to wrest as much material comfort for each other as they can. It might even be said that modern man has had to experience the harmful consequences of the past century of industrial development principally because of the influence of these two assumptions.
Behind the prosperity ...
These two assumptions are not the whole picture. There are also two major trends which have served to support them:
1. Specialization: The Industrial Age has been the age of specialization. Branches of learning have been subdivided into specialized fields of expertise. Each of these branches of learning may be very proficient in its respective field, but overall the different fields do not integrate.
The original purpose of this specialization of learning was to obtain knowledge on a more detailed level, and then to bring together all these areas of knowledge into one integrated whole, but the specialists have become blinded by their knowledge, giving rise to an unbalanced kind of specialization, an extreme view. In the field of science there are those who feel that science alone will solve mankind's problems and answer all his questions, which gives them little inclination to integrate their learning with other fields of knowledge.
This kind of outlook has caused the belief that religion and ethics are also specialized fields of learning. Modern education reduces ethics to just another academic subject. When people think of ethics, they think, "Oh, religion," and file it away in its little compartment. They aren't interested. But when it comes to solving the world's problems, they say, "Oh, my field can do that!" They don't think of trying to integrate it with other disciplines. If they really were capable of solving all problems, then they would have to be able to solve the ethical ones, too. But then they say that ethics is a concern of religion, of this or that field of expertise. This brings me to the second attitude I would like to mention:
2. The belief that ethical problems can be solved without the need for ethics. Supporters of this idea believe that when material development has reached its peak, all ethical problems will disappear of their own accord. According to this view, it is not necessary to train human beings or develop the mind. This is a line of reasoning which has recently appeared in the field of economics. Some economists say that if the economy is healthy and material goods are in plentiful supply, there will no longer be any contention, and society will be harmonious. This is simply saying that ethical or moral problems can be solved through material means, without the need for ethics.
This is not entirely wrong. Economic situations do have a bearing on ethical problems, but it is a mistake to look at the matter too simplistically, believing that if the economy was healthy, ethical problems would somehow disappear of their own accord.
It could be said, if somewhat facetiously, that this line of reasoning is true in one sense, because without ethics it would be impossible for the economy to be healthy. It could be alternatively said that if ethical practice was good (for example, people were encouraged to be diligent, generous, prudent and to use their possessions in a way that is useful to society), then economic problems would disappear.
The statement that when the economy is good, ethical problems will not arise, is true in the sense that before the economy can be healthy, ethical problems must be addressed. Similarly, the statement that when ethical problems are all solved, the economy will be healthy, is true in the sense that before ethical problems can be solved, economic problems must also be addressed.
The phrase 'ethical problems' takes in a wide range of situations, including mental health and the pursuit of happiness. Thus, the solving of ethical problems through materialistic means must also entail dealing with moods and feelings, examples of which can be seen in the synthesization of tranquillizers to relieve stress, worry, depression and sorrow. But it would be a mistake to try to solve ethical problems through such means. This kind of relief is only temporary. It only soothes the problem, it does not solve it. We may come back to this point later on.
Many branches of learning would like to be recognized as definitive sciences, but the specialist perspective causes funnel vision, discord and in itself becomes an impediment to true science. The specialists are incapable of being true scientists. Even physics cannot be called true science, because it lacks completeness; its facts are piecemeal, its truth is partial. When truth is partial, it is not the real truth. With only some of the facts known, any deductions made are not in accordance with the total reality. The stream of cause and effect is not seen in its entirety, so the truth remains out of reach.
These two beliefs or attitudes (that is, specialization and the belief that ethical problems can be solved through material means) pervade the Age of Industrialization. Coupled with the two lines of reasoning previously mentioned, problems are intensified accordingly.
I have here initiated a course of enquiry. There may be some of you who are wondering what all this has to do with religion. In answer I would like to say that at this point we are beginning to approach the domain of religion. Many of the points I have mentioned so far come within the domain of religion, but in order to see this more clearly, I would like to retrace my steps and get onto the subject of religion itself. I have been speaking about science, its origins and development, now let's take a look at the origin and development of religion and try to integrate the two in some way.
RELIGION AND SCIENCE
From common beginnings to separation
HOW DID RELIGION originate? We have all learned that religion arose from the fear of danger, particularly natural dangers, such as lightning, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and so on. These dangers have threatened human beings throughout the ages.
In ancient times men didn't understand the workings of nature and were ignorant of the causes of these phenomena. Terrified at the threat of these natural forces, mankind began to search for answers. This quest precipitated an interest in the nature that surrounded him, and a desire to find some way to deal with it. This is an important point, because this is the common origin of both religion and science. Religion was born from a desire to escape danger, whereas science, as we have already mentioned, was born from a desire to know the truth of nature.
In the case of religion, the desire for security was the incentive. Danger exists in the natural world, so humanity turned to nature for a practical answer. At the same time, there was a sense of wonder at the marvels of nature, from which arose the desire to know its truths. This was no idle curiosity: human heings were forced into finding out about nature in order to address the dangers which threatened them.
From the aspiration to be free of danger, which was based on fear, also arose the desire to know the truths of nature. At this point we can see a common source for science and religion: religion arose first, at the fear of danger, while the desire to know the truths of nature, which was science, followed.
As far as we know, the earliest forms of scientific research in fact arose from religion. The people who looked for scientific knowledge in Egypt, Mesopotamia and other ancient cultures were from religious circles. These were the first people to take an interest in studying nature and devoting time to finding solutions to the dangers that threatened them. This indicates that science and religion originated together.
This initial common origin of science and religion is also the point at which they parted. Why did they part? The answer to this lies within the nature of truth itself.
The natural dangers which threaten humanity are immediate concerns, matters of life and death. The threat is immediate, here, right in front of us. Do what you will, we must have an answer right now. And all people are faced equally with the same dangers. The answer must be relevant to the group, to the whole of society. In such a situation, it is necessary to come up with an answer that can be acted on immediately, something which puts an end to these urgent demands. When an answer appears that is acceptable, it is institutionalized as religion.
The practical answers thus provided may take forms, such as mystic ceremonies, which to the modern eye would seem absurd, but even so, they are something which can be acted upon immediately. For the mainstream of society, this is what becomes religion.
Now there is another group, which might have arisen from the first group, but at a time when the immediate threat has passed and there is time to gradually collect the facts, to analyse and experiment. This group of people arrives at a different set of answers, answers which have resulted from observation and experiment. This is what became known as 'science', the knowledge that comes from gradual and systematic observation.
This is the point of divergence between religion and science. The answer which served as a remedy for an immediate need, for the masses, lacked systematic observation, and relied heavily on faith and belief. This was religion. Religion, then, is tied to faith.
Science, on the other hand, is a discipline of gradual and systematic investigation. It was not concerned with finding immediate answers, and was available only to the few who were so inclined, not for the whole of society. For this reason, there were individuals or groups who carried on this systematic observation, using methods that were verifiable, and this became known as 'science'.
At this juncture we have one clear distinction between religion and science: religion is for the masses, for whole societies or groups, whereas science is for a more limited number of people. Now, the problem that arises here is, how does religion maintain uniformity in the letter and the practice of its teaching? This is achieved through faith. Religion has its roots in faith, and utilizes faith to preserve its essence, providing an unchanging belief system which must be adhered to and upheld, one that is unquestionable. In the West this is called dogma.
Science is limited to the people to whom it communicates, the thinkers. They preserve the essence of science through verifiable truths, using valid methods of experimentation. Science thus preserves and propagates its truths through wisdom, or, to be more specific, scientific method.
Religion seeks to convey an all-embracing, absolute truth, an answer which addresses an immediate need. It would probably be more accurate to say, rather than religion provides this answer, that the answer thus provided is what became known as religion. It's not that there is an institution called religion already existing, which comes up with these answers, but rather that these answers, proposed by humanity, have become institutionalized as religion. The answer is proposed by people, or a person, and as time goes on these people are joined by others and an institution forms, serving to preserve the teaching. Thus we have the institutional forms of religion such as mendicants, priests, monks and so on.
Looked at in one sense, religion seeks to provide one absolute answer, an answer to the fundamental questions of life, covering everything, from the highest to the lowest.
Science, on the other hand, attempts to observe truth from its individual manifestations, piece by piece. It is a collection of piecemeal, partial truths, which attempts to gradually work toward an overall picture.
Even though science, too, wants a general principle, its general principle is conditional, confined to specific situations and conditions, and is only part of the overall or fundamental truth. To use a teasing phrase, we could say that religion gives a total answer, science a piecemeal one.
At this point I would like to add that, owing to the limitations of religion and science, there arose a third group who was dissatisfied with both of them. This group also wanted an answer to the fundamental questions of life and the universe, an absolute answer, but they were dissatisfied with religion because, although it gave such an answer, it was not one that appealed to reason. It appealed to faith. But when they turned around and looked at science, although it gave answers that were verifiable and appealed to reason, those answers were not absolute. Research had still not reached the fundamental level of reality.
This group did not want to wait for science's answers, so they attempted to find an answer to those fundamental questions through reasoned consideration, without the need for verification. This system of thought became another science, known as 'philosophy'.
We could compare these three disciplines, with the fundamental questions of nature as a measuring stick, in this way:
1. Science: Is still in the process of verification and observation and is yet to come up with an answer.
2. Philosophy: Attempts to give an answer in lieu of verification by using the tool of reasoned analysis.
3. Religion: Provides a total answer which needs no verification.
Both science and philosophy appeared after religion, and both attempt to give answers that are clearer than religion's. However, both of them fail to give answers that are satisfactory and fulfilling on an overall basis, which is why religion still exists and still provides an answer based on faith.
Many religions, one science
Having looked at some of the differences between religion and science, I would like to give some observations about this difference.
Because religion offers this comprehensive and immediate truth, an answer that is suitable for the masses, but which at the same time is not verifiable through any of the five senses, it must hinge on faith. Because these answers are unverified, they will be constantly growing. At one time one kind of answer is submitted. People don't know whether it is true or not, because it can't be verified. If they believe it they accept it. At a later time a new answer is given. Nobody knows whether this new answer is true or not, it can't be verified either. It boils down to preference. Some may prefer the older belief, some the newer one. Religions, built as they are on faith, vary in accordance with that faith. For this reason we can see at any one time many different religions.
Why is this? Because this is the nature of such answers. The all embracing, absolute answer must be like this. It cannot be verified, it rests on belief. When a new answer arises there will be some who believe that, but all the answers are equally unverifiable.
On the other hand, science answers slowly and methodically, verifying each point as it goes. It solves problems intelligently. At any given time there is only one science. So we find people saying, "There are many religions, but only one science."
However, looking from a historical perspective, we find that there are many sciences, because science doesn't give a total view of truth. There may be many religions at the one time, but from a historical perspective, there are many sciences. Theories about the nature of the Universe vary from time to time. One set of scientific answers may seem correct at one time, but at a later time it is proven to be wrong. As time goes on, this new answer, at first thought to be right, is in its turn proven wrong. A new picture is constantly unfolding.
At one time science followed the Ptolemaic System, which showed a universe as postulated by Ptolemy (geocentric). Then came the Copernican System (heliocentric solar system), following the model of Copernicus, then there were the Cartesian and Newtonian systerns, and now we have the universe of the new physics. Science's picture of reality has been constantly changing. Nature, or the Universe, according to the modern theories of physics, whether the quantum or relativity theories, is completely different from the universe in the time of Newton. So there have been many sciences throughout the ages.
Moreover, not only are there many sciences throughout the ages, it seems that in the present age we have many sciences existing together. There are even scientists who now say that the time has come for science to change some of its basic premises. These scientists reject some of the old scientific premises and talk of a 'new physics' and a 'new science', indicating that there is no longer only one science.
Just now I mentioned that science deals with the outside world, measurable by the five senses. In this connection religion has yet another special characteristic. Religion not only looks at the outside world, but also concerns itself with the human being, with the one who is observing. Science concerns itself solely with the objects of observation, but religion concems itself with the observer, the one who is using these five sense bases. Religion is thus not confined to the five senses, but is also directly related to the level of development of each individual. The way religion is perceived is directly related to the level of mental development of the perceiver, which gives it an added level of complexity.
In any case, as far as religion goes, even though it lays emphasis on the human being, it does so only insofar as the human being is experiencing a problem, and that problem needs to be dealt with. When looking for the causes and factors of that problem, however, most religions turn around and look for its source, like science, in the external physical world. In this respect, most religions do not differ from science: they look to the external natural world as the source of problems, the source of suffering. Religion's search for truth is in order to solve the human problem, while science's search for truth is in order to satisfy the thirst for knowledge.
For most religions, which are compelled to have a ready answer, the cause of problems, whether internal or external, is seen as existing behind that natural world in the form of spirits, deities, gods or other supernatural forces. For external disturbances, such as lightning, earthquakes and so on, sacrifices and prayers to these forces are prescribed. For internal disturbances, be it sickness, mental disease or hysteria, mediums or spirit healers perform mystic ceremonies. Science, not being compelled to find any immediate answers, slowly and systematically goes about its search for data.
The natural religions, Buddhism in particular, although having a special interest in the human condition, do not see the source of problems as being entirely in the external, physical world. This kind of religion looks for the source of problems within the entire process of causes and conditions including those within the human being, such as wrong ways of livelihood - be they internal or external, material or immaterial, physical or mental.
Among ordinary religions, there are many that teach the treatment of problems by appropriate means, through morality or ethics, which seems to indicate an understanding of the internal factors contributing to problems, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, such practice is often not done with real understanding of these factors, but out of obedience to some external supernatural force. The relationship is one between mankind and an external power. Ethical behaviour in these religions is usually done in order to avoid punishment, or to gain favours or blessings, rather than through awareness of the factors occurring in the natural processes.
Religions, many and varied at the one time, address the needs of different levels of people. At any one time society consists of many different levels of virtue and understanding, thus the need for many religions, answering many different levels of need.
In the past the truth of science was verifiable through the five senses, but this is no longer the case. Initially observation was carried out with these five senses on their own - with the naked eye, the naked ear, directly by hand and so on. As time went on it became necessary to develop instruments, such as the telescope and the microscope, to extend the capabilities of these senses. Eventually even these instruments had reached their limits, making it necessary for scientists to develop even more complex instruments, until finally it has become necessary to test hypotheses with mathematics. Mathematical languages became the instrument of verification. In the present time this has been extended to include the use of computers.
Science's development of increasingly complex means of verification has given rise to another feature which distinguishes it from religion. The verification and observation of science has become a specialized field, accessible only to a select few. It has become impossible for the average man to observe the truths of science, because the instruments are not available to him. Science has become a highly select subject.
Religion belongs to the masses. It is available to the average man, who is free to accept or reject it without the need for proof. Although it is true that some religions, like science, reserve their truths for a select few, the priests or monks, and even reserve the right to spiritual attainments, this is more a result of manipulations of certain individuals. In the natural religions, such as Buddhism, there is no such distinction or exclusion, because nature is its own master. How could it be monopolized? It is each individual's right to understand and attain the truths of nature, depending on intelligence and discernment.
Note that there are two kinds of inability to verify truths. One is through an inability to access the instruments of verification, while the other is because such truths cannot be verified through the means being used. In the present time science is experiencing problems on both counts, especially when attempting to make a statement of ultimate truth, or delving into the realm of the mind.
If science does not broaden its outlook, it will arrive at a dead end. Science has a very strong aspiration to answer the fundamental and ultimate questions of the universe, but it never seems to get near them. Just as it seems to be getting on the verge of an answer, the truth seems to slip beyond its reach.
A clarity that is not free of confusion
Nowadays we are beginning to see different kinds of science existing simultaneously. In addition to the new science and the classical science, or the new physics and the classical physics, we have one science for the specialists and one for the average man. This is because many of the concepts spoken of in science are completely beyond the ability of the average man to visualize. Not only can he not verify them for himself, he can't even grasp the concepts at all. And this applies not only to the average man: some of the concepts of science are even beyond the ability of most scientists to visualize! One can only take their word for it.
Let's take an example. According to science, light is at once a wave and a particle. Scientists were trying to define the nature of light itself: is it a wave or is it a particle? It's a component, a particle, right? One group said, "Yes, that's right. It's a particle, a stream of protons." But another group said, "No, light is a wave." In the end it seems that it is both ... Light is both a particle and a wave. Hmm. But what's that? It has to be proven with mathematics. This kind of thing is beyond the grasp of the ordinary human being.
Let's look at some more examples. Take the black holes, for instance: astronomers tell us that there are black holes scattered throughout the universe. These are stars from which even light cannot escape, they are absolutely dark. In fact, nothing at all can escape from their extremely high gravitational pulls. Even light cannot be emitted by them. Now what does the average man make of that? Something that even light cannot escape from?!
Now they say that in these black holes both matter and energy are compacted to terrific densities. There's nothing to compare with them on this earth of ours. To give some idea, they say that if all the empty space were somehow pressed out of a skyscraper, like the Empire State Building, 102 stories high, its mass and energy would be compacted into the size of a needle! A skyscraper! Take all the empty space out of it and all that's left is the size of one needle. Now what are the villagers going to make of that?
The scientists say that this is how a black hole is. In fact it's even stranger, because, apart from being the size of a needle, at the same time it would still weigh as much as the original Empire State Building. It's inconceivable - all we can do is believe them. We've trusted the scientists for so long, we give them the benefit of the doubt. But deep inside we're all wondering, "Huh? Is that possible?"
Science is not yet able to provide an answer that explains the totality of life and the world, it is still engaged in the process of collecting and verifying pieces of data. Science is still unable to explain many of the basic questions of the universe, such as the nature of, or even existence of, the basic particle.
Science has gone beyond the point where it can be proven with the five senses. Hypotheses are proven through mathematics, which is then interpreted by physicists. The truth is reduced to algebraic equations, which are not in themselves the truth, and don't really clarify the truth in a convincing way. It has become a matter of belief in these mathematical symbols. These symbols are interpreted without a direct awareness of reality, which is very nearly the condition that Sir Arthur Eddington spoke of.
Sir Arthur Eddington was an English scientist, credited with being the first person to fully understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity. He was also the first person to devise a way to prove the Theory of Relativity, on account of which he was knighted.
Sir Arthur Eddington, a scientist who was foremost in his field, once said:
"Science is incapable of leading mankind directly to the truth, or reality as such, it can only lead him to a shadow world of symbols."
These are his words - "a shadow world of symbols" - a world of symbols and signs. These are the words of one of the world's leading scientists.
Even observable phenomena are not a certainty. Scientists use the scientific method as a means of testing their observations. The main factors of this method are observation and experiment, which must be carried out until there is no longer room for doubt. But, even then, the matter is not closed, because of the limitations of the experimental method and the instruments used.
Let's take as an example Newton's Law of Gravitation. This was a universally accepted truth, a Law, but Einstein came along and said it was not entirely correct. On the subatomic level, the Law of Gravity no longer applies, but in Newton's time there weren't the instruments to observe the subatomic level. Mankind had to wait until the twentieth century and Einstein, using mathematical equations and reasoning, to arrive at this truth. So we must be careful. You cannot ultimately believe even experimentation.
At this point I would like to insert a little story used to tease the scientists. It's the story of the chicken and Farmer Brown. Every morning that the chicken sees Farmer Brown, Farmer Brown is carrying some food for him. He sees this every single morning, so it follows that whenever he sees Farmer Brown the chicken gets fed. Chicken sees Farmer Brown = gets fed ... this is the equation. But there comes a morning when the chicken sees Farmer Brown and doesn't get fed, because Farmer Brown isn't carrying food in his hand, he's carrying a knife. The equation "chicken sees Farmer Brown = gets fed", becomes "Chicken sees Farmer Brown = gets throat cut". So it seems that even verification based on repeated observation cannot be completely trusted, it's still not a sure thing'
What I would like to point out here is that science has distanced itself more and more from the average person through the sophistication of its experimental methods. Scientists have become a very select group, an elite, one that is highly specialized, whereas religion is available to the masses. This is a major difference between the two disciplines.
Towards a unity of science and religion
Science is of little direct use to the masses. The function through which science should really help the people is in the field of understanding, but the role it in effect plays is by and large through technology, which does not improve understanding by any means.
In what direction does technology assist humanity? Mostly in consumption, often nourishing either greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), or delusion (moha). Television is invented, and so we watch television. But when people watch television, they don't look at things which are going to increase their understanding and intelligence, they look at things which make them even more indulgent and heedless. We have communications technology, but it is not used for developing wisdom and discernment, but too often to encourage delusion.
Science does not seem to take responsibility for these things, throwing off any such role and leaving technology to help the masses. Technology, however, doesn't always help; sometimes it is downright harmful. As I said, instead of becoming a tool to create benefit, it becomes a tool for seeking benefit. Thus, science leaves the people in the hands of religion. Who can you blame? One may ask, "Why does religion make people so gullible and stupid?", but then it can be countered, "Why does science abandon the people to religion?"
Science has become a subject which only very few people can approach. All people can do is believe it, they can't really know it. Nowadays science has become more and more a matter of belief, or faith, not of knowledge, which puts science on the same standing as most religions.
At this time America still faces the problem of 'scientism', blind faith in science. Science is the direct opposite to credulity, it deals with knowledge, and the reasoned and systematic verification of truths, but nowadays people have become credulous of science. Scientists should be accepting some of the responsibility for this situation, because it is their duty to impart understanding to mankind, but nowadays people relate to science with credulity at times verging on foolishness. Without knowing or verifying the truths of science, they simply believe them.
Before moving on from this point, I would like to offer a reflection on the statement, "There are many religions, but only one science.
Firstly, the presence of many religions but only one science at any one time is a natural phenomenon, arising naturally on account of human nature. This condition is therefore science. To put it another way, science, as the understanding and knowledge of the natural way of things, should also understand this situation.
Secondly, the existence of many religions side by side with science indicates that science is still unable to satisfy mankind's highest aspiration, to answer the fundamental questions of the universe, or to obtain a complete description of the nature of reality. Science is still not fully developed, for which reason religions are still required to fulfil a need, even if only provisionally, which is not fulfilled by science.
Thirdly, when science is finally able to arrive at the truth, to answer mankind's ultimate questions, it will be a perfect science. Many religions will no longer be sustainable. Conversely, any religion which is able to show the highest truth, to lead humanity to reality, will be in a position to unify with science, becoming one and the same body of knowledge. At that time science and religion will have reached another meeting point, their last one, where religion becomes science and science becomes religion, the division between the two gone forever.
When faith in science is shaken, even the worshipping religions flourish
I would like to once again summarize at this point that the real life problems in society are in need of an immediate answer or remedy - now, in this present life. As individuals we are only on this earth for a limited time, we cannot wait. The situations threatening us give no time for procrastination.
Even though science is capable of providing many efficient ways of answering our problems, it is weakened by being 'too little, too late'.
By science being 'too little', I mean that the knowledge of science is insufficient to solve the fundamental problems of life. It cannot make people good, it cannot make them happy, it cannot show them how to rectify bad habits, it cannot solve suffering, sadness, anger, sorrow, depression and so on. It can't even solve social problems.
In answer to this, scientists may counter that science has helped in many ways. People with insomnia, depression and mental problems are all helped by drugs. Science is of great benefit in these areas. Applied Science and technology in the medical fields have helped vast numbers of people. And this point must be conceded. People with severe mental problems are indeed helped to some degree by science.
Scientists may believe that in the future it will be possible to make people happy through the use of drugs. Whenever you feel unhappy, just pop a capsule and it's gone ... but this is no longer medicine, it is pleasure seeking. Scientists may conduct research into the nature of the brain, finding out which particular chemicals are secreted when certain emotions, such as happiness, are experienced. When they can isolate the chemical agent they will be able to synthesize it. Whenever there is a feeling of depression or sadness, people can take this drug and have immediate relief. It looks as if science is able to do anything, maybe even solve all the world's problems. If it can make people happy, then people will no longer have to fear depression and sadness. With chemicals like this as freely available as food, people will always be happy, and never have to experience depression.
But then again, reflecting on the dangers of chemicals, we see that the world is enough of a mess already, with food additives and pesticides, without adding any more. However, this is not the most important point. Even more important is the perspective of values, or quality of life. The objective of religion is to lead people to freedom. Freedom here means the ability to be happy without the need for external agents, to be more and more independently happy and less and less dependent on externals, to develop a life free of enslavement to a mass of external trappings. But the use of drugs forces people to lay their happiness and their fate more and more into the hands of externals, making them less and less able to live with themselves.
If science causes people to depend increasingly on externals, it will be not unlike the ancient religions, which led people to invest their fate in the gods with sacrifices and supplications. In both cases, the happiness and suffering of human beings is offered up into the hands of external agents, one offering it up to material things, the other to a nominal quality, but in essence they equally destroy man's independence.
If things reach this stage we can give up pretending to be human beings. If this were the case we would no longer be natural human beings, but scientific or artificial beings, or some other kind of being which is unsustainable in a natural environment.
What I have just mentioned is an example of what I mean by 'too little'. Science on its own is not capable of solving mankind's problems. To use Buddhist terminology, we could say that science and technology do not encourage people to have good behaviour (sila), do not encourage quality in the mind, or inner well-being (samadhi) and they suffer from 'funnel vision', in that they seek to a mass data, but they do not provide us with the knowledge of how to lead a happy life (panna) (x).
(x) Sila, samadhi and panna, or moral restraint, concentration and wisdom, are the three-fold foundation of Buddhist ethical practice.
The second objection we have with science is that it is 'too late', we cannot wait for it. Scientific truth is not whole or complete. It is not yet able to give us a definitive and final answer, and there is no indication of when it will be able to do so. Scientific knowledge is constantly changing. At one time the truth is one way, later on it is found to be otherwise.
The truth seems to be always changing. If we had to sit and wait for science to come up with a final answer to the nature of the Universe, we would all die first without ever finding out how to conduct our lives.
Scientists are always looking for a general principle, but any principle they arrive at is always a 'sub-principle', only a piece of the overall picture. In the meantime, while science is yet unable to give an explanation of fundamental truth, we are using it, through technology, to enhance our lives and pander to our desires. For the moment, what is helping mankind is technology, which at least can be used for something, rather than science itself. But technology cannot answer mankind's fundamental questions. For an answer to the truth (or non truth) of the natural world, mankind must first rely on religion, using science only for the convenience offered through technological progress. This is the situation at the present time.
Why do human beings still need religion? Why is religion still present in this world? Because mankind is still waiting for a complete and absolute answer, one that is right for the situation and which is immediately practicable. And because it cannot be verified, and because science cannot verify it for them, they must resort to belief.
Although science has made such great advances, all it has done is expand the perceivable limits of the material world, making it more and more complex and intricate. But in terms of answering mankind's fundamental questions, showing man's proper relationship and position in the world, it seems that science has been running on the spot and hasn't made any real progress.
Not above blunders
It is not only in the field of Pure Science that the problem of mistakes arises from time to time. Even within Applied Science and technology, mistakes are common. Often they are not wrongdoings as such, but mistakes that arise out of ignorance, oversight or lack of circumspection.
Take for example the drug chloramphenicol. At one time this drug was very widespread. It was a wonder drug, it seemed to cure everything. People were really sold on it, we all thought we were going to be free from illness ever after. Whenever you were sick, all you had to do was just go and buy some chloramphenicol, they sold it everywhere. Later on, after about ten years, it was discovered that this drug would gradually build up in the system, where it caused the bone marrow to cease production of blood corpuscles, and many had died of leukaemia.
Then there was the case of DDT. At that time it was thought that with DDT, our problems with the insect world were over - ants, mosquitoes ... all gone. We thought we could eradicate these creatures and no longer have to be bothered by them.
Many years later it was found that DDT was carcinogenic, an insidious substance which could prove fatal even to humans. What's more, while the humans were suffering ill effects from the drug, the insect population was becoming immune to it. In time it became useless as an insecticide, and was more likely to kill the human beings. Many countries have banned the use of DDT, but Thailand is still using it, even now.
Then there was the case of thalidomide. Thalidomide was a pain killer and tranquillizer which was highly praised by the medical profession. It was reputed to have passed the most stringent tests, and was trusted so highly that it was announced as an exceptionally safe drug. It was so lauded that even the developed countries, which are normally very cautious about drugs and medicines, allowed the drug to be bought without a prescription. It was sold for about five years, up until 1961, at which time it was found that this drug, when taken by pregnant women, caused deformed babies. Before this danger was known and the drug was recalled from the market, about 8000 deformed children were born.
Let's take one more example, the case of CFC's (chloro-fluoro-carbons). This group of chemicals is widely used in refrigerators, air conditioners and in 'pressure-pack' spray cans. These chemicals have been used for a long time with complete confidence. Before we knew what was going on, it turned out that these chemicals had risen up into the upper levels of the atmosphere and caused gaps in the ozone layer. A lot of it has already been damaged and scientists are very concemed; world conferences are being held to find ways to solve the problem. And so a new piece of knowledge arises what we thought was a good thing turns out to be not so good after all.
Mankind will only realize the highest good when science and religion integrate
Before leaving this part of the talk, I would like to insert another small observation. The emergence and development of science has undoubtedly helped to improve understanding and the human intellect, about this there is no argument. But at the same time, if we look closely we will see that it has also caused human intelligence and understanding to decline. How so? In previous ages, when science was just beginning to emerge and develop, people were very impressed with its achievements. People were excited at the discoveries and technological achievements of science. They put all their hopes for an answer to their problems into science and technology. All of nature's mysteries were going to be revealed, and science would lead humanity into an age of perfect happiness.
These people who wholeheartedly trusted science then turned around and began to doubt their religions and the answers provided by them. Many people lost faith and discarded religion.
Unfortunately, the truth dealt with by science is only a specialized or fractional truth. It deals only with the physical world. Science has no answers to the questions dealing with internal human problems, the answers for which mankind had previously turned to religion. The discarding of religion in modern times would not be such a big loss, if by religion we simply meant the institutional forms known as religion, but this discarding is also a discarding of that part of religion which dealt with solving internal human problems.
With science taking no interest in these matters, and people discarding them, it gives rise to a huge gap. The answers which had previously been searched for and provided by religions have been ignored, causing a retardation of mankind's mental and spiritual growth. It is not only retarded, in some cases it has even gone into retrograde.
The nature of the world, life and human problems does not allow mankind to ignore the need for religion. Fundamental, immediate and practical answers are still as much in demand as ever before. When science is seen to be incapable of providing an answer to this need, and when human beings tire of their fascination with science, they come to their senses and remember this fundamental need within. Then they turn once more to religion for their answers. But because the stream of mental development has been interrupted, or set back, such searching is very unsteady. It might even be necessary to start all over again. Examples of this can be seen in some of the religious developments in highly developed countries, where, in spite of being surrounded by high scientific advancement, people have foolishly and gullibly fallen for charlatanry (x).
(x) The reference is to the proliferation of 'crank' religious cults in highly developed industrial countries.
However that may be, science is not without its merits and blessings in leading to better understanding within religious circles. It is well known how religion, especially in its institutional forms, has on occasion taken an active role in suppressing the development of human intelligence. Some religions have clung blindly to absurd beliefs and practices, even in the face of their own fundamental principles.
The development of science, in particular its attitudes and methods, has had some measure of good influence on religions and religious attitudes in society. At the very least, it has given the opportunity, or acted as a catalyst, for religion to re-evaluate some of its teachings and attitudes. It also serves as a gauge with which to appraise the answers given by the different religions, and offers them a chance to better themselves.
However, from the point of view of the masses, especially in countries which have received scientific influences in their outlooks and methods, science does not seem to have had a significantly beneficial effect on lifestyles and mental wellbeing. Science itself is not of much interest to most people. Even though most would look at science favourably, their belief in it is much the same as how they would believe in something magical or mystical. Their belief is naive, it is not based on knowledge. This is 'scientism'. When most people think of science, they look straight past it at technology, which they look on as a means for gratifying their desires. For that reason, the development of science has had little positive influence on the knowledge, understanding, or attitudes of society.
On the brighter side, at this point in time people seem to be getting over their excitement about science and are beginning to look at their needs in relation to religion. Numerous religions are addressing these needs on different levels. At the same time, some members of scientific circles are becoming aware of the limitations of orthodox science, expanding the horizons of their research to include religions, which suggests the possibility of a fully-developed science merging with a fully-developed religion, which together can lead humanity to reality, peace, and a life free of foolish attachments.
On the other hand, science may be trying to prove something which religion has already predicted. While humanity cannot wait for an answer, we must provide one of some kind, and this answer has become religion. This answer is still not proven, but we must accept it for now, while science slowly and methodically tests it out. In this scenario, science is that effort on the part of humanity to prove the truths (or non-truths) of religion. Looking at it in this way, the two fields harmonize; having arisen from a common origin, they eventually merge once more.
As time goes on, the limits of the scientific method will once again be reached. Science will be unable to prove the truths presented by religion. A number of leading scientists are now beginning to realise this. They say that this final, ultimate truth spoken of by religion is beyond the reach of science at any stage in time.
Now we have talked about science and also religion, going through the origins and development of both. Now let us take a look at Buddhism and finally get into the subject proper of this talk.
... Many people today view ethics as merely the arbitrary dictates of certain groups of people... but while science has cut itself off from any consideration of ethics or values, Buddhism studies and teaches the role of ethics within the natural process...
SCIENCE AND BUDDHISM: A MEETING OR A PARTING?
Like a religion, but not ...
TO TALK OF BUDDHISM we must first talk about its origins. I have said that the origin of religion was the fear of danger, but the origin of Buddhism is no longer the fear of danger, but the fear of suffering. Please note this distinction. In the section dealing with religion we talked about danger, but when dealing with Buddhism we will be talking about suffering, which carries a much broader meaning. Specifically, the fear of danger has its object in external factors, such as floods, earthquakes, and so on, but suffering includes all the problems experienced in life, including those within the mind.
What is suffering? Suffering is the condition of stress and conflict, in short, the human predicament. We could put it very simply and say that suffering (dukkha) is difficulty (panha), because difficulty is what causes stress and frustration.
Other religions looked for the source of danger. As far as man could see, whenever something occurred in human society, there had to be someone to cause or direct it. In society, man was the controller, but the natural world was beyond man's control. Still, man thought there must have been someone directing things, so he searched for this 'someone' and came up with a director, a deity or deities, a supernatural force, the source of all these natural dangers. These were the forces that brought the clouds, the storms, the floods, the fire and so on. This is the emergence of religions.
Ancient man looked at the situation in terms of reward and punishment. It seemed that freedom from danger had to be sought from its source. Observing that in human society there are leaders who wield power, they applied this model to the forces behind nature and came up with the gods. This is why some contemporary psychologists have said that mankind created God in his own image, reversing the Christian teaching that God created man in his own image.
So mankind, seeing these deities as the source of danger, reasoned that it was necessary to please the deities, just as for an earthly leader. This resulted in numerous techniques and ceremonies for showing respect and paying homage, sacrifices, praying and so forth.
The essential factor in determining events in the world, according to these ancient religions, was the will of the deity (or deities).
The factor which tied humanity to these deities or supernatural power was faith. This faith in a deity or deities was demonstrated through sacrifices, prayers, ceremonies and so on.
So we have an overall picture here of a director of events - the will of God; we have the human connection - faith; and we have the method of interaction - sacrifices, prayers and so on. This is the general picture of the role of faith in most religions.
Now, let's see how these factors relate when it comes to Buddhism. As I have mentioned, Buddhism is based on the desire to be free of suffering. What is the appropriate method of practice in respect to suffering? To be free of suffering you must have a method of doing so. To know this, you have to look at where suffering arises from. Where is the source of suffering? Whereas other religions taught that the source of danger was in supernatural forces, Buddhism says that the source of suffering is a natural process which must be understood.
Suffering has an origin which functions according to the natural processes, namely the process of cause and effect. Not knowing or understanding this natural cause and effect process is the cause of suffering. Buddhism delves into the origin of suffering by looking into this ignorance of cause and effect, or ignorance of the Law of Nature.
At this point we have arrived at the heart of Buddhism. Just now I said that the origin of other religions was the awareness of danger, the origin of danger in turn being the will of superior beings or forces; but the source of Buddhism is the awareness of suffering, the origin of which is ignorance of the natural process of suffering, or ignorance of the Law of Nature.
Now we come to redressing the problem. How do we redress the problem? When ignorance of the Law of Nature is the cause, the remedy is its exact opposite, and that is knowledge and understanding of these things, which we call wisdom.
Previously, religions had relied on faith as the connection between human beings and the source of danger. Buddhism changed the human connection to wisdom. At this stage the emphasis has shifted from faith to wisdom, and this is a prime difference of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, human beings must know and understand the process of cause and effect, and then to treat the problem accordingly.
Finally (x) the work of correcting the factors involved in the creation of suffering is a human responsibility, and it is within human potential to do so. Therefore emphasis for solving the problem has shifted from the will of a supernatural force to human endeavour.
(x) The allusion here, and in the previous four paragraphs, is to the Four Noble Truths : Suffering, its cessation, and the way leading to that cessation, which is the heart of the Buddhist teaching
These three points are highly significant.
1. Most religions concern themselves with the source of danger, which is said to be deities (heavenly), but Buddhism concerns itself with the source of suffering, which is said to be ignorance.
2. The tie to this source in most religions is faith, but in Buddhism it is wisdom.
3. The director of results in most religions is a divine or supernatural power, but in Buddhism this responsibility has been placed back into human hands, with the emphasis on human action.
The emphasis in Buddhism shifts from faith to wisdom, and this is a revolutionary change. Such wisdom begins with the desire to know, or the desire for knowledge - before there can be wisdom, there must be an aspiration for it. But this aspiration for knowledge differs from that of science, as I will be pointing out presently.
Another important shift in emphasis in Buddhism is from the directives of a deity to human endeavour. This is one of Buddhism's cornerstones. No matter where Buddhism spreads to, or how distorted the teaching becomes, this principle of emphasis on human endeavour never varies. If this one principle is changed, then we can confidently say that it is no longer Buddhism.
The principle of human endeavour is expressed in Buddhist circles as the Law of Kamma. People may misunderstand kamma, there may be many misconceptions about it, even within the Buddhist world, but no matter how it may vary, kamma always deals with human endeavour.
Buddhism's combination of adherence to the Law of Nature, proclaiming man's independence, and putting wisdom to the fore instead of faith, is a very unique event in the history of religion. It even makes some Western analysts feel that Buddhism isn't a religion at all. Western books on Buddhism often state that Buddhism is not a religion, meaning that it isn't a religion as is understood in Westem cultures.
Therefore we have these three important principles: 1) a Law of Nature; 2) proclaiming man's independence; 3) replacing faith with wisdom.
The natural religions: understanding nature through wisdom
Now in order to clarify matters here, I would like to take up a little of your time by speaking about some of the basic characteristics of Buddhism. Firstly I would like to present some of the teachings from the Buddha himself, expanding on them to see how they relate to science.
1. Adherence to the Law of Nature: truth is the Law of Nature, something which naturally exists. The Buddha was the one who discovered this truth. You may have heard the monks chanting the Dhammaniyama Sutta at funerals, but most people don't know the meaning of what's being chanted, which is that the truth of nature exists as a normal condition. Whether the Buddha arises or not, the truth is still there.
What is this Dhammaniyama, or Law of Nature? The monks chant uppadavabhikkhave tathagatanam, anuppadavatathagatanam: "Whether Buddhas arise or not, it is a natural, unchanging truth that all compounded things are unenduring, unstable, and not-self."
Unenduring (anicca) means that compounded things are constantly being born and dying, arising and passing away.
Unstable (dukkha) means that they are constantly being conditioned by conflicting and opposing forces, they are unable to maintain any constancy.
Not self (anatta) means that they are not a self or intrinsic entity, they merely follow supporting factors. Any form they take is entirely at the direction of supporting factors. This is the principle of conditioned arising, the most basic level of truth.
The Buddha was enlightened to these truths, after which He declared and explained them. This is how the chant goes. This first principle is a very important one, the most basic principle of Buddhism. Buddhism regards these natural laws as fundamental truths.
2. The interrelation and interdependence of all things: Buddhism teaches the Law of Dependent Origination. In brief, the essence of this law is :
Imasmim sati idam hoti
Imasmim asati idam na hoti
Imassuppada idam uppadjati
Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati.
This translates as:
When there is this, this is;
when this is not, neither is this.
Because this arises, so does this;
because this ceases,so does this.
This is a truth, a natural law, which is expanded on in detail in practical applications. Simply speaking, this is the natural law of cause and effect on its most basic level.
It is worth noting that Buddhism prefers to use the words 'causes and conditions' rather than cause and effect'. Cause and effect refers to a specific and linear relationship. In Buddhism it is believed that results do not arise simply from a cause alone, but also from numerous supporting factors. When the conditions are ready, then the result follows.
For example: suppose we plant a mango seed and a mango tree sprouts. The mango tree is the fruit (effect), but what is the cause of that mango tree? You might say the seed is the cause, but if there were only this seed, the tree couldn't grow. Many other factors are needed, such as earth, water, oxygen, suitable temperature, fertilizer and so on. Only when factors are right can the result arise. This principle explains why some people, even when they feel that they have created the causes, do not receive the results they expected. They must ask themselves whether they have also created the conditions.
Please note that this causal relationship does not necessarily proceed in a linear direction. We tend to think of these things as following on one from the other - one thing arises first, and then the result arises afterwards. But it doesn't necessarily have to function in that way.
Suppose we had a blackboard and I took some chalk and wrote on it the letters A, B, and C. The letters that appear are a result. Now what is the cause for these letters appearing on the blackboard? Normally we might answer 'a person'. If we talk in relation to the white marks on the board we might say 'chalk'. But no matter which factor we take to be the cause, with only one cause, the result cannot arise. To achieve a letter 'A' on this blackboard there must be a confluence of many factors - a writer, chalk, a blackboard of suitable colour - just having a blackboard is not yet enough, the board must be a colour that contrasts with the colour of the chalk - there must be a suitable temperature, a suitable moisture content, the surface must be free of excess moisture ... so many things have to be just right, and these are all factors in the generation of the result.
Now, in the appearance of that letter 'A', it isn't necessary for all the factors involved to have occurred one after the other, is it? We can see that some of those factors must be there at the same time, being factors which are interdependent in various ways, not necessarily following each other in a linear fashion. This is the Buddhist teaching of cause and condition.
3. The principle of faith: just now I said that Buddhism shifted the emphasis in religion from faith to wisdom, so why should we be speaking about faith again? In regard to this we should understand that faith still plays a very important role in Buddhism, but the emphasis is changed.
Before anything else, let us take a look at how faith is connected in Buddhism to verification through actual experience. The teaching that is most quoted in this respect is the Kalama Sutta, which contains the passage:
Do not believe simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe simply because you have learnt it.
Do not believe simply because you have practiced it from ancient times.
Do not believe simply because it's rumoured.
Do not believe simply because it's in the scriptures.
Do not believe simply on logic.
Do not believe simply through guesswork.
Do not believe simply through reasoning.
Do not believe simply because it conforms to your theory.
Do not believe simply because it seems credible.
Do not believe simply out of faith in your teacher."
This teaching amazed people in the West when they first heard about it, it was one of Buddhism's most popular teachings, because at that time Western culture was just getting into science. This idea of not believing anything too easily, but only through a verifiable truth, was very popular. The Kalama Sutta is fairly well known to Western people familiar with Buddhism, but the Thai people have hardly heard of it.
The Buddha went on to say in the Kalama Sutta that one must know and understand through experience which things are skilful and which unskilful. Knowing that something is unskilful and harmful, conducive not to benefit but to suffering, it should be given up. Knowing that something is skilful, is useful and conducive to happiness, it should be acted upon. This is a matter of clear knowledge, of direct realization, of personal experience. This is the shift from faith to wisdom.
In addition to this, the Buddha also gave some clear principles for examining one's personal experience. He said, "independent of faith, independent of agreement, independent of learning, independent of reasoned thinking, independent of conformity with one's own theory, one knows clearly for oneself when there is greed in the mind, when there is not greed in the mind; when there is hatred in the mind and when there is not hatred in the mind; when there is delusion in the mind and when there is not delusion in the mind, in the present moment." This is true personal experience, the state of our own mind, which can be known clearly for ourselves in the present moment. This is the principle of verifying through personal experience
4. Proclaiming the independence of mankind: Buddhism arose among the Brahmanical beliefs, which held that Brahma was the creator of the world. Brahma (God) was the appointer of all events, and mankind had to perform sacrifices and ceremonies of prayer, of which people at that time had devised many, to keep the God happy. Their ceremonies were lavish, all attuned to gaining the favour of the gods and to receiving rewards. The Brahman Vedas stated that Maha Brahma had divided human beings into four castes. Whichever caste a person was born into, so was that person bound for life. There was no way to change the situation, it was all tied up by the directives of God.
When the Buddha-to-be was born, as the Prince Siddhattha Gotama, the first thing attributed to him was his proclamation of human independence. You may have read in the Buddha's biography, how, when the Prince was born, he performed the symbolic gesture of walking seven steps and proclaiming, "I am the greatest in the world, I am the foremost in the world, I am the grandest in the world."
This statement can be easily misinterpreted. One may wonder, "Why was Prince Siddhattha being so arrogant?" But this statement should be understood as the Buddha's proclamation of human independence. The principles expounded by the Buddha in his later life all point to the potential of human beings to develop the highest good. A fully developed human being is the finest being in the world. The Buddha was our example and our representative in this. His attainment of Buddhahood was a realization of human potential. With such potential, it is no longer necessary for human beings to be pleading for help from external sources. Instead they can turn around and better themselves, they can rely on themselves. If a human being becomes a Buddha, even the angels and gods revere him.
There are many examples of this kind of teaching in Buddhism. Consider, for example, the oft-quoted:
attadantam samahitam ...
This translates as, "The Buddha, although a human being, is one who has trained and perfected himself. Even the gods revere him."
With this principle, the human position changes. The attitude of looking externally, taking refuge in gods and deities, has been firmly retracted, and people are told to turn around and look at themselves, to see that within themselves lies a potential that can be developed into the finest achievement. No longer is it necessary to throw their fates to the gods. If they realize this potential, even those gods will recognize their excellence and pay reverence.
This principle entails a belief, or faith, in the potential of human beings to be developed to the highest level. The Buddha is our example of a fully developed human being.
5. The principle of remedy based on practical and reasoned action rather than dependence on external forces.
This principle is well illustrated in one of the teachings of the Dhammapada. The stanza begins, "Babum ve saranam yanti ... " "Humanity, being threatened by danger ..." This refers to how human beings existed before Buddhism, in much the same way as has been already mentioned about the arising of religions. The stanza goes ...
Human beings, finding themselves threatened by danger, take refuge in spirits, shrines, and sacred trees. But these are not a true refuge. Turning to such things as a refuge, there is no true safety.
Those who go for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, who understand the Four Noble Truths, seeing difficulty, the cause of difficulty, freedom from difficulty and the way leading to the freedom from difficulty, are able to transcend all danger."
This is a turning point, shifting the emphasis from pleading with deities to responsible action. Even many Buddhists, unaware of this principle, mistakenly revere the Triple Gem as something holy, as in other religions.
The Triple Gem begins with the Buddha, our example of a perfected human being. This is a reminder to humanity of their potential, and as such encourages us to reflect on our responsibility to develop it. Taking the Buddha for refuge is a reminder. As soon as we think of the Triple Gem and the Buddha, we reflect on our responsibility to use wisdom to address the problems of life and develop ourselves.
When we think of the Dhamma, we are reminded that this development of potential must be done through means which conform to the Law of Nature and function according to causes and conditions.
When we reflect on the Sangha, we think of those who have used the Dhamma (teaching) skilfully, truly developing and realizing their potential. These people are living examples of the actual attainment of the truth, of which, through developing ourselves in right practice, we should secure membership.
These are the Three Refuges. If we believe or have faith in these refuges, then we must strive to solve problems like wise human beings. This tenet forces us to use wisdom. The way to solve problems through wisdom is:
1. Dukkha (suffering): We begin with the problem, recognizing that there is one.
2. Samudaya (the cause of suffering-craving based on ignorance): We search out the cause of that problem.
3 Nirodha (the cessation of suffering - Nibbana): We establish our aim, which is to extinguish the problem.
4. Magga (the way leading to the cessation of suffering): We practise in accordance with that aim.(x) This is the principle of solving problems through intelligence, through human effort.
(x) These are the Four Noble Truths, the heart of Buddhism which encapsulate all that the Buddha taught. In simple terms, they are :
1. The principle of liability to suffering.
2. The law of the causation of suffering.
3. The law of the cessation of suffering.
4. The program or the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
6. Teaching only those truths which are of benefit. There are many different kinds of knowledge, many different kinds of truth, but some of them are not useful, having no concern with solving the problems of life. The Buddha did not teach such truths and was not interested in finding out about them. He concentrated on teaching only those truths which would be of practical benefit. This principle is illustrated in the simile of the leaves, which the Buddha gave while he was staying in the Sisapa forest.
At that time, the Buddha was staying with a company of monks. One day he picked up a handful of leaves from the forest floor and asked the monks, "Which is the greater number, the leaves in my hand, or the leaves on the trees?" An easy question, and the monks answered immediately. The leaves in the Buddha's hand were very few, while the leaves in the forest were of far greater number.
The Buddha replied, "It is the same with the things that I teach you. There are many truths that I know, but most of them I do not teach. They are like the leaves in the forest. The truths that I do teach you are like the leaves here in my hand. Why do I not teach those other truths? Because they are not conducive to ultimate wisdom, to understanding of the way things are, or to the rectification of problems and the transcendence of suffering. They do not lead to the attainment of the goal, which is Nibbana. "
The Buddha said that he taught the things he did because they were useful, they led to the solving of problems, and were conducive to a good life. In short, they led to the transcendence of suffering.
Another important simile, given on another occasion, was in answer to the questions of higher philosophy. These questions are among the questions with which science is currently wrestling, such as: Is the Universe finite or infinite? Does it have a beginning? The scriptures mention ten stock philosophical questions which had been in existence from before the time of the Buddha. One monk who was interested in such questions went to ask the Buddha about them. The Buddha refused to answer his questions, but instead gave the following simile:
A man was shot by a poisoned arrow. With the arrowhead still embedded within him, his relatives raced to find a doctor. As the doctor was preparing to cut out the arrowhead, the man said, "Wait! I will not let you take out this arrowhead until you tell me the name of the man who shot me. Where did he live? What caste was he? What kind of arrow did he use? Did he use a bow or a cross-bow? What was the arrow made of? Of what was the bow made? Of what was the bow-string made? What kind of feather was attached to the end of the arrow? Until I find out the answers to these questions, I will not let you take this arrow out."
Obviously, if that man were to wait for the answers to all those questions he would surely die beforehand. Not only would he not find out the information he wanted, but he would die needlessly. What would be the proper course of action here? Before anything else, he would have to have that arrowhead taken out. Then, if he still wanted to know the answers to those questions, he could go about finding out.
In the same way, what the Buddha teaches is human suffering and the way to relieve it. Philosophical questions are not at all relevant. Even if the Buddha answered them, his answers could not be verified. The Buddha taught to quickly do what must be done, not to waste time in vain pursuits and debates. This is why the Buddha did not answer such questions, and only taught those truths which are of benefit.
These are some of the general characteristics of Buddhism. Having listened to this much, please do not come to any hasty conclusions about Buddhism's similarity or otherwise from science. There may be some points which sound quite similar, but within those similarities there are differences.
Good and evil
I have already said that most religions saw the events of the world as the work of deities or supernatural forces. If mankind did not want any unpleasant events to befall him, or if he aspired to some reward, he would have to let the deities see some display of worship and obeisance.
This applied not only to external natural events. Even people's personal lives were under the control of the deities. The deity, God, was the creator of the Universe, together with all of its happiness and suffering. He was constantly monitoring mankind's behaviour to ascertain whether it was pleasing to Him or not, and so people were constantly on their guard to avoid any actions which might displease the deity.
According to this standard, all of humanity's behaviour could be classified into two categories. Firstly, those actions which were pleasing to the deity, which were rewarded, and which were known as 'good'; and those actions which were displeasing to the deity, which he punished, and which were known as 'evil'. Sometimes these qualities were seen as being the directives of the deity. Whatever the deity approved of was 'good', whatever the deity forbade was 'evil'. The priests or representatives of the religion were the mediators who informed mankind which actions were good and which were evil, according to the standard as laid down by the deity. These standards for defining good and evil became known as 'ethics' or 'morals'.
Morality, or ethics, is a very important part of religion. You could almost say it was the essence of religion. Westem morality evolved and developed much as I have described it here.
As for science, from the time it parted with religion it interested itself solely with the extemal physical world and completely ignored the abstract side of things. Science took no interest at all in moral or ethical issues, seeing them as concerns of the deity, unfounded on facts, and turned its back on these things altogether. The populations of the Westem countries, or of the countries we know as technologically developed, were captivated by the advances of science. In comparison, religion's teachings of deities and supematural forces seemed ill founded. And so they tumed their backs on religion. At that time morals and ethics lost their meaning. When God was no longer important, morals or ethics, God's set of laws, were no longer important. Many people today, including those in scientific circles, view ethics as merely the arbitrary dictates of certain groups of people, such as priests or religious representatives, at best established to maintain order in society, apart from which they do not have any intrinsic truth.
Those branches of science which study the development of human civilization, especially sociology, and some branches of anthropology, seeing the success of the physical sciences, tried to afford their branches of learning a similar standing, by using principles and methods much the same as the physical sciences. The social sciences tended to see ethics or morals as values which did not have any scientific foundation. They have tended to avoid the subject of ethics in order to show that they, too, are pure sciences void of value systems. Even when they do make studies about ethical matters, they look on them only as measurable quantities of social behaviour.
The physical sciences, the social sciences, and people in the modern age in general, look on ethics as purely conventional creations. They are incapable of distinguishing ethics from their conventional manifestations, which is a step in the wrong direction - in trying to avoid falsehood, they have ended up straying further from truth.
Now let us come back to the subject of Buddhism. In regard to ethics, both science and Buddhism differ from the main gamut of religions. But while science has cut itself off from them, completely disregarding any consideration of ethics or values, Buddhism turns around and studies and teaches the role of ethics within the natural process.
While most religions look at the events of nature, both outside of man and within him, as being the directives of a deity, Buddhism looks at these events as being the normal and natural process of causes and conditions. In regard to human beings and abstract conditions, or values, the same laws apply as to the physical workings of nature. They are part of the stream of causes and conditions, functioning entirely at the directives of the natural laws. The difference in quality is determined by variations within the factors of the stream.
In order to facilitate our understanding of these processes, Buddhism divides the laws of nature into five kinds, called niyama (laws). They are:
1. Utuniyama (physical laws): The natural laws dealing with the events in the natural world or physical environment.
2. Blianiyama (biological laws): The natural laws dealing with animals and plants, in particular heredity.
3. Cittaniyama (psychic laws): The natural laws dealing with the workings of the mind and thinking.
4. Kammaniyama (karmic or moral laws): The natural law dealing with human behaviour, specifically intention and the actions resulting from it.
5. Dhammaniyama (the general law of cause and effect): The natural law dealing with the relationship and interdependence of all things, known simply as the way of things.
In terms of these five divisions of natural law, we can see that science has complete confidence in the dhammaniyama (the general law of cause and effect), while limiting its field of research to utuniyama (physical laws) and bijaniyama (biological laws). As for Buddhism, practically speaking it emphasises kammaniyama (the law of moral action), although one stream of Buddhism, the Abhidhamma (x), stresses the study of the cittaniyama (psychic laws), in relation to kammaniyama and dhammaniyama.
(x) The Abhidhamma, or Higher Truth, is the third Baskets, Tipitaka, the Buddhist Pali Canon. The Abhidhamma is a compendium of the Buddhist teachings rendered in purely analytical, impersonal terms)
The Law of Kamma: Scientific morality
A true understanding of reality is impossible if there is no understanding of all the laws of nature, their interrelation and unity. This includes, in particular, the human element, the mental factors and the values therein, of those who are studying those laws. Scientists may study the physical laws, but as long as they are ignorant of themselves, the ones who are studying those laws, they will never be able to see the truth even of the physical sciences.
On the basic level, human beings live in this physical world on a material plane, but within that physical world is the mental world. As far as the mind goes, human beings are living in a human world, and this human world is of vital importance, wielding an influence over our lives that is far clearer than the influence of the physical environment.
Our daily lives, our thoughts, behaviour and deeds, our communications, and our traditions and social institutions are entirely products of human intentional action, which is known in Buddhism as kamma. Intention is that unique faculty which has enabled human beings to progress to where we have.
The human world is thus the world of intention and follows the directives of intention. In Buddhism it is said: kammuna vattati- loko - the world is directed by kamma. In order to understand the human world, or the human situation, it is necessary to understand the natural law known as the Law of Kamma.
Be it intention, kamma, behaviour, ethics, abstract qualities, values, internal nature, or the human mind - these are all entirely natural. They exist in accordance with the Laws of Nature, not at the directives of deity. Nor are they accidental. They are processes which are within our human capacity to understand and develop.
Please note that Buddhism differentiates between the Law of Kamma and psychic laws. This indicates that the mind and intention are not the same thing, and can be studied as separate truths. However, these two truths are extremely closely linked. The simple analogy is that of a man driving a motor boat. The mind is like the boat and its engine, while intention is the driver of the boat, who decides where the boat will go and what it will do.
A similar kind of natural event may arise from different laws in different situations, while some events are a product of more than one of these natural laws functioning in unison. A man with tears in his eyes may be suffering from the effects of smoke (physical law), or from extremely happy or sad emotional states (psychic law), or it may be the result of anxiety over past deeds (law of kamma). A headache might be caused by illness (biological law), a stuffy or over-heated room (physical law) or it could be from depression and worry (law of kamma).
The question of free will
When people from the West start studying the subject of kamma, or intention, they are often confused by the problem of free will. Is there free will? In actual fact there is no free will, in the sense of being 'absolutely free', because intention is just one of the myriad interrelated cause and effect processes.However, will can be considered free in a relative way. We might say it is 'relatively free', because it is in fact one of the factors within the overall natural process. In Buddhism this is called purisakara. Each person has the ability to initiate thinking and intention, and as such become the instigating factor in a cause and effect process, or kamma, for which we say each individual must accept responsibility.
Misunderstandings, or lack of understanding, in relation to this matter of free will, arise from a number of more deeply rooted misconceptions, in particular, the misconception of self. This concept causes a lot of confusion when people try to look at reality as an actual condition, but are still trapped in their habitual thinking, which clings fast to concepts. The two perspectives clash. The perception is of a doer and a receiver of results. While in reality there is only a feeling, the perception is of 'one who feels'. (In the texts it is said: There is the experience of feeling, but no one who feels.) The reason for this confusion is ignorance of the characteristic of anatta, not self.
Buddhism doesn't stop simply at free will, but strives to the stage of being 'free of will', transcending the power of will, which can only be achieved through the complete development of human potential through wisdom.
Also note that within this process of human development, the areas of the mind and of wisdom are distinguished from each other. Wisdom that is fully developed will liberate the mind. So we have the mind with intention, and the mind with wisdom. However, this is a practical concern, a vast subject which must be reserved for a later time.
My intention here has been simply to show that the attainment of perfect knowledge, or reality, must arise from an understanding of human beings and their place in the natural order, including those abstract conditions and values which exist within them.
FAITH IN SCIENCE AND BUDDHISM
The role of faith
NOW LET US TAKE a comparative look at some of the qualities related to Buddhism, science and other religions, beginning with faith.
Most religions use emotion as the energy for attaining their respective goals. Emotion is the inspiration which arouses belief and obedience to the teachings, and emotions, particularly those which produce faith, are a necessary part of most religions. Emotions are also that which preserves faith, for which reason it is quite important to ensure that these emotional states are sustained. To put it another way, because faith is so crucial to these religions, emotion is encouraged.
While faith is the most important force in most religions, Buddhism stresses wisdom, giving faith a place of importance only in the initial stages. Even then, faith is only used very carefully, as wisdom is considered to be the prime factor in attaining to the goal of Buddhism.
Even so, faith does have a place in the Buddhist teachings, but in a different role, with a different emphasis. There are also elements of faith in scientific research, where it has had a decisive role in science's advances in research and enquiry.
In order to clearly understand faith, it will be helpful to analyse it into different kinds. Generally speaking, faith can be divided into two main kinds:
The first kind of faith is that which obstructs wisdom. It relies on inciting, or even enforcing, belief, and such belief must be complete and unquestioning. To doubt the teaching is forbidden. Only un- questioning obedience is allowed. This first kind of faith does not allow any room for wisdom to develop.
Faith in most religions is of this variety. There must be belief and there must be obedience. Whatever the religion says must go, no questions asked. This feature of religion is known as dogma, the doctrine that is unquestionable, characterized by adherence in the face of reason. Buddhism, however, is a religion free of dogma.
The second kind of faith is a chanel for wisdom. This kind of faith stimulates curiosity; it is the incentive to begin learning. In this world there are so many things to leam about. Without faith we have no starting point or direction to set our learning, but when faith arises in a certain person, subject or teaching, it gives us a starting point. Faith awakens our interest and encourages us to approach the object of that interest. Faith in a person, in particular, leads to approaching and questioning that person. Having faith in the order of monks, for example, encourages us to approach them and learn from them, to gain a clearer understanding of the teachings.
An example of this kind of faith can be seen in the life story of Sariputta(x). He became interested in the teaching of the Buddha through seeing the monk Assaji walking on alms round. He was impressed by the monk's bearing, which suggested some special quality, some special knowledge or spiritual attainment. Wanting to find out what this special quality was, he approached Assaji and asked for a teaching. This is a good example of this second kind of faith.
(x) Venerable Sariputta, one of the Buddha's foremost disciples, met Assaji going on alms round and was inspired enough by his appearance to approach him and ask for teaching. The short teaching he received was enough to put Sariputta's mind beyond doubts about the authenticity of the Buddha's teaching and to become a bhikkhu, a Buddhist monk.
So this kind of faith or inspiration is a positive influence, an incentive for learning. It also gives a point of focus for our learning. Whatever direction faith leans to, our energies are motivated accordingly. A scientist, for example, having the faith that a particular hypothesis might be true, will direct his enquiry specifically in that direction, not being distracted by irrelevant data.
These two kinds of faith must be clearly distinguished. The faith that functions in Buddhism is the faith which leads to wisdom, and as such is secondary to wisdom. Such faith is found in both Buddhism and science.
This kind of faith has three important functions in relation to wisdom. They are:
1. It gives rise to an interest and incentive to begin the process of learning.
2. It provides the energy needed in the pursuit of that learning.
3. It gives direction or focus for that energy.
Apart from these functions, well-directed faith has a number of further characteristics, which is shown in the following consideration of the Buddhist system of practice:
What is the goal of Buddhism? The goal of Buddhism is liberation, transcendence, or, to put it in contemporary terms, freedom. Buddhism wants human beings to be free, to transcend defilements and suffering.
How is this freedom attained? It must be attained through wisdom, understanding of the truth, or the law of nature. This truth is as equally attainable by the disciples as it was by the Teacher, and their knowledge is independent of him. The Buddha once asked Sariputta, "Do you believe what I have been explaining to you?" Sariputta answered, "Yes, I see that that is so. " The Buddha asked him, "Are you saying this just out of faith in me?"
Sariputta answered, "No, I answered in agreement not because of faith in the Blessed One, but because I clearly see for myself that this is the case."
This is another of Buddhism's principles. The Buddha did not want people to simply believe him or attach to him. He pointed out the fault of faith even in another person, because he wanted people to be free. This liberation, or freedom, the goal of Buddhism, is attained through wisdom, through knowledge of reality.
But how is that wisdom to arise? For those people who know how to think, who have what we call yoniso-manasikara (x), it isn't necessary to rely on faith, but most people must use faith as a stepping stone or starting point.
(x) Systematic attention, wise consideration, critical reflection.
These conditions are connected like links in a chain. In order to attain liberation, it is necessary to develop wisdom. Wisdom, as the condition for realizing the goal, is in turn dependent on faith. This gives us three stages:
Faith - Wisdom - Liberation
Faith is the initiator of the path to truth. It in turn leads to wisdom, which in turn leads to liberation. This model of conditions is the defining constraint on faith in Buddhism. Because faith is related to both wisdom and liberation, it has two characteristics:
1. It leads to wisdom
2. It is coupled with, and leads to liberation.
Faith in Buddhism does not forbid questions or doubts, nor demand belief or unquestioning committal in any way. Both Buddhism and science possess this kind of faith; they both use faith as a stepping stone on the path to realizing the truth. Now the question arises, what kind of faith is it which leads to wisdom?
In the context of today's discussion, we could say that the faith that leads to wisdom is the belief that this universe, or the world of nature, functions according to constant and invariable laws. This is faith in the Law of Nature, or the belief that nature has laws that are accessible to man's understanding.
This faith is the impetus which leads to the search for truth, but because faith in itself is incapable of leading directly to the truth, it must be used to further develop wisdom. At this stage the faith of Buddhism and the faith of science look very similar. Both have a belief in the laws of nature, and both strive to know the truth of these laws through wisdom. However, the similarity ends right here. From this point on, the faith of Buddhism and the faith of science part their ways.
The difference between faith in Buddhism and science
We have said that the source of both religion and science was the awareness of problems in life, the dangers in the natural world. In search of a remedy for this problem, human beings looked on the natural environment with trepidation and wonder. These two kinds of feeling led to both the desire for a way out of danger, and the desire to know the truth of nature. From this common origin, religion and science part their ways.
But apart from their differences, both science and most religions have one important similarity, and that is their tendency to look outwards, as has been explained in Chapter Two. In this respect, we find that science, in particular, confines its research exclusively to external, physical phenomena. Science does not include mankind in its picture of the universe. In other words, science does not consider the universe as including mankind, and does not look at mankind as encompassing the whole of the universe.
Looking at nature in this way, science has only one object for its faith, and that is the physical universe - the faith that nature has fixed laws. In brief we could call this 'faith in nature'.
But the objective of Buddhism is to solve the problem of human suffering, which arises from both internal and external conditions, with an emphasis on the world of human behaviour. At the same time, Buddhism sees this process as a natural one. For this reason, Buddhism, like science, has faith in nature, but this belief or faith also includes human beings, both in the sense that human beings are a part of nature, and in the sense that human beings encompass the whole of nature within themselves, in that they are subject to the laws of nature.
The faith of science has only one object, but the faith of Buddhism has two objects, and they are:
In one sense, these two kinds of faith are one and the same thing, because they are both beliefs in nature, the first kind more obviously so. But the first kind of faith does not cover the whole picture, it includes only the external environment. In Buddhism, mankind is recognized as a part of nature. The physical human organism is as natural as the external environment.
Moreover, human beings possess a special quality which differs from the external manifestations of nature, and distinguishes mankind from the world around him. This is a quality peculiar to human beings. You could even say it is their 'humanness'. This peculiar quality is mankind's mental side, the subject of values.
In Buddhism we believe that this abstract quality of human beings is also a natural phenomenon, and is also subject to the natural laws of cause and effect, and as such is included in natural truth. In order to know and understand nature, both the physical and the mental sides of nature should be thoroughly understood.
Bearing in mind that human beings want to know and understand nature, it follows that in order to do so, they must understand the ones who are studying. These mental qualities, such as faith and desire to know, are all abstract qualities; they are what I call 'values'. They all come into the human abstract realm, and as such must come into our field of research and understanding.
Moreover, on the ultimate level, the attainment of truth is also the attainment of the highest good. In the end, the truth and the most excellent kind of life, or the highest truth and the highest good, are one and the same thing. If human qualities are not studied, any knowledge or understanding of nature is bound to be distorted and incomplete. It will be incapable of leading to true understanding of reality.
Although science does have faith in nature, and strives to know the truths of nature, it doesn't look at nature in its entirety. Science ignores human values and as a result has an incomplete or faulty view of nature. Science's search for knowledge is inadequate and cannot reach completion, because one side of nature, the internal nature of man, is ignored.
It is noteworthy that the faith of science, like Buddhism, also has a suggestion of being divisible into two aspects. That is, there is both faith in nature, and faith in human potential. Let us look at the faith of science, which, strictly speaking, is the conviction that nature has immutable laws, the truth of which is accessible to human intelligence.
The faith of science can be divided into two aspects, and has two objects, the same as the faith of Buddhism. That is, firstly there is belief in the laws of nature, and secondly, belief in the ability of human intelligence to realize those laws, which is simply faith in human potential. However, this second aspect of faith is not clearly stated in science, it is more an assumption. Science does not mention this second kind of faith, and pays little attention to the development of the human being. It concentrates on serving only the first kind of faith.
In this respect, science differs from Buddhism, which holds the faith in human potential to be of prime importance, and has expanded this subject into practical forms which have been systematized into the larger part of Buddhism's teachings. Throughout the Buddhist teachings, faith is always connected between three points. That is, there is conviction in the human potential to develop wisdom and realise the truth of the laws of nature, this conviction being supported by the deeper-rooted conviction that nature functions according to fixed laws; and there is the conviction that the realization of these laws of nature will enable human beings to realize the highest good, which is liberation from suffering.
This kind of faith creates a significant distinction between Buddhism and science. In Buddhism there is a search for truth in conjunction with a training to realize human potential. This development of human potential is also what determines the way knowledge is used. This being the case, the probability of using the knowledge gained from studying the laws of nature to serve the destructive influences of greed, hatred and delusion is minimized. Instead, knowledge gained will be used in a constructive way.
As for science, this one-sided faith in the laws of nature is liable to cause the search for knowledge to be aimless and undisciplined. There is no development of the human being, and there is no guarantee that the knowledge gained will be used in ways that are beneficial to humanity. Science's search for the truths of nature does not, therefore, help anybody, even the scientists, to attain contentment, to relieve suffering, to ease tension or to have calmer and clearer minds. At the same time, science opens wide the way for undesirable values to direct scientific development, leading it in the direction of greed, hatred and delusion. Examples of these undesirable values are the desire to conquer nature and materialism, which have controlled scientific development in the last century or more, causing exploitation of and destruction to the environment. If scientific development continues this trend, it will be unsustainable.
It should be stressed that human beings are intelligent beings, or to put it more directly, they are beings which have intention. They are beings which make kamma, and all kinds of kamma must rely on volition. For that reason, human beings have a sense of values. Given that they have faith in the laws of nature and a desire to understand those laws, they must also have a sense of values, be it conscious or otherwise. This quality will condition the style and direction of their methods for finding the truth, as well as the context and way in which that truth is seen.
If mankind's awareness of values does not penetrate to this basic quality of unity within his mind, in other words, he does not develop the highest good in conjunction with his search for truth of nature, his searching, in addition to being incapable of being fully successful (because it ignores one side of reality), will be overwhelmed by inferior values, and the search for knowledge will be uncontrolled and misdirected. Inferior values will influence the search for knowledge, distorting any truths that are discovered.
Simply speaking, the knowledge of scientists is not independent of values. A simple example of one of these secondary values is the pleasure obtained from, and which lies behind, the search for knowledge and the discoveries it yields. Even the pure kind of search for knowledge, which is a finer value, if analysed deeply, is likely to have other sets of values hidden within it, such as the desire to feed some personal need, even some pleasant feelings, within the researcher.
I would like to summarize at this point that we have been talking about two levels of values, which are the highest value, together with those intermediate values which are compatible with it. The highest value is a truth which must be attained to, it is not something which can be artificially set up in the mind. Scientists have faith in nature already. Such conviction is already a value within them from the outset, but this faith must be expanded on to include the whole of nature and humanity, which entails faith in the highest good, simply by bearing in mind that the laws of nature are connected to the highest good.
When there is the correct value of faith, secondary values which are related to it will also arise; or these may be further underscored by intentional inducement in oneself. This will serve to prevent values from straying into undesirable areas, or from being taken over by inferior values.
Faith, which is our fundamental value, conditions the values which are secondary to it, in particular the aspiration to know. From faith in the truth of nature arises the aspiration to know the truth of nature, or the truth of all things. Such an aspiration is important in both science and Buddhism.
From faith in the existence of the highest good and in human potential arises the aspiration to attain the state of freedom from suffering, to remedy all problems and pursue personal development.
The first kind of aspiration is the desire to know the truth of nature. The second aspiration is the desire to attain the state of freedom. When these two aspirations are integrated, the desire for knowledge is more clearly defined and directed. It becomes the desire to know the truth of nature in order to solve problems and lead human beings to freedom. This is the consummation of Buddhism. When these two kinds of aspiration merge, we have a cycle, a balance, a sufficiency. There is a clear limit to our aspiration for knowledge, our knowledge being used for the express purpose of creating a quality of life for the human race. In short, our aspiration for knowledge is firmly related to the human being, and this defines the way our knowledge is to be used.
As for science, originally there was merely the aspiration for knowledge. When the aspiration for knowledge is aimless and undirected, what results is a random collection of data, an attempt to know the truth behind nature by looking further and further outward - truth for its own sake. The scientific search for truth lacks direction. But human beings are driven by values. Because this aspiration for knowledge is without clear definition, it throws open the chance for other aspirations, or lesser values, to fill the vacuum. Some of these ulterior aims I have already mentioned, such as the desire to conquer nature, and later on, the desire to produce an abundance of material wealth. These two aspirations have created a different kind of cycle.
I would like to reiterate the meaning of this cycle: it is the aspiration to know the truths of nature in order to exploit it for the production of material goods. This cycle has been the cause of innumerable problems in recent times: mental, social, and in particular, as we are seeing at present, environmental.
This is because the thinking of the industrial age has caught science by its loophole, an undefined aspiration for knowledge, which is human action done without consideration for the human being. At the present time we are experiencing the ill effects of this loophole: problems with the environment and elsewhere, arising from the belief in man's dominion over nature and the adherence to materialism.
This kind of thinking has caused a tendency to excess in human undertakings. There are no limits placed on the search for happiness. The search for happiness is endless, the destruction of nature is endless. Problems are bound to arise. This is one point at which Buddhism and science part their ways.
If we analyse further, we will see that the reason science has this loophole of being undirected is because it looks for truth exclusively in the external, material world. It does not search for knowledge within the human individual.
Science is not interested in, and in fact is ignorant of, human nature, and as a result has become an instrument of industry and its selfish advances on the environment. This ignorance of human nature is ignorance of the fact that pandering to the five senses is incapable of making mankind happy or contented. This kind of desire has no end, and so the search for material wealth has no end. Because this abundance of material goods is obtained through exploitation of nature, it follows that the manipulation of nature is also without end and without check. Ultimately, nature will not have enough to satisfy human desires. Even if human beings completely destroy nature, it won't be enough to satisfy human desire. It would probably be more correct to say that this exploitation of nature in itself gives man more misery than happiness.
Man-centred versus self centred
Just now I mentioned some important common ground in Buddhism and science, both in the areas of faith and of aspiration to knowledge. Now I would like to take a look at the object of this faith and aspiration to knowledge. The object is reality or truth. Our aspiration and our faith are rooted in the desire for truth or knowledge. When we have reached the essence of the matter, which is knowledge or truth, our aspiration is fulfilled. This means that humanity must understand the truth of the laws of nature.
I would like to stress one more time that in Buddhism our goal is to use the knowledge of truth to improve on human life and solve problems, to attain a life that is perfectly free. On the other hand, science has as its goal the utilization of its knowledge for the conquest of nature, in order to provide a wealth of material goods. This is perhaps illustrated most clearly in the words of Rene Descartes, whose importance in the development of Western science and philosophy is well known. He wrote of the purpose of science as part of the struggle to "render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature."
With different goals, the object of knowledge must also be different. What is the object of knowledge in Buddhism? The prime object of our enquiry is the nature of the human being. Human beings are the object of knowledge, and from there our study spreads out to incorporate all the things with which we must deal externally. Mankind is always the object, the centre from which we study the truth of nature.
In science, on the other hand, the object of research is the external, physical environment. Even though science occasionally looks into the human being, it is usually only as another physical organism within the material universe. Mankind as such is not studied. That is, science may study human life, but only in a biological sense, not in relation to 'being human' or 'humanness'.
So the field of the Buddhist search for knowledge is the human being, while that of science is the external world. Taking this point as our reference, let us take a look at the respective extents of the nature that science seeks to know, and the nature that Buddhism seeks to know.
Buddhism believes that human beings are the highest evolution of nature. For that reason, mankind must encompass the entire spectrum of reality within himself. That is, the human organism contains nature on both the physical and mental planes. On the physical plane we have the body, made up of the elements and connected to the external physical world. However, the physical world does not include the world of values, or the mind. For that reason, through studying mankind it is possible to know the truth of all aspects of nature, both the physical and the abstract.
Science studies nature only on the material plane, in the world of matter and energy, and is not interested, and does not recognize, the factor of mind, consciousness or spirit. Science searches from the outside inwards. Having reached the human organism, science studies only 'life', but doesn't study the human being. Science knows only the facts of the physical world, but does not know the nature of the human being, or human nature.
I have been talking so far about basic principles. Now I would like to make a few general observations.
Just now I stated that Buddhism puts mankind at the centre, it is anthropocentric. Its express aim is to understand and to develop the human being. Science, on the other hand, is interested only in the external world. It seeks to know the truths of things outside of the human being.
Over the years, as science incorporated the intention to conquer nature into its values, science once again put man at the centre of the picture, but in quite a different way from the way Buddhism does. Buddhism gives human beings the central position in the sense of recognizing their responsibilities. It emphasizes mankind's duty toward nature. Buddhism puts mankind in the centre insofar as he must develop himself, to remedy problems. This is what is of real benefit, enabling human beings to attain the transcendence of suffering, freedom and the highest good.
Science, in incorporating the view of the desirability of conquering nature into its aspirations, placed mankind in the centre of the picture once more, but only as the exploiter of nature. Man says "I want this," from where he proceeds to manipulate nature, to mould it to his desires. Simply speaking, science's placing of man in the centre is from the perspective of feeding his selfishness.
In relation to the object of study, Buddhism places mankind in the centre. Man becomes the truth which must be studied, and that in order to be able to effectively develop human potential. But science, at the outset, in terms of truth to be studied, directs its attention solely towards the material world. Then it puts mankind in the centre as the agent who will make use of these material objects to feed his desires. Buddhism and science are thus both anthropocentric, with the distinction that while Buddhism is man-centred, science is self-centred.
The second observation I would like to make is in relation to Pure Science. Is science pure or impure?
The term'Pure Science', so named because it is reputed to be 'science and only science', that is, pure knowledge without any concern for practical application, is used to distinguish it from Applied Science or technology. But nowadays science is not so pure. Granted, in the sense that it has a relatively pure drive to study the laws of nature, it can be said to be pure, but when these other values infiltrate into scientific research it becomes impure.
A similarity of methods with a difference of emphasis
Having looked at the aim of enquiry, let us now consider the means for attaining that aim. What is the method used to find this knowledge? In Buddhism, the method for finding the truth is threefold.
Firstly, awareness of experience must be direct and impartial. Impartial awareness of experience is awareness of things as they are. Buddhism stresses the value of seeing the truth right from the very first awareness: when eye sees sights, ear hears sounds, and so on.
For most human beings, this is already a problem. Awareness is usually in accordance with the way people would like things to be, or as they think they are, not as they really are. They cannot see things the way they are because of mistakes, distortions, biases, and misconceptions.
Secondly, there must be ordered thinking, or thinking that is sytematic. In addition to a method for cognizing data in an accurate way, there must also be an accurate way of thinking.
Thirdly, our method for verifying the truth, or researching knowledge, is through direct experience.
How to ensure that the cognition of experience will be unbiased? In general, whenever human beings cognize experience, there are certain values which are immediately involved. Right here, at the very first arising of awareness, there is already the problem of whether the experiencer is free of these values or not.
What are these values? The events which enter into our field of awareness will possess different qualities, causing either pleasant or unpleasant feelings. All of our experiences will be like this. If it's pleasant, we call it happiness, while if it is unpleasant, we call it suffering.
When awareness arises, and we experience a pleasant feeling, the workings of the mind will immediately proceed to liking or disliking. We call it 'delight and aversion', or love and hate. Cognition of sensations therefore has characteristics of affinity or antipathy and delight and aversion incorporated into it. People build these reactions into habits from the day they are born, making them extremely fluent. As soon as an experience is cognized, these values of comfort, discomfort or indifference, immediately follow, and from there to love or hate, delight or aversion.
After the arising of delight, aversion, like, dislike, or love or hate, there is thinking in accordance with and under the influence of these feelings. If there is attraction, thinking will take on one form; if there is repulsion, thinking will take another form. Because if this, experience is distorted, swayed or biased. Awareness is false, there is proliferation and choice in the collection of data. Only some perspectives are seen, not others, and so the knowledge that arises as a result is not clear or comprehensive. In short, awareness is not of things as they really are.
For that reason, in Buddhism we say that we must establish ourselves correctly from the beginning. There must be awareness of things as they are, awareness with sati (recollection, or mindfulness), neither delighting nor being averse. Experiences must be perceived with an aware mind, the mind of a student, let's say, or the mind of an observer, not with a mind that is loving and hating.
How do we cognize with a mind that is learning? In brief, there are two ways to cognize with a learning mind:
1. Cognizing by seeing the truth: that is, to be aware of things as they are, not being swayed and distorted by the powers of delight and aversion, love or hate. This is a pure kind of awareness, bare perception of experience without the addition of any value-judgements. This is referred to in the scriptures as "perceiving just enough for the development of wisdom (nana)", that is, just enough to know and understand the experience as it is, and for the presence of recollection ( sati), that is, in order to collect data. Specifically, this is to see things according to their causes and conditions.
2. Cognizing in a beneficial way: that is, cognizing in conjunction with a skilful value, one that will be truly useful, rather than in order to cater for, pander to or frustrate the senses. This is to perceive experiences in such a way as to be able to make use of them all, both the liked and the disliked.
This second kind of knowing can be enlarged on thus: experience is a natural function of life, and life is involved with the natural environment in order to benefit from it. But in order for life to benefit from experiences, we must perceive them correctly. That is, there must be a conscious attempt to perceive in such a way as to see only the perspective that will be of benefit in solving problems and leading to development in life. Otherwise, awareness will be merely a tool for satisfying the sense-desires, or, if not, then a cause for frustrating the sense-desires, and any benefit will be lost. This kind of awareness perceives experiences in such a way as to make use of them. No matter whether experiences are good, evil, comfortable or not, they can all be used in a beneficial way. It all depends on whether we learn how to perceive them properly or not.
In this case, where our aim is to find out the truth, we must emphasize the first kind of awareness. In this awareness, if the wrong channels are avoided, the effects of delight and aversion do not occur, and awareness will be of the learning variety.
This kind of awareness is very important in studying or learning. We must begin our learning right at the first moment of awareness. In Buddhism this point is greatly stressed cognizing in order to learn, not in order to indulge in like or dislike, or to feed sense desires. Science may not speak about this in so many words, or emphasize it, but if the aim is to perceive the truth, this method is essential.
The second factor in attaining knowledge is right thinking. This means thinking that is structured, reasoned and in harmony with causes and conditions. In Buddhist scriptures many ways of thinking are mentioned, collectively known as yoniso-manasikara, or skilful reflection. Skilful reflection is an important factor in the development of Right View, understanding or vision in accordance with reality. This is to see things according to their causes and conditions, or to understand the principle of causes and conditions.
Some of the kinds of skilful reflection explained in the texts are:
1. Searching for causes and conditions: This kind of thinking was of prime importance in the Buddha's enlightenment. For example, the Buddha investigated vedana, the experience of pleasure and pain, by asking "On what do these feelings of pleasure and pain depend? What is their condition?"
Reflecting in this way, the Buddha saw that phassa, sense contact, is the condition for feeling. "Now what is the condition for phassa?" The Buddha saw that the six sense bases are the condition for phassa ... and so on. This is an example of thinking according to causes and conditions.
2. Thinking by way of analysis: Life as a human organism can be analysed into two main constituents, body and mind. Body and mind can both be further analysed. Mind, for example, can be analysed into vedana (feeling), sanna (perception), sankhara (volitional activities), and vinnana (consciousness) (x), and each of these categories can be further divided down into even smaller constituents. Feeling, for example, can be divided into three kinds, five kinds, six kinds and more. This is called 'thinking by analysing constituents', which is a way of breaking up the overall picture or system so that the causes and conditions involved can be more easily seen.
(x) These are the four mental khandhas which, together with rupa, or material form, go to make up the whole of conditioned existence.
3. Thinking in terms of benefit and harm: This is to look at things in the light of their quality, seeing the ways in which they benefit or harm us, not looking exclusively at their benefit or their harm. Most people tend to see only the benefits of things that they like, and only the faults of the things they don't like. But Buddhism looks at things from all perspectives, teaching us to see both the benefit and the harm in them.
These different kinds of thinking, about ten are mentioned in the scriptures, are known as yoniso manasikara. They are a very important part of the Buddhist way to truth.
In its broadest sense, thinking also includes the way we perceive things, and so it includes the level of initial awareness, and, like those forms of awareness, can also be divided into two main groups - that is, thinking in order to see the truth, and thinking in a way that is beneficial. However I will not expand on the subject at this point as it would take up too much time.
Continuing on, the third method for attaining the truth in Buddhism is that of verifying through personal experience. One of the important principles of Buddhism is that the truth can be known and verified through observation as a direct experience (sanditthiko, paccattam veditabbo vinnuki). See, for example, the Kalamasutta mentioned earlier, in which the Buddha advises the Kalamas not to simply believe in things, summarizing that "when you have seen for yourself which conditions are skilful and which unskilful, then strive to develop the skilful ones and to give up the unskilful." This teaching clearly illustrates the practice that is based on personal experience.
Looking at the story of the Buddha, we can see that he was using this method throughout his practice. When he first left his palace in search of enlightenment, he practiced according to the practices and methods which were practiced at that time ... asceticism, yoga, trances and the rest. Even when he went to live in the forest, the practices he undertook were all ways of experimenting. For example, the Buddha told of how he went to live alone in wild jungles, so that he could experiment with fear. In the deep hours of the night, a branch would crack and fear would arise. The Buddha would always look for the causes of the fear. No matter what posture he happened to be in, if fear arose, he would maintain that posture until he had overcome it. Most people would have run for their lives! The Buddha didn't run, he stayed still until he had overcome the problem. Another example of the Buddha's experimentation was with good and bad thoughts. The Buddha experimented with his thinking until he was able to make unskilful thoughts subside.
The Buddha used the method of personal experience throughout his practice. And when he was teaching his disciples, he taught them to assess the teacher closely before believing him, because faith must always be a vehicle for the development of wisdom. The Buddha taught to closely assess teachers, even the Buddha himself, both from the perspective of whether he was teaching the truth, and also in the sense of the purity of the teacher's intentions.
Testing the teacher's knowledge can be done through considering the plausibility of the teaching. Testing the teacher's intentions can be done by considering the teacher's intentions in teaching. Does this teacher give his teaching out of desire for a personal reward? Does he want any gift or personal gain, other than the benefit of the listener, for his teaching? If, after assessing the teacher, one still has confidence in him, then one can receive the teachings. This assessment and evaluation proceeds through all the levels of the teacher-disciple relationship.
We could also look into the teaching of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, which emphasizes insight meditation. When we are practicing insight meditation, we must always consider and reflect on the experiences that come into our awareness, as they arise. Whether a pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling arises, whether the mind is depressed or elated, the Buddha taught to look into it and note its arising, its faring and its passing away.
Even in the highest stages of practice, when assessing to see whether one is enlightened or not, we are told to look directly into our own hearts, seeing whether there is still greed, hatred and delusion or not, rather than looking for special or miraculous signs.
Because the emphasis and field of research in Buddhism and science differ in terms of observation, experiment and verification, results in the two fields will differ. Science strives to observe events solely in the physical universe, using the five senses, with the objective of manipulating the external physical world. In the language of Buddhism we might say that science is expert in the fields of utuniyama (physical laws) and bijaniyama (biological laws).
Buddhism, on the other hand, emphasizes the study of the human organism, accepting experiences through all of the senses, including the sixth sense, mind. The objective of Buddhist practice is to attain the highest good and an understanding of the truth of nature. Even before the objective is reached, there is redressing of problems and advances in human development. For that reason, Buddhism has many teachings and methods dealing with observation, experimentation and verification of mental phenomena and in relation to human behaviour. In Buddhist terminology we would say that Buddhism has its strength in the fields of kammaniyama (moral laws) and cittaniyama (psychic laws).
If it were possible to incorporate the respective fields of expertise of both science and Buddhism, bringing the fruits of their labours together, we might arrive at a balanced way for leading human development to a higher level
Differences in methods
While on the subject of the three methods for finding knowledge, I would like to look at the differences between these methods in Buddhism and in science.
Firstly, science uses the technique of amassing knowledge in order to find truth. This amassing of knowledge is completely divorced from concerns of lifestyle, whereas in Buddhism, the method of attaining knowledge is part of the way of life. Science has no concern with lifestyle, it looks for truth for its own sake, but in Buddhism, method is part of the way of life - in fact it is the way of life - having a positive effect on life in the present moment. .Consider, for example, the effect of clear awareness, without the interference of delight and loathing, on the quality of life. The Buddhist search for knowledge has great worth in itself, regardless of whether or not the goal is attained.
Science takes its data exclusively from the experiences arising through the five senses, while Buddhism includes the experiences of the sixth sense, the mind, which science does not acknowledge. Buddhism states that the sixth sense is a verifiable truth. However, verification can only really be done through the respective senses from which that data arose. For instance, to verify a taste we must use the tongue; to verify volume of sound we must use the ear, not the eye. If we want to verify colours, we don't use our ears. The sense base which verifies sense data must be compatible with the kind of data that is being verified.
If the sixth sense is not recognized, we will be deprived of an immense amount of sense data, because there is much experience which arises exclusively in the mind. There are, for example, many experiences within the mind which can be immediately experienced and verified, such as love, hate, anger, fear. These things cannot be verified or experienced through other sense organs. If we experience love in the mind, we ourselves know our own mind, we can verify it for ourselves. When there is fear, or a feeling of anger, or feelings of comfort, peace, or contentnent, we can know them directly in our own minds.
Therefore, in Buddhism we give this sixth sense, the mind and its thinking, a prominent role in the search for knowledge or truth. But science, which does not acknowledge this sixth sense, must resort to instruments designed for the other five senses, mainly the eyes and ears, such as the encephalogram, to study the thinking process.
Scientists tell us that in the future they'll be able to tell what people are thinking simply by using a machine, or by analysing the chemicals secreted by the brain. These things do have a factual basis, but the truth that these things will reveal will probably be like Sir Arthur Eddington's "shadow world of symbols". It is not really the truth, but a shadow of the truth.
This indicates that scientific truth, like the scientific method, is faulty, because it breaches one of the rules of observation. The instruments do not correspond with the data. As long as this is the case, science will have to continue observing shadows of reality for a long time to come.
Now this sixth sense, the mind, is also very important in science. Science itself has developed through this sixth sense, from the very beginnings right up to and including the experimental and summary levels. On the first level, before any other senses can be used, the scientist must utilize thinking. He must organize a plan, a method of verification, and he must establish an hypothesis. All of these activities are mental processes, which are dependent on the sixth sense, the mind. Even in practical application there must be the mind following events with awareness, taking notes. And the mind is the arbitrator, the judge of whether or not to accept the various data that arise during the experiment.
The final stages of scientific enquiry, the assessment and conclusions of the experiment, the formulation of a theory and so on, are all thought processes. We can confidently say that the theories of science are all results of thinking, they are fruits of the sixth sense, which is the headquarters of all the other senses. Buddhism acknowledges the importance of the sixth sense as a channel through which events can be directly experienced.
The important point is that awareness must be received through the appropriate sense organ. Something which must be cognized by the eye must be cognized by the eye. Something which must be cognized by the tongue must be cognized by the tongue. By the same token, something which must be cognized through the mind cannot be cognized with eyes, ears or any sense organ other than the mind.
The truth of the mind is a verifiable cause and effect process. It is subject to the laws of nature. Even though it may seem very intricate and difficult to follow, Buddhism teaches that the mind conforms to the stream of causes and conditions, just like any other natural phenomenon.
In the material world, or the world of physics, it is recognized that all things exist according to causes and conditions, but in cases where the conditions are extremely intricate, it is very difficult to predict or follow these events. A simple example is weather prediction, which is recognized as a very difficult task, because there are so many inconstants. The sequence of causes and conditions within the mind is even more complex than the factors involved in the weather, making prediction of results even more difficult.
Human beings are a part of nature which contain the whole of nature within them. If people were able to open their eyes and look, they would be able to attain the truth of nature as a direct experience. Using scientific instruments, extensions of the five senses, is a roundabout way of proceeding. It can only verify truth on some levels, just enough to conquer nature and the external world (to an extent), but it cannot lead man to the total truth of reality.
So far we have covered the differences and similarities in scope and object of Buddhism and science, the types of knowledge that are being looked for, the methods used for finding that knowledge, and the utilization of the knowledge gained, or the overall objective of this knowledge. Even though the methods for finding the truth have some similarities, they entail a difference of scope and emphasis, because the truths that are being searched for are different.
APPROACHING THE FRONTIERS OF MIND
The limitations of scientific knowledge
NOW I WOULD LIKE to speak about the limitations of science's exploration and knowledge. Going back just a little, I said that there are differences in the nature and scope of our object of knowledge, which prompts a number of observations. I have said that Buddhism conducts its research within the human being, and asserts that to thoroughly know the truth of a human being is to know the whole universe, while science studies only the external material world, the knowledge of which leads only to an understanding of the physical world. At the most it can lead only to the frontiers of the mind, as it influences the material world (and vice versa), which is of limited scope.
I have also mentioned that science, and in particular, physics, has made such great advances that it can almost be said to have reached the limits of its field of knowledge. Previously, science believed that it could obtain an understanding of the whole universe simply by knowing the external physical world, through scientific observation based on the five senses. Science took the view that all phenomena relating to the mind were rooted in matter. By understanding matter completely, the mind would also be understood. Nowadays only few scientists still believe this, because the enormous amount of knowledge amassed about matter has not shed any light at all on the mind.
At the present time, concepts about the reality of matter and mind fall into two main categories, or models:
1. That the world of matter and the world of mind are like two sides of one coin. That is, they are separate, but they interact with each other. This first group believes that these two realities are on opposite sides, and each side must be independently studied and then integrated into one body of knowledge.
2. That the world of matter and the world of mind are like two rings in the same circle. This second group sees the borders of knowledge as being a big circle, having an inner ring and an outer ring. The inner ring is limited to its own circumference, while the outer ring covers both its own area and that of the smaller ring. That is, one ring surrounds the other. If the larger ring is understood, then all is understood, but if only the smaller ring is understood, such knowledge is still incomplete, because the outer ring is still not known.
Now if, in this model, the knowledge of matter is the smaller ring, even if our knowledge covers the entire world of matter, still it is only the smaller ring that is understood. The outer ring, which includes the mind, is still not known. If, on the other hand, the outer ring is matter, then to know the truth of matter will automatically be to know everything. Now which model is more correct? I will not attempt to give an answer here, but leave it to those concerned to figure it out.
In any case, many eminent physicists have said that the knowledge of science is only partial, and is only a beginning. In terms of the model of the rings, it would seem that the knowledge of matter is only the inner ring of the circle, because it is limited to the five senses, ignoring the sixth. Beyond these senses we arrive at the world of symbols, mathematical proofs, in relation to which we have Sir Arthur Eddington's words:
"We have learnt that the exploration of the external world by the methods of the physical sciences leads not to a concrete reality but to a shadow world of symbols."
Another eminent physicist is Mr. Max Planck, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918, and is regarded as the father of modern Quantum Theory. Planck was known to have stated that no sooner was one of science's mysteries solved than another would arise in its place. He conceded the limitations of scientific truth in even clearer words:
" ... Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature, and, therefore, part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."
One scientist went so far as to write:
" ...the most outstanding achievement of twentieth century physics is not the theory of relativity with its welding together of space and time, or the theory of quanta with its present apparent negation of the laws of causation, or the dissection of the atom with the resultant discovery that things are not what they seem; it is the general recognition that we are not yet in contact with ultimate reality."
So it has reached this stage! This is the most significant advance of science: the realization that it is incapable of reaching the truth. All it can lead to is a shadow world of symbols. If science accepts this situation then it must be time to choose a new path: either to redefine its scope, or to expand its field of research in order to attain the complete truth of nature.
If science is content to limit itself to its original scope, it will become just another specialized field, incapable of seeing the overall picture of the way things are. If, on the other hand, science really wants to lead mankind to a true understanding of nature, it must extend its field of thought, redefining its fundamental meaning and stepping out of its present limitations.
The material world: science's unfinished work
In the present time, even in the world of matter, in which, as we said, science specializes, the fundamental truth is still beyond the powers of science to explain. There are still many things that science cannot explain, or were once thought to be understood but which now are no longer on sure ground.
One example is the 'quark'. The quark is the basic or smallest constituent of matter, but it is not yet certain whether it really is the fundamental particle or not. It is still a matter of doubt. At the moment, it is believed to be the fundamental particle, but some are not so sure whether it really is, or whether another more fundamental particle will be discovered, or even whether this particle exists at all!
The quanta are in a similar position. Quanta are fundamental units of energy, but once again these are not irrefutably known to exist, they are still only understood or believed to exist.
We are still not sure that matter and energy are like two faces of the same thing. If that's the case, then how can they be interchanged? Even light, which scientists have been studying for so long, is still not clearly defined. What is the fundamental nature of light? This is still considered to be one of the deeper mysteries of science. Light is an energy force that is at once a wave and a particle. How can this be so? And how can it be a fixed velocity when, in the Theory of Relativity, even time can be stretched and shrunk?
The electro-magnetic field is another mystery, another energy source which is not yet clearly defined as a wave or a particle. Where do cosmic rays come from? We don't know. Even gravitation is still not completely understood. How does it work? We know that it's a law, and we can use it, but how does it work? We don't know. And the Theory of Relativity tells us that the space-time mass can be warped. How is that? It is very difficult for ordinary people to understand these things.
All in all, science still does not clearly know how the universe and life came about. The ultimate point of research in science is the origin of the universe and the birth of life. At the present time, the Big Bang Theory is in fashion. But how did the Big Bang occur? Where did the original atom come from? The questions roll on endlessly. Even the question, "What is life?" is a mystery.
In short, we can say that the nature of reality on the fundamental level is still beyond the scope of research. Some scientists even say that there is no way that science will ever directly know these things.
It might be said that it's only natural that if we confine our research to the material world, we cannot attain to the fundamental truth. Even the most fundamental truth of the physical universe cannot be understood by searching on only one side, the material world, because in fact all things in the universe are inter-connected. Being inter-connected, looking at only one side will not lead to a final answer. Truth from the other side must also be incorporated, because the remaining fragment of the mystery might exist on the other side of reality, the side that is being ignored.
When science reaches this point in its research, it will be forced to take an interest in answering the problems of mind. At the present time we can see many scientists and physicists beginning to turn around and look at the mind and how it works.
Some people say that even the Theory of Relativity is simply a philosophical system, a product of thought, a concept. Space and time depend on consciousness, the mind. The mundane perception of human beings of form and size of matter are not merely the workings of the sense organs, but must also rely on thinking. They are a judgement of the mind, not just an impression through the five senses. Eye sees form, but it doesn't know size or shape. The apprehension of size and shape are functions of the mind. Therefore knowledge from the five senses is not the end of the matter.
What is it that knows science? The mind. But science does not yet know the nature of this mind. If science wants to know the ultimate truth, it must know the mind. In recent times the problem of the observer and the observed has emerged. Are they two different things or are they one and the same?
Some scientists are beginning to puzzle over the nature of mind, trying to ascertain what it actually is. Is the mind merely an event that arises within the workings of matter, like a computer? Then we get the questions on whether a computer can have a mind. Numerous books have been written on this subject. I have seen the one by Penrose, which was a national best-seller. His conclusion is that the computer cannot possibly have a mind.
In any case, it seems that doubt will not be dispelled until science takes on the field of 'mind' as well. Soon there will be the problem of whether mind and matter are one and the same thing or separate. This problem has existed since the time of the Buddha, and is related in the Abyakata panha (the questions the Buddha wouldn't answer), which consisted of questions such as: "Are the life force and the body one thing, or are they different?"
In the present time, leaders in the field of science seem to be divided into four main groups of theories or approaches to the nature of reality.
The first group, known to the others as the orthodox group, stands by their conviction that science can eventually answer all questions, and that science is the only way to really attain an understanding of reality.
The second group, a group of 'new' scientists, concedes that science is not able to explain the reality of the mind, but they feel that both sides should be allowed to continue their work independently. This group does not agree with the group who believes only in physics, nor with the 'new' physicists, with their attempts to integrate physics with Eastern religions.
The third group is another group of new physicists who believe that physics is compatible with the Eastern religions. They believe that the Eastern religions help to explain the nature of reality, and point the direction for physics to grow in the future. An example of this group is Fritjof Capra, although Capra's ideas are not accepted by the mainstream of the physics world.
The fourth group is another group of new physicists, but this group maintains that the material world is one level of reality which is contained within the realm of the mind. This is the model I mentioned earlier, of the circle with the smaller ring inside it.
All this is a matter for science to sort out for itself. I don't wish to evaluate it here, but instead would like to start on a new topic. I would like now to proceed into the world of the mind, and in particular, values, the area science has yet to research. In this limited time I will have to limit myself to one example, and here I will talk about ethics.
Ethics: a truth awaiting verification
Ethics is one of those things I call 'values', that is, it is related to good and evil. Good and evil are values or principles. Ethics is a very broad and important subject, one which is normally considered a religious matter, but here we will consider it in relation to science.
Some people go so far as to say that good and evil are merely social conventions, a matter of preference. They believe that good and evil can be defined any way one pleases. Such an idea seems to contain some measure of truth, when we consider how in some societies certain actions are deemed good, but in other societies those very same actions are deemed evil.
However, th is kind of perception arises from confusion of the factors involved. It stems from:
1. A failure to differentiate between ethics and conventions.
2. A failure to see the relationship that connects ethics with reality.
From this we get three points for consideration: reality, ethics and convention. We must understand the difference and the relationship between these three levels. The chain of factors involved has connections throughout, ranging from the qualities of good and evil, which are true conditions in reality, and spreading outwards to become good and evil actions and speech, which are ethics, and from there connecting outwards once more to become the laws and conventions of society, these being conventions.
This system of reality, ethics and regulations is very similar to the scientific system. The basis of science, which is Pure Science, is reality. Resting on this base we have the Applied Sciences and technology. If Pure Science is faulty, then Applied Sciences and technology suffer. From the Applied Sciences and technology we reach the third level, which is the forms technology takes. These will be many and varied. One of the reasons for this is that technology seeks to work with the laws of nature in the most efficient way. The forms of technology will vary in efficiency because they are more or less consistent with the laws of nature. Those forms of technology which are most consistent with the laws of nature, acting as channels for the optimal functioning of those laws concerned, will be the most efficient, and vice versa.
Reality can be compared to Pure Science.
Ethics can be compared to Applied Science and technology.
Regulations or conventions can be compared to the forms that technology takes.
Societies determine conventions or regulations to regulate themselves. This is convention, which can be determined according to preference. For example, in Thailand the regulation is that cars drive on the left hand side of the road, while in America cars drive on the right hand side. Different countries have determined different regulations. Now, which is good and which is evil? Can Thailand say that the Americans are bad because they drive on the right hand side of the road, or can America say the opposite? Of course not. These regulations are the standard for each country, and each country is free to make its own standards. This is convention.
However, convention is not simply a matter of preference, there are reasons behind it. Even in very simple matters, such as deciding which side of the road cars must drive, there is an objective in mind. What is that objective? The objective is order and harmony on the road, and wellbeing for people in a social context. This is what both countries want, and this is a concern of ethics. American society wants this quality, and so does the Thai society. Even though their conventions differ, the ethical quality desired by both societies is the same. In this instance we can see that there is a difference in the regulations made, but in essence, in the ethical sense, there is consistency.
Now the problem arises, which regulation gives better results? This is the crucial point. It may be asked which is the more conducive to order and harmony between the regulations of keeping to the right in America and keeping to the left in Thailand. There may be some difference of opinion in regard to the regulations themselves, but this does not mean that societies merely determine these regulations out of preference.
This is the relationship between ethics and convention, or regulation. Regulations are made to provide an ethical result. In Buddhist monastic terms, the monks put it very simply by saying "vinaya is for developing sila" ... Vinaya refers to the rules and regulations of society, but the objective of these is sila, which is ethics.
There is an exception in cases where regulations have indeed been made out of partiality, for the benefit or advantage of a select few. For example, there are times when we suspect that certain laws have been made to protect the interests of a select group. In this case we say that corruption has arisen within the regulating process, which will in turn cause a degeneration of ethics. When the root of the legal structure is rotten, it will be very unlikely to produce a good result. Even so, societies do determine many rules and regulations out of a pure intention to create an ethical result.
Because there is this common objective, ethics, but the forms of the regulations which result differ, we must learn how to distinguish clearly between ethics and conventions. We can see a lot of these differences in the conventions, customs and traditions of different societies - family customs, for example. In one society, a woman is allowed so many husbands, a man is allowed so many wives, while in other societies, the customs will differ. Nevertheless, overall, what is the objective here? The objective is order and harmony within the family. This is their objective, and this is ethics.
However, in the determining of regulations for society, people have varying levels of intelligence and wisdom, and different intentions, sometimes honest, sometimes not. Societies have different environments, different histories. With so many varying factors, the result in terms of ethics also differs, being more or less efficacious as the case may be. From time to time these regulations must be reevaluated. Conventions are thus tied to specific situations and considerations of time and place. The consideration of time and place is a concern of conventions, but the ethical objectives are universal.
Therefore, by looking at the situation in the right manner, even though there may be some discrepancies in the form regulations take, we can see that they are in fact the results of humanity's efforts to create a harmonious society. That is, conventions are not the end result, but rather the means devised by mankind to attain an ethical standard, more or less effective, depending on the intelligence and honesty of the people determining them.
Bearing this in mind, we can avoid the mistaken belief that good and evil are merely social conventions, or are determined by preference. We must look on these regulations as mankind's attempts to find ethics, to attain true goodness. No matter how useful or ineffective regulations may be, our objective remains an ethical one.
The success of regulations is very much tied to the presence of an ethical standard within the people who are determining them, and whether or not they have made their decisions intelligently.
Now for the problem of whether ethics is a real condition or not, we must refer to the principle that ethics is based on reality or truth. That is, ethics must be in conformity with the process of cause and effect, or causes and conditions. In the field of convention, whenever a regulation is created which brings about an ethically satisfactory result, we say that it has been useful. For example, if we regulate that cars must run on the left' or right-hand side of the road, and this regulation is conducive to order and harmony, then we say that that regulation has fulfilled its purpose.
Reality (saccadhamma), ethics (cariyadhamma) and convention (pannattidhamma) are abstract qualities. Because ethics is tied to reality, it follows that it is one factor in the whole stream of causes and conditions. The causes and conditions involved in human behaviour are so complex, much harder to predict than the weather!
If we do not understand or see the relationship and connection between reality, ethics and convention, we will not be able to enter into a thorough consideration of values, which are mental properties, and see their proper place within the laws of nature, functioning according to causes and conditions.
'What is' versus 'what should be'
Now let us make one more comparison between science and Buddhism. I have already mentioned that science does not include the human condition in its research, because it has veered away from it into the direction of material things.
Buddhism learns the laws of nature, and then applies them back to an ethical perspective. When people practise in accordance with ethics, they receive the results in accordance with the natural law of cause and effect, and attain a good life, which is their objective. This gives us a cycle with three stages: 1) Knowing or realizing the truth; 2) Practising in an ethical way; 3) Attaining a good life.
Science knows the truths of nature, but only on the material side, and then sends the knowledge gained to technology, attaining the life of abundance in accordance with its objectives.
One path leads to a healthy life, while the other path leads to abundance; one way deals with the nature of man, the other way deals with the nature of material things. Science does not connect the truth to ethics, but instead, because it deals only with the material world, connects it to technology.
It is generally understood that science concerns itself exclusively with the question "What is," shrugging off any concern with "What should be?" as a concern of values or ethics, which lies beyond its scope. Science does not see that ethics is based on reality because it fails to see the connection between "What is?" and "What should be?". On the material plane, however, science does address the question of "What should be?", albeit unknowingly, but the question is handed over to technology.
For example, Pure Science tells us that water will freeze when the temperature drops to zero degrees Celsius. Technology then steps in and considers what is to be done to get ice, which is to develop some way of making the temperature drop to zero degrees Celsius. The principle and the means must be in conformity like this. This is why I said that Pure Science looks for the truths of nature, while technology and Applied Science put that knowledge into effect.
Science applies itself to problems on the material plane, but on ethical questions it is silent. Suppose we saw a huge pit, full of fire, with a temperature of thousands of degrees. We tell someone, "The human body is only able to endure up to a certain temperature. If it enters into that fire it will be burnt to a crisp." This is the truth. Now suppose we further say, "If you don't want to be burnt to a crisp, don't go into that pit." In this case, the level of science tells us that the hole is of such and such a temperature, and that the human body cannot withstand such a temperature. Ethics is the code of practice which says, "If you don't want to be burnt to a crisp, don't go into that fire."
In the same way that technology must be based on the truths of Pure Science, ethics must be based on reality. And just as any technology which is not founded on scientific truth will be unworkable, so too will any ethic not founded on natural truth be a false ethic. The subject of ethics covers both "What should be?" and "What is?", in that it deals with the truth of human nature, which is that aspect of natural truth overlooked by science. For that reason, a true understanding of reality, which includes an understanding of human nature, is impossible without a clear understanding of genuine ethics. The question is, what kind of reality, and how much of it, and in what degree, is sufficient to bring about an understanding of genuine ethics?
True religion is the foundation of science
The domain of science stops at the material world, it doesn't include the human being. For this reason, science does not have any advice on how human beings are to live or behave, it doesn't venture into the field of ethics. But then, it is because of the mind that science has emerged and progressed to where it has. The origin and inspiration for the birth and growth of science has been this desire to know the truth, together with the conviction in the laws of nature, which are mental qualities. Even the values which were incorporated into this aspiration at a later date, such as the aspiration to conquer nature, are all mental processes.
Not only the aspiration for knowledge and the conviction just mentioned, but even the great discoveries of science have been products of the mind. Some scientists possessed a quality we could call 'intuition', and could envisage the truths that they discovered in their mind's eye before they actually verified them in the physical world. Before many of the major breakthroughs in science, there tended to be some degree of intuition involved ... the scientist would see something 'in his mind's eye', which would become the initiative to conduct research into the matter.
Without this quality of intuition and foresight, science might have become just another baseless branch of knowledge, or largely a matter of guesswork. It would have lacked direction or goal. Intuition and foresight have played a vital role in the history of science. For many eminent scientists this intuition was involved in the process of making their most important discoveries. An inkling of some train of thought or research, never before thought of, would arise in the scientist's mind, initiating the systematic reasoning, the formulation of a hypothesis and the experimentation, resulting eventually in a new theory.
All the advances of science made so far have arisen through faith, conviction, aspiration to know, intuition and so on. In the minds of the most eminent scientists, those who made the most far-reaching breakthroughs, these qualities could be found in abundance.
Even observation begins with a thought, which establishes a path of investigation, and constrains observation to the relevant framework. For example, Newton saw the apple fall and understood the Law of Gravity. According to the story, he saw the apple fall and immediately had a realization, but in fact Newton had been pondering the nature of motion for months at that time. It was a mental process in his mind, which culminated as a realization on seeing the apple fall.
Sometimes this happens to us. We may be thinking of some particular problem to no avail for quite a long time, and then, while we happen to be just sitting quietly, the answer suddenly flashes into the mind. These answers don't just arise randomly or by accident. In fact, the mind has been functioning on a subtle level. The realization is the result of a cause and effect process.
Mind, through faith and motivation, is the origin of science; through intuition and foresight it is the force through which science has been able to progress; and through the goals and objectives which are envisioned and aspired to in the mind, it is the direction for science's future advancement. The search for basic truths is possible because the mind conceives that such truths do exist.
Having reached this point, I will tell you the name of the eminent scientist who gave me the ideas for the title of this talk. He is none other than Albert Einstein. He didn't, however, say the exact words I have used. I have paraphrased him.
What Einstein did say was:
" ... in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people ...'
Einstein felt that in this age it is hard to find people with religion. Only the scientists who study science with a pure heart have true religion. Following that, he says,
" ... but science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding ... those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge ...''
The desire to know the truth, and the faith that behind nature there are laws which are constant truths throughout the entire universe - this is what Einstein calls religious feeling, or more specifically, 'cosmic religious feeling'. Then he goes on to say,
" ... cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research".
" ... Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this ..."
Einstein says that Buddhism has a high degree of this cosmic religious feeling, and this cosmic religious feeling is the origin or seed of scientific research. So you can decide for yourselves whether the title I have used for this talk is suitable or not.
I have mentioned this to show in what manner it can be said that Buddhism is the foundation of science, but please don't attach too much importance to this idea, because I don't completely agree with Einstein's view. My disagreement is not with what he said, but that he said too little. What Einstein called this 'cosmic religious feeling' is only part of what religious feeling is, because religion should always come back to the human being, to the nature of being human, including how human beings should behave towards nature, both internally and externally. I cannot see that Einstein's words clearly include self-knowledge and benefit to the human being. However that may be, from Einstein's words, we can see that he felt that science had its roots in the human desire for knowledge, and conviction in the order of nature.
But now, having reached this point, I did say that I don't want you to be too concerned over whether Buddhism really is the foundation of science or not. In fact it might be better to change the title of this talk, to something like ... "What would the science which has Buddhism as its foundation be like?" This may give us some new perspectives to think about.
The statement "Buddhism is the foundation of science", is just an opinion, and some may say it is a conceited one at that. And that would get us nowhere. But if we say "How should science be in order to be founded on Buddhism?", this will be much more constructive, giving us some practical and concrete points to consider.
This is a very important question, one which demands some reflection. I can offer an answer, and I will try to keep it to within the context of the points already covered during this talk, so that it serves as a kind of summary.
Firstly, we must expand the meaning of the word 'religion' or 'religious feeling' in order to correspond to Buddhism:
A) The words 'cosmic religious feeling' must cover both the external natural world and the natural world within the human being, or both the physical universe and the abstract, or mental, which includes values.
B) The definition of science as originating from the aspiration to know the truth must be complemented by a desire to attain the highest good, which Buddhism calls 'freedom from human imperfection'.
In point A, we are extending the definition of that nature which is to be realized. In point B, we are reiterating those values which are in conformity with the highest good, ensuring that the aspiration for truth is pure and clear, and closing off the chance for lesser values to corrupt our aspiration.
With these two points in mind, we can now answer, "The science which accords with Buddhism is the science which aspires to understand natural truth, in conjunction with the development of the human being and the attainment of the highest good". Or we could say: "The science which is founded on Buddhism arises from an aspiration for knowledge of nature, together with a desire to attain the highest good, which is the foundation for constructive human development."
This kind of definition may seem to be bordering onto Applied Science, but it isn't really. From one perspective, the natural sciences of the last age were influenced by the selfish motives already mentioned, which were not very good. For that reason we offer these alternative incentives, to prevent those previous ones from arising, replacing the desire to conquer nature and produce an abundance of material wealth with the aspiration for freedom from suffering.
To rephrase the above definition, we could say "The science which attains a true and comprehensive knowledge of reality will be the integration of the physical sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. All sciences will be connected and as one." Or to put it another way, "Once science extends the limits of its fundamental definition and improves its techniques for research and study, the truths of the social sciences and humanities will be attainable through the study of science."
This statement is not said in jest or in carelessness. In the present day, the advances of the sciences and human society within the global environment have necessitated some cohesiveness in the search for knowledge. You could say the time is ripe. If we don't deal with it in the proper way, that ripeness may become rotten, like an over-ripe fruit. The question is, "Will science take on the responsibility of leading mankind to this unification of learning?"
On the second level, that is, the principle of commitment to knowledge that is useful, knowledge of truth should be divided into two categories:
A) Knowledge that is necessary, or truth that is useful, that is, knowledge that is necessary to a good life, and is possible for a human being to attain within the limits of one lifetime.
B) Other kinds of knowledge which are not necessary, or truth which is not useful. Those things which have not yet been verified can be looked into until they are verified, but a good life should not be dependent on them, nor have to wait for an answer from them.
The human life-span is limited and soon comes to an end. Quality of life, or the highest good, are things which should be attainable for a human being within this limited life-span. Scientific knowledge tends to say, "Wait until I've verified this first, and then you will know what to do." This attitude should be changed, clearly distinguishing between the different kinds of knowledge mentioned above. If science is to be a truly comprehensive body of learning, it must relate correctly to these two kinds of truth.
On the other hand, if science is to continue its present course, it might seek completion through cooperation by referring to Buddhism for the answer to those questions which demand immediate answers, so that the attainment of the highest good in this very life is possible, while science can seek answers to those questions which, even if not answered, do not affect our ability to live in peace and well-being.
Accepting the sixth sense
The reason we need to clarify intermediate aims is that if Pure Science does not determine its own set of values, it will not be able to escape the influence of other interests. Outside parties with personal interests have determined science's values in the past, values which have led to the destruction of nature in the search for material wealth. This has led to science being called a 'servant of industry'. A servant of industry is not a servant of humanity. These days some say that industry is destroying mankind, a point that bears consideration. If scientists do not establish their own values, someone else will.
Human heings are beings possessing intention. This is one of mankind's unique qualities. This means the search for knowledge cannot be totally without values. Because human beings are the highest kind of being, capable of attaining a realization of the truth and the highest good, they should aspire to realize this potential.
As long as Science lacks clarity on its position in relation to values, and yet exists within a world of values, it will have its direction determined by other interests. As a result, scientists will feel cheated and frustrated in the pursuit of their research. As long as industry is society's 'star player', it can exert a powertul influence over science, through government channels, with its influence over government policies, and through financial institutions, with grants for scientific research. For cxample, if a scientific institute submits a proposal for research in a particular field, but such research is not in the interests of industry, the industrial sector has the power to withhold support, thus pressuring the government to do likewise. When this happens the scientists may get discouraged and end up like Sir Isaac Newton.
Newton was very heavily influenced by values in his research. Newton discovered the Law of Gravity when he was only about 24 years old. However, some of his ideas clashed with the establishment of the time. The old school of scientists ridiculed him. Newton was a very moody fellow, and easily hurt. He didn't like to associate with other people. As soon as people started to criticize his work, he got upset and abandoned it. He gave up science completely, and wouldn't go anywhere near it for twenty-two years.
Now Edmond Halley, the scientist who predicted the cycles of the comet named after him, saw the value of Newton's work, and so he went to Newton and comforted and encouraged him, until Newton began to feel more heartened, and started to work on the momentous book, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
But then, when he had only finished two thirds of the manuscript, another scientist, who, during the twenty-two years that Newton had refused to put his ideas to print, had come to an understanding of the Law of Gravity and calculus, claimed that he had discovered all this before Newton.
When Newton heard this he went off into another sulk. He wasn't going to write the book after all. He had only written two thirds of it, when he gave up once more. Halley had to go to him again and give him another pep talk to coax him into continuing his work, after which he finally completed it.
This is a good example of how values can completely overwhelm a scientist, with repercussions for the whole scientific world. If Newton, who was a genius, had had a strong heart, not giving in to feelings of hurt and indignation, he may have been able to give the scientific world so much more than he did, but because of his moods he threw science away for over twenty years.
In the present time, when the industrial and financial sectors are all-powerful, science must have the strength of its own values to prevent external values from overwhelming it. In this age of environmental ruin, some of the truths being discovered by science may not be in the interests of some of the industrial and financial sectors.
We hear statements in the USA by certain research teams that the greenhouse scare is unfounded; that the world isn't going to heat up, they have results from their research to prove it. Then, at a later time, another group of researchers tells us that the first group was influenced by financial considerations from certain industrial sectors in the assessment of its results. The situation is very complicated. Personal advantage begins to play a role in scientific research, and subjects it even more to the influence of values. Even the knowledge and research being conducted in the present time concerning the environmental situation is a concern of values; that is, it is dedicated to realizing specific needs, but in this case they are positive or constructive values.
At the very least, ethics teaches scientists to have a pure aspiration for knowledge. This is the most powerful force the progress of science can have. At the present moment we are surrounded by a world which is teeming with values, mostly negative. In the past, science and industry worked together, like husband and wife. There were great advances. Industry spurred science on, and science helped industry to grow. But in the coming age, because some of the interests of industry are becoming a problem in the natural environment, and because science is being questioned about this, the answers to some of these questions are going to embarrass the industrial sector. It may be necessary for science and industry to part their ways, or at least to experience some tension in their relationship. Science may be forced to find a new friend, one who will help and encourage it to find knowledge that is useful to the human race.
As science approaches the frontiers of the mind, the question arises, "Will science recognize the sixth sense and the data which are experienced there? Or will scientists continue to try to verify moods and thoughts by looking at the chemicals secreted by the brain, or measuring the brain's waves on a machine, and thereby looking at mere shadows of the truth?" This would be like trying to study a stone from the 'plops' it makes in the water, or from the ripples that arise on the water's surface. They might measure the waves that correspond to stones of different sizes - if there is such a sound that means the stone must be of such a size - they might turn it into a mathematical equation, predicting the size of stones, corresponding to the various 'plops!' in the water, or estimating the mass of the stone that's fallen into the water by measuring the ripples extending from it.
Has this been the approach of science's study of nature? The fact is, they never actually pick up a stone! If this is the case, science may have to take a look at some of the ways of observing and experimenting used in other traditions, such as Buddhism, which maintains that observation and experiment carried out from direct experience in the mind is a valid way of observing the laws of nature.
...... It is not necessary for science to try to evade values. It is more a matter of trying to clarify the values that science does have ...
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
NOW THAT WE ARE almost finished, I would like to offer some suggestions on how science could be improved upon.
The first point which I would like to go over is the point already mentioned some time ago, regarding 'insufficiency'. Science is not sufficient to remedy the problems in the modern day world. I would like to use the example of the environment, because the problem of conservation is one of the major issues of our time, and science must play a leading role in helping to solve this problem, especially in terms of research and proposals for solutions.
Scientific knowledge is invaluable. It can warn us of the dangers that exist, their causes, and the ways in which we have to deal with them. Technology, which has originated from science, is an essential tool in this work. But even though we have such valuable tools, they alone are not enough to solve the problem. Moreover, when we consider the causes for these problems, we find that they have arisen from science and technology.
Science and technology are not able to correct their own handiwork. Even though we have the necessary knowledge at our disposal, we do not use it. In spite of having the technical capability to solve problems, we continue to use the kind of technology which aggravates them. To put it simply, scientific knowledge is incapable of changing human behaviour, in spite of the fact that if the right technology was used we could solve the problems facing us. Attempts to solve these problems are always stuck on indecision. In the immediate future science may have to content itself with working in conjunction with other disciplines, providing data for them in a collective effort to address these problems.
Now what can be used to solve the problems of mankind in addition to science and technology? From a Buddhist perspective, solving human problems, regardless of type, must always be done with a three-pronged approach, because the causes of human problems arise on many different levels.
In the environmental issue, for example, there are three levels which must be integrated, namely:
1. The level of behaviour
2. The level of the mind
3. The level of understanding
These three levels must be integrated in the process of problem solving, thus:
1. On the level of behaviour, there must be social constraint, that is, restraint on the outward manifestations of bodily and verbal behaviour.
There are two ways to constrain behaviour in society:
Firstly, restraint from without, through regulations and laws, including punishment for lawbreakers and so on. In Buddhism this is called 'vinaya'.
The second way is restraint from within the individual, through intention. In most cases such intention arises from religious faith. If, for example, there is belief or confidence in religion, there is a readiness and willingness to restrain behaviour. This way is called in Buddhism sila.
In short, the first way is vinaya- regulations and standards for constraining destructive actions, and the second way is sila - the conscious intention to be restrained within the restrictions thus imposed.
Both of these ways are related in that they are concerned with the control and training of behaviour. On a social level it is necessary to establish regulations, but these are not yet enough. We must also use sila, restraint from within, until moral conduct is fluent and regular.
2. Because the mind is one of the factors involved in causing problems, solving them by control of behaviour alone is not yet enough. We must also deal with the mind.
In the example I am using here, our aim is to conserve nature. If we want everyone to help out in the conservation of nature, we must first instill the desire to do so into people's hearts. So from "conservation of nature" we arrive at "wanting to conserve nature."
From where does the desire to conserve nature arise? It arises from a love of nature. If there is an appreciation of nature, the desire to conserve it will naturally follow. But that's not the end - people will only appreciate nature when they can live happily with nature.
It seems that most people have realized the importance of appreciating nature, but if that is all they see they are short-sighted. They are not seeing the whole chain of conditions. As long as they fail to see all the factors involved, any attempts to address the problem will fail. We must search further down to find the beginning of the chain, to see what needs to be done to encourage people to appreciate nature.
A love of nature will arise with difficulty if people are not happy living with nature. People must have minds that are at ease living with nature before they can love nature, from where they can develop the desire to conserve nature, which in turn will lead to the actual work of conservation.
Even though there may be other factors or discrepancies in our chain of conditions, this much is enough to convey the general idea. It seems, though, that so far science has had an important role in obstructing this process from functioning. That is, the desire to seek happiness from the exploitation of nature has caused people to feel, deeply within, that human beings can only be happy through technology, and that nature is an obstacle to this happiness.
Many children in the present day feel that their happiness lies with technology, they do not feel at all comfortable being with nature. They may even go so far as to see nature as an enemy, an obstacle to their happiness. Nature must be conquered in order to enjoy the happiness of technology. Take a look at the minds of people in the present age. You will see that most people in society feel this way. This results from the influence of science in the recent Industrial Age.
The beliefs in conquering nature and seeking happiness in material goods, which are represented and advocated by technology, have held sway over the minds of human beings for such a long time that people have developed the feeling that nature is an enemy, an obstruction to human progress. As long as this kind of thinking prevails, it will be very difficult for human beings to love nature, because they will be unable to find happiness within it.
For this reason, I say that our ways of thinking must be changed. If we are to continue living in a natural world we must find a point of balance, and in order to do that we must develop an appreciation of nature, at least to see that nature can provide us with happiness. There is much beauty in nature, and technology can be used to enhance our appreciation of it.
In order to be more effective, constraint of behaviour needs to be supported by mental conviction. If there is appreciation of skilful action and a sense of satisfaction in such behaviour, or there is sufficient drive to make us voluntarily begin to organize our behaviour in a constructive manner, then selftraining need not be a forced or difficult operation.
3. The level of wisdom refers to an understanding of the process of cause and effect, or causes and conditions, in nature. This is of prime importance. In order to understand the pros and cons of the issue of conservation we must have some understanding of nature. In this respect Pure Science can be of immense benefit, providing the data which will enable us to see the relevant factors involved in the deterioration of the environment, in what ways the environment has deteriorated, and what effects are to be expected from this deterioration.
Understanding of the situation opens people's minds and makes them receptive. If there is understanding that a certain action causes damage to the environment, which will in turn have a detrimental effect on human beings, we will have the incentive to change our behaviour.
Sometimes, however, in spite of understanding the ill effects of something, we cannot change our behaviour, because the mind does not accept the truth on a deep enough level. That is why it is important for the mind to have both an understanding of the situation on an intellectual level, and also an emotional feeling, an appreciation, an ability to be happy with nature. Scientific knowledge alone is not enough to induce people to change their ways, because of attachment to habits, personal gains, social preferences and so on. With enjoyment of nature as a base, any intellectual understanding, such as an understanding of the ecological system, will serve to deepen or fortify all qualities on the emotional level.
In order to really address the situation we must have a comprehensive solution. The methods of Buddhism are a comprehensive solution to the problem at all levels. There are three prongs or divisions of the Buddhist path. In Buddhism we call the first level sila, the constraint or control of moral behaviour within vinaya, laws and regulations. Restraint of action is achieved through intention, which is the essence of sIla. Both these levels, regulations and moral intention, are included under the general heading of sila, training in moral conduct.
The second level concerns the mind, training the feelings, qualities and habits of the mind to be virtuous and skilful. This is the division known as samadhi, the training of the mind.
The third level is wisdom, panna, or knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is the quality which monitors the activities of the first and second levels, examining them and keeping them on the right track throughout. On its own, wisdom tends to be inactive, and so must be supported by training in moral conduct and meditation.
Wisdom not only supervises the practice of moral restraint and meditation, but also examines the negative side of things, seeing, for example, the harmful effects of any unskilful behaviour pattern, even in cases where such behaviour is enjoyable or profitable in some way. If such pleasure is seen to be in any way harmful, wisdom is the voice which tells us that such behaviour should be given up or corrected, and in which ways it can be done.
These three divisions work together and are interdependent. Initially we train our actions, cultivating skilful behaviour and giving up the unskilful. At the same time we train the mind, instilling in it skilful drives and a feeling of joy or satisfaction in the practice, and develop understanding of reality and the reasons for practice, seeing the benefit and harm of our actions as they are.
As we train and the practice becomes more and more consistent, the mind will take delight in the practice, which causes faith to increase. When faith arises, the mind is keen to contemplate and understand our actions. When wisdom or understanding arises, seeing the benefit in practising and the harm of not practising, faith is enhanced once again. When faith is increased, we are more able to control and adapt our behaviour and make it more in accordance with the right path.
Now we come to the quality of 'too late'. I would like to give an illustration of what I mean by this statement to show what it has to do with science. As an example I would like to compare the attitudes of Buddhism with the attitudes of science, which have some strong similarities.
In science we have scientific knowledge on one hand, and scientific attitude on the other. In many cases the scientific attitude is more important than scientific knowledge. Why is this? Because the data or knowledge obtained by science has sometimes proven to be wrong and had to be corrected. This tends to be an ongoing process. This scientific attitude or objective is a constant principle, one which has been of immense benefit to human beings. Whether individual pieces of knowledge can actually be used or not is not a sure thing, but this attitude is a condition that can be used immediately and is of immediate benefit. However, the attitudes of science and Buddhism have some slight discrepancies.
Firstly, let us define our terms. What are the attitudes of Buddhism and science? The attitude of both Buddhism and science have the same objectives, and that is to see all things according to cause and effect, or causes and conditions. On encountering any situation, both the Buddhist attitude and the scientific attitude will try to look at it according to its causes and conditions, to try to see it as it really is.
For example: You see your friend walking towards you with a sour look on his face. For most of us, seeing a sour expression on our friend's face would normally be an unpleasant sight. We would think our friend was angry with us, and we would react in negative ways. An awareness of unpleasant experience has taken place, and a reaction of dislike arises, thinking, "He can get angry, well so can I". And so we wear a sour expression in response.
But with a Buddhist or scientific attitude, when we see our friend walking towards us with a sour expression, we do not look on it with an aggravated state of mind, through liking or disliking, but with the objective of finding out the truth. This is the attitude of looking at things according to causes and conditions ... "Hmm, he's looking angry. I wonder why my friend is looking angry today. I wonder if something's bothering him. Maybe somebody said something to upset him at home, or maybe he's got no money, or maybe ... " That is, we look for the real causes for his expression. This is what I call the Buddhist attitude, which is applied to mental phenomena, and which correlates with the scientific attitude, which applies to the material plane. It is an attitude of learning, of looking at things according to causes and conditions.
If we look at the situation in this way no problem arises. Such an attitude will instead lead to the relief of problems and the development of wisdom. Searching for the causes and conditions for our friend's sour expression, we might ask him the cause or act in some other intelligent way, initiating a response which is attuned to solving the problem.
This is an example of an attitude which is common to both Buddhism and science. But how do their attitudes differ? The scientific attitude is one that is used only to gain knowledge, but the Buddhist attitude is considered to be part and parcel of life itself. That is, this attitude is part of the skilful life, it is a way of living harmoniously in society. In short, it is ethics.
The scientific attitude is one clear example of how science avoids the subject of ethics or values while in fact containing them. That is, the scientific attitude is in itself an ethic, but because science does not clearly recognize this, it fails to fully capitalize on this ethic. More importantly, science fails to see ethics as an essential factor within the process of realizing the truth of nature.
Buddhism does not use attitude simply for the acquisition of knowledge, but incorporates it into daily life, in the actuality of the present moment. When we incorporate daily life into the picture we come to the quality I call 'too late'. Because the scientific attitude is an attitude and means simply of finding knowledge, any practical application must wait until science finds out all the answers. As long as we don't know the answers our hands are tied. If we don't yet know what something is, we don't know how we should behave towards it.
But in this world there are so many things that science does not yet have the answers for, and there's no telling when science will have the answers. At the same time, mankind, both as an individual and as a society, must conduct life in the present moment. To put it simply, the conduct of life for human beings in a skilful and proper way, within the space of one individual life-span or one society, in real time, cannot wait for these answers from the scientific world.
The Buddhist attitude is to search for knowledge in conjunction with living life, holding that to look at things according to cause and effect is part and parcel of the process of living a good life, not simply a tool to find knowledge. Therefore, with the Buddhist attitude, whenever we meet something that is not yet known clearly to us, or has not yet been verified, we have an outlook which enables us to practise skilfully towards it. We do not lose our standard in life.
The scientific attitude seeks knowledge only, but does not give an outlook for living life. Buddhism teaches both levels, giving a path of practice in relation to things in present day life. I will give an illustration, one which has troubled mankind throughout the ages and toward which even we, as Buddhists, fail to use a proper Buddhist outlook. I refer to the subject of heavenly beings (Devas).
The subject of heavenly beings is one that can be looked at in terms of its relation to verifiable truth, or it can be looked at in relation to human society, in the light of every day life. Looking at the subject with the scientific attitude, we think of it in terms of its verifiable truth, that is, whether these things actually exist or not. Then we have to find a means to verify the matter. The subject would eventually become one of those truths 'waiting to be verified', or perhaps 'unverifiable'.
But regardless of whether it is waiting to be verified, or it is considered unverifiable, the matter gets stuck right here, and mankind has no practical course to follow. As long as it remains unverified, it becomes simply a matter of belief. One group believes these things do exist, one group believes they don't. Each side has its own ideas. Take note that those who believe that there are no such things are not beyond the level of belief - they are still stuck on the belief that such things do not exist. Both of these groups of people are living in the one society. As long as they hold these differing and unresolvable beliefs, there is going to be a state of tension.
In this instance, science has no recommen-dations to offer, but in Buddhism there are ways of practice given in graded steps. On the first level, looking for truth by experimentation, regardless of who wants to prove the matter one way or the other, there is no problem. Those who are looking for the facts are free to continue their search, either in support of the existence of heavenly beings or against it.
On the second level, finding a right attitude for the conduct of everyday life, what should we do? In Buddhism there is a way of practice which does not contradict the case either for or against the existence of heavenly beings . Our lives have a standard which is clear and can be applied immediately. We are always ready to accept the truth, whether it is eventually proven that heavenly beings do exist or they do not, and our way of life will be in no way affected by such a discovery.
Most people are easily swayed or put on the defensive because of doubts about issues such as this, which tends to make them lean towards either one of two extreme views either that heavenly beings do exist or that they don't. If you believe that heavenly beings do exist, then you have to make supplications and perform ritual ceremonies to placate them. If you believe that there aren't any heavenly beings, then you must argue with those who do.
But in Buddhism we distinguish clearly between the search for facts, which proceeds as normal, and the conduct of everyday life. Our life does not depend on the heavenly beings. If there are heavenly beings, then they are beings in this universe just like us, subject to birth, subject to aging, subject to sickness and subject to death. We Buddhists have a teaching which encourages us to develop kind thoughts to all beings in the Universe. If there are heavenly beings, then we must have kind thoughts toward those heavenly beings.
The essence of Buddhism is the teaching of self-development and self-reliance. The objective is freedom. If we are practicing in accordance with the principle of self-reliance, we know what our responsibility is. Our responsibility is to train ourselves, to better ourselves. And the responsibility of the heavenly beings is to better themselves. So we both have the same responsibility, to better ourselves. We can co-exist with the heavenly beings with kind thoughts. At the same time, whether heavenly beings exist or not is no concern of ours. It's like the hippos and the jungle cats - each can exist peacefully in the world without problems. In this way, Buddhism has a clear outlook on the matter, and Buddhists do not have to worry about such things.
Without this attitude, we get caught in the problem of whether these things do exist or not. If they do exist, how should we conduct ourselves? We might start to create ceremonies and sacrifices, which is not the duty of a Buddhist. The Buddhist responsibility is to practice to better oneself. If a human being succeeds in fully bettering himself, then he becomes the most excellent of all beings - even the heavenly beings revere him.
This is an example of Buddhist attitude, which in essence is very similar to the attitude described in the simile of the man wounded by the poisoned arrow. If you have been pierced by an arrow, your first duty is to remove the arrow before the poison spreads throughout the body and kills you. As for searching for data in relation to that incident, whoever feels so inclined can do so, but first it is necessary to take out that arrow.
Now this is very similar to the thinking of Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington. He had a similar idea, although he did not put it in Buddhist terms. He wrote:
"Verily, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a scientific man to pass through a door. And whether the door be barn door or church door it might be wiser that he should consent to be an ordinary man and walk in rather than wait till all the difficulties involved in a really scientific ingress are resolved.
In Christian texts it is said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. Eddington rephrased this a little, saying that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a scientific man to go through a door and into a room. What did he mean by this?
I stress here that Eddington is talking about a scientific man, not a scientist. The reason it would be so hard for a scientific man to enter a room is that a scientific man would have to first stand in front of the door and wonder, "... Hmm, I wonder if I should go through this door?" He would have to consider all the physical laws. He might try to figure for example, how many pounds of air pressure per square inch would be on his body if he walked through the door, how fast the earth would be spinning at the time, how this would effect his walking into the room ... he would be thinking for ever. In the end the scientific man would find it impossible to go through the door, because he would never finish his scientific calculations. That is why Eddington said it would be even easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a scientific man to pass through a door.
Eddington concluded that scientists should behave as normal. Whether it be the door of a church, the door of a farm or of anything else, then just to go through it. As for verification, that can continue. This seems to fit in nicely with the Buddhist position, so I have included it here.
If things continue as they are, science is in danger of becoming another kind of 'higher philosophy'. That is, one of those 'truths' which are impossible to use in the situations of everyday life, because they are forever waiting to be verified.
The problem of development can only be addressed when values are truly understood
Pure Science maintains that it is void of values, but it is well known how important the role of science has been in the development of society in recent times, even though this development has been the activity of human beings, imbued as they are with values. When we look closely at history we find that values have been exerting a subtle influence over the birth and development of science, beginning with faith and the aspiration to know the truths of nature, up until the most destructive value, the desire to conquer nature and produce an abundance of material goods.
The solution to the problem of values in science is not to try to get rid of them. It is not necessary for science to try to evade values. It is more a matter of trying to clarify the values that science does, or should, have. Otherwise, science may unknowingly become the victim of other values, values which obstruct the truth, and cause science to become a negative influence, one that could even threaten the complete destruction of the human race.
In the preceding parts of this lecture I have tried to show the connection of science to values on two levels, the highest value and the provisional value. This highest value is one that science must adhere to in order to be able to attain to the highest truth, because the highest value is in itself the truth and thus an indispensable factor in the attainment of ultimate truth. However, this highest value, the highest good, or freedom, is an ideal, it is an objective, and as such will not exert a major influence on the quality of science in general.
The value which will have the most immediate influence over science is the secondary value, of which there are two kinds: that which is derived from, and harmonious with, the highest value; and the phony value which has infiltrated into science as a result of a lack of reflection on values.
While scientists have no understanding of values, and fail to see the relationship between them and the truth they are seeking, science will, in addition to limiting the scope of knowledge to which it aspires and rendering the search for highest knowledge fruitless, be taken over by the lesser and more counter-productive values, some inherited from previous generations, and some fed by desire and the search for happiness within the minds of present-day scientists themselves. When these inferior values exert an influence over the mind, not only do they throw the search for true knowledge off course, but they lead to destructive influences, causing problems either in the immediate present, or if not, then at some time in the future.
Conversely, if scientists, or those seeking truth, realize the connection between abstract values and the physical world, they will also realize that to search for and understand natural truth is to understand the nature of man; that for man to understand himself is to understand the nature around him. When there is this kind of realization, the secondary value which is derived from the highest value will arise of itself. It will automatically be fulfilled. When there is right understanding, the result will be two-fold, namely:
1. The search for knowledge will not be limited or misdirected, but will be set straight on the course for the highest kind of knowledge.
2. The correct kind of secondary value will automatically arise and human development will proceed in conjunction with the search for knowledge.
If research is based on this right understanding, the right kind of value will automatically be present.
The highest kind of value is a condition that will be attained on the realization of truth. It is not necessary to strive to attain this value in itself, simply to bear it in mind. When this is realized, a balanced kind of secondary value, which is congruous with the highest value, will arise.
Even though in the path that is directed toward, and harmonious with, the truth, the assurance of values is not necessary, being already included in the awareness of truth, in practical terms, such as when scientific knowledge is transferred into technology, it may be necessary to emphasize some values in order to clarify the direction of research and to prevent the infiltration of inferior and destructive values. Examples of some of these positive values might be: the search for knowledge in order to attain freedom from human imperfection, or to search for knowledge in order to solve problems and further the development of mankind ... even including lesser values, such as to strive to do everything as circumspectly as possible, with minimal harmful results.
At the very least, the realization of the importance of values will enable scientists to be aware of and to understand the way to relate to the values with which they have to deal in their search for knowledge, such as greed, anger, hurt, jealousy, envy and so on, such as in the case of Newton. More importantly, they will see the benefit of a correct set of values and know how to use them effectively, even in the advancement of the search for knowledge. At the very least, scientists will have a sense of morals and not become the mere servants of industry.
One value which is of prime importance to humanity and its activities is happiness, or the qualities of happiness and suffering. The value of happiness lies deeply and subconsciously behind all human activities and is thus an essential part of ethics. One's conception of happiness will naturally influence all one's undertakings. For example, the values of the Industrial Age saw that happiness lay in the subjugation of nature, after which nature could be used as humanity wished. This has led to the developments which are presently causing so many problems in the world.
In order to address the problems successfully we must see the truth of happiness and suffering as they really are. Conversely, if we do not correct our values in regard to happiness and suffering, we will have no way of addressing the problems of human development.
To correct our definition of happiness means, in brief, to change our social values, no longer trying to find happiness in the destruction of nature, but instead finding happiness in harmony with nature. In this way we can limit the manipulation of nature to what is necessary to relieve human suffering, rather than to feed pleasure-seeking.
Mankind must realize that if he continues to seek happiness from the destruction of nature, he will not find the happiness he is looking for, even if nature is completely destroyed. Conversely, if mankind is able to live happily with nature, he will experience happiness even while developing the freedom from suffering.
Roughly speaking, there are three main values with which scientists will inevitably have to deal. They are:
1. Mundane values, which scientists, as ordinary people, have in common with everybody else. This includes incentives or motivations, both good and bad, occurring in everyday life, and also in the search for and use of knowledge. Such values include selfishness, the desire for wealth, gains, fame or eminence, or, on the other hand, altruistic values, such as kindness and compassion.
2. Values which are adhered to as principles, and which guide the direction of learning, such as the idea of subjugating nature, or industrial values, the belief that happiness can be obtained through a wealth of material goods, or conversely, the principle of addressing problems and improving the quality of life.
3. The highest value, which scientists should adhere to as members of the human race; that is, the value which is the ideal of the human race as a whole, which, as I have said, has so far been neglected by the world of science. Science is still only half way, with an aspiration to know the truths of nature solely on an outward level. Such an aspiration does not include the matter of 'being human' or the highest good.
Science has still some unfinished business to do in regard to these three values.
Encouraging constructive technology
On the level of everyday life, or satisfying the everyday needs of humanity, science plays the vital role of paving the way for technological development and encouraging the production, development and consumption of lop-sided technology. On the other hand, social preferences for a particular kind of technology encourage scientific research aimed at producing, developing and consuming that technology.
From what we have seen, science, supported by the beliefs in the efficacy of conquering nature and producing an abundance of material goods, has spurred the production and development of technology along a path resulting in serious problems. Science and technology may have actually done more harm than good.
The kind of production, development and consumption of technology which has caused these problems is one geared to feeding greed (selfishly and wastefully catering to desires on the sensual plane), hatred (causing exploitation, destruction, power mongering), and delusion (encouraging heedlessness, time-wasting activities, and the blind consumption and use of technology).
In the development of science on the technological level, it will be necessary to change some of the basic assumptions it is based on, by encouraging the development of constructive technology, which is free of harmful effects, within the constraints of these three principles:
1. Technology which is moderate.
2. Technology which is used for creating benefit.
3. Technology which serves to develop understanding and improve the human being.
I would like to expand on this a little.
1. We must acknowledge the needs of the ordinary human being. Ordinary people want to be able to satisfy their desires for pleasure in regard to the senses. We do not want to suppress or deny these sense pleasures. The important point is to encourage the constraint of behaviour to a degree which is not destructive or extravagant, by encouraging restraint on the mind, keeping it within moderate limitations. That is, a limitation in which self-created sense desires are balanced by an awareness of what is of real benefit to and truly necessary in life. This is expressed in the words 'know moderation'. This is closely related to the development of wisdom through human development. In particular, there should be some principles governing the production, development and consumption of material goods wherein they are directed towards real benefit, aimed at bettering the quality of life rather than satisfying inferior values. In short, we can call this, 'technology which is moderate', or technology which puts a limitation on greed.
2. In addition to selfishness and greed, mankind has a tendency to covet power over others, and to destroy those who oppose his desires. The human potential for hatred has found expression in many ways, causing the production, development and consumption of technology which facilitates mutual destruction more than mutual cooperation. Mankind must turn around and change this direction of development, by establishing a clear objective and creating a firm and decisive plan to encourage the production, development and consumption of goods which are constructive and beneficial to human society. This technology for benefit will help to do away with or diminish the production of technology which caters to hatred.
3. So far, the production, development and consumption of technology has mostly been of a kind which leads people to heedlessness, intoxication and dullness, especially in the present time, when many parts of the world have stepped into the Information Age. If mankind practices wrongly in regard to this information technology, rather than serving an educational function, it will become an instrument for promoting heedlessness. Witness, for example, the gambling machines and video games which abound in the cities of the world, completely void of any purpose other than to waste time and money. Witness also the ignorant use of technology, without any awareness of its benefits and dangers, leading to environmental damage. These things not only degrade the environment, they also debase human dignity.
For this reason we need to effectuate a conscious change of direction - to stress production, development and consumption of technology which will promote intelligence and development of the human being, using it as a tool for the communication of knowledge that is useful, and which encourages people to use their time constructively. There must also be conscious use of technology, with an awareness of the benefits and dangers involved in it. In this way, technology will be an instrument for enhancing the quality of life and protecting the environment. Society will become an environment which supports and encourages mental development. This third kind of technology can be called, 'technology which enhances intelligence and human development', which is directly opposite to the technology which encourages delusion.
If production, development and consumption of technology can be channelled in this way, and if science opens the way to this kind of technology, then sustainable development will surely become a reality.
1. EncyclopediaBritannica, 15thEd., (1988), s.v. "Science, the History of,"by L. Pearee Villiams (vol. 27)
2. Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (New York: Maemillan, 1929), p.282
3. Dhammaniyama or Uppada Sutta, A.I. 286
4. As in Natumba Sutta, S.II. 64-65
5. Kalama or Kesaputtiya Sutta, A.I 188
6. MahapaLIana Sutta, D.II. 15
7. Naga Sutta, A.III. 346; Udayitherakatha, Khu., Thag. 689
8. Dhammapala, Verses 188-192.
9. STsapa Sutta, S. V. 437
10. Culamalunkyovacla Sutta M.I.428 (= I. 428)
11. DA. U.432; Dhs A.272
12. Vasettha Sutta, Khu., Sn., 654
13. Puhbakotthaka Sutta, Sam. S. V. 220
14. Rene Descartes, quoted by Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1992, p. 148
15. See Note 2
16. (Max Planck, "The mystery of our Being", in Quantum Questions, ed. Ken WilLur (Boston: New Science Library, 1984), p. 153
17. Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe (Cambridge University Press, 1931), p. 111
18. Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind, New York, Penguin Books, USA, 1991
19. Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (New York: Bonanza Books,1954), p. 40
20. Ibid., pp. 46-52
21. Ibid., p. 39
22. Ibid., p. 38
23. Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, "Defence of mysticism", in Quantum Questions, ed. Ken Wilbur (Boston: New Science Library, 1984), p. 208