Buddha's teachings can be accepted only through rational inquiry. However,
Buddha shows that rationality alone does not lead us to the truth because a person
can argue rationally to prove falsehood as a truth. This is because rational arguments
can be brought about by wrong assumptions to arrive at wrong conclusions. Therefore,
rationality must be used with wisdom, and truthfulness.
Buddhist rationality is based on truths that are undeniable. Hence the Buddha
did not have to assume views when teaching the Dharma. When he stated that it
is futile to find an answer to a single first cause or creation of ones life,
he did not assume a creator or a search for it. One who think wisely about the
suffering or unsatisfactory nature a person undergoes will put forth effort to
liberate oneself from the misery rather than finding the first cause. If a person
argues and states that there is a single first cause, then there must be a cause
to that cause also. Then it becomes an infinite regress.
Some who were holding the view of a creator attempts to argue that Buddha was
silent about this question of a first cause because he did not deny the existence
of such a cause. However, during the Buddha's time in the ancient India also there
were other religions that believed in a creator god. Buddha not only showed the
lack of correct rationality in such views but also showed how such views came
into existence in the world. The prime causes of such views had been lack of abilities
to gain insight through the mind. This was clearly shown in Brahmajala Sutta in
the collection of long discourses. In this discourse, Buddha taught how some ascetics
who had gone to homeless states started recollecting their past declared the existence
of creators due to their inability to see the rebirth linking consciousness. The
connection between the changing consciousness could not be established by everyone
due to the lack of clarity in the mental states. Hence they rationalized their
observations using an explanation that a god created them in this life (in the
modern world it has become a belief and a faith due to institutionalization).
This is an example where rationality has brought about incorrect conclusions.
Another argument we can often hear is taught to small children in attempting to
convert them to other religions. As reported, some people approach small children
born to Buddhist families and ask them if they like fathers abandoning them. When
children answer stating that they do not like it, the next statement of such missionaries
is that Prince Siddhartha abandoned his son. Some adults in the modern world attempting
to convert children from Buddha Dharma bring such arguments forward. Again we
can see the use of rationality based on falsehood. It is falsehood because the
Prince Siddhartha renounced the world out of compassion to all the beings. The
same compassion he had for his son as well. The truth, "that he showed the
way to ultimate happiness to his son (not only his son but also his former wife
and many others)" attest the incorrectness of rational arguments brought
about misleading others. In this case also, rational arguments are used with falsehood
as a basis.
In a similar vein, others rationalize that there are no results of a person's
actions, or no rebirth. These views holds the non-deterministic nature of activities.
While holding such views, a person may rationally resort to dishonesty, violence
and socially harmful behavior. Buddha encouraged rationality unbiased by views
(eternal existence after death, no existence after death etc.).
Buddha while using rationality did not steer away from truth and wisdom. Since
truth and wisdom are two essential factors that make rationality beneficial.