Buddhism is an experimental intelectual product, like science. In view of this similarity between the two, it may be safely assumed that rather by science, than by Philosophy, Political Science, Economics or Literature, Buddhism can be better understood. Inasmuch as science has broken down the walls of ignorance and liberated mankind from the fetters of delusion since thousands of years ago, Buddhism also has made its significant contribution to humanity towards the same end. Some salient characteristics of Buddhism may be mentioned in the following to show where it is established absolutely on rational basis.

(A) To Remove Ignorance

Usually we are subjected to various sorts of illusion in daily life and unless detected by reason and awareness, they may remain with us and lead us to make errors once and again. For instance, in the old days it was generally held that the earth was flat, square and standing still while the sun was in motion; later this conception was refuted by scientists and proved fallacious. Again, eclipses of the sun and the moon were looked upon by the ignorant people to be something very mysterious, but today not only we are familiar with the sun eclipse to be caused by the moon and the moon eclipse to be due to the shadow of the earth, but when such incidents may take place can be known precisely by mathematical calculations. In Geometry many examples of illusions may be found. If two lines of same length are put in parallel with each other, with bracket sign appended to both ends of each line, likely we would be under the illusion that one line is longer than the other. From this, it shows that usually we cannot tell exactly the length of a thing merely by our eyes. Again, as pointed out by astronomers, it is fallacious to assume that those stars before us are existent, because they are so far from the earth that the distance between the two may be calculated in terms of Light Years only (each Light Year calculated by this formula: 300,000 miles per second multiplied by the number of seconds of one Calendar Year), thus some of those stars may be as far away from the earth as several ten Light Years; in such cases, most likely what we see are not stars but only their lights issued as far back as several decades ago and, where they are now, scientists can hardly know. Again, in our general conception, tables, chairs, cups, etc., in the house are solid and motionless, but according to physicists, the atoms of those hard objects are similar to the Solar System, with electrons rotating around atomic nuclei at the rate of Light Speed and also with adjoining atoms vibrating all the time, thus considerable spaces between electrons and atomic nuclei, and those between the adjoining atoms are left empty to a large extent; of course, such interior phenomena of those things and their outward appearances are entirely different from each other. This shows that owing to the illusion of the eyes, the reality of everything cannot be correctly perceived, and it is only by logical inference that illusion may be rectified and correct perception may be possible.

In the pre-science days many errors of illusion were rectified by Buddhism. Refuting the old Chinese saying, “there are no two suns in Heaven”, the Sutra says: “In the Great Trichiliocosm, there are as many as ten billion suns.” This statement, astounding as it is, is in accord with Astronomers’ discovery that all those densely-clustered stars in the space and everyone of them are affiliated with the Solar System. Whereas in the Chinese poetry the moon is described “full” of “partial”, the Sutra says the moon is “bright”, “clear”, “dim”, or “dark”, and this is not only free of visual illusion but also in line with the scientific theory of the moon reflecting on the sun. Again, one who is ignorant of Biology would assume that the “self” is the sole possessor of the body, but, in fact, inside the body, there reside innumerable cohabitants of living germs. As far back as 2500 years ago, Buddha made this assertion: “Human body is but a swarm of worms which may be enumerated into eighty kinds.” (Refer to The Secrets of Remedy for Chan Ills Sutra). In the Sutra not only those worms are differentiated by their specific names but also their behavior and activities are described in details. Again, the Sutra says: “As seen by the Buddha, a drop of water contains 84,000 germs.” In those prescience days when the aid of scientific apparatus was nil, it was exceedingly difficult for Buddha to make his exposition of this scientific truth understood by his people, notwithstanding their implicit confidence in what he said of himself in the following words: “The Tathagata speaks the truth, speaks in concrete words, speaks of reality as it is, speaks no lies and no contradictions.” Of course, those biological facts, revealed by Buddha, can be easily verified by science today.

Before Algebra was introduced in schools, people had very imperfect knowledge of Mathematics; apart from integrals, they knew nothing of negative and zero, and still less, the Imaginary Number. In contrast, Buddhist conception of everything is complete and all-inclusive. To illustrate, when the body is in touch with a thing, there is the feeling of Touch, and when it is not, there is the feeling of Non-touch; if one is used to be unaware of the latter, he would become indifferent to the former as well. To classify feelings of Touch and Non-touch may be said to be similar to the numbers of Integrals and zero in Algebra. Again, in Buddhism, sensation of pleasure, sensation of pain and neutral sensation (neither pleasure nor pain), are as differentiated from one another as integrals, negative and zero are in Algebra. Besides “good” and “evil”, there is the “indefinite” which is neither good nor evil. All this shows that Buddhism is complete and all-embracing, and in some respects, apart from being in accord with the scientific spirit, is above the common sense.

The Theory of soul is repudiated by both Buddhism and Science. The reason why believers upholding this theory is this: as human body is made of flesh and other material things, all of which are without consciousness, the need of a conscious being to be its master is obvious, same as a motor car in need of a driver. According to this theory, when one is alive, the soul is inside the body, but at the time of one’s death, it departs from the body. Apparently, this sounds plausible, but if tested by Logic or Hutuvidya, the Science of Cause, its fallacy is perceived at once. Let us ask this question: Is the soul material or immaterial? If it is a material thing inside the body, why has it remained unknown to mankind without being discovered by Science of Anatomy even to the present day? The assumption that it leaves the body after one’s death is illogical, because no material can move by itself; and if it is sent out by the heat of the body, it should be found around the body. Again, since both the soul and the body are material things and both of them are without consciousness, to say that the one needs the other to be its ruler is utterly pointless. Therefore, to say that the soul is material is a fallacious statement. On the other hand, to say that it is immaterial is also fallacious, for if it can move in and out of the body, it is no longer immaterial.

Now that the concept of soul is refuted by Buddhism, we may ask, “What is THAT which rules over oneself during one’s lifetime and is subjected to reincarnation after one’s death?” Here is Buddhism’s answer: THAT may be expediently called either Consciousness or Buddha-nature and is the Essence of everything; it is immaterial and formless, neither inside nor outside the body, neither entering nor departing from the body. Consciousness is Essence contaminated with material craving and passionate vexation, and Buddha-nature is Essence pure and undefiled; in reality, Consciousness and Buddha-nature are but two aspects of one substance. Of course, Consciousness or Buddha-nature is essentially different from the soul, which is said to be of material form, abiding inside the body and capable of moving in and out. Despite that Consciousness or Buddha-nature is without these physical attributes of the soul, nevertheless, if and when conditions are ripe, it may transform itself into a material form to enter or to depart from the body. In view of this, it is said to be neither material nor immaterial. Now to return to the above question. Without being able to give any answer at all, the scientist merely says arbitrarily, “There is nothing like that.” Buddhism tells us, however, that it is only by direct apprehension of the reality and by self-experiencing, as resorted to by Buddha, that truth and illusion may be perceived and the good and the evil may be clearly discerned; in the meanwhile by the various Dharmas of cultivation, we would be able to verify truth by ourselves, after the manner of Buddha’s self-experiencing.

Indeed, Buddhism and Science are two brilliant lamps of the world, and it is by their illuminating power that ignorance and superstition would be eliminated, biased views and dogmatism would be eradicated and infinite progress would be made by human beings in exploring human wisdom till the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment. It must be conceded, however, that no matter how progressive and advanced is its development, science is largely confined to the study of material phenomena, but to understand the reality of those phenomena where mind is involved, we cannot but depend on Buddhism, and Buddhism only. For instance, nowhere among those books of Western Psychology can we find such inexhaustive and analytical study of the psychological aspects and reactions of the various sense-organs of human beings as enunicated in the Sastra on the Hundred Divisions of Mental Qualities.

On hearing a musician playing a famous piece of music, not only we can tell its melody by Ear-Consciousness and its tune by Sense-center Consciousness, but various kinds of imagination would stir up and sensation of enjoyment and craving would arise automatically (according to Dharma-laksana sect, in such psychic phenomena the following Mental Associates would be brought out into play: touch, volition, sensation, conception, desire, greed, stupidity and indolence). This case refers to people with musical training. If it is played to someone ignorant of music, the tune and the melody notes are but packages of noises and his reaction would be a feeling of disgust instead of pleasure. Again, to a physicist, music is nothing but a series of air waves with chords and curves of various frequencies (simple harmonic vibrations), and actually this corresponds with the way the eardrum responds to the sympathetic vibration of air waves. According to his conception, on the sine curves there is neither melody from Ear-Consciousness nor there is tune from Sense-center Consciousness at all, and still less, the feeling of like and dislike. In short, the vital fact is often overlooked that whatever differentiations and reactions caused by Ear-Consciousness and Sense-center Consciousness are usually misconceived to be something of the air waves, and without our being aware of our illusion, we are used to say the song is “pathetic” or “beautiful”, as if these were the qualities of the song. This shows our greatest error of illusion : [To Perceive the Unreal as Reality]. Therefore, Buddhism expounds this fundamental principle that every phenomenal change is made by consciousness only. Let us take another illustration. To one who likes onion, it smells good, and for another person who dislikes it, its smell is repulsive. However, if in reality it is of one smell, it should not vary with different persons.