Science and Buddhism
(Or Buddhism and Science)

As far as I have found there is no conflict between Buddhism and Science.
Buddhism is not a "revealed religion", that is it has not been revealed to humankind by a superhuman being. It was discovered by a normal person, who did not claim to be special, in fact he said that he had just re-discovered a lost path.
There is no "creator" in Buddhist beliefs, so there is no conflict with the theories of evolution or the "big bang". Buddhism does talk about " created things", but does not postulate that they are created by a superhuman creator. There are gods in Buddhism, but they are subject to the same laws of cause and effect and birth and death as the rest of us.
The natural laws described in Buddhism do not conflict with present day science. For example there are 'laws' governing the physical order (such as the seasons and the weather), the biological order (such as genetics) and the mental order (the processes of thought and consciousness). The 'law' which is best well known and perhaps least understood is the law of Karma and Vipaka, governing actions and results. It is often portrayed as a form of justice - bad deeds will be punished. But there is no superhuman judging our actions; it is just a natural law, just like gravity. No one would suggest that apple fell down on to Newton's head as a punishment!
The message of Kalama Sutta, to me, is the most obvious bit of good advice that you could give a scientist - don't believe what someone tells you but test it for yourself! The Buddha was talking about finding the truth in religious teachings, but it applies equally to the true investigative spirit of science. Good scientists make their own observations and try to find patterns. It is tempting to read a theory or come to a conclusion and then try to make the evidence fit - but this is bad science and bad religion!
In his book "Beyond Dogma" the Dalai Lama writes 'At the heart of Buddhism and in particular the Mahayana, great importance is placed on analytical reasoning. This view holds that we should not accept any teaching of the Buddha's if we find any flaw or inconsistency in the reasoning of that teaching. It is advisable to maintain a critical mind, even with regard to the Buddha's own words. Does He Himself not say...."O Bikkhus, as gold is tested by rubbing, cutting and melting - accept my word only on analysis and not simply out of respect". '
The Buddha's central teaching on the origin of unhappiness is so logical that few scientists could find fault with it. To paraphrase it - we create our own unhappiness by having desires that cannot be fulfilled; our desires come from the illogical belief that I have a separate eternal self - every thing around me is subject to the laws of nature but for some strange reason I think they will not affect me!
The natural sciences can remind us of the impermanence of life and the constant state of change that exists. Natural objects such as flowers are often used on Buddhist altars as a reminder of impermanence. Crystals or fossils can be used as an aid to meditation.

page written and maintained by Mike Horne