This is a pretty great summary of where science is, in relation to Buddhism.
Thanks, that’s a really nice essay. It doesn’t come from either the a woo-woo “it’s all one” approach, nor from the extremist materialist approach, but from inquiry, wanting to learn and understand better.
Here’s a top-level physicist who takes rebirth and cosmology seriously, in contrast with the many non-scientists who dismiss such ideas as unscientific!
May I say Sirs, that it is not what people interpret that imports. What imports is Lord Buddha’s message, about how things have come to be, in a universe that is not good thing for man/woman - because there is no self in universe. Like in Samkhya astika philosophy.
Buddhism became nastika, because Lord Buddha did not want to speak about self in universe. And maybe also, because Lord Buddha did not want to speak about self outside universe.
Physics is about universe.
Buddhism is about place of man, within universe without self. Which is dukkha.
Lord Buddha knew Samkhya philosophy, where self (purusha) looks at prkriti. But Lord Buddha was just interested in unbinding. For Lord Buddha, Universe expanding and contracting is not what imports; although he said it does, and that there is no beginning and end in process.
Once self is freed, it does not see movement in universe. It is much stilling of process.
I wonder why a being who refused to answer certain questions based on wrong view, did, nevertheless, choose to make this statement… I wonder if there is something that could be learned that could be of use in our quest to understand the deeper truths he shared?
I think, Pison, you make some very good points indeed. With respect, I might perhaps use some of your comments as points of reflection in a bit of a different direction. I don’t wish to cause offense though…I fully respect the views you have presented and find much agreement in them…you are quite right in what you say. However, they do lead me to reflect in another way, especially after having read the article that Tam has posted. Please forgive me for any offense caused.
And thus is about taking personal responsibility. Not simply relying on the wisdom gained by another - The Buddha.
But of course, as a Buddhist I find the Buddha’s framework extremely practical, useful, beautiful and I have chosen to accept it as my working theory and use it as the paradigm within which I seek to take responsibility for my own growth of wisdom about these matters.
But I have heard a Buddhist monk using a cake as a similie to describe religions/traditions. He said, the icing may be different but the substance is the same. I used to think this was just something that was said to help ease discussions with those who didn’t see the world as we might. Now, I think there’s more to it… (One of the lovely things about Practice is this freedom one can allow oneself to change one’s mind and learn something else! )
To me, certain genuinely open scientific seekers are part of the same sort of group as genuinely open spiritual or religious seekers.
They’re all looking to delve into the depths of their own experience - even if for them it might mean a deeper understanding of mathematical applications in a lab!
Thus while I don’t find everything they’re interested in to be of use, I found this article to be a thing that shone a light into another way of looking at life, my own life. And that is useful. (Because how we think/view influences our mental habits and our lived experience and understanding of how we work within ourselves and in relation to others.)
Similarly, I was recommended a book on a topic that I have absolutely no interest in but having flicked through it I found myself drawn to it. This particular author’s interest and curiousity in writing about his particular topic led him to write about his experiences in a most straightforward manner. It was this that I found fascinating. It was a book on, of all things, astral travel!! Now I’m not interested in developing this skill, nor do I agree with the eternalist view espoused, but nevertheless the similarities with certain aspects of both Practice and Suttas was eerie.
It’s not always the topic that is of interest. It is whether or not the author, speaker, whatever is able to share something from a deep place; whether or not they’ve gone beyond the icing on the top of the cake and have dwelled into the deep parts of human experience.
I’m not so stupid as to think that just because I find the Dhamma to be elegant and useful in daily life, that I am smart or clever in living it. I’m not…but that is as far as my cleverness extends!! In knowing this much at least. In understanding that I can be open to learning.
Actually, I must be open to learning. To think I’ve got it all is to close doors. Is to invite stagnation within the pool of my own deluded views. It is here that I take the Buddha’s teachings to heart - this is how his framework informs me. Because it has to “lead onward to liberation” (opanayiko)…anything that rests on it’s laurels, so to speak, has stopped being led anywhere! Is just taking refuge in it’s own stupid beliefs. This is where faith in the Buddha and his teaching comes in.
But we Buddhists are no different to any one else in becoming dogmatic.
And the funny thing is when we start confusing faith with dogma. And vice-versa. To me, faith has always been an emotional tool, one out of many strategies to be employed and used on a mental level. It feels like acceptance, but it’s power comes from exploration, testing…openness… Of course, there are many times I forget this, and I fall into that trap where faith and dogma combine horribly and depressingly…
I think the biggest test for us is whether we can be consistently loving in our daily life, peaceful and so on… Personally, I don’t think I’ve passed these tests well enough to say that I’ve understood the basics of Buddhism so thoroughly that I can close myself off to any other avenues of learning that might lead me to view myself and the Dhamma in deeper and even more meaningful and practically useful ways.
Being open to learning from others and other traditions, I find, means Practice doesn’t stagnate. Taking personal responsibility and staying focused on our own personal development isn’t a thing that should contract us into our tiny worlds. It is a thing that should make us feel open, loving and free…or more free…freer and freer…
It means I’m not stuck in looking at the Buddha’s beautiful teachings in just one way - in the one way that my delusions look at it.
Conceited as I can’t help being…acknowledging that other people might have some small insights to offer into how I work and how the world works, gives me at least a tiny shred of humility to challenge my ego.
Another example I can think of is a little book I’ve been perusing that insists upon an eternalist view and uses the word “soul” alot!! But I recognise this as just icing on the cake. I have my own particular view which I bring to this as a Buddhist, but I can still learn from this source.
Of course, as I begin to gradually (and rather inconsistently!!!) make the paradigm offered by the Buddha, something that is personal and within, things and people and even places, that don’t fit in seem to fall away from my life. It is not that I push them away, life just seems to naturally and gently evolve that way - I guess there’s a kammic thing going on here!
And paradoxically, feeling open, being open, doesn’t seem to lead to harm. When we’re defensive, coming from a place of wanting to protect ourselves, openness can feel like a threatening place to be. Perhaps our most treasured views and ideas will even be threatened. But surely, in a quest for truth, we can have no such fears. Surely if it’s a consistent, genuine truth of how we are and how things work - a Dhamma Truth - then it will withstand any testing and an open heart and mind will only take you there - inward - sooner.
I found this article to point to this:
and to this:
…quite nicely - brilliantly even.
I am grateful for anything that enriches my experience as a Buddhist and helps me to have a view that assists me to be more peaceful, loving or frugal in this life. So thanks for this beautiful article! I felt it inspired peace and was only a little disheartened by the following. Though I do deeply value that everyone must find their own Path and follow what feels right and true for them.
The best and most convincing proof, Ashtekar argues, will not come from a lab test, but from people trying deep meditation for themselves. The effects can be so profound, he says, they can pull you deep into the inner world, till you lose touch with the external world. ‘You lose your motivation, or the fire in your belly,’ Ashtekar says. Fearing that he might inadvertently destroy his drive to study physics, Ashtekar now just dips into meditation briefly at times of stress, to bring him ‘basic joy’.
May I say Lady that Lord Buddha talks about contractions and expansions of world in SN12.70.
All kinds of beliefs are possible in this universe. Some are possible, some are not, says also Lord Buddha. Some are not limited to one, but to both, or more.
But possibles are not Lord Buddha’s preoccupation or intentness; because they are all dukkha. It is all universe that is dukkha.
It is not mass of leaves (deep knowledge) that matters, but handful of leaves (knowledge of how to liberate oneself,) from delusion of good or possibly good universe.
This is what renunciants in my country try to achieve. Although they are most of them monists; not like Samkhya, or Buddhists.
As article says: “Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy that emphasises oneness between the self and the Universe”. But neither Samkhya, nor Buddhism think so.
May I say to you lady, in most deference to your gentleness and intelligent courtesy, that your nice view leads to reach higher level of human or deva in kama loka; but not liberation.
That seems to me a rather sweet reply @Pison
And yes, indeed, it is likely that my current views - imperfect and unawakened as they are - may lead to a nice rebirth. But actually, even that’s not certain…
The thing is, this doesn’t really concern me… What really concerns me is staying on the path to the best of my ability. And for me, being open to learning is a big part of that. All I can do is put in the causes and patiently await whatever short or long term results may come. But it’s no chore, I find this focus on Practice (rather than on living in the intellectual realm of acting like I’ve realised the goal), this focus on the process as opposed to the end goal, is rather interesting, enriching and beneficial. Well, this is how I approach - at least on an intellectual level - the teaching of anatta; if “I” am truly anatta, then it’s, in a significant way, out of my control how “I” am - but thanks to the Buddha, I can choose to expose myself to His particular type of “brainwashing”… maybe I’ll make it out one day…
With metta and thanks for your kind words
Well dear Lady, there is the element of instigation (AN 6.38); so things are not “out of our control”.
We can stop dancing, as the Samkhya also say.
When we stop dancing, we liberate entanglement with purusha. And self is liberated from seeing process of entanglement between two entities; and liberated from beeing born.
Lord Buddha pushed Samkhya one step forward.
Or more precisely, one step backward in analysing process.
There is not even self in purusha. Purusha is born thing, and not self. What is not born is self.
What is not looking at ignorance anymore, is self.
However what imports to Lord Buddha is unbinding from entanglement with universe.
Much metta to you.
Bhante, reading this essay made me reflect. I know there is material from the suttas that supports an eternal universe cosmology which exists in cycles of destruction and expansion, but what would you say the suttas say about the nature of time?
The way I understand the word Anicca is the Buddhas terminology for time. Anicca fits with the even subtle time than the atomic clock.
Well, the Buddha doesn’t state an explicit philosophy of time, but—and this is partially informed by later Buddhist philosophers—I would say define time thus:
Time is a concept inferred from memory; specifically, from memory of changes in consciousness.
That is to say:
- Time doesn’t exist objectively “out there” in the real world.
- We never experience change, hence anicca directly. We can only ever see this thing and know that it is different from that thing we previously experienced. The faculty that allows us to do this is what we call “memory”. Insight into impermanence is, therefore, inferential (anvaya, anumāna).
- We have invented and developed the concept of time because it’s handy. New aspects of time develop as they become useful. Thus the search for an understanding of time is not a search for absolute truth, but a quest for what is meaningful and useful.
- There’s no such thing as a fundamental layer of absolute “mind moments”. Time is not atomic, it’s relational.
- This explains why I’m usually late!
Makes sense to me, I’ve always thought the idealist notion of time to be pretty intuitive.