Difficult Points, Buddhism

Consider two Suttas: Relating the two ends of ignorance

• Khema Sutta
Sister Khema’s assertions (also repeated by the Buddha), the essence seems to be about ultimate Nibbana as immeasurable, indescribable, … (large and infinite content)
• Kalama Sutta - The Buddha cautions, do not accept any theories even if the Tathagatas say so, verify for yourself.

Q1. Where does it leave us?
The progression from ignorance to awakening (Bodhi) is a trial trajectory.
Q2. Is the same premise not the soul of Scientific enquiry, the accepted modern knowledge systems?

The intent here is that there is major overlap between the approach of Suttas and Scientific enquiry. Only, Science is still incomplete as it has not found a complete solver to sorrow (4NT - Four Noble Truths, N8P - Noble Eightfold Path), whereas Buddhism is complete because it has covered all facets of ignorance with appropriate multifaceted solutions (like the Brahmaviharas 4 - perfect solver)

1 Like

Can you kindly give a citation for this?

Because the Buddha has said just the opposite for people who are trying to practice his teachings. From the Kīṭāgirisutta:

For a faithful disciple who is practicing to fathom the Teacher’s instructions, this is in line with the teaching: ‘The Buddha is my Teacher, I am his disciple. The Buddha knows, I do not know.’

The Kalama sutta was given to people who were not disciples of the Buddha. Even still your quote is inaccurate, but very common.


I read the Kālāma Sutta as being aimed at non-Buddhists, so potential converts. The Kālāma’s were confused as to who to accept as a teacher. The Buddha advises them on how to choose one. At the end of the sutta they go for refuge in the triple gem, meaning they now have faith/confidence/trust in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Still, even then we should not say “this is true, everything else is worthless” until we know for ourselves. We can only say this is what we have taken on a confidence basis until that time. When we do know, then we can say it is absolutely true. I also don’t think the Buddha was doing science. I’m a scientist myself, and I view my work as being different to my Dhamma practice. Science deals more with the objective side and the Dhamma more with how we experience the world. Although there is also an objective element to the Dhamma, it never ventures into science. And that’s ok. Just because something is not science doesn’t mean it’s worthless. I see the Dhamma as dealing in certain knowledge, whereas science can only really tell us what is probable but never certain (i subscribe to Popper’s philosophy of science here). I think modern Buddhists make a mistake when they try to equate the Dhamma with science, where a subtle scientism seems to be at play. It’s actually so much more.


That’s correct, investigation being the initiator in the causal sequence of the factors of awakening. Nibbana however should not be posited as a distant goal, any conceptualization or experience of the unconditioned as opposed to the consensual trance should be classified as knowledge of ultimate reality. This entry into emptiness should be recognized from the early stages on as according with actuality:

“There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.’ Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’ And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.”—MN 121

(Repeated for every ascending step.)


Permit me to say what I had in mind when I started this thread of discussion. It is my ken.

The mind must accept, there will be obstacles due to ignorance (avijja) for a bhikkhu till entry to Arahant (4th last path fruition) stage.

• This is best taken by keeping the framework of Kalama Sutta (Verifiability - open to reasoning). Keeping a mindset of factual discernment that I am still in ignorance, but will continue with my aquired skills of verifiability (Science strongly included in modern times) after examining and by conceding to the noble teachings of the Tathagata.
• Thus Khema Sutta becomes absolutely necessary (immeasurable, indescribable - Nibbana) in continuation as the guiding pole star by the fact that a bhikkhu has done sufficient spadework to traverse the 4NT, N8P taught by the Buddha. Nibbana remains a strong hypothesis with an affirmative mindset to propel further till entry to Arahant finale (summum bonum).

Namo Buddhaya.
Namo Dhammaya.
Namo Sanghaya.

Stream winner already eradicated doubt. That is doubt towards the triple gems.

If you’re talking about doubt towards the interface between Science and Buddhism, then even arahants are not regarded as omniscient. And it’s not a thing which bothers them. Science and Buddhism is not a field of knowledge which needs to be known for the sake of awakening.

What science and Buddhism can do is to help reduce some doubt about Buddhism for newcomers, or potential converts. Mainly, if you’re a teacher, or a person who’s interested to spread Buddhism, then it’s useful. If you’re a practitioner only, it’s not useful.


I don’t understand this statement when it’s clear that a sotapanna is characterized by three fetters broken, one being doubt.

1 Like

Okay, removal of the five lower hindrances occurs in the four stages (also five upper hindrances for Arahat).

Ignorance (avijja) and doubt (vicikicca) are differently interpreted, I agree with you after reviewing. Please replace vicikicca by avijja.

Thanks for scrutiny (correction made).

The unconditioned should be a subject of study, as should conditioned (conventional) reality as a means of contrast:

“But sir, could there be another way in which a mendicant is qualified to be called ‘skilled in the elements’?”

“There could, Ānanda. There are these two elements: the conditioned element and the unconditioned element. When a mendicant knows and sees these two elements, they’re qualified to be called ‘skilled in the elements’.”—MN 115

Same issue if you’re applying ignorance towards Science and Buddhism.

The ignorance which is eradicated in arahants are the ignorance concerning the 4 Noble truths, dependent origination, etc. It doesn’t mean any arahant can write down the equation for the ultimate theory of everything in physics, or before Darwin, the arahants already knew about DNA, evolution, genetic engineering etc. Unless they have past life recall to recall that in some previous life, in a previous universe they already knew those.

1 Like

Good point, ignorance is beginning of the Dependent Origination - 12 links. It is also the first step in the N8P, Samma Ditthi - Right Understanding of the 4NT (directed to removal of suffering, ignorance).

Very true … true indeed!

Not to expect Arahants to write Theory Of Relativity, Arahants go beyind symbolic knowledge.

But the question of existential afflictions still remains.

The Suttas also speak of conventional reality (vohara, samutti), it needs proper addressal , worldly affairs.

What if we don’t wear masks (pandemic racing), just be with anapanasati. Will Buddhists refuse vaccination in corona times?

We need vohara knowledge systems (conventional reality) to be applied appropriately. Outer world needs Theory of Relativity, DNA, … etc.

Thus, ignorance has a wider scope, suffering is due to ignorance both of vohara and paramattha realities (mundane, supramundane).

An Arahant is beyond both, beyond and crossed over to the other shore of existence.

However, we humans are immersed in the mundane with little awareness of supramundane.

Thus, an integrated approach (Supramundane Buddhism , Conventional Science) in modern times seems to be a good approach.

Yea, i would say Dhamma practice is indeed too a trial and error experimental approach.
Classic science can’t do what 8 fold path do though. As science exams domain of form only. It uses form to measure form, form to influence form.
Science’s interest in form, implies its incapability to end suffering, as its base is there is significance in forms, there is value in attributes of form.
Psychiatrist is trying to administrate feelings via thoughts(memories, justification, conversation) or sensories(pills, chemical). It is obviously wrong direction in locating the cause of suffering.
I don’t know Quantum but I heard they introduced observer. The problem is that the observer they utilize is non-virtuous. It completely ignores the impact of virtue projecting upon worldly reality. Based on dhamma, a knower with sila, free of hindrances, would see a object different than an one full of hatred.
With conclusion from quantum physics that reality is completely empty, i don’t see how it gonna introduce virtue, merit into its course. People probably go on their business, maybe with a few more going to hedonism and some extremity of reckless.

I don’t think it’s common knowledge how quantum means emptiness. There’s plenty of interpretations, you can look it up at reddit r/quantuminterpretation(s).

Also, emptiness itself is a deep concept not known generally outside of Buddhists who learnt deeply.

As well as quantum interpretation itself is a deep subject which I think most physicist might not even know a lot about much less members of the public.

Yes, the law of kamma (ethics, virtue) is not known in science.

Perhaps the only benefit of seeing emptiness via quantum is for some Buddhists, and some people who might be convinced to convert to Buddhism.

1 Like

(Summing up)
Thanks for erudite remarks, I am overwhelmed and concerned. I will try to speak what I had in mind when I started this thread of discussion.

The Suttas provide a framework of 4NT, N8P by which we humans make a progression from ignorance (avijja) generated plethora of existential sorrow in our current scenario (Vohara, Samutti, conventional reality) to bodhi (enlightenment), which is a complete resolution, par excellence, into an immeasurable junction (paramattha, supramundane) Nibbana.

Thus, the two Suttas are perfect guidance given by the Blessed One (the Buddha), we commence from avijja (ignorance) city and take the route of 4NT, N8P (aeroplane) and by attaining bodhi (enlightenment), ascend to the city of Nibbana.

• Kalama Sutta
Kalama Sutta can be considered as our current reference, the Buddha provides a guideline, unrelenting verifiability by self-reasoning, do not accept anything (superstition) by hearsay, be your own lamp. This is the abs genius of the Buddha.

Then the three generic evil roots of lust-hate-delusion (raga, dosa, moha) in the discourse delineate logical consequences. Take it, if it sounds good to the aspirant and see if it attenuates sorrow and promotes weal, else drop it and verify for yourself if it exacerbates sorrow.

• Khema Sutta
Fundamental enquiry into human condition, inherent insecurity whether we perish (zero, utter extinction) or continue (infinity, etetnity) after death is a deep discomfort triggered by existential sorrow. We are unable to connect the two.

Sister Khema provides the answer, a smart resolution that the progression into immeasurable and indescribable Nibbana is the summum bonum destination. The extremes, annihilation and eternity, are projections of the finite mind which grasps by measuring and describing, both are thus rejected.
Nibbana is achievable though immeasurable and indescribable.
Take it as a hypothesis and progressively verify.

(Like, ‘experiencing’ taste of honey is not measurable, immeasurable (subset), but achievable, one can experience the taste of honey. Nibbana is likewise reachable, though immeasurable and indescribabke, the finite experiencing the infinite. Of course, one has to work for it, 4NT, N8P).

Most of us humans are in Vohara (Conventional reality) with little awareness of Paramattha (Supramundane reality, Nibbana).

Mere rejection of Vohara will not lead to Paramattha. It can happen to a bhikkhu who is close to Sotapatti.

Thus Vohara needs careful addressing (Social order, Dhammacariya).

Science investigares a subset (samsara) of total reality (The Five Aggregates - rupa, vedana, sañña; samkhara, viññana), the methodology is sound (verifiability, Kalama Sutta) though the domain of enquiry is limited (primarily materiality-rupa). But Science has open frontiers (Kalama Sutta, be a lamp to yourself), theories change by verifiability.

Thus, Science is an appropriate tool to streamline human negotiation through existence (Vohara) by apt and ‘good’ technology (check epidemics, floods … attenuate existential suffering). However, the double edge sword of modern socio-economic-technology driven human organization is cunningly used by Mara and his army of devils to subvert ‘good’ by evil, progression of Dhamma by entropy disorder, crime, and wars.

Thus, it is not that Science has to be rejected for a smooth progression from avijja to bodhi.

Science could be very well supported by Buddhism to streamline Vohara, good social organization by equitability (The Buddha, Lord Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, gender equality, …) and tempered by holistic technology towards euphoria.

At the same time, it is urgent to focus on Paramattha which is the raison de etra of the Sangha.