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The Science of Compassion

2009年04月14日 13:51:00 佛教在线 点击:0

Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche

The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Urgyen Drodul Tinley Dorje,ROKPA's founder

The Buddha was Scientific

What the Buddha taught was not based upon divine revelation or some other source of superior authority. All his teachings derived directly from his own personal experience that arose from his compassionate efforts to relieve the sufferings of beings. During the years of his meditation and reflection, he directly observed his own mind with the precision and objective exactness that we have now come to associate with scientific research. He witnessed and described the origin and functions of his own consciousness, and explained in detail how he transcended it to discover what lies beyond its limitations. The state he experienced is of course indescribable because it is beyond concept, but the Buddha nevertheless did his best to guide beings towards it. In doing this he constantly stressed that his teachings were not to be taken as words of authority to be propagated as beliefs; they were offered as practical guidelines to be studied, tested and applied, on the basis that what worked for him could work for all of us.

If we look for example at the Kalama Sutta, we find an instance of the Buddha’s insistence on scientific investigation, rather than a reliance on faith, authority or speculation:

Do not believe just because wise men say so. Do not believe just because it has always been that way. Do not believe just because others may believe so. Examine and experience yourself.

We could say that the Buddha was a pragmatic scientist who developed a compassionate science of the mind, based not upon measurements of external phenomena or mathematical equations, but upon direct observation of his own experience. In view of this it is not surprising that Albert Einstein commented:

“If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that Buddhist and scientists have much in common – particularly their search for the truth of how things really are1. What is interesting is that they approach this question from opposite perspectives. Buddhists, we could say, do it from the inside moving out, because they begin with direct observation of the mind and its workings, and then describe what this reveals about the reality of the external world we seem to see and experience in common. Scientists on the other hand begin with this “obvious” world and subject it to scrutiny by various means. Within the last century, scientific methods of investigation have started on the “outside” and move inwards to the realms of the mind, consciousness and the structure of what we call reality – that is, the world we see that seems so solid and stable but turns out upon analysis to be nothing of the sort. So science has moved progressively closer to Buddhism, rather than away from it, and in doing so has presented the world with similar insights to those of the Buddha, but in different language.

There are two areas in particular which are of interest:

First, the nature of the physical reality we perceive, and second, the functioning of consciousness in relation to the brain, and the potential for positive transformation.

1 One translation of the term “Buddha Dharma” is “the way things are according to the Buddha”.

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