Buddhism and developments of science.

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Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sovietnik » Fri Jan 31, 2014 2:51 pm

As I am a pan-European patriot and also an admirer of Buddhism, I got one question that has been baffling me for a long time.

As we know, the civilization that is the most advanced in terms of science is the Western civilization. For the last 500-600 years we have been at the forefront of just about every field of human knowledge imaginable - science, technology, arts and political theory. At no point in human history has any civilization achieved such a great advantage over all others, initiating an explosion of knowledge.

Historians are still confused about why such a revolution took place in Europe and not elsewhere, even though before 16th century all of them were equal and had their own basis of knowledge to start their own scientific revolution.

Now my question is related specifically to Buddhism - what is the stance of Buddhists towards the scientific inquiry about the nature of the world? As scientific method requires some specific philosophical stance to be invented, not all cultures may be able to invent it and make the use of it. Buddhism for example is universal and has a solid and very simple moral framework, but many people have found it to be very passive, almost fatalistic.

I've read claims that modern science could have never developed in a society based on Buddhism. In Christianity for example, the world was created by a rational, orderly being so it is orderly and can be explored. There is also a divine command to inquire about the world and make it a better place. On the other hand, many people think that Buddhism views the world as an inherently evil place and also as a kind of illusion. To make scientific discoveries, you must first assume that the world is real.

What do you think? I'm not talking about science in Buddhist texts (no religious text has any science in it) but about the very mindset that is needed for scientific method to develop. So far I haven't found any indigenously Buddhist scientific tradition. Science in India was done by Hindus and Jains and Chinese scholars were more inspired by Taoism.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby purple planet » Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:02 pm

Hi welcome to the forum :D - dont stop using this forum just because maybe some post of yours might get censored - as the moderators here take there job very seriously - its a very good forum

I think its a great forum to learn about buddhism without anyone trying to convince you to become buddhist

i know the answer but cant explain it well - so im just saying hi - its a very good question by the way
Last edited by purple planet on Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:07 pm

You ask some very interesting questions.

what is the stance of Buddhists towards the scientific inquiry about the nature of the world?

As you rightly point out, there is no Buddhist "blueprint", so different Buddhists will probably have different stances. I would think the important question is whether particular ways of doing science and talking about science are in accordance with what the Buddha taught. Using science to grow more food in an ecologically responsible way would be desirable; conversely, weapons technology would not.

It doesn't really matter, so far as I can see, whether scientific advances or a scientific worldview could arise in a predominantly Buddhist society. The point is, they have arisen in my world, and it is up to me to deal with them in accordance with my view of the Dhamma.

I'm not sure whether I agree with you about assuming the world to be real before one can do science. All that is required is to see it as being in some respects regularly ordered. There is no need for there to be a material substrate behind appearances, providing the appearances are predictable. Hence some non-material psychologists - and indeed some Buddhists - are happy with phrases like "The science of the mind", or "The science of happiness".
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sovietnik » Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:20 pm

By science I mean the inquiry about the natural phenomena, using the method that is as objective and detailed as possible (math etc.). How we use scientifc discoveries is a completely different thing.

These are the philosophical precepts that are needed for science to arise, according to me (some people may disagree)
1. Belief that there is only one truth (in science there is only one truth, two mutually exclusive theories can't be true at the same time)
2. Belief that the world is predictable and it's nature can be understood
3. Belief that understanding the world can make it a better place.

Ancient Greeks for example had problems with the precept #1 - even though they developed a fantastic scientific method, they never realized that only one theory can be true. For example, there were several competing astronomical theories and they didn't see anything bad in this.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:39 pm

These are the philosophical precepts that are needed for science to arise, according to me (some people may disagree)
1. Belief that there is only one truth (in science there is only one truth, two mutually exclusive theories can't be true at the same time)
2. Belief that the world is predictable and it's nature can be understood
3. Belief that understanding the world can make it a better place.


I can't see anything here that Buddhists would take issue with.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby chownah » Fri Jan 31, 2014 3:44 pm

I'd be interested in the divine command to inquire about the world...do you have a Biblical reference for that?
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby pulga » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:12 pm

I don't know what sort of trajectory Buddhist intellectual culture would have followed, but the devastation brought on by Muslim conquest set it back irreparably. The library of Nalanda University is the most well known of the great losses:

Nalanda was ransacked and destroyed by a Turkish Muslim army under Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it, ransacked and destroyed the monasteries, and drove the monks from the site.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalanda

The Russian Buddhist scholar Scherbatskoy had such high regard for Dharmakirti that he referred to him as the "Indian Kant", recognizing some commonality in his epistemology with that of transcendental idealism. It's hard to imagine what sort of culture India would have had if it hadn't have been plundered.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby purple planet » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:19 pm

On the other hand, many people think that Buddhism views the world as an inherently evil place and also as a kind of illusion

Buddhism for example is universal and has a solid and very simple moral framework, but many people have found it to be very passive, almost fatalistic.


just to clear this - if i understand correctly :

the buddha thought that all things are :

impermanence (anicca); suffering or unsatisfactoriness (dukkha); non-self (Anatta)


so the buddha didnt say the world is an evil place - but that everything is dukkha - and why everything is dukkha ? because everything is anicca and anatta -

some way i was explained about anatta - is that its actually how you cant control nothing in life - for instance you can control your thoughts you can only have good thoughts you can control your body or your feelings ect ... and that everything is always changing thats why because whenever you try to cling to something because you cant control it and because its changing than you will suffer - now the buddha said this is the natural state - and that he teaches a systematic system to show you this reality and help you "let go" and not attache to things ( for instance you can be happy because of a nice tasting apple but you wont feel sad when you finish eating it ) - so its actually a technique to make you feel happy - but somehow it is seen as a dark theory - but actually it says you are now suffering and the buddhas teaching will show you how to be very very happy

he also said dont believe what he said on faith alone but to see for yourself if he speaks the truth - so he first layed a very well planed technique - an action plan and he also said to not trust him on faith alone but research reality for yourself - this are both very scientific ideas
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sati1 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:51 pm

Hello,

Very interesting question. I will speak from the perspective of a scientist with 12 years of working experience as a biochemist. The two reasons why I think that our understanding of the physical world did not evolve in the East as it did in the West and why mastery of the mind was not developed as far in the West as it was in the East are:

(1) in the West people tend to look outside themselves for satisfaction - in their jobs, their salaries, their cars, etc., whereas the Eastern mentality seems to focus more on the inside, on one's own mind. And science is ultimately the study of entities outside ourselves, even in medical research, where the test subjects are other people or animals.

(2) Meditation was not developed in the West, certainly not to the extent that it was in the East. The tool for ultimate cultivation of mind was therefore absent, leaving behind plenty of time to devote to study the outside world.

I would agree with Sovietnik that the East would probably never have advanced scientific knowledge as far as the West did, mostly because the topic was just not of much interest there. In the West, I believe there is room today for scientists to start taking the findings about the mind that came from the East (mostly from Buddha) seriously, and explore them critically.

Metta,
Sati1
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"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sovietnik » Fri Jan 31, 2014 6:11 pm

Can someone write more about Nalanda University? How does it compare to medieval European institutions? Who taught there and what was taught? Was the institution independent from the state, with the ability to rule itself (appointing it's own teachers, designing it's own curriculum)?

Cause i was taught that medieval university was by all means unique - it was a corporation independent of political and religious influences, concentrated mostly on natural sciences (natural sciences were studied first, then one could choose either theology, law or medicine)

BTW: I agree that the Western spirituality isn't as deep as Eastern one, it looks superficial and is also more intellectual instead of mystical. But I like it's rationalism and dynamism - especially the puritan notion of work and learning as a form of religious practice (so far no Christian denomination went further into this). Also Jews are told to be a beacon of light for humanity and so far they have surpassed all nations of the world in achievements over the last 100 years.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby culaavuso » Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:46 pm

Sovietnik wrote:Now my question is related specifically to Buddhism - what is the stance of Buddhists towards the scientific inquiry about the nature of the world? As scientific method requires some specific philosophical stance to be invented, not all cultures may be able to invent it and make the use of it. Buddhism for example is universal and has a solid and very simple moral framework, but many people have found it to be very passive, almost fatalistic.


Science requires the perspective that there is an orderly pattern of causation that can be learned and put to use through experience, which was part of the teaching of the Buddha.

SN 12.20
SN 12.20: Paccaya Sutta wrote:Whether or not there is the arising of Tathagatas, this property stands — this regularity of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma, this this/that conditionality.


AN 10.92
AN 10.92: Vera Sutta wrote:"And which is the noble method that he has rightly seen & rightly ferreted out through discernment?

"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones notices: When this is, that is. From the arising of this comes the arising of that. When this isn't, that isn't. From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
...
"This is the noble method that he has rightly seen & rightly ferreted out through discernment.


The Buddha also spoke against fatalism and considered it important to understand the efficacy of action:
MN 136
MN 136: Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta wrote:"Thus, Ānanda, there is action that is ineffectual and apparently ineffectual. There is action that is ineffectual but apparently effectual. There is action that is both effectual and apparently effectual. There is action that is effectual but apparently ineffectual."


The difference lies in the purpose at which this investigation is aimed. Western science aims these investigative methods at goals of sensual pleasure and becoming, while the Buddha aimed these investigative methods at the total ending of stress/suffering/unsatisfactoriness:

SN 22.86
SN 22.86: Anuradha Sutta wrote:Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:27 pm

Sovietnik wrote:By science I mean the inquiry about the natural phenomena, using the method that is as objective and detailed as possible (math etc.). How we use scientifc discoveries is a completely different thing.

These are the philosophical precepts that are needed for science to arise, according to me (some people may disagree)
1. Belief that there is only one truth (in science there is only one truth, two mutually exclusive theories can't be true at the same time)
2. Belief that the world is predictable and it's nature can be understood
3. Belief that understanding the world can make it a better place.

Ancient Greeks for example had problems with the precept #1 - even though they developed a fantastic scientific method, they never realized that only one theory can be true. For example, there were several competing astronomical theories and they didn't see anything bad in this.


I can only guess that one of the main reasons was that buddhism explores internal reality, instead of external.

Sometimes we assume that our western progression was entirely logical, or in other words, was the natural one. But one interesting thing to study is how mathematics evolved in Japan when it spent a very long time without contact with the exterior. And it is very idiossincratic when compared to our development. It's not, by any means, trivial. Its focus was completely different.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sovietnik » Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:09 pm

Tell me more. What exactly was Japanese math like?
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:13 pm

Sovietnik wrote:Now my question is related specifically to Buddhism - what is the stance of Buddhists towards the scientific inquiry about the nature of the world?

...

What do you think? I'm not talking about science in Buddhist texts (no religious text has any science in it) but about the very mindset that is needed for scientific method to develop.

Sovietnik,

Sati1 made a good post and I agree with both of the points he made. The Eastern mindset is more inward looking whereas the Western mindset is more outward looking. I would also agree that modern science probably would not have developed in a Buddhist world to the staggering extent that it has today, if much at all.

But the fact is that modern science did develop and it is here to stay. As a Buddhist, I'm in full support of science and the scientific method as inquiry into the nature of our shared and objective physical world. In terms of inquiry into one's own mental world, I'm in full support of the Dhamma.

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Sati1 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:21 pm

Mkoll wrote:As a Buddhist, I'm in full support of science and the scientific method as inquiry into the nature of our shared and objective physical world. In terms of inquiry into one's own mental world, I'm in full support of the Dhamma.


Ditto that. No need to make the Eastern and the Western methods of enquiry compete against each other. We are fortunate to have had them both and to live in an age in which both are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
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"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby SarathW » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:04 am

What Buddha taught was how to be a happy person with stages until you attain the highest happiness Nirvana.
The question you have to ask is whether westerners are happier than the Easterners.

The problem is there is lot of misinformed Buddhist in the east.
Most of the eastners I know think that everything is happned due to Kamma.
So they do nothing.
It is not Buddha’s fault.

It is no different to Christians.
There is lot of misinformed Christians.

But please do not forget that most of the discoveries such as paper, pen, gunpowder etc discovered in China.
The initial concept of the rocket came from the china.
Hindus discovered the most important number zero.
Chinese empire was much bigger than any empire of the west!

:shrug:
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby suttametta » Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:16 am

Sovietnik wrote:As I am a pan-European patriot and also an admirer of Buddhism, I got one question that has been baffling me for a long time.

As we know, the civilization that is the most advanced in terms of science is the Western civilization. For the last 500-600 years we have been at the forefront of just about every field of human knowledge imaginable - science, technology, arts and political theory. At no point in human history has any civilization achieved such a great advantage over all others, initiating an explosion of knowledge.

Historians are still confused about why such a revolution took place in Europe and not elsewhere, even though before 16th century all of them were equal and had their own basis of knowledge to start their own scientific revolution.

Now my question is related specifically to Buddhism - what is the stance of Buddhists towards the scientific inquiry about the nature of the world? As scientific method requires some specific philosophical stance to be invented, not all cultures may be able to invent it and make the use of it. Buddhism for example is universal and has a solid and very simple moral framework, but many people have found it to be very passive, almost fatalistic.

I've read claims that modern science could have never developed in a society based on Buddhism. In Christianity for example, the world was created by a rational, orderly being so it is orderly and can be explored. There is also a divine command to inquire about the world and make it a better place. On the other hand, many people think that Buddhism views the world as an inherently evil place and also as a kind of illusion. To make scientific discoveries, you must first assume that the world is real.

What do you think? I'm not talking about science in Buddhist texts (no religious text has any science in it) but about the very mindset that is needed for scientific method to develop. So far I haven't found any indigenously Buddhist scientific tradition. Science in India was done by Hindus and Jains and Chinese scholars were more inspired by Taoism.


Not so. Only the most populous. Egypt was more high tech. We have no idea how they did what they did. The scientific method was developed to serve the rulership. High tech is only military tech. Everyday people are only benefitted indirectly. Life isn't better. In Buddhas time folks lives were just as long. We haven't eradicated disease. We die of more diseases than ever. We have exchanged the suffering of physical inconvenience for psychological suffering. Buddhist meditation is an inner science that eradicates disease and suffering. Egypt had tech the helped all their people. We have tech that helps selective people. Now folks are pursuing trans humanism. It's aberrant. Western science is connected with alchemy and all that philosophical bullshit. The pursuit of physical knowledge was and always will be connected with those that seek to dominate others and pursue eternal life for themselves.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:09 am

Sovietnik wrote:Tell me more. What exactly was Japanese math like?


I'm not very well informed. But, afaik, they didn't invent calculus. Their math served a religious purpose _ shinto, I think. The created complex geometric puzzles which, when solved, where offered to the temples.

You can probably find good information on the internet on this. It was a trendy topic about 6 months ago, iirc.
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby Mkoll » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:39 am

suttametta wrote: We have exchanged the suffering of physical inconvenience for psychological suffering.

People in wealthy nations have access to the Buddha's teachings. And if they follow them they can have less physical inconvenience and less psychological suffering. :thumbsup:

Unfortunately, much of the world doesn't even have access to potable water, much less the Buddha's teachings, so we've got a long way to go in that respect.

Anyway, psychological suffering has existed for a long time. The Buddha did teach successfully 2500 years ago, after all.

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhism and developments of science.

Postby binocular » Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:43 pm

Sovietnik wrote:I've read claims that modern science could have never developed in a society based on Buddhism.

I think that even just the consideration for the possibility of karma and rebirth can take the wind out of the sails of worldly endeavors.

In the classic Milan Kundera's "The unbearable lightness of being", there is (not far into the book) a reflection on how a belief in rebirth/reincarnation would stop people from doing many of the things they do. The consideration that the devastation in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could happen over and over again once set in motion, would deter people from doing it in the first place. A one-lifetime conception makes possible and justifies endeavors that would seem futile or morally reprehensible in a multiple-lives conception.
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