Darwin and the Buddha

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padmini
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Darwin and the Buddha

Post by padmini » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:11 pm

This article gives an interesting perspective on the similarities between Darwin and the Buddha:

https://threepointeightbillionyears.com ... -buddha-2/
FEBRUARY 6, 2018 BY THREEPOINTEIGHTBILLIONYEARS.COM
Darwin and the Buddha
The teachings of Charles Darwin and Gautama Buddha are worlds apart. Yet their descriptions of life bear similarities to each other and even interlock in ways that expand my view of each. I’ll focus this comparison on On the Origin of Species and the Dhammapada, a widely read collection of the Buddha’s sayings.

The differences are straightforward enough. Darwin’s eye was mainly on the past. In Origins, he observed the characteristics of successive generations of plants and animals—except for humans, whose evolution he discussed in other books—to show how natural selection and fertility served as the sources of the variation of species.

The Buddha, on the other hand, focused on humans, on the pain of our disappointments and the ease that disciplined renunciations could bring. And in contrast to Darwin’s focus on ancestry, the Buddha’s eye was on the future, on each person’s potential path forward out of suffering. Finally, while Darwinian evolution moved on inexorably, the Buddha convinced his followers that their future was in their own hands, that if they turned inward to grasp the nature of change and expectation, they could calm their cravings.

Yet beneath these distinct differences, both thinker followed a logic built from the same pieces.

First, for both Darwin and the Buddha, the struggles of ordinary life make up the starting point for the consequences and possibilities that followed. As different as their two works are, taken together they rest on the premise that for humans, animals, and plants alike, life is stressful, sometimes dangerous, and often unpredictable. Whether in a plant stunted by inadequate sunlight or a woman in conflict between family and her career, it is everyday obstacles and threats that drive the changes that the thinkers explored.

Such changes consisted of a series of steps, the other great commonality between their views. For Darwin, the steps were those small, random variations which, if they benefited an organism consistently, took their place among its inherited traits. Though each step was small, the end result could be a new, better-adapted species. For the Buddha, the steps consisted of a discipline in correct understanding, the extinguishing of selfish desires, and future rebirths. As they were in Darwinian evolution, the steps to enlightenment took time but led to relief from pain.

Combined, these variations on the themes of struggle, gradual change, and final resolution offer a rich vision: living things experience conditions that are not easily or perfectly satisfied, but the future, though not necessarily within an individual’s lifetime, offers paths and steps from pain towards peace. In place of a deity to oversee the the fate of living things, both men saw a reality in which ordinary life and an organism’s response to it drove changes sooner or later.
[...]
To what extent do you agree with this analysis?
The Buddha's path is simple and meant for ordinary people; anyone with goodwill and determination can follow its steps toward freedom of heart and mind
-- Ven. Ayya Khema

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Sam Vara
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:18 pm

padmini wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:11 pm
To what extent do you agree with this analysis?
Very little, I'm afraid. There are some similarities, but the bigger differences seem to be ignored. Whereas evolutionary change has no goal, following the Buddha's path clearly does; there is, for Darwinian organisms seeking to reproduce themselves, no final deliverance or safety. The struggle, even to survive, is endless, as per the "Red Queen Hypothesis":
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen_hypothesis

but nibbana is claimed to be a supreme refuge. Evolution looks to be more like a constant shifting of beings within samsara, each attempting - usually without any ethical consideration of other sentient beings at all - to gain a temporarily safe foothold before everything starts getting threatening again.

Nor is the tiny, granular nature of the changes always reflected in Buddhist teachings. The Dhamma-Vinaya was said to have a sudden penetration of gnosis after long practice
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

and some people make very rapid progress indeed, because of their earlier kamma. Whereas biologists are aware of the mechanisms whereby change takes place (both within the individual organism, and at the level of the species) there is nobody who can render the mechanisms of the "Second Knowledge" of kamma and rebirth a matter of public knowledge. One needs to be of exceptionally high spiritual attainment to even understand it.

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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by paul » Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:16 pm

The three unwholesome roots are the primal instincts; greed functioning for food finding and reproduction, hate for protection of territory and possessions; and ignorance being the basic lack of knowledge of nibbana or the path.
The arahat completely overcomes these primal instincts, beginning with the knowledge of impermanence. The food gathering instinct has conditioned the mind to favour the ‘ripe’ stage of the cycle of impermanence, symbolised in xtianity by the apple as the object to be avoided in the garden of Eden, which is really an instruction on impermanence. The insight knowledges stress the focus on reinforcing the dissolution phase of the cycle of impermanence, to counter the primal bias. From knowledge of dissolution, dispassion for all conditioned existence arises, causing the mind to turn towards the supra mundane path.
Within the lifetimes of samsara there is no evolutionary force which will project a being towards enlightenment, this has to be the result of an effort of will and striving on the individual’s part, and this human plane with its admixture of happiness and suffering presents the best opportunity to effect progress.

Just as monkeys' search for food in the trees is relentless, attention must be purposeful to achieve progress towards liberation:

“The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones—who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma—discerns what phenomena are fit for attention and what phenomena are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to phenomena unfit for attention and attends [instead] to phenomena fit for attention.
“And what are the phenomena unfit for attention that he does not attend to? Whatever phenomena such that, when he attends to them, the unarisen effluent of sensuality arises in him, and the arisen effluent of sensuality increases; the unarisen effluent of becoming arises in him, and the arisen effluent of becoming increases; the unarisen effluent of ignorance arises in him, and the arisen effluent of ignorance increases. These are the phenomena unfit for attention that he does not attend to.
“And what are the phenomena fit for attention that he does attend to? Whatever phenomena such that, when he attends to them, the unarisen effluent of sensuality does not arise in him, and the arisen effluent of sensuality is abandoned; the unarisen effluent of becoming does not arise in him, and the arisen effluent of becoming is abandoned; the unarisen effluent of ignorance does not arise in him, and the arisen effluent of ignorance is abandoned. These are the phenomena fit for attention that he does attend to. Through his not attending to phenomena unfit for attention and through his attending to phenomena fit for attention, unarisen effluents do not arise in him, and arisen effluents are abandoned.
“He attends appropriately: This is stress ... This is the origination of stress ... This is the cessation of stress ... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identification-view, doubt, and grasping at habits & practices.” — MN 2

At the attaining of arhathood, when the saint’s mind is freed from the influxes, he reviews his liberation with this lion-roar:
He understands, “Birth is destroyed. The holy life has been lived. Done what is to be done, there is no more of this state of being.”

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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:22 am

wasn't darwin a scientific racist?
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:24 am

the buddha is just leagues beyond any modern thinker. please read the dhamma https://www.suttacentral.net
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

auto
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by auto » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:54 am

Phenotype has hidden trait. For example long tail is visible, then the hidden trait is short tail.
Phenotype is dependent on genotype; what genes organism has, phenotype is its shape/appearance.

Darwin find evidence that species have common ancestors. Evolutionary theory is how different species come to be.

The scientific facts are like dharma tenets.

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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by pyluyten » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:59 am

Dhammarakkhito wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:24 am
the buddha is just leagues beyond any modern thinker. please read the dhamma https://www.suttacentral.net
this, and the "racism" of evolution, is not useful comments. You are like prisoner of a dogma, jailed in a cavern and ignoring the outside world, believing "light" cannot exists, because there is no light in your cavern. So many modern thinkers and biologist are practicing the "Noble path", i wish you do, too.

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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:26 pm

buddha talked about evolution too. https://suttacentral.net/en/dn27
well, i will admit i didn't know whether darwin was racist or not and went off a rumor.
Last edited by DNS on Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: meta discussion removed
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:27 pm

you think darwin had right view? just wondering
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

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padmini
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by padmini » Sun Feb 18, 2018 2:58 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:18 pm
There are some similarities, but the bigger differences seem to be ignored.
Probably you are right, and comparing the two seems like a stretch. I agree on the fact that both thinkers believe life is fundamentally a struggle, and I found this interesting in the sense that it shows how far-fetching the Buddha's understanding of life is, and how his thoughts are still relevant after 2500 years.
:anjali:
The Buddha's path is simple and meant for ordinary people; anyone with goodwill and determination can follow its steps toward freedom of heart and mind
-- Ven. Ayya Khema

dharmacorps
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:17 pm

One Darwinian idea that I think the Buddha would have differed with is the importance of physical characteristics particularly in humans. The Buddha did permit that animals may be able to discern valuable information by seeing each others markings, but with humans, none of that matters. You can't tell anything valuable about someone by merely looking at them. It is one of the Buddha's strongest arguments against racism and racial pride as well as vanity.

pyluyten
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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by pyluyten » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:42 pm

dharmacorps wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:17 pm
One Darwinian idea that I think the Buddha would have differed with is the importance of physical characteristics particularly in humans. The Buddha did permit that animals may be able to discern valuable information by seeing each others markings, but with humans, none of that matters. You can't tell anything valuable about someone by merely looking at them. It is one of the Buddha's strongest arguments against racism and racial pride as well as vanity.
interesting. do you have a sutta for the idea that just looking at somebody does not provide valuable information? i think it's good sense but some source would be cool. Not sure darwinism is against this. of course there is "let's investigate physical charac and we will discover the history of life", but it is by not way superficial physical characteristics, nor it is about judging one beeing as superior to one another - it is just guessing which animal the father, which the child.

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Re: Darwin and the Buddha

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:47 pm

It is the Vasettha Sutta.

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