let us take a comparative look at some of the qualities related to Buddhism,
science and other religions, beginning with faith.
religions use emotion as the driving force for attaining their goals. Emotion
arouses belief and obedience to the teachings, and emotions, particularly those
which produce faith, are a necessary part of most religions. In other words,
because faith is so crucial to them, emotion is encouraged. In contrast to
other religions, Buddhism stresses wisdom, giving faith a place of importance
only in the initial stages. Even then, faith is used with reservation, as
wisdom is considered to be the prime factor in attaining the goal.
order to clearly understand faith, it helps to analyze it into different kinds.
Generally speaking, faith can be divided into two main kinds:
first kind of faith is that which obstructs wisdom. It relies on inciting, or
even enforcing, belief, and such belief must be complete and unquestioning. To
doubt the teaching is forbidden, only unquestioning obedience is allowed. This
kind of faith does not allow any room for wisdom to develop. Faith in most
religions is of this variety. There must be belief and there must be obedience.
Whatever the religion says must go, no questions asked. This feature of
religion is known as dogma, the doctrine that is unquestionable, characterized
by adherence in the face of reason.
second kind of faith is a channel for wisdom. It stimulates curiosity and is
the incentive for learning. In this world there are so many things to learn
about; without faith we have no starting point or direction in which to set our
learning, but when faith arises, be it in a person or a teaching, we have that
direction. Faith, particularly in a person, awakens our interest and encourages
us to approach the object of that interest. Having faith in the order of monks,
for example, encourages us to approach them and learn from them, to gain a
clearer understanding of the teachings.
example of this kind of faith can be seen in the life story of Sariputta, the
Buddha's foremost disciple. He became interested in the teachings of the Buddha
through seeing the monk Assaji walking on alms round. Being impressed by the
monk's bearing, which suggested some special quality, some special knowledge or
spiritual attainment, he approached Assaji and asked for a teaching. This is a
good example of the second kind of faith.
second kind of faith is a positive influence, an incentive for learning. It
also gives a point of focus for that learning. Energies are motivated in
whatever direction faith inclines. A scientist, for example, having the faith
in a particular hypothesis, will direct his enquiry specifically in that
direction, and will not be distracted by irrelevant data.
two kinds of faith must be clearly distinguished. The faith that functions in
Buddhism is the faith which leads to wisdom, and as such is secondary to
wisdom. Buddhism is a religion free of dogma.
second kind of faith is found in both Buddhism and science. It has three
important functions in relation to wisdom:
It gives rise to interest and is the incentive to begin learning.
It provides the energy needed in the pursuit of that learning.
It gives direction or focus to that energy.
from these main functions, well-directed faith has a number of further
characteristics, which can be shown in the Buddhist system of practice. The
goal of Buddhism is liberation, transcendence, or freedom. Buddhism wants human
beings to be free, to transcend defilements and suffering. This freedom must be
attained through wisdom, understanding of the truth, or the law of nature. This
truth is as equally attainable by the disciples as it was by the Teacher, and
their knowledge is independent of him. The Buddha once asked Sariputta,
"Do you believe what I have been explaining to you?" Sariputta
answered, "Yes, I see that it is so." The Buddha asked him, "Are
you saying this just out of faith in me?" Sariputta answered, "No, I
answered in agreement not because of faith in the Blessed One, but because I
clearly see for myself that it is so." [Pubbakotthaka Sutta, Saim. S.V.
is another of Buddhism's principles. The Buddha did not want people to simply
believe him or attach to him. He pointed out the fault of faith in others,
because he wanted people to be free. This liberation, or freedom, the goal of
Buddhism, is attained through wisdom, through knowledge of reality.
how is wisdom to arise? For most people, faith is an indispensable stepping
stone in the development of wisdom. (For clear thinkers, those who have what is
known as yoniso manasikara,[*] the need for faith may be greatly reduced.)
order to attain liberation it is necessary to develop wisdom, and that
development is in turn dependent on faith. This gives us three stages connected
like links in a chain:
leads to Wisdom leads to Liberation
is the initiator of the journey to truth, which in turn leads to wisdom, which
in turn leads to liberation. This model of conditions is the defining
constraint on faith in Buddhism. Because faith is related to both wisdom and
liberation, it has two characteristics:
It leads to wisdom.
It is coupled with, and leads to, liberation.
in Buddhism does not forbid questions or doubts, nor demand belief or
unquestioning committal in any way. Both Buddhism and science use faith as a
stepping stone on the journey to truth. Now the question arises, what kind of
faith is it which leads to wisdom? It is the belief that this universe, or the
world of nature, functions according to constant and invariable laws, and these
laws are accessible to man's understanding. This faith is the impetus for the
search for truth, but because faith in itself is incapable of leading directly
to the truth, it must be used to further develop wisdom. At this stage the
faith of Buddhism and the faith of science look very similar. Both have a
belief in the laws of nature, and both strive to know the truth of these laws
through wisdom. However, the similarity ends here. From this point on, the
faith of Buddhism and the faith of science part their ways.
have said that the source of both religion and science is the awareness of problems
in life, the dangers of the natural world. In search of a remedy for this
problem, human beings looked on the natural environment with trepidation and
wonder. These two kinds of feeling led to both the desire for a way out of
danger, and the desire to know the truth of nature. From this common origin,
religion and science part their ways. Science, in particular, confines its
research exclusively to external, physical phenomena. Science does not include
mankind in its picture of the universe, except in a very limited, biological
sense. In other words, science does not consider the universe as including
mankind, and does not look at mankind as encompassing the whole of the
at nature in this way, science has only one object for its faith, and that is
the physical universe -- the faith that nature has fixed laws. In brief we
could call this "faith in nature."
the objective of Buddhism is to solve the problem of human suffering, which
arises from both internal and external conditions, with an emphasis on the
world of human behavior. At the same time, Buddhism sees this process as a
natural one. For this reason, Buddhism, like science, has faith in nature, but
this faith also includes human beings, because human beings are a part of
nature, and they encompass the whole of nature within themselves.
faith of science has only one object, but the faith of Buddhism has two
objects, and they are:
one sense, these two kinds of faith are one and the same, because they are both
beliefs in nature, the first kind more obviously so. But the first kind of
faith does not cover the whole picture, it includes only the external
environment. In Buddhism, mankind is recognized as a part of nature. The
physical human organism is as natural as the external environment.
human beings possess a special quality which differs from the external
manifestations of nature, and distinguishes mankind from the world around him.
This is a quality peculiar to human beings. You could even say it is their
"humanness." This unique quality is mankind's inner world, that
aspect of nature which has an ethical dimension.
Buddhism we believe that this abstract quality of human beings is also a
natural phenomenon, and is also subject to the natural laws of cause and
effect, and as such is included in natural truth. In order to know and
understand nature, both the physical and the mental sides of nature should be
in mind that human beings want to know and understand nature, it follows that
in order to do so they must understand the ones who are studying it. Mental
qualities, such as faith and desire to know, are abstract qualities. They are
part of the human inner world, and as such must come into our field of research
and understanding. If mental qualities are not studied, any knowledge or
understanding of nature is bound to be distorted and incomplete. It will be
incapable of leading to true understanding of reality.
in science there is faith in nature and an aspiration to know its truths,
nature is not seen in its entirety. Science ignores human values and as a
result has an incomplete or faulty view of nature. The scientific search for
knowledge is inadequate and cannot reach completion, because one side of
nature, the internal nature of man, is ignored.
in Buddhism, the faith of science can be divided into two aspects, and has two
objects. That is, firstly there is belief in the laws of nature, and secondly,
belief in the ability of human intelligence to realize those laws, in other
words faith in human potential. However, this second aspect of faith is not
clearly stated in science, it is more a tacit understanding. Science does not
mention this second kind of faith, and pays little attention to the development
of the human being. Science is almost wholly motivated by the first kind of
differs from science in this respect, in that it holds the faith in human
potential to be of prime importance. Buddhism has developed comprehensive
practical methods for realizing this potential, and these have come to form the
main body of its teachings. Throughout these teachings, faith is based on three
conviction that nature functions according to fixed laws;
conviction in human potential to realize the truth of those laws through
conviction that the realization of these laws will enable human beings to
realize the highest good, liberation from suffering.
kind of faith makes a great difference between Buddhism and science. In
Buddhism the search for truth is conducted in conjunction with training to
develop human potential. The development of human potential is what determines
the way knowledge is used, thus the probability of using knowledge to serve the
destructive influences of greed, hatred and delusion is minimized. Instead,
knowledge is used in a constructive way.
for science, a one-sided faith in the laws of nature is liable to cause the
search for knowledge to be unfocused and misdirected. There is no development
of the human being, and there is no guarantee that the knowledge gained will be
used in ways that are beneficial. Science's search for the truths of nature
does not, therefore, help anybody, even the scientists, to attain contentment,
to relieve suffering, to ease tension or to have calmer and clearer minds.
Moreover, science opens wide the way for undesirable values to subvert
scientific development, leading it in the direction of greed, aversion and
delusion. Thus, the drives to subjugate nature and to achieve material wealth,
which have guided scientific development over the last century or more, have
caused exploitation and destruction of the environment. If this trend
continues, scientific development will be unsustainable.
should be stressed that human beings have minds, or, more specifically, their
actions are conditioned by the mental factor of intention. Faith in the laws of
nature, and the desire to understand those laws, implies a value system, be it
conscious or otherwise. Beliefs and attitudes will condition the style and
direction of methods used for finding the truth, as well as the context and way
in which that truth is seen.
to the Buddha's teaching, the attainment of ultimate truth is only possible
with a mind which has been purified of greed, aversion and delusion. Such
purification requires training, a central concern of which are beliefs,
attitudes and views. A search for truth blind to the assumptions on which it is
based will not only be doomed to failure (because it ignores one side of
reality) but will be overwhelmed by inferior values.
speaking, the knowledge of scientists is not independent of values. A simple
example of these secondary values is the pleasure obtained from, and which lies
behind, the search for knowledge and the discoveries it yields. Even the pure
kind of search for knowledge, which is a finer value, if analyzed deeply, is
likely to have other sets of values hidden within it, such as the desire to
feed some personal need.
summary, we have been looking at two levels of values: the highest value and
those intermediate values which are compatible with it. The highest value is a
truth which must be attained to, it cannot be artificially set up in the mind.
Scientists already have faith in nature. Such conviction or faith is a value
that is within them from the outset, but this faith must be expanded on to
include the human being, which necessarily entails faith in the highest good,
simply by bearing in mind that the laws of nature are connected to the highest
the proper kind of faith, commensurate secondary values will also arise, or
will be further underscored by intentional inducement. This will serve to
prevent values from straying into undesirable areas, or from being overwhelmed
by inferior qualities.
which is our fundamental value, conditions the values which are secondary to
it, in particular the aspiration to know. From faith in the truth of nature
arises the aspiration to know the truth of nature. Such an aspiration is
important in both science and Buddhism. From faith in the existence of the
highest good and in human potential arises the aspiration to attain the state
of freedom from suffering, to remedy all problems and pursue personal
first kind of aspiration is the desire to know the truth of nature. The second
aspiration is the desire to attain the state of freedom. When these two
aspirations are integrated, the desire for knowledge is more clearly defined
and focused: it becomes the desire to know the truth of nature in order to
solve problems and lead human beings to freedom. This is the consummation of
Buddhism. With the merging of these two kinds of aspiration, we complete the
cycle, producing balance and sufficiency. There is a clear definition for our
aspiration for knowledge. It is firmly related to the human being, and directed
to the express purpose of creating a noble life for the human race. This
direction defines the way knowledge is to be used.
for science, from ancient times there has been merely an aspiration for
knowledge. When the aspiration for knowledge is aimless and undefined, the
result is a random collection of data, an attempt to know the truth of nature
by looking further and further outward. It is truth for its own sake. The
scientific search for truth lacks direction. However, human beings are driven
by values. Since this aspiration for knowledge is without clear definition, it
throws open the chance for other aspirations, or lesser values, to fill the
vacuum. Some of these ulterior aims I have already mentioned, such as the
desire to subjugate nature and the desire to produce material wealth. These two
aspirations have created a different kind of process. I would like to reiterate
the meaning of that process: it is the aspiration to know the truths of nature
in order to exploit it for the production of material wealth. This process has
been the cause of innumerable problems in recent times -- mental, social, and
in particular, as we are seeing at present, environmental.
thinking of the industrial age has taken advantage of science's oversight, an
undefined aspiration for knowledge, and led to human action without
consideration for the human being. Looking closely, we will see that the reason
science has this lack of direction is because it looks for truth exclusively in
the external, material world. It does not search for knowledge within the human
individual. Science is not interested in, and in fact ignores, human nature,
and as a result has become an instrument of industry and its selfish advances
on the environment.
of human nature means ignorance of the fact that pandering to the five senses
is incapable of making humankind happy or contented. Sensual desire has no end,
and so the need for material resources is endless. Because material goods are
obtained through exploitation of nature, it follows that the manipulation of
nature is also without end and without check. Ultimately, nature will not have
enough to satisfy human desires, and in fact the exploitation of nature in
itself gives man more misery than happiness.
now I mentioned some important common ground shared by Buddhism and science in
regard to faith and aspiration for knowledge. Now I would like to take a look
at the object of this faith and aspiration, which is reality or truth. Our
aspiration and our faith are rooted in the desire for truth or knowledge.
Having reached the essential truth of nature through knowledge, our aspiration
Buddhism the goal is to use the knowledge of truth to improve on life, to solve
problems and attain perfect freedom. The goal of science, on the other hand, is
the utilization of knowledge for the subjugation of nature, in order to provide
a wealth of material goods. This is perhaps illustrated most clearly in the
words of Rene Descartes, whose importance in the development of Western science
and philosophy is well known. He wrote that science was part of the struggle to
"render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature."
different goals, the object of knowledge must also be different. The prime
object of Buddhist enquiry is the nature of the human being, and from there all
the things with which the human being must deal. Mankind is always the centre
from which we study the truth of nature.
science, on the other hand, the object of research is the external, physical
environment. Even though science occasionally looks into the human being, it is
usually only as a physical organism within the physical universe. Mankind as
such is not studied. That is, science may study human life, but only in a
biological sense, not in relation to "being human."
the field of the Buddhist search for knowledge is the human being, while that
of science is the external world. With this point of reference, let us take a
look at the respective extents of the nature that science seeks to know, and
the nature that Buddhism seeks to know.
believes that human beings are the highest evolution of nature, and so
encompass the entire spectrum of reality within themselves. That is, a human
being contains nature on both the physical and mental planes. Therefore, only
through studying mankind is it possible to know the truth of all aspects of
nature, both the physical and the mental.
puts mankind at the centre, it is anthropocentric. Its express aim is to
understand and to develop the human being. Science, on the other hand, is
interested primarily in the external world. It seeks to know the truths of
things outside of the human being. Over the years, however, as science
incorporated the intention to conquer nature into its values, it once again put
mankind at the centre of the picture, but in a very different way from the way
Buddhism does. Buddhism gives human beings the central position in the sense of
recognizing their responsibilities toward nature, insofar as they must develop
themselves and redress problems. This outlook is of benefit, it is aimed at the
transcendence of suffering, freedom and the highest good.
in incorporating the view of the desirability of subjugating nature into its
aspirations, places mankind in the centre of the picture also, but only as the
exploiter of nature. Man says "I want this," from where he proceeds
to manipulate nature to his desires. Simply speaking, science's placing of man
in the centre is from the perspective of feeding his selfishness.
looked at the aim of enquiry, let us now consider the means or methods for
attaining that aim. In Buddhism, the method is threefold.
Impartial awareness of sense data, awareness of things as they are.
Ordered or systematic thinking.
Verification through direct experience.
can we ensure that the awareness of sense data will be unbiased? In general,
whenever human beings cognize sense data, certain values immediately become
involved. Right here, at the very first arising of awareness, there is already
the problem of whether the experiencer is free of these values or not.
stresses the importance of seeing the truth right from the first arising of
awareness: when eye sees sights, ear hears sounds, and so on. For most human
beings, this is already a problem. Awareness is usually in accordance with the
way we would like things to be, or as we think they are, rarely as they really
are. We cannot see things the way they are because of distortions, biases, and
preferences. When there is awareness of a feeling, the workings of the mind
will immediately react with like or dislike. People build these reactions into
habits and they become extremely fluent. As soon as an experience is cognized,
these values of comfort, discomfort or indifference immediately follow, and
from there to love or hate, delight or aversion. Once like and dislike arise,
they influence the subsequent thought process. If there is attraction, thinking
will take on one form; if there is repulsion, it will take another form.
Because of this, experience is distorted and biased, awareness is false; only
some perspectives are seen, not others. The knowledge that arises form this
sort of awareness is not clear or comprehensive, it is not awareness of things
as they really are.
Buddhist practice, we try to establish ourselves correctly from the beginning.
There must be awareness of things as they are, awareness with sati,
mindfulness, neither delighting nor being averse. Experiences must be perceived
with an aware mind, the mind of a student or the mind of an observer, not with
a mind that is liking or disliking. In brief, there are two ways to do this:
Cognizing by seeing the truth: to be aware of things as they are, not to be
swayed by the powers of delight and aversion. This is a pure kind of awareness,
bare perception of experience without the addition of value-judgements. It is
referred to in the scriptures as "perceiving just enough for the
development of wisdom (ñana)," just enough to know and understand the
experience as it is, and for the presence of mindfulness (sati). Specifically,
this is to see things according to their causes and conditions.
Cognizing in a beneficial way: that is, cognizing in conjunction with a
skillful value, one that will be useful, rather than one that caters to sense
desires. This is to perceive experiences in such a way as to be able to make
use of them all, both the liked and the disliked.
second kind of knowing can be enlarged on thus: experience is a natural
function of life, but in order for the mind to benefit from experiences, we
must perceive them in the proper way. There must be a conscious attempt to
perceive experiences in a way that is beneficial in solving problems and
leading to personal development. Otherwise, awareness will be merely a tool for
either satisfying or frustrating sense-desires, and any benefit will be lost.
With this kind of awareness, we perceive experiences in such a way as to make
use of them. Whether experiences are pleasant, unpleasant, comfortable or not,
they can all be used in a beneficial way. It all depends on whether we learn
how to perceive them properly or not.
the context of this book, where the object is knowledge of the truth, we will
emphasize the first kind of awareness. In this awareness, if the wrong channels
are avoided, the effects of delight and aversion do not occur, and awareness
will be of the learning variety.
awareness of sense data is very important. Learning must begin at the first
moment of awareness -- cognizing in order to learn, not in order to indulge in
like or dislike, or to feed sense desires. Although science may not openly
speak about or emphasize this method, it is essential if the aim is to perceive
second factor in attaining knowledge is right thinking. This means thinking
that is structured, reasoned and in harmony with causes and conditions. In
Buddhist scriptures many ways of thinking, collectively known as
yoniso-manasikara, or intelligent reflection, are mentioned. Intelligent reflection
is an important factor in the development of Right View, understanding in
accordance with reality. It is to see things according to their causes and
conditions, or to understand the principle of causes and conditions. Some of
the ways of intelligent reflection mentioned in the texts are:
Searching for causes and conditions: This kind of thinking was of prime
importance in the Buddha's own enlightenment. For example, when the Buddha
investigated the experience of pleasure and pain, he asked himself, "On
what do these feelings of pleasure and pain depend? By what are they
conditioned?" He saw that sense contact is the condition for feeling.
Then, asking himself, "By what is sense contact conditioned?" the
Buddha saw that the six sense bases are the condition for sense contact, and so
on. This is an example of thinking according to causes and conditions.
Thinking by way of analysis: Life as a human organism can be analyzed into two
main constituents, body and mind. Body and mind can both be further analyzed.
Mind, for example, can be analyzed into vedana (feeling), sañña (perception),
sankhara (volitional activities), and viññana (consciousness),[**] and each of
these categories can be further divided into even smaller constituents.
Feeling, for example, can be divided into three kinds, five kinds, six kinds
and more. Thinking in this way is called "thinking by way of
analysis," which is a way of breaking up the overall picture or system so
that the causes and conditions involved can be more easily seen.
Thinking in terms of benefit and harm: This is to look at the quality of
things, both their benefit and their harm, rather than looking exclusively at
their benefit or their harm. Most people tend to see only the benefits of
things that they like, and only the faults of the things they don't like, but
Buddhism encourages us to look at things from all perspectives, to see both the
benefit and the harm in them.
different kinds of thinking (altogether, ten are mentioned in the scriptures)
are known as yoniso-manasikara, a very important part of the Buddhist way to
truth. In its broadest sense, thinking also includes the way we perceive
things, and so it also includes the level of first awareness, and, like those
forms of awareness, can also be divided into two main groups -- that is,
thinking in order to see the truth, and thinking in a way that is beneficial.
third method for finding knowledge used in Buddhism is that of verification
through personal experience. One of the important principles of Buddhism is
that the truth can be known and verified through direct experience
(sanditthiko, paccattam veditabbo viññuuhi). Note, for example, the Kalamasutta
mentioned earlier, in which the Buddha advises the Kalamas not to simply
believe in things, but, "when you have seen for yourself which conditions
are skillful and which unskillful, then strive to develop the skillful ones and
to give up the unskillful." This teaching clearly illustrates practice
based on personal experience.
Buddha's life story recounts that he used this method throughout his practice.
When he first left his palace in search of enlightenment, he practiced
according to the methods prevalent at that time -- asceticism, yoga, trances
and the rest. When he later went to live alone in the forest, the practices he
undertook were all ways of experimenting. For example, the Buddha is recorded
as recounting how he went to live alone in wild jungles so that he could
experiment with fear. In the deep hours of the night a branch would crack and
fear would arise. The Buddha would always look for the causes of the fear. No
matter what posture he happened to be in when fear arose, he would maintain
that posture until he had overcome the fear. (That is, if he was walking he
would continue to walk until his fear subsided; if he was sitting, standing or
lying down he would continue to sit, stand or lie down until his fear
subsided.) Most people would have run for their lives, but the Buddha didn't
run. He stayed still until he had overcome the problem. Another example of the
Buddha's experimenting was his experimenting with good and bad thoughts until
he was able to give up unskillful thoughts.
Buddha used the method of personal experience throughout his practice. Later,
when he was teaching his disciples, he taught them to assess the teacher
closely before believing him, because faith must always be a vehicle for the
development of wisdom. The Buddha taught to closely assess teachers, even the
Buddha himself, both from the perspective of whether he was teaching the truth,
and also in the sense of the purity of the teacher's intentions.
teacher's knowledge can be tested by considering the plausibility of the
teaching. The teacher's intentions can be tested by considering the teacher's
intentions in teaching: Does he teach out of desire for a personal reward? Is
he looking for anything other than the benefit of the listener? Such assessment
and evaluation should continue through all the levels of the teacher-disciple
there is the teaching of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, which emphasizes
insight meditation. When we are practising insight meditation, we must always
consider and reflect on the experiences that come into our awareness, as they
arise. Whether a pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling arises, whether the
mind is depressed or elated, the Buddha taught to look into it and note its
arising, its faring and its passing away.
in the highest stages of practice, when assessing to see whether one is
enlightened or not, we are told to look directly into our own hearts, to see
whether there is still greed, hatred and delusion or not, rather than looking
for special signs or miracles.
the emphasis and field of research in Buddhism and science differ in terms of
observation, experiment and verification, results in the two fields will
differ. Science strives to observe events solely in the physical universe,
through the five senses, with the objective of manipulating the external physical
world. In the language of Buddhism we might say that science specializes in the
fields of utuniyama (physical laws) and bijaniyama (biological laws). Buddhism,
on the other hand, emphasizes the study of the human organism, accepting
experiences through all the six senses, including the mind. The objective of
Buddhist practice is to attain the highest good and an understanding of the
truth of nature. Even before the objective is reached, there is correction of
problems and progress in human development. In Buddhist terminology we would
say that Buddhism has its strength in the fields of kammaniyama (moral laws)
and cittaniyama (psychic laws).
it were possible to incorporate the respective fields of expertise of both
science and Buddhism, to bring the fruits of their labors together, we might
arrive at a balanced way for leading human development to a higher level.
on the subject of the three methods for finding knowledge, I would like to look
at the differences between these methods in Buddhism and in science.
science uses the technique of amassing knowledge in order to find truth. This
amassing of knowledge is completely divorced from concerns of life-style,
whereas in Buddhism, the method of attaining knowledge is part of the way of
life. Science has no concern with life-style, it seeks truth for its own sake,
but in Buddhism, method is part of the way of life -- in fact it is the way of
life. Consider, for example, the effect of clear awareness, without the bias of
delight and loathing, on the quality of life. The Buddhist search for knowledge
has great worth in itself, regardless of whether or not the goal is attained.
takes its data exclusively from the experiences arising through the five senses,
while Buddhism includes the experiences of the sixth sense, the mind -- a sense
which science does not acknowledge. Buddhism states that the sixth sense is a
verifiable truth. However, verification can only really be done through the
respective senses from which that data arose. For instance, to verify a taste
we must use the tongue; to verify volume of sound we must use the ear, not the
eye. If we want to verify colors, we don't use our ears. The sense base which
verifies sense data must be compatible with the kind of data that is being
the sixth sense is not recognized, we will be deprived of an immense amount of
sense data, because there is much experience which arises exclusively in the
mind. There are, for example, many experiences within the mind which can be
immediately experienced and verified, such as love, hate, anger, and fear.
These things cannot be verified or experienced through other sense organs. If
we experience love, we ourselves know our own mind, we can verify it for ourselves.
When there is fear, or a feeling of anger, or feelings of comfort, peace, or
contentment, we can know them directly in our own minds. Therefore, in Buddhism
we give this sixth sense, the mind and its thinking, a prominent role in the
search for knowledge or truth.
resorts to instruments designed for the other five senses, mainly the eyes and
ears, such as the encephalogram, to study the thinking process. Scientists tell
us that in the future they'll be able to tell what people are thinking simply
by using a machine, or by analyzing the chemicals secreted by the brain. These
things do have a factual basis, but the truths that they are likely to reveal
will probably be like Sir Arthur Eddington's "shadow world of
symbols." They will not be the truth, but shadows of the truth. Scientific
truth, like the scientific method, is faulty, because it breaches one of the
rules of observation: the instruments do not correspond with the data. As long
as this is so, science will have to continue observing shadows of reality for a
long time to come.
this sixth sense, the mind, is also very important in science. The scientific
method, from the very beginnings right up to and including experimentation and
conclusion, has developed through this sixth sense. Before any other senses can
be used, the scientist must utilize thinking. He must organize a plan, a method
of verification, and he must establish an hypothesis. All of these activities
are mental processes, which are dependent on the sixth sense, the mind. Even in
practical application, the mind must be following events, taking notes.
Moreover, the mind is the arbitrator, the judge of whether or not to accept the
data that arise during the experiment.
final stages of scientific enquiry, the assessment and conclusions of the
experiment, the formulation of a theory and so on, are all thought processes.
We can confidently say that the theories of science are all results of
thinking, they are fruits of the sixth sense, which is the headquarters of all
the other senses.
acknowledges the importance of the sixth sense as a channel through which
events can be directly experienced. The truth of the mind is a verifiable cause
and effect process. It is subject to the laws of nature. Even though it may
seem very intricate and difficult to follow, Buddhism teaches that the mind
conforms to the stream of causes and conditions, just like any other natural
phenomenon. In the material world, or the world of physics, it is recognized
that all things exist according to causes and conditions, but in cases where
the conditions are extremely intricate, it is very difficult to predict or
follow events. A simple example is weather prediction, which is recognized as a
very difficult task because there are so many inconstants. The sequence of
causes and conditions within the mind is even more complex than the factors
involved in the weather, making prediction of results even more difficult.
beings are a part of nature which contain the whole of nature within them. If
people were able to open their eyes and look, they would be able to attain the
truth of nature as a direct experience. Using scientific instruments,
extensions of the five senses, is a roundabout way of proceeding. It can only
verify truth on some levels, just enough to conquer nature and the external
world (to an extent), but it cannot lead mankind to the total truth of reality.
Systematic attention, wise consideration, critical reflection. [Back to text]
These are the four mental khandhas which, together with rupa, or material form,
go to make up the whole of conditioned existence. [Back to text]
Rene Descartes, quoted by Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World, (St.
Martin's Press, New York, 1992) p. 148. [Back to text]
from Bhikkhu P. A. Payutto., Toward Sustainable Science, A Buddhist Look at
Trends in Scientific Development. (Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1993), pp.