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QUESTION Science at the Crossroads | The 14th Dalai Lama

“Although Buddhist contemplative tradition and modern science have evolved from different historical, intellectual and cultural roots, I believe that at heart they share significant commonalities, especially in their basic philosophical outlook and methodology. On the philosophical level, both Buddhism and modern science share a deep suspicion of any notion of absolutes, whether conceptualized as a transcendent being, as an eternal, unchanging principle such as soul, or as a fundamental substratum of reality. Both Buddhism and science prefer to account for the evolution and emergence of the cosmos and life in terms of the complex interrelations of the natural laws of cause and effect. From the methodological perspective, both traditions emphasize the role of empiricism. For example, in the Buddhist investigative tradition, between the three recognized sources of knowledge - experience, reason and testimony - it is the evidence of the experience that takes precedence, with reason coming second and testimony last. This means that, in the Buddhist investigation of reality, at least in principle, empirical evidence should triumph over scriptural authority, no matter how deeply venerated a scripture may be. Even in the case of knowledge derived through reason or inference, its validity must derive ultimately from some observed facts of experience. Because of this methodological standpoint, I have often remarked to my Buddhist colleagues that the empirically verified insights of modern cosmology and astronomy must compel us now to modify, or in some cases reject, many aspects of traditional cosmology as found in ancient Buddhist texts.”

skado 8 Jan 30

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They still do follow rituals and have a stigma of a leader. display a lot of wisdom when it comes to contemporary thought. When it comes to technology their rejection of accepting advancements is concerning. The modernization of medicine as an example has saved many live, to solely rely on past practices is not progressive.


how would those changes affect buddhist doctrine?

Thus have I read:

The Buddha would sometimes be hounded by people who wanted answers to questions he had not addressed--like, do we have souls, is the universe eternal, after one attains enlightenment does one exist, cease to exist, or neither? Metaphysical stuff of the kind that the people of the era and area liked to study and argue. It was seriously like a national pastime for them; teachers with differing and sometimes completely contradictory systems roved the country, practically competing for students. The ways they addressed these kinds of questions were like their calling cards--they distinguished themselves that way.

For the Buddha to steadfastly refuse to answer some of these questions was odd, and didn't sit well with some. Once when he was pressed (they say) he grabbed a handful of leaves off of a tree and said, "What do you think, dude: are there more leaves in my hand, or on this tree?". To which dude said, "Duh, any idiot can see there's more leaves on the tree...". The Buddha then said, "So it is with what I choose to teach. What do I not teach? Whatever is fascinating to discuss, divides people against one another, and does not lead to liberation (from suffering). What do I teach? Whatever is sufficient for liberation (from suffering).".

So the core Buddhist teachings have a built-in ethos of "stick to what's important.". Knowing where the center of the universe is, or how many "world's" there are, etc. doesn't help a person awaken.

Buddhism proper (i.e. the teachings of the Buddha, and not necessarily all the different flowery cultural traditions that have arisen in the past 2500 years or so) has little to fear from science. Modern evolutionary psychology actually agrees with some Buddhist notions of non-self (Robert Wright has an online course about this), for one example.

So "Mount Meru" isn't the center of the universe after all. Big deal. Meditation still works, the same way it did for the past 2500 years. Most of the updates would be in non-essential areas like cosmology and astronomy--stuff that doesn't really matter.

TL;DR: not much.

super dandy answer. a long time ago i poked around with buddhism and zen a bit, but not thoroughly or for long. i think i need to revisit some things perhaps. this site has got me thinking that a thanks again.

I don't know specifically, hankster, but stinkeye has given a brilliant explanation of the general dynamic.

@skado she sure did. this buddhism/science dance is interesting.



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