Sunday, June 26, 2011

Towards a New Paradigm: The Convergence of Science and Buddhism

"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
-- Max Planck --

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogma and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity."
-- Albert Einstein --
The Dalai Lama and the late cosmologist, Carl Sagan
"When I speak with open-minded scientists and philosophers of science," the Dalai Lama observes in his book "The Universe in a Single Atom," "it is clear that they have a deeply nuanced understanding of science and a recognition of the limits of scientific knowledge. At the same time, there are many people, both scientists and non-scientists, who appear to believe that all aspects of reality must and will fall within the scope of science. The assumption is made that, as society progresses, science will continually reveal the falsehoods of our beliefs - particularly religious beliefs - so that an enlightened secular society can eventually emerge."

"In this view," he continues, "science is perceived as having disproved many of the claims of religion such as the existence of God, grace, and the eternal soul. And within this conceptual framework, anything that is not proven or affirmed by science is somehow either false or insignificant. Such views are effectively philosophical assumptions that reflect their holders' metaphysical prejudices. Just as we must avoid dogmatism in science, we must ensure that spirituality is free from the same limitations."

"Clearly," he concludes, "this (scientific) paradigm does not and cannot exhaust all aspects of reality, in particular the nature of human existence. In addition to the objective world of matter, which science is masterful at exploring, there exists the subjective world of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and the values and spiritual aspirations based on them."

"If we treat this realm as though it had no constitutive role in our understanding of reality," he cautions, "we lose the richness of our own existence and our understanding cannot be comprehensive. Reality," he points out, "including our own existence, is so much more complex than objective scientific materialism allows."

Indeed, as many scholars working at the leading edge of science - particularly those scientists investigating the phenomenon of consciousness itself - have pointed out, there seems to be a convergence of physics with the metaphysics of the world's great non-dualistic wisdom traditions (particulary with Buddhism and the Advaita Vedanta). The following videos serve as a wonderful introduction to this seemingly strange intersection of the worlds of cutting-edge science with traditional Buddhist philosophy and metaphysics.

Knowing scientifically, that the space within the atom is 99.999999999999% empty, that what "matter" does exist therein is more probabilistic than "real," and that even such probabilistic particles are fundamentally entangled with every other particle in the universe is bound to redefine our collective worldviews going forward.

The intriguing aspect of the "truths' discovered by modern Western scientific inquiry and technology, is that all of these principles were largely anticipated by millennia old Eastern wisdom insights. The question then becomes, one supposes, whether ancient traditions, like Buddhism, can (as Einstein observed) serve as the basis for building a truly "cosmic religion for the future." For, in these days, the future seems more imperiled than ever by outdated religious traditions and understandings - traditions and understandings that seem to conflict evermore directly with mankind's burgeoining scientific understanding.

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