All of you know one of my main goals in life is to help genuine science and genuine spirituality interact in ways so each helps the other. An interesting aspect arose in discussion with colleagues recently, that I wrote my friend Shinzen Young, meditation teacher, about. Some of you might find this interesting, it’s about fooling ourselves and others (perhaps?) in our search for the “truth”………..
Here’s an opening/interesting thought. I’ve always cited the Sutta to the Kalamas (a translation I use is below for convenience) as showing that the Buddha was basically scientific in his attitude. Don’t take anything on Authority or apparent logic, keep testing it against experience, only adopt it (subject to change later if the right data comes along) if the ideas/concepts keep agreeing with reality/experience. It’s my idea of how basic science is done, data first, always, theory second.
Mentioned it on one of my discussion lists a couple of days ago, with the addendum that while lip service was paid to it, Buddhism as I had come across it, often didn’t seem to honor it. The actual rule seemed to be think about something until you come to the same conclusions the Buddha is reputed to have come to, then you can stop thinking. Since the Buddha knew everything, now you are right. Authority Forever!!!
A Buddhist scholar on the list complimented me on my attitude, it was certainly me, but perhaps I had it wrong, perhaps Gautama Buddha’s actual intention, and/or the intention of later Buddhists, might indeed have been to get you thinking only until you agreed with the Buddha. Thus your faith was strengthened, etc. Wow! The Buddha doing a little mind fucking, even if for my and everybody’s good? Well maybe…..I did tell my kids about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, with the best of intentions and it worked out pretty well…..
So my mind is more open, but not comfortable, it’s a slippery slope misleading people for their own good…..I generally don’t want to start down that slope at all since it’s so tricky……And absolute honesty is essential to doing real science…..
I touched on this some in an interview with Vince Horne of the Buddhist Geeks program last week. Vipassana, I opined (following your ideas), is a great invention, it’s a microscope you can use to discover the fine and otherwise implicit structure of your own mind, then maybe change it intelligently. But if you get a microscope, you don’t just wave it around at random, you may be given certain slides (and not others) to look at, and those slides have been prepared in certain ways, selecting materials, stains, etc. Nothing wrong with this tool as long as you realize you’re using it within certain limits and you constantly seek to understand these limits and how they might slant your observations. If you forget these limits and think you’re seeing Unlimited Truth, though, you may get quite deluded….
Charley, who might be a little less deluded because he now knows another way in which he might be deluded about being deluded….. 😉
Gautama Buddha’s Sutta to the Kalamas
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
(from Gates, 1989).