In this respect, we find that science, in particular, confines its research exclusively to external, physical phenomena. Science does not include mankind in its picture of the universe. In other words, science does not consider the universe as including mankind, and does not look at mankind as encompassing the whole of the universe.
Looking 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.
But 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 behaviour. At the same time, Buddhism sees this process as a natural one. For this reason, Buddhism, like science, has faith in nature, but this belief or faith also includes human beings, both in the sense that human beings are a part of nature, and in the sense that human beings encompass the whole of nature within themselves, in that they are subject to the laws of nature.
of science has only one object,
In one sense, these two kinds of faith are one and the same thing, because they are both beliefs in nature, the first kind more obviously so. But the firstling of faith does not cover the whole picture, it includes only the external environment. In Buddhism, mankind is recognized as a part of nature. ThePhysical human organism is as natural as the external environment.
Moreover, 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 peculiar quality is mankind's mental side, the subject of values.
Bearing 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. These mental qualities, such as faith and desire to know, are all abstract qualities; they are what I call 'values'. They all come into the human abstract realm, and as such must come into our field of research and understanding.
Moreover, on the ultimate level, the attainment of truth is also the attainment of the highest good. In the end, the truth and the most excellent kind of life, or the highest truth and the highest good, are one and the same thing. If human 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.
Although science does have faith in nature, and strives to Know the truths of nature, it doesnt look at nature in its entirety. Science ignores human values and as a result has an incomplete or faulty view of nature. Science's search for knowledge is inadequate and cannot reach completion, because one side of nature, the internal nature of man, is ignored.
It is noteworthy that the faith of science, like Buddhism, also has a suggestion of being divisible into two aspects. That is, there is both faith in nature, and faith in human potential. Let us look at the faith of science, which, strictly speaking, is the conviction that nature has immutable laws, the truth of which is accessible to human intelligence.
In this respect, science differs from Buddhism, which holds the faith in human potential to be of prime importance, and has expanded this subject into practical forms which have been systematized into the larger part of Buddhism's teachings. Throughout the Buddhist teachings, faith is always connected between three points. That is, there is conviction in the human potential to develop wisdom and realise the truth of the laws of nature, this conviction being supported by the deeper-rooted conviction that nature functions according to fixed laws; and there is the conviction that the realization of these laws of nature will enable human beings to realize the highest good, which is liberation from suffering.
This kind of faith creates a significant distinction between Buddhism and science. In Buddhism there is a search for truth in conjunction with a training to realize human potential. This development of human potential is also what determines the way knowledge is used. This being the case, the probability of using the knowledge gained from studying the laws of nature to serve the destructive influences of greed , hatred and delusion is minimized. Instead, knowledge gained will be used in a constructive way. As for science, this one-sided faith in the laws of nature is liable to cause the search for knowledge to be aimless and Undisciplined. 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 to humanity. 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. At the same time, science opens wide the way for undesirable values to direct scientific development, leading it in the direction of greed, hatred and delusion. Examples of these undesirable values are the desire to conquer nature and materialism, which have controlled scientific development in the last century or more, causing exploitation of and destruction to the environment. If scientific development continues this trend, it will be unsustainable.
It should be stressed that human beings are intelligent beings, or to put it more directly, they are beings which have intention. They are beings which make kamma, and all kinds of kamma must rely on volition. For that reason, human beings have a sense of values. Given that they have faith in the laws of nature and a desire to understand those laws, they must also have a sense of values, be it conscious or otherwise. This quality will condition the style and direction of their methods for finding the truth, as well as the context and way in which that truth is seen.
If mankind's awareness of values does not penetrate to this basic quality of unity within his mind, in other words, he does not develop the highest good in conjunction with his search for truth of nature, his searching, in addition to being incapable of being fully successful (because it ignores one side of reality), will be overwhelmed by inferior values, and the search for knowledge will be uncontrolled and misdirected. Inferior values will influence the search for knowledge, distorting any truths that are discovered.
Simply speaking, the knowledge of scientists is not independent of values. A simple example of one 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 analysed deeply, is likely to have other sets of values hidden within it, such as the desire to feed some personal need, even some pleasant feelings, within the researcher.
I would like to summarize at this point that we have been talking about two levels of values, which are the highest value, together with those intermediate values which are compatible with it. The highest value is a truth which must be attained to, it is not something which can be artificially set up in the mind. Scientists have faith in nature already. Such conviction is already a value within them from the outset, but this faith must be expanded on to include the whole of nature and humanity, which entails faith in the highest good, simply by bearing in mind that the laws of nature are connected to the highest good.
Faith, 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, or the truth of all things. Such an aspiration is important in both science and Buddhism. From faith in the existence of the highest good and inhuman potential arises the aspiration to attainted state of freedom from suffering, to remedy all problems and pursue personal development.
The 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 directed. 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. When these two kinds of aspiration merge, we have a cycle, a balance, a sufficiency. There is a clear limit to our aspiration for knowledge, our knowledge being used for the express purpose of creating a quality of life for the human race. In short, our aspiration for knowledge is firmly related to the human being, and this defines the way our knowledge is to be used.
As for science, originally there was merely the aspiration for Knowledge. When the aspiration for knowledge is aimless and undirected, what results is a random collection of data, an attempt to know the truth behind nature by looking further and further outward - truth for its own sake. The scientific search for truth lacks direction. But human beings are driven by values. Because 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 conquer nature, and later on, the desire to produce an abundance of material wealth. These two aspirations have created a different kind of cycle.
I would like to reiterate the meaning of this cycle: it is the aspiration to know the truths of nature in order to exploit it for the production of material goods. This cycle has been the cause of innumerable problems in recent times: mental, social, and in particular, as we are seeing at present, environmental.
This is because the thinking of the industrial age has caught science by its loophole, an undefined aspiration for knowledge, which is human action done without consideration for the human being. At the present time we are experiencing the ill effects of this loophole: problems with the environment and elsewhere, arising from the belief in man's dominion over nature and the adherence to materialism.
This kind of thinking has caused a tendency to excess in human undertakings. There are no limits placed on the search for happiness. The search for happiness is endless, the destruction of nature is endless. Problems are bound to arise. This is one point at which Buddhism and science part their ways.
Science is not interested in, and in fact is ignorant of, human nature, and as a result has become an instrument of industry and its selfish advances on the environment. This ignorance of human nature is ignorance of the fact that pandering to the five senses is incapable of making mankind happy or contented. This kind of desire has no end, and so the search for material wealth has no end. Because this abundance of material goods is 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. Even if human beings completely destroy nature, it won't be enough to satisfy human desire. It would probably be more correct to say that this exploitation of nature in itself gives man more misery than happiness.
Copyright © 2002 Mahidol
University All rights reserved.