Not only the aspiration for knowledge and the conviction just mentioned, but even the great discoveries of science have been products of the mind. Some scientists possessed equality we could call 'intuition', and could envisage the truths that they discovered in their mind's eye before they actually verified them in the physical world. Before many of the major breakthroughs in science, there tended to be some degree of intuition involved ... the scientist would see something 'in his mind's eye', which would become the initiative to conduct research into the matter.
Without this quality of intuition and foresight, science might have become just another baseless branched knowledge, or largely a matter of guesswork, It would have lacked direction or goal. Intuition and foresight have played a vital role in the history of science. For many eminent scientists this intuition was involved in the process of making their most important discoveries. An inkling of some train of thought or research, never before thought of, would arise in the scientist's mints, initiating the systematic reasoning, the formulation of a hypothesis and the experimentation, resulting eventually in a new theory.
Even observation begins with a thought, which establishes a path of investigation, and constrains observation to the relevant framework. For example, Newton saw the apple fall and understood the Law of Gravity. According to the story, he saw the apple fall and immediately had arealization, but in fact Newton had been pondering the nature of motion for months at that time. It was a mental process in his mind, which culminated as a realization on seeing the apple fall.
Sometimes this happens to us. We may be thinking of some particular problem to no avail for quite a long time, and then, while we happen to be just sitting quietly, the answer suddenly flashes into the mind. These answers don't just arise randomly or by accident. In fact, the mind has been functioning on a subtle level. The realization is the result of a cause and effect process.
Mind, through faith and motivation, is the origin of science; through intuition and foresight it is the force through which science has been able to progress; and through the goals and objectives which are envisioned and aspired to in the mind, it is the direction for science's future advancement. The search for basic truths is possible because the mind conceives that such truths do exist.
Having reached this point, I will tell you the name of the eminent scientist who gave me the ideas for the title of this talk. He is none other than Albert Einstein. He didn't, however, say the exact words I have used. I have paraphrased him.
What Einstein did say was:
Einstein felt that in this age it is hard to find people with religion. Only the scientists who study science with a pure heart have true religion. Following that, he says,
The desire to know the truth, and the faith that behind nature there are laws which are constant truths throughout the entire universe - this is what Einstein calls religious feeling, or more specifically, 'cosmic religious feeling'. Then he goes on to say,
Einstein says that Buddhism has a high degree of this cosmic religious feeling, and this cosmic religious feeling is the origin or seed of scientific research. So you can decide for yourselves whether the title I have used for this talk is suitable or not.
I have mentioned this to show in what manner it can be said that Buddhism is the foundation of science, but please don't attach too much importance to this idea, because I don't completely agree with Einstein's view. My disagreement is not with what he said, but that he said too little. What Einstein called this cosmic religious feeling' is only part of what religious feeling is, because religion should always come back to the human being, to the nature of being human, including how human beings should behave towards nature, both internally and externally. I cannot see that Einstein's words clearly include self-knowledge and benefit to the human being. However that may be, from Einstein's words, we can see that he felt that science had its roots in the human desire for knowledge, and conviction in the order of nature.
But now, having reached this point, I did say that I don't want you to be too concerned over whether Buddhism really is the foundation of science or not. In fact it might be better to change the title of this talk, to something like ... What would the science which has Buddhism as its foundation be like?'' This may give us some new perspectives to think about. The statement Buddhism is the foundation of science'', is just an opinion, and some may say it is a conceited one at that. And that would get us nowhere. But if we say 'How should science be in order to be founded on Buddhism?, this will be much more constructive, giving us some practical and concrete points to consider.
This is a very important question, one which demands some reflection. I can offer an answer, and I will try to keep it to within the context of the points already covered during this talk, so that it serves as a kind of summary.
Firstly, we must expand the meaning of the word 'religion' or 'religious feeling' in order to correspond to Buddhism:
In point A) we are extending the definition of that nature which is to be realized. In point B) we are reiterating those values which are in conformity with the highest good, ensuring that the aspiration for truth is pure and clear, and closing off the chance for lesser values to corrupt our aspiration.
With these two points in mind, we can now answer, The science which accords with Buddhism is the science which aspires to understand natural truth, in conjunction with the development of the human being and the attainment of the highest good. Or we could say: The science which is founded on Buddhism arises from an aspiration for knowledge of nature, together with a desire to attain the highest good, which is the foundation for constructive human development.
This kind of definition may seem to be bordering onto Applied Science, but it isn't really. From one perspective, the natural sciences of the last age were influenced by the selfish motives already mentioned, which were not very good. For that reason we offer these alternative incentives, to prevent those previous ones from arising, replacing the desire to conquer nature and produce an abundance of material wealth with the aspiration for freedom from suffering.
To rephrase the above definition, we could say The science which attains a true and comprehensive knowledge of reality will be the integration of the physical sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. All sciences will be connected and as one. Or to put it another way, Once science extends the limits of its fundamental definition and improves its techniques for research and study, the truths of the social sciences and humanities will be attainable through the study of science.
This statement is not said in jest or in carelessness. In the present day, the advances of the sciences and human society within the global environment have necessitated some cohesiveness in the search for knowledge. You could say the time is ripe. If we don't deal with it in the proper way, that ripeness may become rotten, like an over-ripe fruit. The question is, Will science take on the responsibility of leading mankind to this unification of leaning?
On the second level, that is, the principle of commitment to knowledge that is useful, knowledge of truth should be divided into two categories:
The human life-span is limited and soon comes to an end. Quality of life, or the highest good, are things which should be attainable for a human being within this limited life-span. Scientific knowledge tends to say, Wait until Ive verified this first, and then you will know what to do. This attitude should be changed, clearly distinguishing between the different kinds of knowledge mentioned above. If science is to be a truly comprehensive body of learning, it must relate correctly to these two kinds of truth.
On the other hand, if science is to continue its present course, it might seek completion through cooperation by referring to Buddhism for the answer to those questions which demand immediate answers, so that the attainment of the highest good in this very life is possible, while science can seek answers to those questions which, even if not answered, do not affect our ability to live in peace and well-being.
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