Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind


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He has edited, translated, authored, and contributed to more than forty books on Tibetan Buddhism, medicine, language, and culture, and the interface between science and Buddhism, including Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice, Mind in the Balance: Meditation in Science, Buddhism, and Christianity, and Hidden. Pancastikayasara USD Essays on Hinduism USD 6. Krishna USD 5. Ramayana USD 8. Upanishads USD 9. After this sojourn in solitude, I spent six years in graduate studies at Stanford University, where I earned a doctorate in religious studies.

During that time, in addition to studying comparative religion, I also studied cognitive psychology and the philosophies of religion, mind, physics, and biology. To address the question of ways in which Buddhism is not consonant with modern science, one must first acknowledge that many Buddhists and many scientists do not live up to the ideals of their own traditions.

There are unethical, closed-mind, dogmatic Buddhists, just as there are unethical, closed-mind, dogmatic scientists, and many Buddhist and scientific institutions are deeply flawed by human vices. But I certainly have found many tendencies in both traditions that betray the ideals of Buddhism and science. Foremost among these unfortunate tendencies is blind reliance upon tradition and unquestioned beliefs, while forsaking truly open-minded, fearless inquiry, as advocated by the Dalai Lama and Richard Feynman. The fundamental belief of this scientific materialism is that the whole of reality consists only of space-time and matter-energy and their emergent properties.

This implies that the only true causation is physical causation, so there are no non-physical influences in the universe.

As the philosopher John R. I find this pattern very revealing, and what it reveals is an urge to get rid of mental phenomena at any cost. Just as Buddhism has failed to produce any significant technology or sophisticated mathematics over its long history, so has modern science failed to develop any sophisticated means for investigating the mind, consciousness, and subjective experience firsthand. Ever since the founding of behaviorial psychology at the beginning of the twentieth century, cognitive scientists have largely ignored the first-person experiential examination of subjective experience in favor of the study of behavior and brain functions.

While all other branches of modern science have focused on the direct observation of the natural phenomena they are seeking to understand, the cognitive sciences have insisted on avoiding such direct observation of mental phenomena. The simple reason for this is that subjectively experienced mental processes and states of consciousness simply do not fit within the materialistic paradigm that has dominated science since the beginning of the twentieth century. As a result of this fixation on approaching the study of the mind indirectly through the examination of behavior and brain functions, while marginalizing or even denying the validity of first-person experience, modern science has alienated us from our own existence.

It is a commonplace nowadays to equate the mind with the brain, or to insist that the mind is nothing more than a function of the brain. But this is merely a metaphysical belief that has never been validated through scientific research. While the mind and brain are clearly correlated in precise ways that have been revealed through advances in cognitive neuroscience, the exact nature of those correlations remains a mystery.

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Historically, such illusions of knowledge have proved to be the primary obstacle to discovering the nature of reality, and they are not consonant with either Buddhism or science. As both contemplatives and scientists wake up to the limitations of their respective pursuits of knowledge, while celebrating their unique strengths, we may see a renaissance in open-minded, rigorous contemplative inquiry, coupled with the first true revolution in the mind sciences. This calls for an integration of first-person and third-person methods of research, which may enhance the hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing of humanity.

The world is now facing unprecedented challenges environmentally, economically, socially, and morally, and to successfully rise to meet these challenges, we must draw on the wisdom of the East and West, of the ancients and the modern.

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These same challenges that imperil our very existence may help up unite in ways never before witnessed in human history. I appreciate your stressing the open-minded investigation and self-verification that is a key part of Buddhism. Many people like me are very attracted to Buddhism but find these types of beliefs a bit off-putting in the same way that Old Testament views on morality are off-putting. I, for one, feel that more people would be attracted to Buddhism if it were more open to change.

How do you feel about doctrinal changes like this as a way to modernize Buddhism for broader appeal? Buddhist views pertaining to karma, which are very difficult to evaluate empirically, are all predicated on the basis of the assertion that individual consciousness precedes this life and carries on after this life.

Clearly, human consciousness arises in dependence upon the brain and is configured and influenced by many physical factors within this life. So that cannot precede this life and continue after brain death. But Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jewish, Christian, and Sufi contemplatives throughout history have discovered evidence of reincarnation, as did Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato. This is remarkable in light of the great diversity of beliefs of these religions and philosophies. And scientists at the University of Virginia who have been studying evidence of alleged past-life recall, have discovered an impressive amount of compelling evidence in support of these contemplative discoveries.

Ian Stevenson.

Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind (2nd Ed.)

As for empirical evidence of the continuity of individual consciousness after brain death, very recently a study was published on a very large-scale study conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton. They spent four years examining more than 2, people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria and found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of awareness during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.


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One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. Despite being dead for three minutes, he recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines. Sam Parnia and Josh Young.

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Although this empirical evidence has been in plain sight for many years, the scientific establishment has generally ignored it, not because of faulty scientific methodologies, but because these conclusions contradict the deeply entrenched beliefs of scientific materialism. In fact, there is rapidly mounting evidence that the reductionist view of consciousness being nothing more than a function of the brain is fundamentally flawed and is based on inconclusive evidence and circular reasoning. I agree that science can be as dogmatic as religion in many cases.

Modern civilization suffers from a severe imagination deficit disorder in its inability to imagine any alternatives other than materialistic monism or Cartesian dualism. But materialism fares no better in giving any coherent understanding of the nature of subjective experience or how it causally interacts with the brain. So we have two dead ends.


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He has proposed a fourfold model of reality, consisting of 1 matter and forces, 2 consciousness, 3 physical and biological possibilities, and 4 mathematical reality. All of these levels of existence, he proposes, are equally real and distinct, and they are related to each other through causal links. This model transcends the ideological boxes in which the Western mind has been stuck for centuries, and it accords much more closely to Buddhist views of reality.

As for the hypothesis that there is a dimension of consciousness that is not contingent upon a functioning brain, we should be led not so much by logical but by empirical facts. In the West, we have ignored our own rich Judeo-Christian heritage of contemplative inquiry, while equating religious belief with mere reliance upon divine authority.

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Then this same prejudice is projected on Buddhism and other Asian contemplative traditions, never considering that their centuries of rational and first-person experiential investigation of the mind and consciousness might have yielded discoveries that are not accessible by studying the mind only objectively by way of behavior brain activities.

And the time of death itself is far less black and white than you suggest, as we know from numerous anomalous incidents of people being revived. Actually, if even one person makes veridical reports of what occurred in his immediate surroundings while his brain was dead, that should be regarded as highly significant, especially if his ears were closed and he was allegedly witnessing his environment from an out-of-body perspective.

This is the ultimate triumph of materialistic dogmatism over empirical evidence. The refusal on the part of the scientific community to be a fair, objective appraisal of the many studies of post-death experience and veridical past-life memories from the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia is simply a travesty.

This one study of post-death experiences should not be taken as definitive, but interested readers should open-mindedly read more thorough accounts of evidence suggestive of a dimension of consciousness that is not dependent on the brain. If one is willing to consider that highly trained contemplatives throughout the ages using the most sophisticated methods for exploring the mind from a first-person perspective may have made their own discoveries, then they should research the extensive literature that reports such contemplative accounts of the continuity of consciousness.

As an analogy, it proved to be very difficult to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, but sufficient time, money, and effort was expended, and this major discovery was made. Why be so casual in dismissing what may be one of the greatest discoveries of the Buddhist tradition, allegedly made by the Buddha himself and replicated many times over the past 2, years by numerous, highly accomplished Buddhist contemplatives. For all the scientific advances in the mind sciences over the past , scientists have left modern society completely in the dark about the nature, origins, and causal efficacy of consciousness.


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Jesus had to face it. Jesus had no powers. He had no choice at that moment without facing to crucifixion. He was just a simple human just like you and me. And you say that buddha discouraged us from finding the complexities of the universe. Buddha has not discouraged you from scientific researches within the world we are living. Then you will have acquired all the knowledge of the universe. No need to go after that,. Buddha said that matter divides to smaller pieces even than atoms and so on.

How does he know these things. He is buddha. The ultimate form a life can reach. But buddha has already revealed them if you read the suthras and identify them, you can identify how he has revealed them only by using his wisdom. But there are more dark places left. But there are more dark places that has not been revealed by science. Mahendra, Contrary to Dr. Science totally overlaps some religions theistic religions and others partially. Buddhism as a religion, may belong to later category but some teachings in Buddhism certainly contradicts laws of nature. As you probably know Einstein was an agnostic or rather secularist.

His free inquiry made him the greatest theoretical physicist of that century. No religion promotes that idea despite your claim that Buddhism does.

Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind
Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind

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