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Buddhism and Science PDF Print E-mail
Think Tank
Shan Ying   

--- How Ancient Chinese found harmony in both.

20 years ago, it was quite a ‘revelation’ to me to learn that many people in western society understood that, “Buddhism” describes the system of the universe and the way in which human beings live to echo the rhythm of the nature.

On the other hand, almost all Chinese people (in my generation) in China think that Buddhism exists to allow them to beg fortune from gods and ask for a “son” to be born in the family by placing money in donation boxes! --- Sounds like quite a corruption!

No! That is not the Chinese culture which Chinese people inherited from the ancients. That certainly is the result of junk from the many “revolutions” of communist China that successfully enforced Chinese people to have a false impression about Chinese ancient teachings, and to pass this down for the future generations.

This allows the Communists in China to convince the rest of the world that ancient Chinese culture was based on superstition and personal greed. It also created a false perception among Chinese people that ancient Chinese culture is a hindrance to modern science.

Unfortunately, many Chinese people still automatically get angry or look down on you, when you talk about Buddhism or religious faith.

In our modern concept, the definition of "Science" goes like this: “… systematic knowledge of natural or physical phenomena; truth ascertained by observation, experiment, and induction; ordered arrangement of facts known under classes or headings; theoretical knowledge as distinguished from practical.......”

Yes, in modern science we believe, that the universe runs on its systematic rhythm, since the planets move in a systematic way, so do the seasons, the time and the lives of all matter in this universe. Science is trying to understand the regulation and system of how our universe works.

Buddhism and science are dealing with the same issues of the universe, but starting from opposite ends. Science tries to find out the fundamental principle of the universe, and tries to use the knowledge discovered to benefit society and human beings. Buddhism offers the principles of the universe, and also formulas as tools for people to apply in our daily life for our benefit.

We may then understand that it would be quite frustrating to some scientists to struggle to understand where those principles and formulas offered by Buddhism and Taoism came from.

On the other hand, it is quite awesome for some scientists to be able to achieve the “meeting points” with the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism!

There are many statements of the above made by the founders of science, which may not be acknowledged by most lay scholars in modern times, - let us just have a look at a few examples here:

Isaac Newton was an alchemist, which in ancient China was called Taoist (that is a person who practiced the Tao to achieve enlightenment.). Newton stated his understanding of God in Optics that “in infinite space, as it were in His Sensory, [He] sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself”. [Optics, ed. Whittaker, p. 370]

“The statement, found equally with Kepler, Gelileo, and Descartes, that it be foolish to think of the purpose of the universe as lying in man, consummates a complete change in the interpretation of the world.” says Dilthey. [Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science. By Hermann Weyl. P. 98]

Leibniz goes even further: “Concerning the bodies I am able to prove that not only light, color, heat, and the like, but motion, shape, and extension too are only apparent qualities”. [Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science. By Hermann Weyl. P112]

Gauss, wrote to his fellow scientist, Olbers, [1817, Werke, VIII, P177], “I am coming more and more to the conviction that the necessity of our geometry cannot be demonstrated, at least neither by, nor for, the human intellect. Perhaps in some other life we may arrive at other insights into the nature of space that are at present inaccessible to us. Until such time geometry should be ranked, not with arithmetic, which is purely aprioristic, but with mechanics.”

Kepler wrote to Galileo in April 1610, [Opere, X P.338 ]“The science of space is unique and eternal and is reflected out of the spirit of God.”

How did ancient Chinese understand Buddhism and science?

The ancient Chinese understood that we human beings are meant to live according to the rules offered by the Gods to enables us to be healthy and in harmony, as Buddhism describes nature or Gods’ principles.

The “rules” or knowledge of this universe offered by Gods, as described in the essay  “Essence of ancient Chinese science and medicine” (on this website), were used in every aspect of life, similarly to the way that “science” in modern society, manages and influences our daily lives. From architecture to arts developments, from medicine to manufacturing, it was not about Feng Shui, but was about the harmony of life of human beings with the whole universe, and the spiritual and physical connection.

Zhang Heng, about 100 BC, with the knowledge of the “five elements” and the  Book of Change, etc. constructed an earthquake detector, which can detect and predict earth quakes over four thousand miles away.

In ancient China, agriculture was largely dependent on the knowledge from those ancient teachings. There is a rhyme which instructs “when to sow and how to look after the crops”, according to 24 seasonal dates. The instruction from the rhyme was a very scientific way in dealing with agriculture.

Certainly it is a very different way of approach to how modern science deals with the matter. The most important difference is that the ancient Chinese way emphasized protecting nature, while the modern scientific methods advocate chemical or biological “revolution”, which has proved to be “not a welcome and suitable solution to human lives” by society at large.

It is also quite clearly evidenced that in 1972, after destroying the knowledge and teachings of the ancients, China’s grain production is a mere one third of that of the Song Dynasty, which was around 1000BC. [from: Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, Part 4, Disrupting Nature Causes the CCP to Reap What It Has Sown. (The Epoch Times).]

The ancient Chinese see science, nature and knowledge from Gods as closely related. It is important to respect nature and Gods’ teaching as well as gain great benefit through science which is learned from nature and from the teaching of Gods.

As described in the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, Part 4: “Clearly, only in the earth mother’s receptive virtues of softness, stillness, and endurance in following heaven can all things sustain and flourish on earth. The Book of Changes teaches us the proper attitude toward the heavenly Tao and earthly virtues: to follow heaven, abide by the earth, and respect nature.”

These ancient teachings or ancient sciences have a basic premise: God (or Buddha) created the world, and these formulas are for humans on earth to use to understand the habits of the universe in our situation.



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