Since the 19th century, Buddhism has increasingly been associated with science. Buddhism shares with science a common commitment to unveil the truth about the world, drawing sharp discrepancy between the way things appear, and the way they really are.
One of my Master’s teachers, Venerable Master Taixu once commented, “In general, what is a gain to science is a loss to religion. Those religions with doctrines of gods and souls fundamentally lack the stability of truth and are easily shaken. But Buddhism benefits from the discoveries of science. The more science progresses, the clearer Buddhism becomes, for Buddhism explains the truth concerning the universe… Science helps us to understand Buddhism by offering suitable analogies.”
The recent discussion on the compatibility between Buddhism and science has made inroads to focus on the various types of meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, and their relations to neuroscience and psychotherapy.
There is increasing scientific evidence to show that Buddhist meditation bestows numerous health benefits. The use of mindfulness psychotherapy has been demonstrated by countless studies to be successful and effective in treating various mental disorders, attesting to the efficacy and timelessness of the Buddha’s teaching of mindfulness and compassion.
Even though the teachings were given more than 2550 years ago, today’s scientific investigation is affirming their practicality in cultivating mental resilience, with some scholars considering Buddhist meditation to be an “inner science,” or a “science of the mind”.
Truly as the Buddha expounded in the Dhammapada, the mind is the forerunner of all mental phenomena, and the window to our well-being and happiness.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts,
suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts,
happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
Humans are so weird. We say we want to be happy but spend so much time holding grudges or hurt or being bitter and angry and sometimes I genuinely believe that we as a species do not want to actually be happy. We’ll make excuses for why we aren’t or try to rationalize it as being a product of society or outside of our control* but for the vast majority of people who are reading this on tumblr.com the only thing keeping us from being happy is ourselves because it’s kind of just a choice?
I think somewhere along the way from toddler to adult we all forget that it’s okay when things don’t go our way, and so we revert back to thinking that it’s okay to be grouchy when we don’t like how things turn out. Which it IS okay, but it’s counterproductive and is preventing us from being happy, right? I think I’m just learning to be more practical about life. Things are the way that they are. I don’t always like it, but if we could change things we would have already? So whatever we’re left with exists as it does and we have to accept that. We can accept it begrudgingly or we can direct our energy elsewhere.
I honk the biggest way this applies is to people. People are always going to hurt you; the more important they are to you, the greater their capacity to wound. But when we get hurt, so many people choose to internalize that pain or latch onto it instead of releasing it. My faith helps me release a lot of my pain or anger and I recognize that not everyone has that outlet or chooses to believe in God and His healing grace but if you don’t then you certainly have to utilize SOMEthing. Because the natural human response I have found is to WANT to hold onto it, to fashion that dagger in your back into a spike of armor that will prick anyone else who would step close, and especially the person who put it there in the first place. But the problem arises that those spikes are cumulative and you eventually end up so hardened and thorny that no one can get close to you and you’re stuck in a prison you created for yourself by your own choices.
I’m huge on personal responsibility. I don’t believe in shirking that or trying to deny ones own fault because then you never grow. Some people don’t even think they need to grow or that they’re done and that’s wild to me. Self improvement is a lifelong process and that’s so encouraging because even though you’re never done with it, it also means it’s never too late for you to grow more. We all need to be more proactive about loving others and not sipping from our cups of bitterness and poison so frequently. It takes a conscious choice to CHOOSE to not harbor resentment or bitterness. Your natural response will be to fight that. But choose love and forgiveness and graciousness enough and you start to see a transformation; it gets easier and easier to do. It doesn’t numb you or dull the pain like hardening your heart does, but it makes you feel like the fibers of your heart are knit so much more strongly that you can weather any level of pain you might endure.
I know this was a lot but it’s something I think about and wish more people would try because we need more people who will make choices and choose to live intentional and happy lives.
*i recognize some people have extenuating circumstances that are genuinely awful and oppressive and I don’t mean to refer to those people. Rather I just mean those of us with generally ordinary or mundane or “easy” lives who still somehow wind up unhappy.
As a disciple of Buddha Shakyamuni, our focus should not emphasize theory too much, but place more emphasis on how to put theory into practice. When we’re too focused on theory, our brains can get a little strange; slowly a gap will develop between the Dharma and our practice. Questions will crowd our mind. So we have to use the theories and put them in to practice, not just keep them in our heads. We need to use our mind to truly experience the philosophy and then we can clarify our doubts. Putting these ideas in to practice is the best way to clear away our doubts. Therefore, Shariputra asked how to practice and not for an explanation of emptiness.
In the Heart Sutra, we are taught a method to help us work on our mind. What is important is whether or not your mind has been worked on. If we have read many sutras and yet our minds have not changed at all or improved some, then that is a real pity. It is so sad that it makes you want to cry.
The physical organism, your body, has its own intelligence, as does the organism of every other life-form. And that intelligence reacts to what your mind is saying, reacts to your thoughts. So emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind. The body’s intelligence is, of course, an inseparable part of universal intelligence, one of its countless manifestations. It gives temporary cohesion to the atoms and molecules that make up your physical organism. It is the organizing principle behind the workings of all the organs of the body, the conversion of oxygen and food into energy, the heartbeat and circulation of the blood, the immune system that protects the body from invaders, the translation of sensory input into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain, decoded there, and reassembled into a coherent inner picture of outer reality. All of these, as well as thousands of other simultaneously occurring functions, are coordinated perfectly by that intelligence. You don’t run your body. The intelligence does.