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#1 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:42 AM

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QUOTE
Joop: ...but also many conditions can lead to the rise of Buddha Sasana, for example the fact that more and more persons see (the proofs) that the Buddha was right. That for example neuroscientific research shows that the idea of arising and falling away of phenomena is correct.


Sukin:

I think the Dhamma is very deep and very hard to understand even intellectually. The Tilakkhana is not at all easy to comprehend, and most of us have only the very shallow level of intellectual understanding, let alone the level got from practice. We struggle with forming the idea of what anicca, dukkha and anatta is, so I think it is a mistake to think that we have any 'correct' understanding. It can lead us the wrong way.

We do have our conventional ideas about these and they may well be distinguished in our minds. But these conventional ideas do not lead to the understanding of the actual. Rather once we understand the actual characteristics of dhammas, our understanding of these conventional concepts will be different. As of now however, we are mostly just playing with "ideas".

Impermanence, Suffering and Non-self are characteristics of dhammas of which we still do not understand at all. We have at best a very vague understanding of matter, feelings, perception, consciousness and formations. Rupa for example, is so different from what most of us understand as 'matter'. Mind which is much more subtle is completely different. Feeling is different from perception and seeing is different from hearing. And this is why the first real understanding occurs when mind and matter is distinguished at the first vipassananana.

It is true that that which is ultimate must reflect one way or another in conventional reality. But so far our understanding of conventional reality is from the standpoint of ignorance (of dhammas). This is where Science and any modern enthusiast of Buddha Dhamma are at. So I doubt that the popularity of Buddhism and the apparent agreement between science and Dhamma should be taken as sign of the "growth" of the Sasana. For example, would science ever arrive at the conclusion that there are 28 rupas? No, I think that science is going in a totally different direction, one that is reliant upon concepts to explain other concepts and not one that will arrive at an understanding of even a *single* dhamma.

In other words, who so ever sees a parallel and possible merging of science and Dhamma may in fact be far from having an understanding of the Buddha's teachings, enough to be moving in the right direction. Better to be patient with the realization that our understanding of Dhamma is very weak, better to know also that the goal is to develop our own understanding and not think too much about how other's are doing and how to encourage them. Worse still to act on the idea about 'groups' and 'peoples', which I think to be ultimately nothing but a game centered on 'self'.

The Sasana stands and falls with reference not to the number of people going around calling themselves "Buddhist". Nor is it to the fact that the 'Books' are intact, which I think will last many thousands of years more. Scholars and other curious individuals will forever exist and lobha will in the name of saddha, preserve in gold or on CD the Teachings 'forever'. These are the forces which are in fact opposed to the one that actually maintains the Sasana, namely "understanding". It may be the single individual who 'understands correctly' the Dhamma in the last 500 years of the 5000 predicted who takes the Sasana along with him at his death, while millions still go on living calling themselves Buddhists, who knows?

Hope there has been some food for thought here.

Metta,

Sukin.

#2 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:46 AM

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Howard: Yes, those are the loci for bodysense.

N: to be more precise: hardness etc. are the objects experienced through the doorway which is the rupa bodysense, by the vipaakacitta that is body-consciousness.

Howard:

Imbalance, dizziness, and nausea are all bodily sensations. Each is a rupa or sequence of body-door rupas. They aren't just stories. They can be and are directly experienced.

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N: We have to be more precise. Nausea, what is it? what is experienced through the bodysense? It may be some pressure or oscillation, and that is the element of wind or motion. Remember Htoo: he explained the experience of a painful wound as the experience of some moments of heat and also of hardness, alternately. We are self centered and think of my pain, my nausea, but let us analyse it, not naming it. Then we learn that they are only impersonal elements arising because of conditions and then gone. This must lead to detachment from I, mine.

Nausea, dizziness, all conventional terms to denote a situation with 'me' in the center of it all. If there is direct awareness of just the three Great Elements, one characteristic at a time, then there is no need to think of my discomfort. Is that not a gain?

H: There are many things missing in a corpse, most especially functioning of various sorts. There is no blood
circulation, no breathing, no heart beat, no brain function, no renewing of heat, no replacement of tissue, etc Life faculty, as far as I know, is not something to be found even in a living body.

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N: You describe a situation, using medical terms. They are all true in conventional sense. But let us think of the real cause of life and death. Cause and result, kamma and vipaka. why is there no renewal of heat, etc.? There were conditions. The life faculty was cut off. Kamma did not produce any more bhavanga-cittas, life-continuity, and thus the continuity of the life of that individual was broken off. It was time for the cuti-citta, dying-consciousness. This is succeeded by the rebirth-consciousness of the following life, produced by kamma. It is really helpful to consider that whatever is experienced is only nama and rupa.

quote N: Life faculty is together with the rupas of the body that are produced by kamma.

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Howard: I understand that you believe that, Nina. But I have no idea why.

N: I think that you find it acceptable that kamma produces birth. Kamma produces rebirth-consciousness and also some rupas at the first moment of our life. In the course of life we experience pleasant objects and unpleasant objects through the sense-doors, that is seeing etc, which can be a pleasant experience or an unpleasant experience. Such experiences are the results of kamma in the course of life. And also the rupas which are thesense-doors are produced by kamma throughout life, so that desirable and undesirable objects can be experienced. Now this answers your remark above that you had no idea why Life faculty is together with the rupas of the body that are produced by kamma. Life faculty is not in a tree, here are only rupas produced by heat.

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quote: Thus, together with eyesense, etc. The senses are produced by kamma, (snipped). A corpse does not have this. It is only in a living body.

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Howard: As far as I know, neither do I.

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Ledi Sayadaw uses some similes (on p. 16), under rupas. snipped.

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Howard: It seems to me that all this business is just primitive biology. (Sorry)

N: I am glad you mention this point. The Abhidhamma does not pretend to teach biology or science, thus, it does not teach a primitive biology either. The Co, in their explanations, and also Ledi Sayadaw, use some notions in this field for teaching purposes. As you also understood: to denote location. The aim, as said before, is helping us to understand that rupas are only ephemeral, impersonal elements. Primitive: Lodewijk said that we have to be very careful with this predicate. Science which seems advanced now will be judge primitive some decads later. Let us cross the barriers of prejudices that exist between nations, about civilisations, religions, colour of the skin. Knowing that there are only citta, cetasika and rupa helps to do away with prejudices. The Buddha taught the truth for all times, for everybody. When I visited Kh Sujin in the beginning, she put down her hand and asked me what I saw. Only pink colour. She said that it does not matter whether it is pink, brown or any other colour. This teaches us that skin colour is not important. The Abhidhamma helps to cure prejudices between nations and between individuals. Citta, cetasika and rupa! Nina.

P.S. You have no fear of death. Can you elaborate on this, Howard? How is your Dhamma group doing, what are the subjects?

#3 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:48 AM

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But hearing can *lead* to bodily contact, and seeing can *lead* to bodily impact. As a consequence of seeing sudden, extremely bright light, there is a very sudden contraction of the iris (I presume it is), and that is painful. Likewise with the hearing of an extremely loud sound, there results a sudden vibratory motion within the ear that is very painful. I agree that it is the *body* contact that is painful.

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N: I used to think in this way too. But then we are in the realm of science, lost in the ocean of concepts. Science is not our concern, it does not lead to detachment from the idea of self. So, it does not matter what causes the pain, but we know it is experienced through body-contact. There is no need to investigate further, about vibrations or the iris in the eye. We can learn to discern different dhammas at different moments.

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Howard: I agree that ear-door conciousness and eye-door consiousness are different from body-door consciousness, but each of the first two can, and in fact probably always do, condition body-door contact, though often body-door contact that is subtle.

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N: The conditions for body-consciousness are: the rupa of bodysense (all over the body) that is ready for impact of the element of tangible object. Moreover, kamma-condition and natural strong dependence-condition cause the arising of the vipakacitta that is body consciousness (and also its accompanying cetasikas contact, painful feeling and the others). The body-door adverting-consciousness, preceding the body-consciousness, is its proximate cause. I mention these conditions to make it clear that many different conditions are needed for one short moment of experience. In this case it was akusala kamma producing the painful feeling. But, seeing or hearing are produced by other kammas that may be kusala kamma. How could these be conditions for painful feeling? We should not mix different cittas, then we are thinking of a situation, an event, a whole, a person who has pain. No detachment.

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Howard: Actually, I can easily distinguish the seeing of a very bright light from the painful bodily reaction in the eye area immediately following.

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N: It is natural to think of an area in the eye, I do too. But that is again thinking of a place, of a situation. Understanding has to be developed of different dhammas arising each because of their own conditions, which are only elements, devoid of self. I know it is a long way to develop this understanding. We cannot hasten it. Pa~n~na works its way.
Nina.

#4 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:49 AM

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In my post yesterday, I intended to respond to other points you made in other posts, since I see that they may all be related. But that post was already getting too long (its frustrating that I can't seem to write short. :-/). So in this post I will express my thoughts about the topic of Science and how different this is from Dhamma.

The method of science I believe is basically the method of the `uninstructed worldling', only more developed in the direction taken. The worldling perceives earth as earth but goes on to conceive self and other `as earth', as `being apart from it' and `possessing it', reacts with desire or aversion, feeling pleasure, pain or indifference. To him "things" are real and permanent and he is driven to try to make sense of it, naming and identifying. This is where the more intelligent worldling, the `science person' comes in. The science person, like others, does not see the impermanence of rupas and conceives instead `things' out there, which he then attempts to study and classify. Those things are taken for real and further examined to determine the relationship to yet other `things' (sub atomic particles and other external matter). Taste, mell, tangibility, colour which in dhamma are ultimate realities, is perceived conceptually by the science person and classed instead, as properties *of* `things'.

Uttu niyama exhibits an array of diverse patterns and relations both within the body and outside, so there is much that an uninstructed worldling will be fascinated by. The science person being in fact one such worldling is able to focus on any given and limited set of such relations and impress others with data both concrete and abstract. And is also able to manipulate and create more fascinating "things".

This is not to say that such pursuits are useless, of course they are very useful. DSG wouldn't exist without the success of a number of these combined. ;-) However they are not to be seen as progressing towards the understanding of ultimate realities and the method used should not be seen as applicable to the development of panna.

When observing any given `thing' or data, a physicist, a biologist and an industrial designer for example, will each have a different perspective and come to different conclusions about the thing. Looking though an electron microscope or a telescope, different people even in the same field of interest will form different concepts in their minds about what is observed. But what is in fact experienced when data is seen on a computer screen or paper or that which is seen through a microscope or telescope? "The element of "visible object" which arises and falls in an instant.

So it seems science is the way of `ignorance' as far as dhamma is concerned. One does not have to know what really takes place in the sense door or even at the mind door. But choose amongst the concepts that develop much later. And without Right View, the concepts chosen would most likely be conditioned by personal bias, i.e. the dominant form of wrong view.

And what about the `method' of science which some think to be useful? Does this work with Dhamma? The putting forward of a hypothesis and then seeking to test it out is based on the belief in `things' out there to be tested and proven. But are dhammas similar testable? I think we will have to adopt one kind of wrong view or the other if we are to use the method of science to determine the truth of experiences.

In dhamma when the Buddha taught about "ehipassika" I think what is referred to is panna. Can I for example, presuppose that upon touching a book that `hardness' will appear? What about heat/cold? What about the `self' which will determine how I would perceive and conceive? It would be `I'-hardness and `I'-heat and not earth and fire elements. And not knowing this wrong view is increased.

When panna arises at whatever level, *it knows* and does not need to refer to other people's opinions or to any theory. Panna at the level of pariyatti is not waiting for patipatti to prove it right, but correct pariyatti is itself proof and so is patipatti and pativedha. They condition each other and no patipatti can arise without correct pariyatti and no pativedha without correct patipatti. It seems on the other hand that wrong view requires such looking back for conformation and so further feeds itself. :-(

Must go now.

Metta,
Sukin.

#5 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:50 AM

QUOTE
H: There are many people who understand that there is no self at the helm of all that takes place. David Hume, for one, wrote about this at length. It is not a slight on the Buddha to suggest that others come to similar realizations as him, independently''


As you say Hume did reach conclusions that bear some (superficial) resemblance to the teaching of anatta. "for my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other・ never can catch myself without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception" (Hume).

However, anatta in Dhamma is tied in with conditionality, absolutely and intimately. Because of conditions such as kamma there must be results and then other conditions coming together to assist the kamma to give results. So , in a continuous stream there is the round of vipaka, kamma and kilesa - all showing anatta and conditionality. Thus anatta is not merely a simple negation of self - it is deep and reveals the very workings of what life is. It shatters illusion but it doesn't in any way lead to ethical nihilism because while there are still conditions there must be rebirth and the fruition of results.I would say kamma and rebirth are unavoidable aspects of anatta. And the incredible thing is someone (the Buddha) could comprehand the various conditioned and conditioning factors with detail and precision. Far, far above any ideas Hume ever had.

QUOTE
Jp :"Perhaps you have ever read about the 'Mind and Life' conferences in which the Dailai Lama invites the best natural scientist in the world to discuss with him the relation between science and buddhism.""


Yes I have - he meets with a few scientists who have an interest in Buddhism and they discuss consciouness and mind. I think these are great for those scientists but it would be very much a one-way street as I doubt science has much to offer Buddhism with regard to insight into mind. Philosopher of mind Collin McGinn writes in his summary of the different ideas: "The head spins in theoretical disarray; no explanatory model suggests itself; bizarre ontologies loom. There is a feeling of intense confusion, but no clear idea of where the confusion lies" (1993,). My favourite quote is the definition of consciousness in the International Dictionary of Psychology: "Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon; it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written about it" (cited in Crick, 1994, vii)

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#6 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:51 AM

I started this letter to Herman because I think he feels the Dhamma should be amenable to western science.

Herman:"As long as I can think scientifically, I will apply scientific standards, ".

I have to be upfront and say I am not especially impressed by science. It is surely the outstanding cutural achievement of the west - but when I compare it with the Dhamma of the Buddha it seems more like stamp collecting than an investigation into what is real and crucial. I am also convinced that the ancient sangha, including the monks at the Mahavihara in Sri lanka preserved the true Dhamma: I value their words far, far more than that of historians of the 20th century.

Now to the main discussion. Herman, you have written that you don't believe in rebirth. You might identify with the words of the Buddhist writer Steven Batchelor. He thinks that the modern Buddhist does not look for Buddhism to answer questions about "where we came from, where we are going, what happens after death・ut would seek such knowledge in the appropriate domains: astrophysics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, etc." (1997, p.18). He finds it "odd that a practice concerned with anguish and the ending of anguish should be obliged to adopt ancient Indian metaphysical theories and thus accept as an article of faith that consciousness cannot be explained in terms of brain function" (p.37).

However, Batchelors reliance on science for answers about what happens after death etc. has its own problems. Scientists, despite their metaphysically neutral pose, operate with certain assumptions about life: i.e. they have views. And the dominant view in science at this time is that the universe and life was a chance occurence. The big bang occured (no one knows why or what were the conditions ) and then a billion or so years later it happened that this matter came together to form stars and planets. On one planet, earth, it happened, purely by chance, that there were the right elements and conditions to form amino acids. These then formed complex proteins, which later formed bacteria. Life all arose out of matter. The fact that even a tiny cell is an incredibly complex organism (indeed so complex that scientists cannot make even one, despite all their technology) is not a hindrance to this view. Why?

Well, as biologist Richard Lewontin explains: "We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism..... we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." (from Lewontin's review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan, in the New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997). Recently Dighanaka gave us a link to one of Richard Dawkins (Oxford prof., Fellow of the Royal society) book, and it is useful to know what Dawkins beliefs are as I want to compare them later with Dighanaka's comments about the Aganna sutta. Dawkins writes that in a universe governed by materialistic evolution (as he claims our universe to be) "some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice." (1995, pp.132-133).

And "the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference." (quoted in Easterbrook, 1997, p.892).

In case anyone thinks Dawkins ideas are idiosyncratic I quote some more leading Biologists/scientists: George Gaylord Simpson: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind." (1967, pp.344-345).

Jacques Monod: "Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, lies at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution...." (Monod, 1972, p.110); and "Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance." (p.167) As Futuyma explains: "By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Darwin's theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism of much of science, in short what has since been the stage of most Western thought." (Futuyma, 1986, p.2).

So this is where we (the 'west') have arrived at in our thinking. It is not a pretty, or even philosphically sound, place in my opinion.
.
RobertK

#7 RobertK

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:53 AM

QUOTE
I'm sure you would recognise that there are many ancient traditions amongst many different cultures. I cannot see why any tradition would have a monopoly on insight into the nature of reality, though I can understand the psychology behind a tradition making such a claim. Again I would say that there are many traditions with many doctrines. There is only (a common) reality, though, and to the extent a tradition or doctrine models reality well, such doctrines may well serve to alleviate the reality of suffering that comes to be recognised by all at some point of time. Buddhism as psychology is priceless, but Buddhism as science has been superceded a long, long time ago.


===============

Dear He...,

I agree that all cultures have their own take on reality. The thing is, though, are the teachings of the Buddha universal (not limited to one culture) and are they, further than that, true and mor profound than any other teachings. As you know I believe they are, and while many modern Buddhists revere science as some sort of counterpart or companion to Buddhism I find it quite mediocre and lacking. Even the skeptical kalamas of the kesaputta sutta - upon hearing a teaching from the Buddha could see its depth and they were inspired to proclaim "Marvelous, venerable sir! Marvelous, venerable sir! As if, venerable sir, a person were to turn face upwards what is upside down, or to uncover the concealed, or to point the way to one who is lost or to carry a lamp in the darkness, thinking, 'Those who have eyes will see visible objects,' so has the Dhamma been set forth in many ways by the Blessed One. We, venerable sir, go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma for refuge, and to the Community of Bhikkhus for refuge. Venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life, from today." Do we have that same strength of faith? If not I think we should to endeavour to develop it with all speed. .

Robertk

#8 RobertK

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 09:52 AM

The texts say that at the first moment of a new life the rebirth- consciousness (patisandhi-citta) which arises is produced by kamma that was perfomed at some prior time. This citta can arise in planes where there are both nama and rupa (mentality and materiality) such as the human or animal realm or, so the texts say, in planes where there is no matter (the arupa brahma realms). If it is in a human or animal world (for example) then it arises at the heart base which is also produced by kamma. But the other rupas that support the heart base are produced not by kamma but by other factors such as temperature. Very quickly this tiny mass of matter and mentality grows: the matter is conditioned by various factors - nutrition, citta, kamma and temperature and in a few short weeks what was barely visible is a sizeable object.

Your comment "And how come that the birth citta manages to find itself a chunk of rupa (genes, parents, environment, etc.) that is exactly suitable to its ripening karma and to the death citta ... Has anyone worked out the mathematical / probability implications of this?""

The mass of rupas that comprise the egg and sperm before the patisandhicitta arises is only matter produced by temperature. If we think that it has to be exact and that it is all determined by genes' from the parent we won't understand the complexity of kamma and other conditions. Take identical twins: they can never be exactly the same even though genetically they are identical, in some ways their behaviour is a little different. Or recently a cat was cloned (an exact genetic duplicate of the mother) the report noted:

QUOTE
"Genetic tests confirm that the kitten, now two months old, is indeed a genetic copy of the original calico cell donor. Interestingly, the kitten does not have the same coloring as the genetic parent, a fact the researchers attribute to the play of dueling X chromosomes and developmental factors outside the control of the nucleic DNA."


http://www.accessexc...01/copycat.html

I read some reports where some scientists were suprised about this but it seems perfectly understandable when we know that 'genes' are only part of the story. You ask about what happens when the aeon ends and before a new aeon begins. In the Brahmajala sutta the Buddha says
QUOTE
"there comes a time, bhikkhus when after a long period this world contracts. While the world is contracting (disintergrating) beings for the most part are born in the abhassara brahma world there they dwell mind made feeding on rapture..and they continue thus for a long time..But sooner or alter there comes a time when this world begins to expand once again. When the world begins to expand an empty palace of brahma appears.Then a certain being, due to exhaustion of his lifespan or merit arises there....."


I could add more if you like.

best wishes
robert

#9 RobertK

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 06:17 AM

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#10 RobertK

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:45 AM

http://www.conscious...s.com/libet.htm
http://dericbownds.n...or-neither.html
Free Will, Free Won't, or Neither? A refinement of Libet's work on the conscious control of spontaneous actions.
QUOTE
In a famous paper published in 1983, Libet et al. showed that the recordable cerebral activity (readiness-potential) that precedes a freely voluntary motor act occurs at least several hundred milliseconds before the reported time of conscious intention to act. The actual movement occurs 200-250 msec after the reported time of intention to act. The data are pretty spooky when you think about it. They say that your brain ("it") has started working on a action well before "you" think you are initiating it! This article has sparked a continuing debate on whether we actually have free will. Libet has suggested that the ~200-250 msec period between awareness of intention and the actual action was sufficient to permit a "veto" of the action if it was judged inappropriate. In this interpretation, we might be said to be "free won't" rather than "free will".

Lau et al. have now done a more nuanced version of LIbet's experiments. In a previous paper they showed that, when participants were required to estimate the onset of their intentions using Libet's procedure, the activity in the presupplementary motor area (pre-SMA) was enhanced ~228 msec before motor execution. In their most recent work they show that when participants were required to estimate the onset of their motor executions (instead of their intentions), the activity in the cingulate motor area was enhanced. This latter condition, judged to be more natural and have less task-demanding instructions. The perceived onset of intention could be as late as ~120 msec before the motor execution . "Together, these findings raise the question of whether the conscious control of spontaneous action can be done within a much shorter time window than we had expected, or whether, as suggested by Wegner (The illusion of conscious will Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), our impression of conscious control is simply illusory."

I think Wegner has it right. His book, and his interpretation of our sense of agency as an after the fact ' emotion of authorship' is a must-read for anyone interested in issues of conscious volition


#11 RobertK

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 12:33 PM

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Hi Howard,
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So, Nina, what you believe to be the case is fact, and the quarks and so on of the physicists are not? I don't know how you know that. To me it makes more sense to say I believe something to be the case rather than I know it to be so when, in fact, I don't really know it to be so.

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N: I study the Tipataka and Commentaries and I have confidence in them. What is taught in these texts I find very reasonable, it makes sense to me. I do not know anything about physics, but this cannot be compared to the Dhamma. Physics do not lead to liberation. I would rather replace the word belief by having confidence in. Confidence, saddhaa is a sobhana cetasika, arising with sobhana cittas. Thus, it is wholesome confidence, not blind faith. It is based on understanding, even if this understanding is still intellectual understanding, not yet insight, direct understanding.

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H: Now, I happen to believe in rupas also, Nina, very much so. But I take them to be elements of experience - physical experience, and not liitle bits of material.

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N: Rupas are elements and they can be objects experienced by citta which is also an element. Element means: a reality devoid of self. Physical experience is not so clear: an experience is not physical, it is nama. But you mean: experience of physical phenomena.

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H: For a science of materials I'd sooner turn to the chemists and physicists circa 2007. But the main point of my question is how studying about rupas as opposed to subatomic particles is particularly suited to leading towards awakening and liberation. The subatomic particles of physics are every bit as anicca, sankhata, and anatta as are the rupas.

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N: Science has another angle, see above. Why not be in comformity with the texts that teach us about nama and rupa? Read again the “Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint” (Middle Length Sayings I, no. 28) where we read that Såriputta taught the monks about the four Great Elements. We read about the element of earth or solidity, which is translated here as “extension”:

<....And what, your reverences, is the element of extension? The element of extension may be internal, it may be external. And what, your reverences, is the internal element of extension? Whatever is hard, solid, is internal, referable to an individual and derived therefrom, that is to say: the hair of the head, the hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow of the bones, kidney, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentary, stomach, excrement, or whatever other thing is hard, solid, is internal....>

Note, there is internal solidity and external solidity.

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Take hardness, the element of solidity that appears through the bodysense whenever we touch something hard. We can learn that in the ultimate sense there is not a hard thing, and there is no body. There is just the contact of element on element. At each moment all the rupas of the body arise, due to the four factors and then they fall away, there is nothing left of them.

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Howard: Do you observe this falling away and replacement? We read that this happens, just as we read that to be so for the subatomic particles. Has any of such reading *shown* you the radical impermanence of phenomena? Do you expect it to?

---------------------------------------

N: Not yet, but I have confidence that this is the right way. If the right way is developed it will surely lead to such result.

---------

But rupas are replaced by new rupas and then our body seems such a solid thing that remains. In reality there is nothing left when at each moment each rupa falls away. This can be realized through the development of insight. We see people walking and moving their hands, and it is because of sa~n~na that we perceive this. In reality at each splitsecond all rupas fall away, nothing is left.

------------------------------------------

Howard:
Yes, yes - I believe this too. Belief is just belief.

--------

N: Again, shall we replace belief by confidence. And this should not be unwarranted. Based on thorough study and consideration of the entire Tipitaka, Abhidhamma included.

-----------------------------------------

Molecules do not have characteristics that can be directly experienced, knowing about them does not lead to detachment. One can think about them, but thinking is only thinking.

------------------------------------------

Howard:
Do you directly experience rupas? I know you believe they can be experienced, somehow. Actually, subatomic particles can in a way be experienced.

-------------------------------------------

N: Note: I mean experienced by kusala citta accompanied by pa~n~naa. We all experience hardness, but not necessarily by pa~n~naa. It is experienced by the citta that is body-consciousness, and after that kusala cittas or akusala cittas arise. There can be akusala cittas with ignorance that experience hardness. The characteristics of rupa can be gradually understood and this leads to detachment. This is different from looking at subatomic particles. Is this done with understanding and detachment? The goal is quite different.

--------

H:The point of my posts on this is twofold: 1) Belief is just belief, and 2) Knowing does not come about just on the basis of belief.

-------

N: Confidence which is kusala and which is strengthened by understanding. When one has confidence in the teachings one will study and consider more what is taught. One will also understand that sati and pa~n~naa do not arise by 'wanting to know' with attachment. From the beginning one has to remember that they cannot be induced, that they only arise because of the right conditions. Is this attitude not different from the scientist who wants to know more about the atoms? You cannot compare the two fields.

Nina.

#12 RobertK

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 02:51 AM

Thanks. It is true isn't it- nothing lasts at all. This type of consideration about anicca is useful. The more we accept that the better. Thinking alone isn't enough but at least seeing that everything must accord with the nature of parammattha dhammas helps us to see things in this light to some extent. Scientists have gradually uncovered that matter is almost nothing, simply space and very tiny particles changing rapidly: this is still a conceptual understanding but it accords with the way things really are (which if it is true it must). They know that every piece of matter is changing at a fanatstic rate. However, even the best scientists can't become enlightened by this knowledge as only direct experience of dhammas leads to the deepest type of wisdom.

I saw a passage in a book that included an interview with the head of the physics department at the University of Chicago (where they first started making the atomic bomb). It was in the 1930's and he was telling someone that they now knew that all matter was so ephemeral. He said he found it hard to accept that the very floor they were standing on was just space and particles in flux - nevertheless that is what they had found. We accept this easily now because of our education but it is not so easy to see. The actual change is much more radical than even scientsits can realise; it all passes away completely and arises again billions of times in a split second according to the scriptures.

Robert

#13 Guest_Scott_*

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 01:57 AM

An interesting perspective:

Finally Buddha Sasana has to disappear because of later disciples who are foolish and stupid enough to destroy the whole Sasana. The Sasana was said to exist 5000 human years. Now it is well over 2500 years. As everything is anicca then The Buddha Sasana is also Anicca. The wise man will follow the wise guide.

To pinpoint senses there are a lot of things to be learnt. Physiology is complicated and complex and advancing and that subject is a dynamic subject. While physiology is a dynamic subject, then neurology excels physiology as neurology has to depend on physiology.

There are many many sense receptors, their pathways, the place where the information in them are stored and these things are being explored and they are still endless. This happens. Because Pa~n~natti is not real.

As Pa~n~natti is not reality, it has no dimension. So it is not amazing that following Pa~n~natti-related things will never end.

The Buddha way is not just imagination.

There are only 5 physical sense doors. No more than that.

With Metta,

Htoo Naing


#14 RobertK

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:18 AM


In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, "Matthew Miller"
<bupleurum@y...> wrote:
>
> RobertK wrote:
> > I predict that the current scientific picture of the
> > world is completely skewed and will be viewed in the
> > near futures with derision...
> >
> > I do not believe that dhamma practice occurs in the brain.
>
> Then where does it occur?
=========
Dear Matthew,
Geoff has given an elegant reply that I can't really improve on. I
just add some extra.


>
> There is a huge and ever-increasing amount of knowledge about the
> brain and its workings, all of which appears to point conclusively
to
> the view that the mind simply cannot exist apart from the brain.
==========


I gave this hypothetical case:
Say some aliens came to earth and saw the internet working on a
computer. They take the computer back to Mars , absolutely sure that
the internet is in the computer. So they do tests, find hotspots
etc. Maybe they zero in on the battery pack and find that if they
prod it or cool it or something funny things happen. So they think
the battery is key. They spend vast resorces and make a pefect
battery, the monitor becomes brighter.. Progress!...
Or they pull out a wire and the monitor looks funny. AH! that must
be it....
They think they are really getting to the heart of the internet and
will soon plumb its depths. So they carry on - for decades. Every
year there is a facinating new discovery. Prodding a point there
gives this result,@‚rodding here another. They even invent new
machines which can map the temperature of the computers components
and 'prove' that at certain times and under certain conditions this
or that happens.
BUt they will never come to understand what the internet really is
by any of this.
And this is only an analogy - the internet is something that can be
understood without the help of a Buddha . Consciousness is much more
profound.

===============

>
> But if we do look at the evidence of neuroscience, the case
becomes
> even more convincing and a much more detailed picture emerges. As
> Colin McGinn writes:
>
> What we call the mind is in fact made up of a great number
> of subcapacities, and each depends upon the functioning of
> the brain
>
> =======
Colin Mcginn is a materialist philosopher (as so many are at this
time). But even with his materialist views he admits about the
various scientific ideas on consciousnessgThe head spins in
theoretical disarray; no explanatory model suggests itself; bizarre
ontologies loom. There is a feeling of intense confusion, but no
clear idea of where the confusion liesh(1993) Problems in
philosophy: the limits of inquiry.
RobertK







#15 RobertK

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:42 AM



Hi Mathew,

I'm new to this conversation and so am ignorant of the context of
what you are trying to assert here:

> There is a huge and ever-increasing amount of knowledge about the
> brain and its workings, all of which appears to point conclusively
to
> the view that the mind simply cannot exist apart from the brain.

Are you trying to state that consciousness can be reduced to material
(i.e. neural, electric, etc.) activities and processes in the brain?
If so, can you support this with any definative scientific discovery?
More to the point, exactly what is consciousness made of?

> Today's brain scans reveals our thoughts, moods, and
> memories as clearly as an X-ray reveals our bones.
> We can actually observe a person's brain registering
> a joke or experiencing a painful memory.

To be sure, thoughts, moods, and memories have material correlations
in the brain which they are dependent upon for their arising, but is
the neuroscientist, when looking at a brain scan, observing a
thought, mood, memory, etc., or is s/he merely observing a visual
reproduction of the material correlation of said thought/mood/memory?
If the neuroscientist is actually observing a thought why is s/he not
aware of the content of this thought? If s/he is observing a joke why
doesn't s/he laugh?

What I'm getting at, is that from a phenomenological perspective, the
subjective experience of a thought is a distinctly different
phenomena than the objective experience of a neuroscientist observing
the material changes of this thought. And for this very reason it is
a cognitive error to reduce the subjective experience to the
objective one. They are related, but they are not the same.

This phenomenological method (i.e. abhidhamma method) exposes the
error of the materialist position that all mental phenomena can be
reduced to mere material phenomena. A subjective experience of
laughing is simply not the same phenomena as the material
neurological activities occurring in the brain, and these material
activities are not the same phenomena as the visual reproduction of
said material neurological activities observed by the neuroscientist.
They are related and interdependent, but they are not identical. One
cannot be reduced to the other.

Furthermore, because there is no irrefutable evidence that
consciousness is a material substance, there is no valid reason to
conclude that consciousness can't exist apart from the brain. True,
visual consciousness is dependent upon the material visual sensory
organ (eye, nerves, brain, etc.), as are all six sensory
consciousnesses, but consciousness as such, the pure subjectivity
that you are, hasn't been scientifically proven to be dependent upon
the brain (the effects of alchohol on the average mind is no proof).

And until such a time that pure subjective consciousness can be
scientifically proven to be dependent on the brain, the materialist
theory is only a mere theory, and as such is just another mental
phenomenon that one could observe, if one so wishes, with clear
seeing (vipassana) and thereby discern (panna) that it is not-self
nor does it pertain to a self. In this way one could, if one so
wishes, free oneself form the tangle of all limited views, positions,
and opinions. The Buddha stated that such freedom is radically
Deathless.

Geoff




Hi Mathew,

I'm new to this conversation and so am ignorant of the context of
what you are trying to assert here:

> There is a huge and ever-increasing amount of knowledge about the
> brain and its workings, all of which appears to point conclusively
to
> the view that the mind simply cannot exist apart from the brain.

Are you trying to state that consciousness can be reduced to material
(i.e. neural, electric, etc.) activities and processes in the brain?
If so, can you support this with any definative scientific discovery?
More to the point, exactly what is consciousness made of?

> Today's brain scans reveals our thoughts, moods, and
> memories as clearly as an X-ray reveals our bones.
> We can actually observe a person's brain registering
> a joke or experiencing a painful memory.

To be sure, thoughts, moods, and memories have material correlations
in the brain which they are dependent upon for their arising, but is
the neuroscientist, when looking at a brain scan, observing a
thought, mood, memory, etc., or is s/he merely observing a visual
reproduction of the material correlation of said thought/mood/memory?
If the neuroscientist is actually observing a thought why is s/he not
aware of the content of this thought? If s/he is observing a joke why
doesn't s/he laugh?

What I'm getting at, is that from a phenomenological perspective, the
subjective experience of a thought is a distinctly different
phenomena than the objective experience of a neuroscientist observing
the material changes of this thought. And for this very reason it is
a cognitive error to reduce the subjective experience to the
objective one. They are related, but they are not the same.

This phenomenological method (i.e. abhidhamma method) exposes the
error of the materialist position that all mental phenomena can be
reduced to mere material phenomena. A subjective experience of
laughing is simply not the same phenomena as the material
neurological activities occurring in the brain, and these material
activities are not the same phenomena as the visual reproduction of
said material neurological activities observed by the neuroscientist.
They are related and interdependent, but they are not identical. One
cannot be reduced to the other.

Furthermore, because there is no irrefutable evidence that
consciousness is a material substance, there is no valid reason to
conclude that consciousness can't exist apart from the brain. True,
visual consciousness is dependent upon the material visual sensory
organ (eye, nerves, brain, etc.), as are all six sensory
consciousnesses, but consciousness as such, the pure subjectivity
that you are, hasn't been scientifically proven to be dependent upon
the brain (the effects of alchohol on the average mind is no proof).

And until such a time that pure subjective consciousness can be
scientifically proven to be dependent on the brain, the materialist
theory is only a mere theory, and as such is just another mental
phenomenon that one could observe, if one so wishes, with clear
seeing (vipassana) and thereby discern (panna) that it is not-self
nor does it pertain to a self. In this way one could, if one so
wishes, free oneself form the tangle of all limited views, positions,
and opinions. The Buddha stated that such freedom is radically
Deathless.

Geoff

















#16 RobertK

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:47 AM

Dear Herman, Joop and all,
Some more on science.

Herman: There are many people who understand that there is no self
at the
> helm of all that takes place. David Hume, for one, wrote about
this at
> length. It is not a slight on the Buddha to suggest that others
come to
> similar realizations as him, independently''

As you say Hume did reach conclusions that bear some (superficial)
resemblance to the teaching of anatta. "for my part, when I enter
most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some
particular perception or other…I never can catch myself without a
perception, and never can observe anything but the perception"
(Hume).

However, anatta in Dhamma is tied in with conditionality, absolutely
and intimately. Because of conditions such as kamma there must be
results and then other conditions coming together to assist the
kamma to give results. So , in a continuous stream there is the
round of vipaka, kamma and kilesa - all showing anatta and
conditionality. Thus anatta is not merely a simple negation of self -
it is deep and reveals the very workings of what life is. It
shatters illusion but it doesn't in any way lead to ethical nihilism
because while there are still conditions there must be rebirth and
the fruition of results.I would say kamma and rebirth are
unavoidable aspects of anatta.
And the incredible thing is someone (the Buddha) could comprehand
the various conditioned and conditioning factors with detail and
precision. Far, far above any ideas Hume ever had.


Joop :"Perhaps you have ever read
about the 'Mind and Life' conferences in which the Dailai Lama
invites the best natural scientist in the world to discuss with him
the relation between science and buddhism.""

Yes I have - he meets with a few scientists who have an interest in
Buddhism and they discuss consciouness and mind. I think these are
great for those scientists but it would be very much a one-way
street as I doubt science has much to offer Buddhism with regard to
insight into mind.
Philosopher of mind Collin McGinn writes in his summary of the
different ideas: "The head spins in theoretical disarray; no
explanatory model suggests itself; bizarre ontologies loom. There is
a feeling of intense confusion, but no clear idea of where the
confusion lies" (1993,).
My favourite quote is the definition of consciousness in the
International Dictionary of Psychology: "Consciousness is a
fascinating but elusive phenomenon; it is impossible to specify what
it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has
been written about it" (cited in Crick, 1994, vii)
RobertK





#17 RobertK

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:49 AM

In a message dated 9/25/2004 8:58:48 PM Pacific Standard Time,
nori_public@... writes:
Hi TG,http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastudygroup/message/36917

No, I just copied it off the site.

I was looking for the source myself but just got a bunch of other
sites with the same quote, but no source.

If you find it give me an email.

peace,
nori

Found the source in case you're interested.

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic
religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and
theology;
it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense
aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a
meaningful unity" -- Albert Einstein [1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human
Side,
edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

#18 RobertK

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:04 AM

Science's "most beautiful theories"":

"Terrence Sejnowski, a computational neuroscientist at the Salk Institute, extols the discovery that the conscious, deliberative mind is not the author of important decisions such as what work people do and who they marry. Instead, he writes, "an ancient brain system called the basal ganglia, brain circuits that consciousness cannot access," pull the strings.

Running on the neurochemical dopamine, they predict how rewarding a choice will be - if I pick this apartment, how happy will I be? - "evaluate the current state of the entire cortex and inform the brain about the best course of action," explains Sejnowski. Only later do people construct an explanation of their choices, he said in an interview, convincing themselves incorrectly that volition and logic were responsible.

#19 RobertK

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 01:37 PM

http://www.nippapanc...-scientism.html

Nippapañca  
 
 
 

 

 
     (An article inspired by my experiences shortly after returning to the West and seeing how radically different Western Buddhism is from the Buddhism of a place like Burma. It is modified from a talk I gave in Bellingham in August 2011.)


Buddhism and Scientism


     This essay begins with a story. It is the personal account of a man named Larry Brilliant, an American medical doctor with an Indian wife, who met a Hindu guru called Neem Karoli Baba (also known as Maharajji) in India in the 1960's. It is a story worthy of consideration, especially by people of the modern West:
 
    My wife had met Maharajji and had come to get me in America and bring me back to meet him. When we first went to see Maharajji I was put off by what I saw. All these crazy Westerners wearing white clothes and hanging around this fat old man in a blanket! More than anything else I hated seeing Westerners touch his feet. On my first day there he totally ignored me. But after the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh day, during which he also ignored me, I began to grow very upset. I felt no love for him; in fact, I felt nothing. I decided that my wife had been captured by some crazy cult. By the end of the week I was ready to leave.
     We were staying at the hotel up in Nainital, and on the eighth day I told my wife that I wasn't feeling well. I spent the day walking around the lake thinking that if my wife was so involved in something that was clearly not for me, it must mean that our marriage was at an end. I looked at the flowers, the mountains, and the reflections in the lake, but nothing could dispel my depression. And then I did something that I had really never done in my adult life. I prayed.
     I asked God, "What am I doing here? Who is this man? These people are all crazy. I don't belong here."
     Just then I remembered the phrase, "Had ye but faith ye would not need miracles."
     "Okay, God, I don't have any faith. Send me a miracle."
     I kept looking for a rainbow but nothing happened, so I decided to leave the next day.
     The next morning we took a taxi down to Kainchi to the temple, to say good-bye. Although I didn't like Maharajji, I thought I'd just be very honest and have it out with him. We got to Kainchi before anyone else was there and we sat in front of his tucket (wooden bed) on the porch. Maharajji had not yet come out from inside the room. There was some fruit on the tucket and one of the apples had fallen on the ground, so I bent over to pick it up. Just then Maharajji came out of his room and stepped on my hand, pinning me to the ground. So there I was on my knees touching his foot, in that position I detested. How ludicrous!
     He looked down at me and asked, "Where were you yesterday?" Then he asked, "Were you at the lake?" (He said "lake" in English.)
     When he said the word "lake" to me I began to get this strange feeling at the base of my spine, and my whole body tingled. It felt very strange.
     He asked me, "What were you doing at the lake?" 
     I began to feel very tight.
     Then he asked, "Were you horseback riding?"
     "No."
     "Were you boating?"
     "No."
     "Did you go swimming?"
     "No."
     Then he leaned over and spoke quietly, "Were you talking to God? Did you ask for something?"
     When he did that I fell apart and started to cry like a baby. He pulled me over and started pulling my beard and repeating, "Did you ask for something?"
     That really felt like my initiation. By then others had arrived and they were around me, caressing me, and I realized then that almost everyone there had gone through some experience like that. A trivial question, such as, "Were you at the lake yesterday?" which had no meaning to anyone else, shattered my perception of reality. It was clear to me that Maharajji saw right through all the illusions; he knew everything. By the way, the next thing he said to me was, "Will you write a book?"
     That was my welcome. After that I just wanted to rub his feet.1
 
     The reason why I began with this story is to suggest the possibility that miracles do happen in this world. This is an important message for many people in the West, because the predominant world view in places like America tends to rule out such possibilities. Since coming back to America after living in Burma for 18 years I have seen a wonderful thing that does my heart good again and again: that very many Americans are firmly committed to being good people. This is truly wonderful and invaluable, and something the world really needs. The trouble is that generosity and ethical conduct, excellent as they are for increasing the quality and happiness of life for everyone, and leading one to a better world in this life and perhaps the next, are generally not enough for the attainment of true Liberation of Spirit, for full Enlightenment. That also requires freedom from attachments; and one of the greatest and deepest attachments, and thus one of the greatest obstacles to spiritual growth in the West, is Materialism. Materialism does not simply imply chasing after money and accumulating possessions, or even strong attachment to this sort of behavior; it also involves the firm belief that we human beings are a kind of intrinsically real meat robot enslaved by Laws of Physics, and that our minds are created and determined by the wiring and chemistry of our brains and not the other way round. Not even just a little.
     There are of course plenty of other spiritual obstacles for us Westerners, including hedonism; lukewarmness; a consumerism-conditioned aversion for sacrifice, difficulty, or even inconvenience; and extraversion -- the tendency to look outward instead of inward for deep answers, or Reality, or happiness. The East also has its characteristic spiritual obstacles, such as uncritical dogmatism and a kind of "spiritual materialism," which need not concern us at present. It also shares our own brand of Materialism to some degree, especially in the more developed, westernized Asian countries, and in the cities of the relatively undeveloped ones. But the Materialism of a country like Burma (which has one of the few remaining spiritually oriented cultures on earth) is very different from what is taught in mainstream American culture. To give an example, one time in Burma I intended to live in a certain forest. A friend of mine, a city-born Mon-Burmese monk with a university degree in Physics, who worked as a high school mathematics teacher before his ordination, and who was quite an intelligent person, warned me earnestly that I should be very careful if I lived there, as it was well known that that forest was infested by ogres -- not just ordinary ogres, but ones armed with a kind of supernatural projectile weapon which could inflict insanity or worse. He said the forest also was inhabited by at least one dragon (nāga), and by a terrestrial spirit called an "ōssa-saunt" which was even worse than the dragon. Other Burmese people readily assured me that it was no joke. As another example, a Chinese businessman residing in Singapore once explained to me that it is very difficult to become successful in business in Singapore, as the richest, most successful businessmen already at the top can afford the best wizards. Thus syncretistic Eastern Materialism, such as it is, still leaves room for the supernatural, which includes the miraculous and the divine.
     The kind of Materialism I intend to discuss at length here, I call Scientism. It has become essentially the predominant religion of Western culture, and is unofficially the National Religion of the USA, having replaced Protestant Christianity long ago. Even followers of other religious or spiritual systems found in the West, including Buddhism, tend to follow Scientism first and foremost, and their own professed system secondarily. For example, many Western Buddhists, even Dharma teachers, are reluctant to accept teachings of Buddhism that cannot be explained in terms of Scientism, and so they may ignore or reject even relatively fundamental Buddhist doctrines such as karma, rebirth, even Nirvana itself. 
     Scientism, as a religious system, shares many of the characteristics of other religions. It has sects. It has martyrs, like Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician in the 19th century who discovered the very important fact that if a doctor washes his hands before examining each patient, especially if he washes them with a chlorinated solution of water, his patients are much less likely to contract, and eventually die of, infection. The death rate for women in his "lying in hospital" (essentially a maternity ward) decreased from over 20% to about 0.2% after he began his hand-washing campaign. He meticulously recorded data and published his findings in European medical journals…but most doctors were invested in their own favorite theories, and his revolutionary discovery was either attacked or ignored. Even his own nurses and students resented being treated like children and made to wash their hands again and again, and often would wash them only if he was watching. The extreme stress of having such an important discovery, which could save literally millions of lives, ignored and even resented, plus the strain of having to spend most of his time at the hospital to make sure that his refractory employees really did wash their hands, eventually resulted in a mental breakdown, and Dr. Semmelweis committed suicide. Scientism also has persecutions. As an example, it has been observed that the two branches of Science which have the most airtight, carefully designed experiments are Particle Physics and Parapsychology. Experiments in Particle Physics are extremely expensive (renting a huge particle accelerator in Europe is not cheap), so researchers want to be very sure that they will not waste their precious grant money by running a sloppily designed experiment. Parapsychologists, who investigate such unorthodox phenomena as extrasensory perception and psychokinesis, have a different problem -- they are required to design their experiments as carefully as possible because they know their findings may be attacked tooth and nail by orthodox materialistic scientists. If modern scientific theories cannot explain something, like, say, a precognitive dream, then it is impossible; or so runs orthodox Scientistic dogma. Sometimes the attackers of parapsychological research (and there is at least one organization founded specifically for this purpose) are reduced to saying, "Well, we don't know how they're cheating, but they have to be cheating somehow, because their findings are impossible." Most followers of materialistic Scientism, however, ignore Parapsychology, or else occasionally poke a little fun at it. It receives little publicity, even though its findings, if true, are potentially of immense importance. Scientism has its saints, like Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, and has had at least one Pope, the great theoretical physicist, cultural icon, and Scientistic evangelist Stephen Hawking. If there is a new Pope nowadays I do not know who he or she is. Perhaps lately the field is divided up between cardinals and archbishops.
     It is true that if Scientism is a religion, then it is a spiritually bankrupt one; but it is certainly not the first such. For example, the Cult of the Emperors in ancient Rome, worshipping the Caesars as gods, was not a particularly uplifting faith. Some utilitarian ethic is certainly applied in Scientism, justifying its research (and often rightly so) by declaring it to be for the benefit of the human race, but humanitarianism is really incidental to the Scientistic quest for Understanding Everything. Many priests of Scientism are amorally devoted to "Pure Science" -- Science for Science's sake. It doesn't matter how the research is applied, or how many rats or monkeys are killed in the process, so long as it is research producing valid data.   
     One point should be strongly emphasized without further delay: Scientism is not exactly the same as Science. Scientism is just one possible interpretation of empirical Science. It is an interpretation which asserts that Science really explains Ultimate Reality. In the Philosophy of Science this is known as Scientific Realism. 
     However, there are other interpretations of Science. One of the best known of these is called Instrumentalism, with one of its most famous proponents being Ernst Mach, the late 19th/early 20th century Austrian physicist after whom the Mach number was named (mach 1 equals the speed of sound, mach 2 equals twice the speed of sound, etc.). According to Instrumentalism, Science does not necessarily explain Reality; the best we can say is that there is apparently enough correlation between sound empirical theories and Reality that we can use them to make reliable predictions for the sake of guiding our behavior. For example, a fired cannonball does not necessarily obey mathematical laws as it flies through the air; instead, mathematically inclined scientists have come up with equations that seem to parallel the behavior of that cannonball well enough that the course of its flight can be predicted, probably, assuming that the cannonball even really exists. Instrumentalism acknowledges that we are all infinitely ignorant and cannot be too sure about anything.
     The trouble is that most scientists, not to mention most non-scientists, do not or cannot tell the difference between Science and Scientism. Scientists tend to be specialists who have dedicated the lion's share of their studies to their own particular field of interest, and who do not take much notice of unorthodox interpretations of scientific empiricism. The Philosophy of Science is usually not studied much, and most Science is taught in terms of Scientism, asserting that Science is of course describing and explaining Reality. Thus most scientists are brought up in a metaphysical monoculture and are, understandably, philosophically naive.
     It is important to realize that Scientism, like other religious systems, is essentially a fabricated belief system based on unquestioned articles of faith -- axioms which cannot really be proven, but are taken for granted from the very get-go. I have taken the trouble to compile a small list of some of the main unproved assumptions, or articles of faith, of the creed of Scientism:

  1. The Future Will Behave The Same As The Past -- This is an assumption based on inductive reasoning, and is pretty much a necessary hypothesis for all interpretations of Science, not just Scientism. The assumption is that because things happened a certain way in the past, they will continue to do so in future under essentially the same circumstances; but this cannot really be known with absolute certainty. It is an educated guess. Although deductive logic produces certain conclusions so long as the premises on which they are based are true, inductive logic is really not certain or logically valid. A case in point is the Case of the Logical Chicken. There was once a chicken genius who observed a consistency in its farmer's behavior: every time the farmer came out into the yard and made a certain noise (which need not be reproduced here), he would toss chicken scratch (good food for chickens) onto the ground. Day after day it was the same. So one fine day the farmer came into the yard and made his distinctive call; the chicken, confident of its inductive reasoning and expecting a meal, came running. But on this day, instead of tossing food as usual, the farmer lunged, grabbed the surprised chicken, wrung its neck, and marched back to his kitchen with it whistling merrily. For the chicken it was an honest mistake, and an intelligent one, but a mistake nevertheless. Even from the point of view of Science itself the notion that the future will behave like the past is questionable: if things in general are subject to entropy and decay, then it would be a fair guess that the so-called Laws of Physics themselves would also undergo change with time. Perhaps the speed of light may eventually slow down, or the charge of the electron become less. Who knows?
  2. Reality Necessarily Obeys Laws -- This also tends to be a fundamental assumption in Science as well as Scientism. It is an assumption that has been undermined somewhat over the last century by the idea of quantum randomness at the submicroscopic level, but the average scientist confidently assumes that the behavior of anything as large as a grain of sand should be completely predictable so long as one is knowledgeable of the Laws of Physics. And of course, Science is primarily concerned with the discovery of these Laws. Science depends upon regularity and predictability, seeking out the regularities -- and often dismissing irregularities as invalid. For example, in Chemistry, when one is making a large number of measurements (like weighing many similar samples for the purpose of statistical analysis), it is standard procedure that an anomalous measurement not conforming to the rest is simply thrown out, the assumption being that it must have been botched somehow. So scientific investigation often has a streamlining effect, ignoring or dismissing exceptions to the rule, for the sake of convenience, and in the faith that there are no exceptions. The mild persecution of Parapsychology mentioned previously is mainly the result of Scientism rejecting data that are exceptions to the rule; the Laws of Physics as they are currently understood cannot explain such information, and so it is dismissed with disdain.
  3. Physical Matter Exists -- This is a big one. The real existence of physical matter is taken for granted as an absolute fact not only by scientists but by almost everybody in the West, including even dogs and chickens. Consider an orange. When we perceive an orange, how do we know it is there? Well, we see it -- but a visual image is a mental state. We can pick it up and feel it, but the tactile feeling of holding and squeezing it is also a mental state. We can flick it with our finger and hear the solid thump of it, but that thumping sound is an auditory perception, another mental state. We can smell it or even taste it, but those too are mental perceptions. Take away all mental states and of course we have no way of knowing if that orange is still there or not. Scientists speak of photons or electromagnetic waves bouncing off the surface of the orange and striking the surface of our eyeball, being guided onto the retina by the lens, eliciting a nerve impulse leading to the optical centers of the brain, and so forth, but these too are known only through mental perceptions. The whole experience of the orange, and of everything else in the world, may be a kind of dream for all we know, since all we can really know is mind. There are ways of attempting to verify the existence of physical matter; for example, a person can walk into an unoccupied room and record what she sees, and then after she leaves a different person can walk into that room and record what he sees, and then they can compare notes; but the similarity of what they saw independently of each other does not prove the existence of matter. There are potentially an infinite number of ways of explaining that similarity of perceived rooms. A simple way of demonstrating the uncertainty of the existence of physical matter is to offer the example of the philosophy of George Berkeley. Berkeley was an Anglican Christian (eventually a bishop) of the early 18th century who developed a metaphysical system called Immaterialism. According to this system, all that exists in the Universe are spirits (i.e. minds) and perceptions. No matter. Matter seems to exist because there is a central Great Spirit, or God, who coordinates and integrates the perceptions of all other spirits. So when we see an orange, what is really happening is that God is merely implanting into our minds the perception of an orange as though it were physically there. The world is thus a mental virtual reality implanted into our minds, moment by moment, by God. Now, I personally do not believe that Berkeley was right. In fact I doubt that there are many people who take Berkeley very seriously nowadays. But I do have to admit that I cannot demonstratively prove that Berkeley was wrong. As far as I know, nobody has ever managed really to prove that Berkeley's Immaterialism is false (although many have tried). How could one prove such a thing? We simply do not want to believe him. But unless one can prove that Berkeley was wrong, it follows that one cannot prove that matter exists. To a person born and raised in an atmosphere of Scientism, philosophical Idealism may seem far-fetched, but some quite profound spiritual systems do endorse some form of it: Orthodox Theravada Buddhism does acknowledge the ultimate existence of both mind and matter, but both major philosophical schools of Mahayana, Madhyamaka and Yogacara, deny matter's ultimate reality; some schools of Hinduism, including Vedanta, are Idealist, declaring the reality of consciousness alone; and Christian Science also denies the existence of physical matter. (In passing it may be mentioned that according to at least one study the Christian Scientists have the highest average IQ of any denomination of Christianity in America. That they also have the highest ratio of women to men in their congregations may be purely coincidental to this.)
  4. Everything Exists As It Is Interpreted To Be, Even If No One Is Perceiving It -- The notion that the orange remains in the refrigerator, essentially unchanged, when nobody is there to perceive it is fundamental to the practical world view of practically everybody, including priests of Scientism, despite the fact that intuitive theoretical physicists have been questioning this notion for a hundred years or more. It is closely related to the belief in the existence of matter, and has similar difficulties. The faith that consciousness is merely an "epiphenomenon" of brain chemistry and thus a passive observer of the world with little if any real effect on it, except perhaps in some mysterious and paradoxical way at a submicroscopic level, is a primary reason why Scientism is also called Scientific Realism
  5. There Is Only One Possible Correct Interpretation Of Reality -- In Mathematics it is well known that the very same problem may be worked out in terms of geometry or of algebra; and although the steps taken are very different between the two methods, they lead to the same correct solution. It may be , for all we know, that the great goal of Understanding Everything may also be reached by very different methods which are not commensurable with each other. This may be the case within Science, or even without it. Perhaps some day the dream of theoretical Physics, the Theory of Everything (TOE), will be worked out by some brilliant physicist. He may win the Nobel Prize for it, and there may be some wild celebrating among bespectacled doctors in lab coats, with much grinning and back slapping, and perhaps even some drunkenness. Then, some years later, after the celebrations are ended, some young hotshot doctoral student somewhere, too young to realize that it is impossible, may work out a different Theory of Everything which accounts for the empirical data just as well as the first one, but is incompatible with it. Before the head scratching has finished, a third Theory of Everything equally valid and equally incompatible with the others may crop up, and so on….Or it may be that the most brilliant mystics and meditation masters understand Reality at least as well as the most brilliant physicists, even though their methods and terminology are very different, and their predictions of empirical events are of a different nature. In the ancient Buddhist texts the stereotypical Fool is one who declares, "Only this is true! Anything else is wrong!" But that is exactly what is declared for Scientism when it comes to understanding Reality, or is at least implied. It is hardly likely that the whole truth can be known from a single point of view. What is impossible to Scientism may be very possible to some other system which is very different, yet equally valid, if not more so. 
  6. The Correspondence Theory Of Truth Is Correct -- This article of faith enters the realm of Epistemology, or Theory of Knowledge, which, aside from the characteristically Scientistic interpretations, is foreign ground to most scientists. In classical Epistemology there are two main theories attempting to answer the question, What is truth? -- the Correspondence Theory and the Coherence Theory. In the Correspondence Theory a judgement is true if and only if it corresponds to some objective matter of fact; for example, the judgement "The orange is on the table" is true if and only if the orange really is on the table. This may seem obvious, but it is so only from a Realist interpretation of Reality. There are other possible interpretations. The Coherence Theory is a rival interpretation largely inspired by the Idealism of Hegel, and especially favored by the English logician/metaphysician F.H. Bradley. According to the Coherence Theory a judgement is true if and only if it is not in conflict with any other judgement which has already been agreed upon as true. So the latter theory is similar to what in Buddhism is called sammuti sacca, or conventional truth: it is true because people perceive it to be true, and agree that it is so. The Correspondence Theory would be more akin to paramattha sacca, or ultimate truth; but ultimate truth in Buddhism cannot really be expressed in symbols. 
  7. Reality Can Be Understood Symbolically And Expressed In Symbols -- Consider the letters t-r-e-e. What similarity is there between these symbols and an actual tree? If they were written on paper, the paper itself would more closely resemble a tree than the letters, since trees are the main ingredient in paper. It is the nature of symbols, especially symbols like words and mathematical cyphers, to represent something in a very abstract and arbitrary way. Even to imagine a tree in one's mind, vividly imagining the shapes, colors, textures, smells…is still a far cry, to say the least, from a real tree. The tree as it really is, the Tree in Itself, is completely beyond the reach of symbolic perceptions; and, even as Science admits, all perceptions are symbolic. Thus we cannot really know something by perceiving it -- the best we can do perceptually is to know about it, and that in a very abstract way which presumably at least parallels in some way the reality. Yet adherents of Scientism insist that Reality can be known intellectually. Near the end of his classic book A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking indulged in a bit of hubris by saying, essentially, that scientists have only a few more mathematical equations to work out before they will know the mind of God. Meanwhile, he knew that the Three Body Problem, working out the behaviors of three mutually interacting particles (say, three little electrons), was too difficult for mathematicians to solve exactly. Understanding the Universe by means of the intellect certainly has its limitations.
  8. The Human Brain, Or Mind, Can Figure Out Ultimate Reality -- If one thinks of it, the idea that a lump of greyish meat, about the size of two fists and with the consistency of an overripe avocado, can figure out a Universe of potentially infinite complexity, is rather absurd. Although the power of that lump (or the intellect it generates) may be boosted with computers and amazing experimental apparatuses, the phenomenon of understanding is the responsibility of the human brain and intellect, which are limited, as also the computers and apparatuses are limited. It may be, for all we know, that much that is essential to the phenomenal Universe will always be invisible to us. Consider neutrinos: Some physicists hypothesize that they may constitute most of the mass of the physical Universe, yet they are notoriously extremely difficult to detect. Perhaps some equally important constituent of Reality is simply impossible to detect with scientific instruments. Perhaps it is even manifest, yet the limitations of human psychology do not allow scientists to look in the necessary direction to see it. Who knows? But this is not to insist that a human being cannot know Reality. It may be that, say, an accomplished mystic can know Reality, not by intellectually figuring it out, but by allowing his or her awareness to merge with it, experiencing it directly. Again, who knows?

     At any rate, those are some of the unspoken articles of faith of the new religion of the West.2 600 years from now, or even 200 years from now, students of History may look back on the prevalent beliefs of the early 21st century with the same amused semi-pity that we may feel looking back on the beliefs of medieval Europeans or ancient Romans (who, despite cultural differences, were just about as intelligent as we are). What seems obvious is not necessarily true. For thousands of years it was plainly obvious that the earth stands still with the sun moving around it. Many of the assumptions we take for granted may turn out to be nonsense. From the Buddhist point of view even the idea that we exist as individual persons is nonsense.
     Now, all of this criticism of Scientism or Scientific Realism is not to say that Science is wrong or bad. Obviously it is the most comprehensive intellectual system ever devised for the purpose of understanding the phenomenal world. Also it is an extremely useful foundation for making empirical predictions and developing technology. But it does have relatively severe limitations. As an example, Science, thus far at least, cannot answer the question, What exactly is consciousness? Or worse yet, How does a brain create consciousness? Scientists are at a loss with that one. Or, for that matter, What does vanilla taste like? Science cannot answer even such a simple question as this. How could one answer such a question? Let us imagine that a certain person has never tasted vanilla before and wants to know what it tastes like. So, being intellectually inclined, he studies Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Neurophysiology, learning all there is to know about the molecular structure of the chemical compounds in vanilla, how they interact with the sensory receptors of the tongue, how the nerve impulses travel from the tongue to the brain and are processed into sensory perceptions there, etc. etc. He studies the chemistry and physiology of the flavor of vanilla until he is blue in the face. He may earn a PhD. or even a Nobel Prize for his research, but he still will not have the foggiest notion of what vanilla actually tastes like until he finally wises up and tastes himself some vanilla. Knowing the taste of Reality may be a similar situation. One may study Physics, Chemistry, and Biology till one is blue in the face and still not know what Reality really tastes like. Such an approach is like a fellow chained up in Plato's cave endeavoring to know the world as it really is by carefully examining and measuring the shadows flickering on the cave wall. Understanding Everything may not be primarily a matter of intelligence and learning, but rather a matter of wisdom. It may require looking inward as well as looking outward, exercising the heart as well as the head.
     The system of Buddhism emphasizes looking inward, and in some important ways relies less on unquestioning faith than Scientism does. Instead of trying to explain what vanilla tastes like, a hopeless case, it explains how to find some vanilla and taste it for oneself. Intellectual systems are at best only a makeshift tool or "raft" employed to bring one to a direct experience of Reality. Different intellectual systems may be more or less appropriate under different circumstances; but to cling to any of them, which are single limited points of view at best, is ultimately an obstacle to knowing the Truth.
     Not only Buddhist philosophy, but also some Philosophy of Science agrees that Scientism is only one of a potentially infinite number of equally consistent or "valid" interpretations of Reality, none of which is completely adequate (due to the limitations of formal symbolic systems, etc.). Therefore firmly believing in or locking onto Scientism or any other system excludes all others and severely limits the scope of one's point of view. 
     Furthermore, it may be more useful from a spiritual perspective to say, as something to work with, not merely that there are an infinite number of interpretations of this version of Reality, but an infinite number of versions or levels of Reality; and firmly believing in this level keeps us stuck at this level. 
     It is human nature that we want everything to "make sense," that we want to have an acceptable explanation for things. (A desire to explain the world -- What determines the weather, fertility, health, and good hunting? What is thunder? What are the stars? Where do we come from? -- was one of the first reasons of earlier religions like classical Paganism, and is also one of the first reasons of Scientism.) Yet beliefs and belief systems are necessarily limited and limiting, and thus anything we inflexibly believe in becomes a mental prison for us. Enlightenment or Nirvana is liberation from mental prisons, and thus it is a liberation from symbolic belief systems, even from "sense." Enlightened beings presumably still make use of perceptual interpretations of the world, but if so they use them as convenient tools or makeshifts, without attachment, and thus they are not imprisoned by them. As the Buddha reportedly told a wandering ascetic named Aggivessana, with regard to the enlightened use of words, "A monk whose mind is thus liberated, Aggivessana, agrees with nobody and disagrees with nobody; whatever is said in the world, he makes use of that without adhering to it."3
     As it turns out though, most progress on this planet, including what is presumably spiritual progress, is invested in improving the prison. One wants better food in the cafeteria, a pool table and new carpeting in the recreation room, some better exercise equipment, and more Internet access. Or, in spiritual terms, one wants, for example, to practice renunciation at a luxurious meditation resort without any politically incorrect threats to one's self esteem or non-consumeristic threats to one's convenience and comfort. One wants to work on oneself and Wake Up while remaining within the context of the egoistic dream. One wants to upgrade the delusion. Thus eventually the prison becomes so comfortable that even minimum security is not necessary -- the doors can be left wide open, unguarded, and almost nobody tries to escape. America's way of relentlessly fixing and improving everything has resulted in it being perhaps the cleanest, roomiest, most comfortable prison on earth. People prefer it to the potential dangers and uncertainties of true freedom. In fact, America, and the Westernized countries in general, are becoming much like a lesser heaven realm as described in traditional Buddhist cosmology. In Buddhism it is said that heaven realms (levels of existence better than this one), although celestially comfortable and blissful, are usually not the best places for spiritual development, because the beings there like it so much that although endowed with wisdom they are not strongly motivated to break free of the system, or cycle, of Samsara. Beings in the lower realms have plenty of suffering to motivate them, but inadequate wisdom and opportunity. But the human level has sufficient discomfort and sufficient wisdom to make Enlightenment desirable and possible. This leads to the ironic conclusion that a less comfortable world, and a less believable interpretation of it, are actually preferable from a spiritual point of view, as they are easier to detach from and transcend. As the popular spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has said, it is easier to wake up from a bad dream than from a good one.
     Getting back to the idea of many levels of Reality, it may be said that we (whoever we are) exist and operate at many levels simultaneously. We are multidimensional beings. Intellect, Science, and so on are obviously very useful at this level; yet the cultivation of Intuition, Inspiration, and Wisdom, which arise from a clear, quiet mind, gives us access to other levels -- or rather it gives these exalted states access to this level through us. And ultimately, full Enlightenment can give access to all levels, and to infinite possibilities. The common person is somewhat like a radio that can tune in to a single frequency, like an old-fashioned walkie-talkie; but as wisdom is cultivated one becomes receptive to a greater "bandwidth" and more capable of changing channels, so to speak, until with full Enlightenment we attain conscious access to all channels, all frequencies. Thus we realize our full potential (which everybody has as a birthright) to know and do what is Right, and Best, and Perfect. 
     Perhaps a good summary of all this is: Our Mental States Determine Our Reality. This is a very useful working hypothesis, regardless of whether Scientism acknowledges it or not. It pays to be careful about Karma, which in the Buddhist interpretation means volition or intention, the momentum of our mind. If we have a bad mind we have a bad life and live in a bad world. If we have a good mind we have a good life and live in a good world. And if we can somehow have a perfect mind, then we have a perfect life and live in a perfect world, even though it may not seem perfect to imperfect bystanders. As the second verse of the Dhammapada states, "Ways of being (dhammā) are preceded by mind, they have mind as chief, they are mind-made; if with a clear mind one speaks or acts, happiness follows him like an undeparting shadow." How, one asks, is the mind purified? Buddhism teaches that one begins with a foundation of generosity and virtue, and then upon that is based the cultivation of detachment and meditation -- and when these are sufficient Insight, or Wisdom, also is sufficient. As the 183rd verse of the Dhammapada states, "To do no evil, to cultivate skillfulness, and to clear one's mind -- this is the teaching of Buddhas." But a detailed explanation of how to become enlightened is not the purpose of this essay. That can be found in other places, and is well worth seeking. Here we are mainly trying to clear the ground and expose the roots of a fundamental attachment of Western Civilization, so that perhaps it may become less of a spiritual hindrance.
     Some critically-thinking Westerners who have gotten this far in reading this may reasonably be wondering how much I am telling you from my own experience, and how much is mere guessing or dogmatizing. Obviously, the logical stuff, Philosophy of Science, stories about Neem Karoli Baba and so on, are not my own personal experience. They are derived mainly from reading too much. The suggestions regarding karma, multidimensionality, access to other levels of Reality, etc., are partly, to some degree based on my own experience, although I make no claims to having any great wisdom that others do not have. With regard to the possibility of miracles or supernatural events ("psychic phenomena") and the mind determining one's Reality I can fairly speak from experience. There have been many remarkable coincidences in my life, what Jung called synchronicity; and I have seen some pretty obvious cases of karma and its fruition, including some powerful cases, positive and negative, since my return to America a year ago; but probably my most objectively obvious, persuasive example of a presumably supernatural event was one that occurred when I was 13 years old…
     My father was hiring a new housekeeper for the summer, and the three of us -- he, she, and I -- were sitting at the kitchen table. After explaining to her some details about her duties should she consent to work with us, my father then explained to her that if she were to find broken crockery or glassware around the house she should not immediately blame one of us kids, as there was a poltergeist in our house with a penchant for breaking dishes. As he was telling her this she slowly broke into a smile and one eyebrow started to rise, as though she were trying to decide whether my father was joking, or crazy. But within a few seconds of my father completing his explanation a glass ashtray on the corner of the kitchen table, directly between the two of them and touched by neither of them, made a sound like "zink" and split into two halves, the two pieces sliding about an inch and a half away from each other. Then, of course, she stopped smiling and started taking him seriously.
     Of course, a hard-headed materialist could simply accuse me of lying, which I am not. Or, he could say that my memory is playing tricks on me; after all, I'm obviously not quite normal -- I shave my head and wear a brown toga, for crying out loud. But, although anybody's mind can play tricks on them, and such things are difficult to know sometimes, I remember this event as clearly as I remember a great many others from that age which nobody would question; besides, my father also remembered the same event, and presumably the housekeeper did also. It was a very memorable event. So let us assume that the hard-headed materialist gives me the benefit of the doubt and grants that the ashtray spontaneously split in half. His explanation would probably have to be something like this: The heat from a lit cigarette in the ashtray caused uneven expansion of the glass, which caused the ashtray to break. It is true that there was a cigarette in the ashtray, although it is also true that there had been hundreds or even thousands of them in it before that one; and whether the heat of a single lit cigarette would be sufficient to break glass, I cannot say. (The ashtray was a souvenir from a casino somewhere in Nevada, with a bottom about a quarter of an inch thick.) At the very least, a believer in Scientism and my veracity would have to admit that the ashtray self-destructing just moments after my father warned of the possibility of such things was a very remarkable coincidence.
     Still, despite such experiences as this, I admit that most of what I know about the possibility of the miraculous comes from what others have told me, and from books.
     Some critically-thinking Westerners may also be wondering why, if beliefs are mental prisons, they should believe me, or even Buddhism, instead of Scientism, which would plainly be a case of replacing one prison cell with another -- "Out of the frying pan and into the fire." At a practical level it is pretty clear that we have little choice but to believe something, at least until we become Enlightened, so it is good to believe something that leads to its own transcendence and does not "lock us into" a system. At the ultimate level one should not believe priests of Scientism, me, or anyone else. If you believe what I say without knowing it for yourself, deeply and experientially, then all you are doing is taking my word for it, and you still do not know anything, and have landed yourself in a new prison cell besides. Please just receive what I say as a hypothesis, as something to consider. For example, please consider that unless there has long been a worldwide conspiracy involving saints, sages, parapsychologists, and countless people who are seemingly honest otherwise, magical events, events which are inexplicable to Science, can happen; and committing ourselves to Materialism, Scientific or otherwise, can rob us of miracles, of sacredness, of divinity, maybe even of Liberation itself.
     Consider the biblical story of Jesus when he returned to his home town of Nazareth after the Spirit came upon him. The reaction of the people there was something like, "Hey, isn't that guy Jesus the carpenter? Don't his brothers and sisters live here in town? Who the heck does he think he is anyway?" Because of their limited and limiting beliefs as to what was possible, Jesus was only able to heal a few sick people there, and then he went away. The Buddha met with this sort of closed-mindedness also, even though he lived in a relatively enlightened culture. But it may be that a belief in the miraculous, or even a knowledge of it, is inherent in human nature. This is apparent not only in such phenomena as popular religions and a widespread passion for consultations with psychics. I consider it metaphysically plausible that the wonders of recent technology, especially in computers and medicine, are outward manifestations of a deep-down acceptance of Infinite Possibility -- our beliefs are largely limited by Scientific Materialism, so we must have our miracles compatible with Scientific Materialism. A magic cell phone that can do almost anything is truly a miraculous thing; but to free ourselves from limiting belief systems makes us available to greater miracles than smart phones, computerized cars, genetic engineering, and cures for cancer.
     At this point the essay is essentially finished. Those of you who are satisfied, or completely dissatisfied, with the preceding discussion may safely stop at the end of this paragraph. All that remains are a few more stories from books, as further food for consideration, and before that, this blessing: May those of you who are seeking Truth, find it; may those of you who are seeking Freedom, find it; may those of you who seek the end of suffering and delusion, find it; may you receive all that you need; and if in your seeking you must come upon misfortune and pain, may it be for the purpose of helping you to Wake Up. Wake Up! It's time to Wake Up.

Here is an account of a poltergeist much more rascally than the one in my father's house:
 
Der Rosenheimer Spuk
     On a cold November morning in 1967 most of the employees of lawyer Sigmund Adam were already at work in his chancery in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim. One of the last to come in was Annemarie Schneider, an eighteen-year-old secretary and relatively new employee. She walked down the entrance hall, taking off her coat as she went. As she passed under the hanging lamp, it began swinging, but she did not notice it. As she continued toward the cloakroom, the lamp began to swing more animatedly. Suddenly the lamp in the cloakroom began swinging too. An employee who had eyed her suspiciously when she first walked in suddenly shouted "Achtung! Die Lampe!" Annemarie ducked and held up her coat for protection. Seconds later a bulb in the hall lamp, now swinging wildly, exploded, showering glass slivers in Annemarie's direction. The swinging subsided, and with a few words of thanks to the employee who had warned her, Annemarie got a broom and swept up the glass. The rest of the office got back to work. They were getting used to this sort of happening by now.
     The lawyer, however, was at his wits' end. His office was rapidly self-destructing and his business grinding to a halt. The fluorescent lights on the ceiling went out time and time again. Once there was a loud bang, and all the lights went out simultaneously. When the electrician climbed up to check them, he found that each tube had been twisted 90 degrees in its socket, breaking the connection. Shortly after he had returned them all to working order, there was another loud bang, and out they went again. Even when they were not on, incandescent light bulbs exploded in their sockets, often leaving the delicate filaments intact. Electrical fuses would blow with no apparent cause, and sometimes the cartridge fuses ejected themselves from the sockets. Telephone disruption was particularly severe; all four telephones would ring simultaneously with no one on the line. Calls were frequently interrupted for short periods or cut off entirely. Telephone bills suddenly soared to unusual levels: Large numbers of calls that had not been made were being billed. The developing fluid in the photostatic copiers would often spill out without any disturbance to the machines. 
     At first Adam and his staff suspected the electrical supply. Engineers from the municipal power station and the post office (which operates the telephone system) were called in. Monitoring equipment was installed on the power lines to detect any unusual fluctuations or surges. These monitors registered large deflections, which often coincided with observed disturbances. But then the offices were disconnected from the mains and an emergency power unit was brought in to supply "undisturbed" power; the deflections, and the phenomena, continued unabated.
     Recording equipment was also installed on the telephone lines to keep track of each call originating from the offices. It started registering calls almost immediately, even though no one in the office was using the phones. The post office equipment registered innumerable calls to the time-announcement number (which is not a free call in Germany), often dialed as rapidly as six times a minute. On October 20, forty-six calls were made to the talking clock in a fifteen-minute period. 
     Early in November the press got wind of the happenings, and two German television companies produced short documentaries. They showed the destruction in the lawyer's office and the installation of the monitoring equipment. On camera the technicians admitted they had no explanations. A post office official insisted that all the strange calls must have been made in the office, but the employees all denied it. The lawyer himself pleaded for an end to it all. By this time he had filed formal charges making the mischief maker liable for criminal prosecution. At that point the Rosenheim Police CID (Criminal Investigation Division) took charge of the investigation.
      Prof. Hans Bender of the University of Freiburg, an experienced poltergeist investigator, arrived with some colleagues on December 1.  They were joined one week later by two physicists from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, F. Karger and G. Zicha, who began to look for physical disturbances in the power and telephone equipment. Bender's team quickly realized that the unusual phenomena and power disturbances occurred only during office hours. It also became clear that the activities centered around Annemarie. Often the first deflection of the power-monitoring equipment registered the very moment that Annemarie crossed the threshold in the morning. Bender's hunch was that they were dealing with RSPK [Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis] and that Annemarie was the focus.  
     When Karger and Zicha arrived, they immediately set about examining the power supply. On December 8 they attached additional equipment to the monitors already in place. Between 4:30 and 5:48 that afternoon the recorder registered fifteen strong deflections at irregular intervals. At about the same time they heard loud bangs similar to those produced by especially large sparks, but not every deflection was accompanied by the noise. The noises were recorded on a tape recorder. More equipment was brought in to monitor the electric potential and the magnetic field near the recorder as well as the sound amplitude in the office. On the basis of their investigations the physicists felt they could rule out such causes as variations in the supply current, demodulated high-frequency voltages, electrostatic charges, external static magnetic fields, ultrasonic or infrasonic effects (including vibrations), loose contacts or faulty recording equipment and, finally, manual intervention.
     Once Bender had shared his conviction that the disturbances were due to PK, the poltergeist activity began to intensify. Bender's team, as well as power-company engineers and CID officers, watched decorative plates jump off the wall and paintings begin to swing and even turn over on their hooks. Bender captured on videotape the swinging lamps and the banging sounds but was unable to record a picture rotation. Another investigator, using their equipment, was able to record a picture rotating 320 degrees. The Freiburg team witnessed drawers open by themselves and documents move about. Some drawers ejected themselves completely from the cabinet. Twice a filing cabinet weighing nearly 400 pounds moved about a foot from the wall. While this was happening, the investigators noticed that Annemarie was getting more and more nervous. Eventually she developed hysterical contractions of her arms and legs. When Annemarie was sent away on leave, the disturbances immediately ceased. Shortly afterward she found employment elsewhere, and the lawyer had no further problems. At her new office there were some similar disturbances, but they were less obvious and eventually died off. 
     Bender's budget did not permit him to post observers at the lawyer's office all the time, but he did receive frequent phone reports from eyewitnesses describing events as they were happening. Even this was not easy: one such telephone call was interrupted four times; each time four fuses had to be replaced to resume the call. All in all, the Rosenheim case involved about forty firsthand witnesses, who were thoroughly interviewed. Witnesses included the technicians from the power company and the post office, police investigators, physicians, journalists, and clients of the lawyer.4
 
The following testimony is from an appendix chapter called "Fruitage" in Mary Baker Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
 
Fibroid Tumor Healed in a Few Days 
     My gratitude for Christian Science is boundless. I was afflicted with a fibroid tumor which weighed not less than fifty pounds, attended by a continuous hemorrhage for eleven years. The tumor was a growth of eighteen years.
     I lived in Fort Worth, Tex., and I had never heard of Christian Science before leaving there for Chicago in the year 1887. I had tried to live near to God, and I feel sure He guided me in all my steps to this healing and saving truth. After being there several weeks from a Texas lady who had herself been healed, and who wrote urging me to try Christian Science.
     Changing my boarding-place, I met a lady who owned a copy of Science and Health, and in speaking to her of having seen the book, she informed me she had one, and she got it and told me I could read it. The revelation was marvellous and brought a great spiritual awakening. This awakened sense never left me, and one day when walking alone it came to me very suddenly that I was healed, and I walked the faster declaring every step that I was healed. When I reached my boarding-place, I found my hostess and told her I was healed. She looked the picture of amazement. The tumor began to disappear at once, the hemorrhage ceased, and perfect strength was manifest.
     There was no joy ever greater than mine for this Christ-cure, for I was weary and heavy laden. I thought very little of sleeping or eating, and my heart was filled with gratitude, since I knew I had touched the hem of his garment.
     I must add that the reading of Science and Health, and that alone, healed me….
 
This one is another account of Neem Karoli Baba, who appeared to disregard the Laws of Physics rather often:
 
     One time Maharajji asked me to make reservations for two first-class, air-conditioned places on the train leaving that very day! All the officials told me it was completely booked from Calcutta to Kalka (the east to west coast of India). Still, to be prepared, I bought two unreserved tickets. I was sure that I was wasting our time and we'd have to cash them in. Maharajji walked into the station, walked slowly along the platform, and stopped, stolid, at one spot. When the train pulled in, a first-class, air-conditioned car was stopped directly in front of Maharajji. I had watched how he chose that very spot to stand in, so I asked the conductor, who happened to be standing right there, for two berths in that car, and he said, "What! Are you crazy? This train is full from Calcutta to Kalka!" 
     At that moment I lost my assurance and looked over to Maharajji. He merely raised one finger and said quietly, "Attendant."
     So I went over to the car attendant and asked again for two berths, and he said, "Yes, yes, there is room for you. You see, a party who was reserved clear through had to get off at Mogul Serai to attend to unexpected business. There are two berths vacant in this car." It was the car directly in front of Maharajji.5 
 
If you found that one too easily believable, try this one:
 
     Once Maharajji went to a barber to have his beard shaved. As the barber was working, he told Maharajji that his son had run away some time ago and that he did not know where he was. He was missing him terribly and worried about him. Maharajji's face was only half shaved, the other half still lathered up, but Maharajji insisted that he must go out just then and urinate. He returned shortly, the shave was finished, and Maharajji left. The next day, the barber's son returned to his father with a strange story. He had been living in a town over one hundred miles away, and the day before, this fat man, whose beard was only half shaved, had come running up to him in the hotel in which he worked. He had given him money and insisted that he return at once to his father, by train that same night.6 
 


---Written by Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu, in Bellingham, Washington (28 April 2012)


References
  1. Ram Dass, Miracle of Love: Stories About Neem Karoli Baba (Hanuman Foundation, Santa Fe 1995) pp.8-9
  2. For a detailed, critical discussion of some of the most important limitations of Scientific Realism see the first hundred pages or so of Wallace, B. Alan, Choosing Reality: A Contemplative View of Physics and the Mind (Shambala, Boston & Shaftesbury 1989). Carl Jung's essay Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principal also contains some interesting points, plus a weird story or two.
  3. Majjhima Nikāya, Dīghanakha Sutta (MN74)
  4. Broughton, Richard S., Parapsychology: The Controversial Science (Ballantine, New York 1991), pp.216-9 (This one contains a great many weird stories.)
  5. Ram Dass, p.113
  6. Ram Dass, p.167-8