Buddhism and Science

Buddhism And ScienceThe exploration of the potential connections between Buddhism and science.

With its focus on the nature of mind and its implications for the concept of reality, Buddhism is seen by some as offering fresh insights for several areas of science, most obviously in psychology, studies of consciousness and quantum theory, but also in evolution and cosmology.

Attempts to link Buddhist concepts such as nondualism to concepts in physics such as wave-particle duality, while popularised through books like The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters, have so far proved only suggestive. Claims that the pioneers of quantum theory such as Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrodinger were deeply impressed or influenced by Buddhist concepts are not substantiated by either their own writings or standard biographies.

In 1974 the Kagyu Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa predicted that “Buddhism will come to the West as psychology” (a view apparently regarded with considerable skepticism at the time). To date, however, Buddhist concepts have indeed made most in-roads in the psychological sciences. Some modern scientific theories such as Rogerian psychology, show strong parallels with Buddhist thought. Some of the most interesting work on the relationship between Buddhism and science is being done in the area of comparison between Yogacara theories regarding the store consciousness and modern evolutionary biology, especially DNA. This is because the Yogacara theory of karmic seeds works well in explaining the nature/nurture problem. See the works by William Walron on this topic.

During the 1970s, several experimental studies suggested that Buddhist meditation could produce insights into a wide range of psychological states. Interest in the use of meditation as a means of providing insight into mind-states has recently been revived, following the increased availability of brain-scanning technology such as fMRI and SPECT.

These studies are being enthusiastically encouraged by the present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso who has long expressed an interest in exploring the connection between Buddhism and western science, and regularly attends the Mind and Life Conferences (see link below).

Further reading

  • Robin Cooper ‘The Evolving Mind: Buddhism, Biology and Consciousness” Windhorse (Birmingham UK 1996)
  • Daniel Goleman (in collaboration with The Dalai Lama) ‘Destructive Emotions” Bloomsbury (London UK 2003)
  • B. Alan Wallace ‘Choosing Reality: A Buddhist Perspective of Physics and the Mind’ Snow Lion (Ithaca, NY 1996)
  • Rapgay L, Rinpoche VL, Jessum R Exploring the nature and functions of the mind: a Tibetan Buddhist meditative perspective Prog. Brain Res. 2000 vol 122 pp 507-15

See also

Buddhism and Evolution
Budismo y ciencia

buddha monk

buddha monk