Science

Current scientific research affirms, and challenges, traditional Buddhist teachings
  • Tricycle Community 11 comments

    The Matter of Truth Paid Member

    Years ago, at the Brooklyn Museum, I was looking at a Tibetan statue of a multi-armed figure when a middle-aged white couple stopped to view the statue, and as they did, one said to the other, “What is that about? Do you suppose they were trying to portray a freak who was born that way?” Then, before I could say anything, they moved on. As I, or anyone else familiar with the Indian cultural milieu, might have told them, the multiple arms were not intended to be a photograph-like portrait. Their intent is symbolic not literal. They symbolize the deity’s multiple abilities and capabilities. Only if one were completely blind to symbolism could one so completely misread the meaning of the statue’s multiple arms, imagining that they were intended to be an accurate physical representation of an actual person born with many arms. More »
  • Tricycle Community 68 comments

    The Scientific Buddha Paid Member

    According to Buddhist doctrine, there can be only one buddha for each historical age. A new buddha appears in the world only when the teachings of the previous buddha have been completely forgotten, with no remnant—a text, a statue, the ruins of a pagoda, or even a reference in a dictionary—remaining. Because the teachings of Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha—that is, our Buddha—remain present in the world, we have no need for a new buddha. But in the 19th century, a new buddha suddenly appeared in the world, a buddha who is not mentioned in any of the prophecies. What he taught is said to be compatible with modern science, and so I call him the Scientific Buddha. Today, the Scientific Buddha is often mistaken for Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha, the real Buddha. But they are not the same. And this case of mistaken identity has particular consequences for those who seek to understand and practice the teachings of Gautama Buddha. More »
  • Tricycle Community 21 comments

    A Gray Matter Paid Member

    Participants in the dialogue between science and Buddhism have long modeled their discussion primarily on the idea of convergence, the premise that the most significant comparisons are those that reveal common ground. This is by no means the only model for comparative discussion, and I would argue that in the case of Buddhism and science it is deeply flawed. Instead, another model—one based on mutual challenge, in which the two sides are able to shed light on each other precisely because of their differences—offers what I see as a more potentially fruitful alternative. More »
  • Tricycle Community 0 comments

    The Millennium: A Bridge between the Relative and the Ultimate Paid Member

    One way of viewing the millennium is that the infinite would again take finite incarnation to benefit beings at a certain point in space and time. Although such an occurrence is always welcome, we should be aware that the infinite is always present and place our emphasis on recognizing that. Otherwise, we are always stuck in finite, relative reality, where the concepts of space and time constrain and solidify our experience. It is exactly beyond the relative reality in which the concepts of space and time exist that we contact the infinite, space and time being constructs co-emergent with our finite, incarnate mind-body system. More »
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    Time from the Point of View of a Slime Mold Paid Member

    As we get older we wonder at our impatience, when, as children, we had to wait in the station for the train to arrive. It is one of the many signs that time has very different meanings for us, even over our own life span. Time and life are intertwined in so many different ways, something biologists are acutely aware of. Consider a few extremes: A single-cell bacterium may live its entire life cycle in half an hour, but a generation for an elephant takes twelve years, and a giant sequoia generation takes sixty years. One reason I work with slime molds in the laboratory is that their generations are short, so that if I start an experiment on Monday, I will know the result by Wednesday or Thursday. This kind of biological time—life-cycle time—is at the middle of the time scale of living phenomena. More »
  • Tricycle Community 104 comments

    What's at Stake as the Dharma Goes Modern? Paid Member

    In the summer of 2010, I sat a Dzogchen retreat at Garrison Institute with my teacher, a well-known Tibetan lama. He gave teachings during the day and then in the evening handed the microphone over to several academic luminaries who were also attending. In the morning and afternoon we received instructions on attaining buddhahood; in the evenings we heard lectures on how Buddhism’s contact with the West was leading to cutting-edge advances in brain-science research, medicine, and psychology. More »