Science, mystical power and Buddhism

Inspired by a Buddhism meditation and discussion

There is no conflicts between science and Buddhism. Buddha’s analytical thinking ability is amazing. Given him enough time, he can figure out how to build a rocket. He will also know how to build a better society. Of course, he didn’t have that much time. So he only focuses on the root.

The current scientific methodology excludes human being’s subjectivity from scientific research. The simple method applied is that the scientific experiments have to be reproducible by other scientists given its description. By this, it prevents human being’s subjectivity from interfering with scientific research. But when it comes to understanding ourselves, science hasn’t been able to provide much help. How can you understand yourself if you exclude yourself? Thus human science, adopting the methodologies from physical science, is largely a joke. I remember Lewis Black’s joke about human scientist doing research on why prisoners want to escape the prison. Maybe because science cannot help people understand themselves, many people turn away from science and towards mystical powers. Also to many people, science appears to be too mechanic, dry and have no life. They prefer stories and romantic things. So mystical things appeal to them.

Having scientific training doesn’t necessarily mean not believing there are wonders in the world. Believing in wonders, romantic things doesn’t mean you have to turn to mystical things. Albert Einstein, a great scientist of course, have very interesting views on this. (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/quotes_einstein.html)

Dalai Lama’s view on this is also very interesting and worth reading. (http://seedmagazine.com/news/2005/10/what_buddhism_offers_science.php) To put it simply, objectivity is indeed subjective. Subjectivity can also be a very objective thing. We are indeed a part of the nature, even though our subjectivity often confuses us.

A very good book on this subject is Nature of Order (http://www.natureoforder.com/)

I looked up the meaning of mystical from dictionary.com. It has this meaning “having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; beyond ordinary understanding”. I think this is probably what mystical means to most of the people. To most of the people who believe in mystical power, I guess for them mystical powers are things that cannot be understood by human being’s sense. I guess that is their reason to believe in mystical power (correct me if I am wrong). But I feel that the issue is not whether the mystical powers can be explained or not by human being. The real issue is that whether the mystical powers exists or not. Since no one really has a convincing witness of mystical power, we never have a chance to even try to explain it. If there are really mystical powers, I believe that human being can investigate and will be able to understand it given enough time. Actually the phenomenon of people in different cultures believing in mystical powers can be explained and is very easy to understand. The fact that different cultures came up with different mystical powers is a further proof of that.

Practically, I never witness any mystical power myself. Neither do all the people I know and talk to. It has no influence in my past and current life, highly possible not in my future life too (I am actually quite confident in that). Furthermore, the description of mystical powers is against all my other experiences which have been verified again and again in my daily life, and especially it is against some of my very deep understandings which are deeply embedded in my life.

Believing in mystical powers, thus after all, is just superstition.

To me, life is very precious. There are a lot of very wonderful things in the world that I enjoy, such as writing novel and software. There are also many other wonderful things that I would like to learn and haven’t got time to learn yet, such as playing music, and English. Even there is mystical power, I don’t think it can give me more wonderful things than writing novels and software. At least from people who claim mystical powers or believe in mystical power, I never feel that degree of wonderfulness they are enjoying from their mystical power as I can enjoy from novels and software.

Also to me, suffering is real and immediate. To invest my time in mystical things and not doing the practical things that can actually help people in suffering is very ignorant and no-life.

So for people who turn to mystical power for the romantic or spiritual purpose, you really need to rethink it. Life is precious. Don’t waste time.

The way we perceive the world are all subjective. Even science is from our subjectivity. It is our subjectivity that is saying objects can be measured by length. And the length can be in the unit of meters (for Americans, in inches). It is our subjectivity that recognizes the number 1, 2, 3 and all the mathematics. The so called objectivity, is after all still subjective. (Of course, our subjectivity can be also very objective, just like we are part of the nature.) So in this sense, we can say each of us is the center of the universe. The universe starts right here. As we don’t usually know completely what is happening outside ourselves, we know completely what is happening inside ourselves. That is our biggest treasure.  Applying scientific methodologies, we might say that it is an assumption that Buddhism claims that the whole universe shares the same substance. In practice (or experiment in term of science) by looking deeply into ourselves and perceiving the fundamental truth, we found out that we can understand deeply the whole world after really understanding ourselves. Although the forms are different and each different form need to be studied, we know the fundamental truth shared by all those forms, just because we see that truth through our own treasure. Thus we prove this assumption that the whole universe shares the same substance. You have the precious treasure in yourself. Why do you keep seeking outwards?

Last, I want to say: even if there is mystical power and you have the mystical power, you still cannot escape life and death. So if you want to resolve the issue of life and death, you have to study Buddhism and realize your Buddha nature.

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2 Comments

Filed under Chan/Zen, Essay

2 responses to “Science, mystical power and Buddhism

  1. Just heard from two of my friends describing what they think as mystical power. They don’t think it cannot be understood by human being’s sense. They think it can be investigated and explained by science. This of course, is different from the definition of mystical power according to the dictionary. In other words, it is not mystical. But let’s see what they refer to by mystical power. It refers to the energy power of thoughts that can be felt physically, which is of the same energy that is emitted by wind, river, sun and so on (correct me if I am not describing it correctly). Specifically, for example, if you put two person in two adjacent rooms with only a wall between them. Without seeing or hearing anything from the other room, according to mystical power, one person in one room should be able to tell at least something about what is going on with the person in the other room. (If this description is right, of course we can conduct a scientific experiment to test it. It comes to my thought that maybe this kind of experiment can be conducted in the death execution room (by the way, just to clarify I am against death execution). Just let the psychic in the next room tell if the prisoner is dead or not. If the psychic cannot even tell whether the person in the other room is still alive or not, then of course there is no such thing as mystical energy passing by and received by them as they claim. Don’t know any psychic is up to the challenge to do such a test.). Of course, I don’t think they can tell anything of the other person in the other room.

    This kind of mystical power, if it exists, is within the scope of current science and can certainly be investigated. So I will leave that to science to resolve it.

    I have some evil thoughts here. The next time when you see a psychic, just walk over and slap him/her on the face. True psychic should be able to tell your intention beforehand and stay away from you. This way we can tell if they are real psychic or not. If you found one real psychic, please spread the words so we can all go to test him/her. If s/he is really great and pass all the tests, then we can announce to the world that we find a real psychic and there is indeed mystic power. How do you like this idea? I guess the real psychics should be very excited about this idea and embrace it immediately. I hate wasting my time and many people’s time discussing mystical power and psychic things. Why don’t we just do this to find it out. If you slapped a psychic, please let us know. We will put the psychic’s address on a website so people know that psychic is not real.

    Last, if my understanding is not right, please let me know.

  2. Minh Maultasch

    i always believe that buddhism is sort of the religion of peace compared to other religions. buddhism speaks of peace all the time.’

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