Train Your Mind | Compassion or Hate – Decide

We highly recommend this article. Our near future will require great strength, intelligence and wisdom. Civilization as we have known it is coming to an end. Business as usual won’t help us. We must learn how to liberate ourselves. Learning from various wisdom traditions can help us cope with what’s to come.

“Buddhism Is What Science Should Be Doing”

Robert Thurman discuss the Buddha’s scientific worldview and argues that it is less dogmatic than modern science.

By Matthew Abrahams with Robert A. F. Thurman

JUN 21, 2019

That involves a couple of presuppositions. One is that mindfulness is Buddhism—or even that meditation is Buddhism—which is highly sold but not the case. The three educations, or trisikkha, is usually translated as trainings. But shiksha is the word used in India’s department of education today. Calling it training allows Western people to avoid the idea that Buddhism has a knowledge that is equal to and/or superior to the knowledge of materialist science.

Saying that mindfulness is all you need to thrive in your corporation or in your household is completely overselling it, and there should be a backlash against it. Also, it’s not all of Buddhism by any means. It’s one branch of eight branches, the seventh part of the eightfold path. And mindfulness by itself is not at all how you get free of suffering. Real mindfulness will actually make you more aware of how much you are suffering and will make you resolve to try to do more about it. But it won’t be by just sitting and being more mindful.

Some people will say, “I’m spiritual, and science has nothing to say about my spirituality. Why would I want my spirituality to be dragged down?” But that ignores the fact that science is the religion of the modern world. The idea that Buddhism can get dragged down falls into the scientific materialistic trap by assuming that our religious beliefs make us feel good but are unrealistic and not scientifically corroborable. And that, again, is conflating Buddhism with blind faith, which it isn’t. Buddha was 100 percent against blind faith. He said if you believe in something that your reason and common sense say couldn’t be true, that belief will cripple you mentally.

No, I’m being a little more aggressive. I’m saying that Buddhism is what science should be doing—Buddha’s wisdom teaching is what scientists should practice. They can do their material science, too, but the modern idea that secular means totally materialistic is a very rare case in history. The Buddha was seeking knowledge of reality, but for him, the mind was part of that secular reality. So by practicing Buddhist science, they would be taking a different kind of responsibility about the quality of their own minds and experience, and they would truly drop the dogma of materialism.

I am insisting that Buddhism be taken seriously as a knowledge system. The arrogance of Western materialist scientists, that they understand the world and know how to fix it, is ridiculous because they are destroying it, not fixing it. They need higher knowledge—not just some faith or god. And the Buddha’s teaching has a way of helping them. Scientists who meet the Dalai Lama often come away saying, “Boy, I had some new insights talking with him. He’s so smart.” But they don’t ask any questions about Buddhist science or what Buddhist knowledge is. They don’t think that he knowssomething, they just think he’s peaceful and nice and that, in his presence, they have great ideas. That is our Western arrogance. It’s really terrible.

When I say that everyone should be a Buddhist scientist, I don’t mean they have to be a Buddhist or change their group affiliation, just that they need to be more enlightened. [His Holiness the 14th] Dalai Lama often says he doesn’t want people leaving their grandmother’s religions because they studied some Buddhism. He wants people to keep granny happy and stay in that religion, and if they learn by meditating, studying, or being more ethical, then they’re elevating their own cultural setting, which is great.

Imagine going to [New York City] Mayor Bill De Blasio and asking for a big building in the park for anybody who wants to shave their head, put on an orange robe, and renounce their name and property to live there, be fed freely, and be respected and asked questions. What would he say?

That is what the Buddha did, and it is revolutionary. He created a non-caste caste in the middle of the rigid Indian system and got the kings and the warriors to cater to it. In my [1998] book Inner Revolution, I argue that it is a total social revolution to say that the individual has a higher destiny than just fitting into their role in society—and the idea that the individual can achieve freedom from suffering and achieve higher awareness of the nature of reality.

Sometimes when I speak to a big audience of four, five hundred people, I will ask, “How many of you think that we will avoid major war, avoid this climate catastrophe that looms over us, and make the radical changes necessary to govern wisely?” Very few people will raise their hands. People are resigned; they are all brainwashed into thinking that they have no power. They think that nobody good will ever come and that all governments are equally bad. People voted for [President Donald] Trump because they hate all of them, and they thought, “Here’s some guy who hates them all too.” Meanwhile, he’s the worst of them.

Compassion in the teeth of that cynicism is radical. But there is a tendency among some Buddhists to act like, you can’t be too compassionate because you’ll get wasted. Well, that’s not the Buddhist attitude. Compassion and nonviolence is a powerful thing, it’s not a weakness. The Harvard sociologist Gene Sharp wrote many books on nonviolence and how, for example, under the Nazis, nonviolent protests saved trainloads of people. Determined nonviolent protests by masses of people are really very effective. Even the worst, nastiest people will not endlessly kill people who are opposing them unarmed. They might kill a few hoping to take it down, but they don’t kill them all.

The Dalai Lama has been fighting back against the genocidal invasion of his country, nonviolently, and seeking dialogue with the government. Many people have said, and they continue to say, “That’s unrealistic, it’ll never work, and it’s a lost cause.” But my question to them is, how is violence doing? How is militarism doing? Has anyone really won anything? Is it ever going to be stable? I don’t think so. So my point is, radical compassion is the one thing that could possibly save the world at this time.


Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.