Buddhism & Science
325. Q. Has Buddhism any right to be considered a scientific religion, or may it be classified as a "revealed" one?
A. Most emphatically it is not a revealed religion. The Buddha did not so preach, nor is it so understood. On the contrary, he gave it out as the statement of eternal truths, which his predecessors had taught like himself.
A. The Kâlâma Sutta, of the Anguthara Nikâya.
A. The Buddha taught that two things are causeless, viz., 'Akâsha' and 'Nirvâṇa': everything has come out of Akâsha, in obedience to a law of motion inherent in it, and, after a certain existence, passes away.
[paragraph continues] Nothing ever came out of nothing. We do not believe in miracles; hence we deny creation, and cannot conceive of a creation of something out of nothing. Nothing organic is eternal. Everything is in a state of constant flux, and undergoing change and reformation, keeping up the continuity according to the law of evolution.
A. Quite the contrary: in the Sigâlowâda Sutta, in a discourse preached by the Buddha, He specified as one of the duties of a teacher that he should give his pupils "instruction in science and lore." The Buddha's higher teachings are for the enlightened, the wise, and the thoughtful.
A. The Buddha's doctrine teaches that there were many progenitors of the human race; also that there is a principle of differentiation among men; certain individuals have a greater capacity for the rapid attainment of Wisdom and arrival at Nirvâṇa than others.
330. Q. Any other?
A. Properly speaking, a pure moral philosophy, a system of ethics and transcendental metaphysics. It is so eminently practical that the Buddha kept silent when Malunka asked about the origin of things.
332. Q. Why did he do that?
335. Q. What is it called in Pâlî?
A. Buddharansi, the Buddha rays.
336. Q. How many colors could be seen in it?
A. Six, linked in pairs.
337. Q. Their names?
335, Q. Did other persons emit such shining light?
339. Q. Where do we see these colors represented?
favorite disciple, noticing the great splendor which came from his Master's body, the Buddha said that on two occasions this extraordinary shining occurs, (a) just after a Tathâgatâ gains the supreme insight, and (b) on the night when he passes finally away.
342. Q. How is it described?
A. As a halo of a fathom's depth.
343. Q. What do the Hindus call it?
A. Tejas; its extended radiance they call Prâkâsha.
344. Q. What do Europeans call it now?
A. The Baron Von Reichenbach. His experiments are fully described in his Researches—published
A. It is immensely brighter and more extended than in cases of other beings and objects. It is the evidence of their superior development in the power of Iddhî. The light has been seen coming from dâgobas in Ceylon where relics of the Buddha are said to be enshrined.
A. That of Chullapanthaka, as told in the Pâlî Commentary on the Dhammapada, etc.
350. Q. Give me the facts.
A. He was a bhikkhu who became an Arhat. On that very day the Buddha sent a messenger to call him. When the man reached the Vihara, he saw 300 bhikkhus in one group, each exactly like the others in every respect. On his asking which was Chullapanthaka, every one of the 300 figures replied: "I am Chullapanthaka."
351. Q. What did the messenger do?
352. Q. What did the Buddha then tell him?
A. To return to the vihâra and, if the same thing happened, to catch by the arm the first figure who said he was Chullapanthaka and lead him to him. The Buddha knew that the new Arhat would make this display of his acquired power to impress illusionary pictures of himself upon the messenger.
353. Q. What is this power of illusion called in Pâlî?
A. Manomaya Iddhî.
355. Q. To what would you compare them?
A. That Chullapanthaka should clearly conceive in his own mind his exact appearance, and then impress that, with as many duplicates or repetitions as he chose, upon the sensitive brain of the messenger.
357. Q. What is this process now called?
A. Hypnotic suggestion.
358. Q. Could any third party have also seen these illusionary figures?
A. That would depend on the will of the Arhat, or hypnotiser.
359. Q. What do you mean?
A. Supposing that fifty or five hundred persons
360. Q. Is this branch of science well known in our day?
A. Very well known; it is familiar to all students of mesmerism and hypnotism.
A. Modern scientists teach that every generation of men is the heir to the consequences of the virtues and vices of the preceding generation, not in the mass, as such, but in every individual case. Every one of us, according to Buddhism, gets a birth which represents the causes generated by him in an antecedent birth. This is the idea of Karma.
A. No. It teaches that all are constantly changing, and all must disappear in course of time.
364. Q. Never to reappear?
866. Q. What is this branch of science called?
A. The Pâlî name is Iddhi-vidhanânâ.
367. Q. How many kinds are there?
368. Q. What class of men enjoy these powers?
A. They gradually develop in one who pursues a certain course of ascetic practice called Dhyâna.
369. Q. Can this Iddhî power be lost? *
A. The Bahira can be lost, but the Sasanika never, when once acquired. Lokottara knowledge once obtained is never lost, and it is by this knowledge only that the absolute condition of Nirvâṇa is known by the Arhat. And this knowledge can be got by following the noble life of the Eightfold Path.
A. Yes, in perfection.
371. Q. And his disciples also had it?
372. Q. Give examples.
A. Of all the disciples of the Buddha, Mogallâna was possessed of the most extraordinary powers for-making phenomena, while Ânanda could develop none during the twenty-five years in which he was the personal and intimate disciple of the Buddha himself. later he did, as the Buddha had foretold he would.
373. Q. Does a man acquire these powers suddenly or gradually?
A. There are six degrees attainable by Arhats;
what is higher than them is to be reached only by a Buddha.
376. Q. Describe the six stages or degrees.
A. We may divide them into two groups, of three each. The first to include (1) Progressive retrospection, viz., a gradually acquired power to look backward in time towards the origin of things;.
(2) Progressive foresight, or power of prophecy;.
377. Q. What would the second group include?
A. The same faculties, but illimitably developed. Thus, the full Arhat possesses perfect retrospection, perfect foresight, and has absolutely extinguished the last trace of desire and selfish attractions.
378. Q. What are the four means for obtaining Iddhî?
A. Iddhî vidha. One possessing this can, by
A. No; he expressly discouraged them as tending to create confusion in the minds of those who were not acquainted with the principles involved. They also tempt their possessors to show them merely to gratify idle curiosity and their own vanity. Moreover, similar phenomena can be shown by magicians and sorcerers learned in the Laukika, or the baser form of Iddhî science. All false pretensions to supernatural attainment by monks are among the unpardonable sins (Tevijga Sutta).
381. Q. You spoke of a 'deva' having appeared to the Prince Siddhârtha under a variety of forms; what do Buddhists believe respecting races of elemental invisible beings having relations with mankind?
382. Q. How many kinds of devas are there?
A. Three: Kâmâvâcharâ (those who are still under the dominion of the passions); Rûpâvâchara (a higher class, which still retain an individual form); Arûpâvâchara (the highest in degree of purification, who are devoid of material forms).
383. Q. Should we fear any of them?
A. He who is pure and compassionate in heart and of a courageous mind need fear nothing: no man, god, brahmarakkhas, demon or deva, can injure him, but some have power to torment the impure, as well as those who invite their approach. Footnotes
105:* Sumangala Sthavira explains to me that those transcendent powers are permanently possessed only by one who has subdued all the passions (Klesa), in other words, an Arhat. The powers may be developed by a bad man and used for doing evil things, but their activity is but brief, the rebellious passions again dominate the sorcerer, and he becomes at last their victim.