Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Is it god, Darwin or the Buddha?
Is it god, Darwin or the Buddha? - Daily News
ORIGIN OF LIFE: Mahinda Weerasinghe is a man with an extraordinary message. Not only is he contesting the creationists’ theories of life, but also challenging the scientific establishment’s alternative to divine creation.
We finally caught up with him holidaying leisurely in Mt Lavinia, on a quick visit to Sri Lanka to launch his work in late August, and posed some relevant questions.
Interviewer: - Vijitha Yapa publications has just released your enlarged third edition of ‘The Origin of Species According to the Buddha’. In that you not only summarily dismiss the creationist version of life, but also the scientific establishment’s alternative to it; obviously I am speaking of Darwin’s ‘Theory of Evolution’.
Mahinda Weerasinghe: Curiously enough the global opinion concerning theories of life is divided between these two schools of thought. The Creationists profess that species were fashioned in their present form.
When I say creationist we must include all shades of Judeo- Christian sects. They are of the opinion that pig was created as pig, man as man, and evolutionary process of species is only a figment of our imagination.
Then we have the Darwinists; who maintain that ‘natural selection’ is the ‘scientific base’ for the evolution of species.
If we go by both these two schools of thought, then it would simply mean that external forces had determined and controlled our coming into being. Then how in the world can individuals be called to answer for their actions?
I: Can you clarify that?
MW: Just consider; no individual that we know of has put in a request to be created, or be begotten. If a creator had created us in our present form, then our body and mind would have been the handiwork of this loving creator too.
Whether he is a pervert, an imbecile or a ‘Hitler’, all individuals perform actions using the body and mind awarded to them, naturally. So how indeed can individuals be responsible for their actions?
On the other hand we have the ‘natural selection’ explanation of Darwinists.
Here too individuals are helpless pawns as we have come into being through a whole series of ‘luck by chance’ events. In other words we had no power to navigate over our own destiny by what we have inherited in this hapless process of accidents. So how can such helpless individuals be responsible for their actions?
I: But the whole scientific establishment accepts that natural selection explains the evolution of species. And a lot of research has been put into it.
MW: Perhaps, but some main ingredients of life are missing in their theories such as 1. An action theory 2. An ethical theory 3. The conditioning process or conditional genesis of creatures 4. The pleasure and pain principle 5. Cause and effect - to name a few.
I: But these are unscientific values hence inapplicable vis-à-vis evolution.
MW: OK but then if ‘survival of the fittest’ is good enough to be applied for other species, why is it not good enough for humans too. In fact the UN is creating human rights laws to protect the under dog.
Acts of genocide by various human racial groups are condemned by the world body, so shouldn’t we also apply Darwin’s theory to humans and let the fittest of these groups survive, as that’s what is supposedly happening in nature or do Darwinists believe human animal is a special creation and has to be protected?
I: Naturally if we reject God as our creator, then all we have is to fall back on a natural explanation, but I do not see how Darwin’s theory should be applied to human types.
MW: Indeed the original third theory of life has been kept hidden from the global society where the individual has some control over his destiny.
I: What do you mean by that?
MW: I am speaking of the two and a half millennia old rational explanation as to why creatures struggle to survive and cling to life, in spite of adversity, hardship and suffering.
And in doing so they ignored the Buddha’s main discovery upon which the Four Noble Truths are underpinned.
Law of impermanence
I: What have they ignored?
MW: The law of impermanence. Do the Darwinists truly believe that the Buddha, while stating that all compounds are impermanent and all things are fleeting, made species an exception to this all embracing principle?
It is not only that species were not holding a status quo but Buddhist scriptures provide a clear explanation as to how the becoming process of species is fired.
I: You mean to say that all these professors and pundits of the past and present never connected Buddha’s explanations vis-à-vis species when it is clearly penned down in the scriptures?
MW: That is the intriguing mystery of all. Soon people will be questioning, how in the world did Buddhists fail to grasp what was staring in their face.
I: So how does Buddhist philosophy square with the evolutionary process of species?
MW: In this connection it is inappropriate to use the word ‘evolution’ to explain this subtle process.
The Buddha never used the word evolution to project its intricate dynamics. Instead, he used the word, ‘becoming’, more precisely, ‘sensory becoming’. For the becoming process can go either way, progressively or regressively, depending on the individual’s circumstance, conditioned state of mind and resources available.
I: Can you be a little bit more specific?
MW: Indeed according to the Buddha, individuals are driven by craving (sensory greed), which is the fuel for one’s existence. But craving is not holding on to a status quo too, and it is in a dynamic process of becoming.
Take away the ‘fuel of sensory craving’ of an individual, and he does not exist. Craving for what? Craving for all varieties of sensory stimulants. Tasty food, stimulating music and carnal greed. Books can be written on the subject. All the worlds’ industrial products one way or other are catering to this sensory greed of human species.
I: How is the transformation of species is fired according to the Buddha?
MW: In order to cater to these needs individuals need to act. Actions are constrained by conditioned body and mind and the resources available. Numerous actions, mental and physical, are performed in order to cater to one’s needs.
These in time will bring in their wake positive or negative resultants. But within that process of catering to one’s sensory needs one is stressing and straining one’s body and mind, which in turn will galvanise the direction of future sensory extension.
I: Is that why you call it sensory becoming?.
MW: In fact, survival then, according to the sensory becoming principle, is not an objective in itself, but to experience that what lies beyond, a stepping stone for a more important goal.
Biological evolution, it seems, is subservient to a pleasure principle. Its net results are creatures with progressively developed sensory potential.
This in its turn would heighten their sensory experience, i.e. pleasures of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. Just look around and you will recognize the truth of this extraordinary principle.
(Note: According to Darwinists, creatures are competing for survival in order to produce their prototypes. And the fittest in a species will survive and reproduce.)
I: It is not quite clear what you mean.
MW: As an example let us simply consider a single sensory instrument of humans, the eye. The eye simply documents how subtly advanced the sensory becoming process is.
We are informed that, man can distinguish 7 pure colours, such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, and about 17,000 mixed colours, plus about 300 shades of grey between white and black. So our optical sense can take in 5 million shades of colours altogether.
What emerges when compared with other creatures is that man’s colour vision, like the way he sees an image, is not a matter-of-course affair, for it requires a nerve system that is simply short of miraculous.
What is the necessity for such advanced piece of sensory apparatus for survival? There is only one answer that fits in smoothly, if its usefulness is to be justified; visual experience and all the related pleasures that it caters to its owner.
Such stimulations do not play any role whatsoever in the survival of its owner. Indeed humans can walk on two feet, dance, run and swim or climb trees. The sex act is so powerfully motivating that it can be an elaborate, long drawn affair if one has mastered the art of love play, which no other creature can imitate.
The human penis is the biggest of all, when compared to all other apes, including gorillas. Why? We have specialised our body to make it a pleasure gorging machine. All varieties of music, all sorts of gourmet foods. But isolate this ape in a desolate, unfriendly island and he probably would not survive in spite of its advanced body and mind.
I: So we are nothing but simply pleasure guzzling sensory machines?
MW: I have outlined in very simple terms the most advanced and only none deterministic theory in existence, so you have to get hold of a book and read it to really grasp the subject, as this tropic will come to dominate the next generations.
I: How can the Buddha’s sensory becoming principle help the modern society?
MW: Today we find Judeo-Christian sects are at each others throats. Why is this? Because each of their sects promotes a club mentality to its adherents. Absurdly each sect firmly believes that they own an exclusive truth, provided exclusively by a loving God to them and that God is on their side.
It is declared by each sect that its members are unique, special and chosen; no wonder the resulting violent global conflicts. The Darwinists’ theory of evolution did not help either, as they promoted a mechanistic version of life.
The result is that the world is in turmoil presently, thanks to such fatalistic and mechanistically deterministic theories of life.
No wonder the intelligent people are searching for a nondeterministic version of life. The only rational, logical and realistic one around and indeed the only non-deterministic one in existence is the Buddha’s ‘Sensory Becoming’ principle of life.
Equipping oneself with it can be an advantage for one’s personal progress and gain. It will also make the world a healthier place for everyone to live in.
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Australian efforts in uncovering Buddhist history
Buddhist History: Researchers around the world are moving a little closer to understanding the early history of Buddhism with the help of Australian scholarship and science.
Carbon dating performed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has confirmed that ancient manuscripts that surfaced in Afghanistan in the 1990s are among the earliest Buddhist texts ever found and also the earliest Indian manuscripts.
Australian researcher Dr Mark Allon says ANSTO confirmed that two manuscripts from what is known as the Senior Collection, were compiled between 130AD and 250AD, and three manuscripts from the Schoyen Collection (named after its Norwegian owner), date between the first and fifth century AD.
Dr Allon, who is considered to be the first person to read some of the texts since they were written, said that prior Buddhist texts had been written in ancient Pali and Sanskrit language but the actual manuscripts were quite recent, as late as 17th, 18th, and mostly 19th Century, “So here you have a manuscript witness to the story that goes back thousands of years before,” he told the ABC.
The manuscripts are extremely important to an understanding of the history of Buddhism in the North-West of India, he said, particularly, as it was through this region that Buddhism was transmitted to Central Asia and China.
“They are the oldest extant Buddhist manuscripts. They open up a new field of studies, namely the study of Buddhist manuscripts and Buddhist literature from the North-West of the Indian subcontinent.”
The Buddha, who lived in the North-Eastern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh regions of India, passed away around 400BC and left no written texts. Sermons and stories of his Enlightenment were initially passed through word of mouth, but were later written down in early languages of the Indian Gangetic Plains.
Although these earlier writings and later commentaries did not last in their original form, they were rewritten in various language groups including Sanskrit and Pali to constitute a vast written tradition.
“Buddhism was originally an oral tradition, but little is known about how it developed from spoken word to written word,” Dr Allon said. “So the discovery and date confirmation will give us a unique insight into the development of Buddhist literature.”
Dr Allon, a lecturer in the Department of Indian Subcontinental Studies at Sydney University, is part of an international team of scholars, the main group of which is based at the University of Washington in Seattle under Professor Richard Salomon.
Their field of study comprises three different collections of ancient Buddhist material: the British Library Collection (the British Library also possesses the Diamond Sutra, the oldest printed book to bear a date (868BC), found in China’s Dunhuang Caves in the early 1900s by Hungarian explorer Sir Aurel Stein); the Schoyen Collection that surfaced in caves in the Bamiyan area of Afghanistan made famous more recently by the Taliban’s destruction of its massive Buddhist carvings; and the Senior Collection which came from the ancient Gandhara region corresponding to the modern day Afghanistan and North-West Pakistan.
Dr Allon is one of the few scholars versed in Gandhara language which he says is related to Sanskrit and Pali, the language of present Buddhist texts in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma.
“It [Gandhara] is not the earliest language used,” Dr Allon explained to The Epoch Times.” It is just that the manuscripts that were written in those languages have survived because of the climate, because of the dryness in that area.”
“As monks moved into different areas they translated the texts into local languages so local Gandhara is the language that was current in North_”West India at that early period from about the third century BC to the fourth century AD”.
Dr Allon said the Buddhist manuscripts are also fundamental to understanding the transmission of Buddhism to China “since Buddhism came to China primarily through the North-West of India, through ancient Gandhara and many of the early Chinese translations of texts were probably in the Gandhara language”.
While there have been many new insights into the transmission of Buddhism and the particular period in history that the manuscripts were written Dr Allon says what is most remarkable is the consistency of Buddhist teachings.
“It is often amazing when you think, here is a text preserved in Sri Lanka and a text preserved in ancient Gandhara, huge distance apart in different languages and yet they are so similar.
“It tests a degree of fidelity in the tradition,” Dr Allon said.