There have been a lot of efforts from various individuals to compare science and Buddhism. Some say Buddhism starts where science ends. Some say the most scientific religion is Buddhism. Science is ever-changing, is still growing and diversifying. Buddhism is 2,500 years old; Buddha never wrote his teaching and over the years it had undergone a lot of upheavals and split into sects, i.e. Theravada and Mahayana. However, the original teachings of the Buddha has prevailed to the present time and is often referred to as authentic Buddhism or Buddha Dhamma. Therefore, is it correct or possible to compare science and Buddhism?
Buddhism, today, is a religion followed by millions around the world. What the Buddha taught was Buddha Dhamma and was not for everyone like any branch of science, (In this article what is meant by Buddhism is Buddha Dhamma). You cannot make a whole population doctors, engineers or any other professionals. Those who study a particular discipline would only understand the content of each. Likewise, the Buddha had clearly declared his teaching is for those who practice the art of development of wisdom - Panna, (Panna wantassa maya dhamma); and not for those who do not. The unique path for the accomplishment of this objective was discovered by the Buddha and named it the Noble Eightfold Path (NEP), which is the Ariya atthangika magga, Majjima patipada or Dhamma cakka.
The NEP is used to separate mind (Nama) from the body (Rupa). This separation is called Namarupa pariccheda. Body is mundane and made of ever changing (Anicca) physical matter, grows old, catches deceases and dies. Whereas, the mind is super mundane, not made of physical matter, always new, never grows old and passes to a new body at death. As, it is useless to treat the body which cannot be cleaned permanently and protected from disease. The Buddha found the mind can be cleaned permanently and made to live permanently if it is separated from the body.
The ultimate objective of the Buddha Dhamma, therefore, is to grow and fulfil Panna and finally live in Panna or Nibbana without a body (Panna paripurin vepullattanca sayan abhinna sacchikatwa upasampajja viharati). The Buddha further states that what is great for the eternal life in Nibbana is Panna (Pannahu jeevin jeevita mahu setthan).
First of all, science cannot prove itself as scientific. With all ultra modern technology and scientific instrumentation the final decision-making still has to be done through the five senses viz. eye, ear, nose, tongue and body.
Whereas, the Buddha called the five senses as "fools" and said associating with them leads to the delusion of self "I". What he taught was to give up the use of five senses (Asevanaca balanam) and instead use the mind directly, Panna, (Panditananca sevana) for decision making or to see the "truth".
Therefore, according to the Buddha, science is non-science or Avijja. Use of the mind directly (Panna) and avoiding the use of senses, the Buddha called, Vijja or science. The one who is not associating with five senses is said to dwell in science (Vijja carana sampanno). Further, The Buddha has clearly mentioned that there is no science comparable to Samadhi (Samadhi natena samona vijjati). Samadhi is the integration of Samma sati, Samma vayama, Samma Samadhi and Panna is the result of Seela and Samadhi in the practical NEP.
Buddhism is the teaching of mind. It is correct to say the Buddha discovered the mind. Before the Buddha, everybody thought memory (Vinnana) was the mind. Vinnana is what all lay beings (Putujjana) call as mind. It is not the mind but the mind’s store of memory, knowledge and experiences.
The mind is seen in a step-by-step process in the NEP. The first time one sees or experiences the mind he/she becomes the first saint or the first refined person called Sotapanna. The second time the second saint (Sakadagami) etc. The mind is seen and comprehended fully only by the fourth saint or the Arahath. This is called realization of Four Noble Truths. Four noble truths are really the cross-section of the mind.
Every activity, whether bodily, verbal or mental, is done by appearing or rolling the mind from Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara to Vinnana (form, sensation, recognition, judgment and memory) called the five aggregates. This can be realized by looking at something in front and closing the eyes and looking at what is automatically memorized. We perceive "the world" by rolling the mind separately in each of five senses. Due to this reason. The Buddha called the body, from head to toes containing mind and Vinnana, as "the-world" (Imasminca byama matte kalebare sasannamhi samanake lokanca pannapemi).
When one practice the NEP it can be seen that the mind cannot move a fraction of a millimetre out from the body and is bound to it by ten bonds called Dasa samyojana. No one can imagine anything which had not been seen or experienced earlier. All what we think is simply accessing the store of memory called Vinnana.
Anything we do is preceded by thinking of how to do (accessing Vinnana) and ends by memorizing what was done (storing in Vinnana). Therefore, this process of mind’s rolling from Vinnana to Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and again to Vinnana is called cycle of Samsara (Samsara cakka) as shown in the diagram.
The lay (Putujjana) mind has no escape from this cycle as each activity, whether good (wholesome) or bad (unwholesome), ends up in continuous accumulation of Vinnana and further extending Samsara.
The continuous process of appearing or rotating in this cycle is always taking place attached to the body (Rupa). Therefore the lay mind is always "attached" to a Rupa and in fact cannot escape from it.
As, the mind first appears (Uppada) in a Rupa it can be seen that this is one field or plane of mind activity called Rupa bhoomi and includes only the five senses. The mind appears in Rupa bhoomi to receive what is coming from outside viz. form, sound, smell, taste and touch. The outside agents are called Kama bhoomi or second plane of mind activity. This takes place during life or existence (Thiti).
Finally, mind leaves (Bhanga) the particular Rupa by storing all what was experienced as Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankhara and Vinnana. Therefore, this is the third plane of mind activity called Vinnana. This is also called Arupa bhoomi since every physical Rupa (matter) is stored as images (Arupa). This attached rolling in three Bhoomis is what the lay mind is only capable of and is called Avijja carana or fifteen Caranas of the mind. Therefore, the Samsara Cakka shown above as a circle can also be drawn as a triangle as shown below.
If the three planes are magnets, the mind is like a steel ball moving from one plane to the other starting from and ending at Arupa bhoomi. The Buddha’s discovery, the NEP was to train the mind to keep away from all three planes and beat the centre of the triangle shown and is hence called Majjima Patipada.
It’s the mind which has the desire to see, hear, taste, etc. But, the mind cannot do them by itself directly. Therefore, it uses the poor, physical sense organs for those purposes. Each and every mind has four desires or requirements viz. to see (Dhitta), hear (Suta), and touch (Muta) and to know (Vinnata). All these are done by "rolling to five" (Papanca) in the respective sense organ.
Science utilizes this mind process of "rolling to five" in all its activities. The rolling to five only yields wrong information hence called Vinnana. Therefore, according to Buddhist doctrine science is an Avijja or non-science.
The Buddha on the other hand clearly mentions utilization of five senses (fools) should be avoided to see the truth. For this, the mind has to be stopped from rolling to five or Samsara cakka and it should be trained to directly see, hear, feel and know without rolling. The only way how to stop the Samsara cakka is by applying Dhamma cakka or Ariya atthangika magga or Majjima patipada or Magga. The result of practicing that is the attainment of Panna or Pancabhinna with which the mind can directly see, hear, touch and declare what is right and wrong.
Without the Magga and Pancabhinna all lay beings are in belief and suspicion. The saints (Ariya), who have developed Pancabhinna, live in truth and reality only.
Stopping of the mind’s rolling to five or Samsara cakka is called Vijja carana or Niccarana the salvation. Only a stopped mind can see truth and reality and any other lay method cannot. As, science is always utilizing a rolling mind and as long as it continues use of such a mind science is a far cry from truth and reality. It will undergo change for ever and will ever arrive at the truth.Therefore, science is Avijja or non-science and the only science is Buddha dhamma.