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The Sciences of the Buddha
A 21-day retreat for Buddhists and Scientists
June 1st to 21st 2012
Plum Village, France
Plum Village, France
In Buddhism there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth (S: samvṛti-satya C: 俗諦) and ultimate truth (S: paramārtha-satya, C: 真諦). In the framework of the conventional truth, Buddhists speak of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, inside and outside, one and many, etc… and the Buddhist teaching and practice based on this framework helps reduce suffering, and bring more harmony and happiness. In the framework of the ultimate truth, the teaching transcends notions of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, inside and outside, one and many, etc… and the teaching and practice based on this insight help practitioners liberate themselves from discrimination, fear, and touch nirvana, the ultimate reality. Buddhists see no conflict between the two kinds of truth and are free to make good use of both frameworks.
Classical physics, as seen in Newton’s theories, is built upon a framework reflecting everyday experience, in which material objects have an individual existence, and can be located in time and space. Quantum physics provides a framework for understanding how nature operates on subatomic scales, but differs completely from classical physics, because in this framework, there is no such thing as empty space, and the position of an object and its momentum cannot simultaneously be precisely determined. Elementary particles fluctuate in and out of existence -- they do not exist in the normal sense -- they have only a “tendency to exist”.
Classical physics seems to reflect the conventional truth and quantum physics seems to be on its way to discover the absolute truth, trying very hard to discard notions such as being and non-being, inside and outside, sameness and otherness, etc… At the same time, scientists are trying to find out the relationship between the two kinds of truth represented by the two kinds of science, because both can be tested and applied in life.
In science, a theory should be tested in several ways before it can be accepted by the scientific community. The Buddha also recommended, in the Kālāma Sūtra1 , that any teaching and insight given by any teacher should be tested by our own experience before it can be accepted as the truth. Real insight, or right view (S: samyag-dṛṣṭi, C: 正見), has the capacity to liberate, and to bring peace and happiness. The findings of science are also insight; they can be applied in technology, but can be applied also to our daily behavior to improve the quality of our life and happiness. Buddhists and scientists can share with each other their ways of studying and practice and can profit from each other’s insights and experience.
The practice of mindfulness and concentration always brings insight. It can help both Buddhists and scientists. Insights transmitted by realized practitioners like the Buddhas and bodhisattvas can be a source of inspiration and support for both Buddhist practitioners and scientists, and scientific tests can help Buddhist practitioners understand better and have more confidence in the insight they receive from their ancestral teachers. It is our belief that in this 21st Century, Buddhism and science can go hand in hand to promote more insight for us all and bring more liberation, reducing discrimination, separation, fear, anger, and despair in the world.
In the beautiful setting of Plum Village, from the 1st until the 21st of June 2012, with Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Sangha, scientists and Buddhists will practice sitting together, walking together, and sharing their experience and insight with each other. The practices of mindfulness and concentration can help scientists to be better scientists and in this way, Buddhism can act as a source of inspiration, suggesting directions for future investigation and discovery. Conversely, we will explore how insights from science can be useful, not only to develop technology and improve our material comfort, but to reduce the suffering of individuals, families, and society. This retreat will bring a lot of joy and confidence in both traditions as we find out that good science and good Buddhism can be much and do much for the wellbeing of the world.
1 Aṅguttara Nikaya 3.65
*Registration and more information will be available soon
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Last Updated (Sunday, 14 August 2011 12:39)