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Friday, October 11, 2013

Tantra, Buddhism, and the Embrace of Science


Tantra developed out of human beings’ innate desire to unravel the mystery of this manifest universe, searching for the secret causes underlying both the dreadful and the beautiful aspects of nature. People looked around them at the rivers and streams, the far-flung mountain ranges, the flashes of lightning; they heard the thunder; they listened to the roaring of ferocious animals – and they began to plumb the depths of these mysteries. These endeavors to get at the hidden truth of everything are what has been known, for several thousand years, as Tantra. Since these endeavors were carried on at different times, in different places, and by different groups of individuals, we find some differences in methodology among the various schools of Tantra, the most subtle being the science of the cosmos.

Practitioners of the more-developed Tantra would look upon things from a broad perspective, renouncing all narrow thinking. They would always strive hard to advance the welfare of the masses. Through such selfless service, they would overcome the fetters of the mind, such as hatred and shame. The practitioners of the less-developed Tantra would behave in just the opposite way. They would indulge in sectism; in expressions of untouchability; and in expressions of hatred and envy in relation to other groups.

The overcoming of material bondages signifies the greatest human progress. The word tantra signifies that one “frees oneself from the bondages of crudity”, Sadáshiva being the earliest propounder of such Tantra. He developed specific practices, and thereby ensured all-round progress in the different aspects of human life, including, though not limited to physical health and fitness, psychic health, psycho-transpersonal development, medicine, material science and music practice, with today's seven notes and eight octaves originating from his development. He brought about an optimal system, reviewing and coordinating all branches of Tantra.

There is no such thing as “supernatural” in this world. All sorts of powers lie dormant in human beings. Sometimes we get glimpses of these latent powers. In a more-developed terminology, these glimpses will be called “intellect” or “intuition”. Human beings can develop that which they have glimpsed, eventually attaining extraordinary powers. In the eyes of ordinary people, these powers appear to be supernatural, but actually they are natural. It is a fact that ordinary persons cannot do these extraordinary things, and that is why they look upon these powers as supernatural. The magic of today, made more ubiquitous in society, becomes the science of tomorrow.

By developing both the internal and external subtleties of human life in an ethical manner, greater creativity and beneficience will ensue for society and in persnonal life, with capabilities long dormant in human life unfurled respelendently in human life and society at large.
Guest article

How Buddhism Embraced Science

Blogger Fuketsu at Taste of Chicago Buddhism writes that last month was the 120th anniversary of the World's Parliament of Religions. The parliament, held in Chicago in 1893, was intended to create a worldwide dialogue among religious traditions. And to a large extent, it succeeded.

The parliament also was a significant event in western Buddhism. Two Buddhists addressed the assembly in person, and another -- a Pure Land scholar -- sent a paper read in his absence. This was, arguably, the first substantive introduction of Buddhism to cultural westerners, and it created impressions that persist in the West to this day. This includes the perception that Buddhism is a science-friendly spiritual tradition, an appropriate topic given our recent look at the Higgs Bosun and Field.  


Among the attendees was Soyen Shaku, a Japanese Rinzai Zen abbot who was the first Zen master to teach in the United States. His book Zen for Americans, first published in 1906, is still in print.

Soyen Shaku's translator was a young student named D.T. Suzuki, whose books and translations would someday pique the interest of Alan Watts (who wrote many popular books about Zen) andJack Kerouac, among others. Thus Zen came to the West.  


Another significant Buddhist at the parliament was Anagarika Dharmapala. Dharmapala was a Theravadin layperson and scholar who, for a time, was an associate of Henry Steel Olcott. Dharmapala also played an important role in the 19th century revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. And he remains hugely influential in how Buddhism is perceived in the West, even to those who never heard of him.  

At the time of the parliament, Dharmapala was 29 years old. Press reports described his all-white robes, his black curly hair, and his gentle, refined face. His pleasant appearance and excellent English gained him considerable attention in U.S. newspapers.  

Dharmapala made more than one speech at the parliament, and in his talks he stressed the harmony between Buddhism and science. Christianity at the time was reeling from the challenge of Darwin's Origin of Species, and psychology was just emerging as a new branch of science. Dharmapala discussed both, skillfully arguing that the Buddha had taught things science was just beginning to discover.  


Although the Buddhism and science connection is not at all unreasonable, Dharmapala appears to have been one of the first to make it.  This theme resonated well with progressive Westerners of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, earning respect in the West for Buddhism as a tradition worthy of study and practice.

This article originally appeared HERE  

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