When we were in school we had two types of subjects, religious knowledge and other subjects. Religious knowledge is knowledge founded by founders of religions and other subjects are knowledge founded by knowledgeable people such as scientists. What is the difference between these two types of knowledge? How do we get knowledge and how did the Buddha get his knowledge? The basic fact is that we all possess two streams of knowledge, the rational stream and the intuitive stream. But, we use only one of them, the rational stream of knowledge. The Buddha used the intuitive stream of knowledge.
The rational stream of knowledge operates through the five sense organs, the left half of of the brain and the conscious mind. Sense organs receive stimuli from the outside world, convert them to electrical pulses and transmit them to the brain. The brain computes them and presents the results to the conscious mind which completes the process of interpreting the stimuli. For example when one looks at an object, an upside down image of it falls on the backs of the eyes, the retinas. The retinas convert the image to electrical pulses and transfer them, through the optic nerves, to the brain which does the relevant computations and passes on the results to the mind. The mind, then, constructs an image out of the information and compares it with past memories and recognizes the object or registers it as a new experience.
The mind goes further using rational thinking to work out the possible variations and possibilities with the object and stores them all as memories. What a person calls ‘the world’ is the collection of such memories accumulated in his mind throughout his lifetime. What we call ‘the world’ is not exactly the same thing for everyone. It differs from person to person depending on each person’s experiences. For example, this writer met a Greek scientist in Libiya who didn’t know that there is a country called Sri Lanka in the world. What he called ‘his world’ did not include Sri Lanka. The knowledge accumulated in this manner by gathering information through the sense organs is known as visualisable knowledge. The big question arising out of this is, “Does this knowledge represent the true reality of the universe?” The answer to this question is, “Definitely not!”
The reason is that the sense organs have limitations. Their scope is limited to three spatial dimensions. They can perceive only the three dimensional aspects of the universe. They cannot perceive what is going on beyond three dimensions. With sense organs we cannot see our mind, where we were before coming here, where will a person go after death or if there are beings called devas and demons.
The fact is that just as there are visualizable aspects of the universe there are also unvisualizable aspects of it, which are beyond three dimensions, beyond the perceptible capabilities of our sense organs, and outside the concept of the world we have constructed in our minds using the information received through the rational stream of knowledge. Therefore our view of the universe is not complete and we have to manage our affairs with that incomplete knowledge.
But some of the happenings in the unvisualizable realms of the universe influence our lives and therefore it is important to know them. What should we do to avoid harmful influences and invite the beneficial influences that come our way as a result of these unvisualizable phenomena? Often we meet people who claim that they can access and influence invisible beings, stop their harmful influences and invoke their blessings on their clients. However, these people also can get information only through their sense organs and cannot see or communicate with such invisible beings. When one talks about some thing one has never seen one can only make guesses. Therefore these people can only guess what the invisible beings are like and what they are capable of.
This is where Buddhism comes in. The role of Buddhism is to guide us through the maize of unvisualizable phenomena in the universe safely and meaningfully throughout our existence, in this life and in future lives.
The only way a human being can look at the unvisualizable realms of the universe is through the intuitive stream of knowledge. The intuitive stream uses the right half of the brain and the subconscious mind to acquire knowledge. It does not use sense organs and therefore is not subject to the limitations of the sense organs, Therefore it can see all dimensions. It can see everything in visualizable realms and unvisualizable realms of the universe.
Dr. Fritjof Capra, an Indian Hindu, who is a nuclear scientists in the USA has studied this subject in depth and says, “Throughout history, it has been recognized that the human mind is capable of two kinds of knowledge, or two modes of consciousness, which have often been termed the rational and the intuitive, and have traditionally been associated with science and religion, respectively. ….The Upanishads, for example, speak about a higher and a lower knowledge and associate the lower knowledge with various sciences, the higher with religious awareness. Buddhists talk about ‘relative’ and ;absolute’ knowledge or about ‘conditional truth’ and ‘transcendental truth”
Dr. Brian Weiss, a Jewish professor of Psychiatry in the USA, says, referring to the subconscious mind, “This is the part of our mind that lies beneath ordinary consciousness, beneath the constant bombardment of thoughts, feelings, outside stimuli, and other assaults on our awareness. The subconscious mind functions at a level deeper than our usual level of awareness. In the subconscious mind mental processes occur without our conscious perception of them. We experience moments of intuition, wisdom and creativity when these subconscious processes flash into our conscious awareness. The subconscious is not limited by our imposed boundaries of logic, space and time. It can remember everything , from any time. It can transmit creative solutions to our problems. It can transcend the ordinary to touch upon a wisdom far beyond our everyday capabilities.”
Dr. Joseph Murphy, an Irish Catholic Priest, says, “Within your subconscious depths lie infinite wisdom, infinite power, an infinite supply of all that is necessary. It is waiting there for you to give it development and expression. If you begin now to recognize these potentialities of your deeper mind, they will take form in the world without. Provided you are open-minded and receptive, the infinite intelligence within your subconscious mind can reveal to you everything you need to know at every moment of time and point of space. You can receive new thoughts and ideas, bring forth new inventions, make new discoveries, create new works of art. The infinite intelligence in your subconscious can give access to wonderful new kinds of knowledge.
If one sees through the intuitive stream of knowledge, one can see the entire universe, both its visualizable and unvisualizable aspects. Everyone of us possesses the intuitive stream of knowledge, but we do not know how to use it. It is like a person who has a microscope in his pocket, but tries to learn about germs and viruses by looking at them through the naked eyes because he doesn’t know how to use the microscope. If a person wants to learn about germs and viruses he has to either learn to use the microscope or get the information from a person who has looked at them through microscopes, Most of our knowledge about these things have come from information published by scientists who have examined them under microscopes.
Similarly, we possess the intuitive stream of knowledge, but do not know how to use it. Therefore, if we want to understand the true reality of nature, we have to either acquire the capability to look at it through that stream of knowledge or ask a person who has acquired that capability and looked at it through that.
The nature of the intuitive stream of knowledge is that when the rational stream of knowledge is active it remains shut and when the rational stream is shut it awakens. If a person shuts down his rational stream of knowledge his intuitive stream awakens and knowledge of the true reality of nature begins to flow into his mind. There is no thinking involved in this and intelligence is irrelevant to it. Dr. Fritjof Capra says, “When the rational mind is silenced, the intuitive mode produces an extraordinary awareness; the environment is experienced in a direct way without the filter of conceptual thinking.” Chuang Tzu says, “The still mind of the sage (a person whose rational stream has been shut down) is mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of all things.”
The only technique that can shut down the rational stream of knowledge is meditation. Before the time of the Buddha there were, in India, sages like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rama Putra who had practised samatha (concentration) meditation and reached very high levels of stillness of the mind (samadhi). Through samatha meditation they had got to know some phenomena operating in unvisualizable realms. But through this technique one cannot completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge. Therefore one cannot completely awaken the intuitive stream of knowledge and acquire the capability to clearly see the unvisualizable realms of the universe through it.
Twenty six centuries ago, King Suddhodana of the Magadha Kingdom of India was grooming his son, Prince Siddhartha, to succeed him to the throne and he was given the best possible training and education. This took Prince Siddhartha to the highest possible level of knowledge accessible through the rational stream. But his innate desire was to understand the basic problems of existence and solutions to those problems. He realized that those could not be understood through the rational stream of knowledge. He also realized that those could not be accessed while living a lay life with a family. Therefore he left lay life at the age of 29, became an ascetic and practised samatha meditation under Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rama Putra to shut down the rational stream of knowledge and awaken the intuitive stream.
He reached the highest level of stillness of the mind one could reach through samatha meditation and realized that that technique of meditation could not help him to completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge and completely awaken the intuitive stream. The level of stillness of the mind he could reach through samatha meditation could not make him understand the basic problems of existence and the way to solve them. He realized that techniques to completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge were not available in the world.
Thereafter he ventured on his own to discover a new technique that could completely awaken the intuitive stream of knowledge. The new technique he discovered is vipassana (insight) meditation. This is like the problem the Danish Physicist, Niels Bohr, encountered when he found that electrons hovering around the atomic nucleus did not obey Newton’s Laws of Motion that everything else obeyed and were universally accepted and revered as the natural laws of motion of nature that everything in the universe obeyed. Any scientist who disputed that at that time would have got branded as an eccentric. He found that there were no known laws of science that explained the behaviour of electrons. He had the courage to venture on his own and discover quantum mechanics which described the behaviour of electrons accurately and won the Nobel Prize for Physics. Quantum mechanics describe the motion of electrons and everything else very accurately.
Through vipassana meditation Ascetic Siddhartha could completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge and completely awaken the intuitive stream. Through the intuitive stream of knowledge he could see for himself the true reality of the universe, its visualizable aspects and unvisualizable aspects. He could see the problems of existence and how to solve them. He could see that the problems of existence were due to greed, hatred and and ignorance, and to solve these problems one must eliminate these causes. He explained these in the celebrated form of the Four Noble Truths which are suffering, causes of suffering, that suffering can be eliminated and the way to eliminate it.
After the Ascetic Siddhartha completely awakened his intuitive stream of knowledge he was enlightened and became The Buddha. What he taught after seeing the true reality of nature in its entirety is Buddhism. What Lord Buddha taught cannot be changed because it is reality and anyone who looks at all aspects of nature will see the same things.
In Kalama Sutta The Buddha has asked us not to accept what he taught through blind faith. He has advised us to verify what he taught and satisfy ourselves that they are true before accepting.
How can a person verify if what The Buddha taught is true? How can one verify if something told by someone is true? It is normally done by checking it through another channel, by going and looking at it or asking another person who has seen it. The only way one can check something in the unvisualizable realms is through modern science or quantum science. Quantum science has developed mathematical techniques to peep in and examine some of the phenomena happening in unvisualizable realms of the universe. All findings made so far using quantum science have been found to be true, accurate and reliable, and do not change with time. Scientists accept these as the most accurate description of nature.
For example impermanence is a basic tenet of Buddhism. Quantum science says that everything is made up of energy waves in a quantum vacuum, ie. the basic nature of everything is wave like which confirms that everything is impermanent and constantly changing. Rebirth is a basic tenet of Buddhism and it has been proved to be true according to modern science procedures.
In 1997 Quantum Scientist Nicolu Gisin of Geneva University proved that the universe is nonlocal in nature and that all things are interconnected. Earlier scientists believed that the universe was local in nature and not interconnected. Gisin’s discovery revolutionised the way the scientists had understood the basic nature of the universe and it is recognised as the greatest discovery in the whole history of science. There is nothing in the Western world that can be used as examples to illustrate this discovery. Therefore scientists use the Surangama Sutta in Buddhism to illustrate it
These modern science discoveries have made many eminent modern scientists to accept that what is taught in Buddhism accurately describe the nature of the universe and that Buddhism is a religion based on the true reality of nature. The topmost scientist of all times, Albert Einstein, endorsed Buddhism and said “If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.” The brilliant Nobel Laureate for Physics who made the first atom bomb in the USA, Robert Oppenheimer, and the Danish Noble Laureate Niels Bohr, a founder of quantum science endorsed Buddhism in a similar way.
Problems relating to human existence are so accurately described in Buddhism that such topics as family planning, abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research which have become very controversial topics in the Western World are not controversies for Buddhists. The satisfaction of being guided by a religion that is based on true reality of nature drove this writer to pursue research work on rebirth and quantum science discoveries that help to verify that what Lord Buddha taught is true and correct.
(Text of a talk given to the Indian community in Melbourne)