Since I never studied science or philosophy, I am an outsider to these subjects. You are really giving me a difficult task by asking me to speak on these subjects. Nevertheless, I will say a few unscientific and unphilosophical words. What is science? What is philosophy? These two terms are very abstract. Science deals with wisdom, and philosophy deals with reason. As for wisdom and reason, there is no progress and no retreat in them. They exist in completion, with neither more in sages, nor less in ordinary people.
What is the study of wisdom? It refers to the wisdom in the threefold study of precepts, concentration, and wisdom. If you want to have real wisdom, you must first have concentration. With concentration you can distinguish true dharmas from false dharmas and good dharmas from bad dharmas. To obtain concentration, you must first observe the precepts. What are the precepts? The precepts guard against wrongdoing. We should follow the saying:
“Do no evil, practice all good, and purify your own mind. That is the teaching of the Buddhas.” This is considered wisdom. You say,
“Everyone understands the principle of doing no evil. How can that be wisdom?”
“Anyone can understand the principle of practicing only good. How is that wisdom?” If you can do no evil, then you have the power of the precepts. If you practice only good, then you have the power of wisdom. Once you have the power of precepts, the power of samadhi arises. The power of concentration can regulate the power of wisdom, the nature of the wisdom.
I am an outsider to science, but I will say a few
“professional” words. Science is limitless and inexhaustible. Five hundred years ago, people already understood science. For example, in China over three thousand years ago, there were already people who understood science. Xian Yan, the Yellow Emperor, invented the compass four or five thousand years ago, and it is still being used today to tell direction in both the East and the West. Such things are the products of science. Very early on in Chinese science, before the Zhou Dynasty, they had cannons and gunpowder, but they didn’t use them in warfare. They would just set off the cannons a few times to celebrate important occasions. Science was already developing in China then, and by the time of Mocius,
the plane was already invented. Instead of calling
it a plane (“flying machine” in Chinese), they
called it a “flying goose.”
Although the Chinese people like to study, they do not try to deepen their understanding. They invent something, but do not investigate it deeply, so after a long time, it is forgotten. There is historical evidence for this. In the Han Dynasty [206 b.c. to a.d. 24], Zhuge Liang [a brilliant military strategist] built wooden horses and oxen that could transport food and supplies for the army without needing to eat hay or grain or to sleep. [Note: These wooden oxen and horses were just like live ones; they could travel up and down the mountains and valleys, providing a convenient source of transportation. Later, a verse was written in praise of them:
“Wooden horses were driven through the dangerous peaks of Jianguan. Wooden oxen were driven up the narrow, twisted paths of the rugged, steep mountains. If future generations can use this method, how could anyone worry about transportation?”] Although that technology has now been lost, it was also a scientific development. In speaking of science, we must realize that the scientific research of five hundred years ago defined science a certain way, but that definition has changed after five hundred years. What was considered a scientific invention in the past is no longer used now. So the principles are endless and inexhaustible, and when we say there is progress, it does not mean that we invent something new. Even when there is no progress, the principle is always there. It is just that our wisdom and intelligence may not have reached that kind of state, and so we are unaware of that kind of science.
Computers are also a result of science, but nowadays everyone is infatuated with computers, and many are using them to make money. If you understand computers, you can make a lot of money, but if you don’t, you might lose your job. Over ten years ago, I said that the computer [“electronic brain” in Chinese] cannot beat the
“spiritual brain” which runs not on electricity, but on our own wisdom. If you have wisdom, then you can resolve any problem right away. Fools who lack wisdom cannot learn anything well. Each one of us has a spiritual brain. We don’t need to go out and buy one. If we know how to use our spiritual brain, then it can surpass the electronic brain─the computer. However, those who study science today don’t know about the spiritual brain, which is inherent in their own nature and need not be sought outside.
Philosophy deals with reason, with the study of what is logical and what is not. The more people study this kind of knowledge, the more muddled they become, until they grow old and die without having reached any conclusion in their studies. When they are reborn as people in their next life, they will have forgotten everything they studied previously and will have to start all over again.
Science and philosophy exist by themselves, and there is no such thing as their progress or decline. Progress and decline are just discriminations that we make. As all of you scientiests can tell, I am just speaking the words of an outsider.
What is true science? Not fighting is science; not being greedy is science; seeking nothing is science; being unselfish is true science; not pursuing personal profit is true philosophy, and so is not lying. If you have these six faults, then no matter how much research you do, you are just circling around on the surface. The more you study, the more muddled you get, and you will never get a handle on it. It never ends, but just goes on and on. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to the source and improve our spiritual brains? Then, without making a move, we would understand the universe. Nothing would be beyond our knowledge. As it is said,
“one suddenly penetrates everything and understands all the inner and outer, coarse and fine aspects of the myriad phenomena, as well as the overall great functioning of one’s mind.” If you can truly cultivate precepts, concentration and wisdom, they are the fundamentals of science and philosophy. I’m afraid we have neglected them and paid no attention to them. We are just spinning in circles, round and round, unable to find a way out. In studying science and philosophy, we should first thoroughly investigate the science and philosophy of our own selves. If you study what is outside, without first understanding your own problems, then no matter how much money and effort you expend in your research, it will come to nothing. This is because you are abandoning the root to pursue the branch tips. You are looking outside instead of applying effort internally, in the mind. If you search for and study the Dharma external to your mind, what you find will not be the real thing.
I am sure some people are objecting,
“What you are saying is totally absurd. We’ve never heard anyone say that science and philosophy should be based on precepts, concentration, and wisdom. Precepts, concentration, and wisdom are the business of monks─what do they have to do with science and philosophy?” It is just because you haven’t found the root that you think they are the business of monks. Actually, monks are just people, and it is people who become monks. It is said,
“People’s minds are all the same, and all minds follow the same principle.” You shouldn’t think what I said is a big deal. The true science is just Buddhism. Buddhism encompasses the myriad things, and there is no field of study which goes beyond Buddhism. Therefore, if you want to study widely, you should first investigate the Buddhadharma. Once you understand the Buddhadharma, it will be easy to study science and philosophy, because you will have great wisdom, and all problems will be solved as soon as they arise.
If what I have said makes sense, you can try it out. If it doesn’t make sense, then I have wasted everyone’s time, and you should forget it.