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Science and Spirituality (continued)

馬丁‧維荷文博士 講於1997年11月加州柏克萊世界宗教研究院
A talk by Martin Verhoeven Ph.D. at the Institute of World Religions Berkeley Buddhist Monastery November 1997
黃山山 中譯 Chinese translation by Huang Shanshan






Mencius considered this knowledge superior to material knowledge. Zhuang Zi, the famous Taoist philosopher, spoke of acquiring the knowledge of the "ten thousand things"–which means everything, all of nature–through virtuous conduct and by practicing "stillness." By "stillness" the Taoists meant a kind of power (de) released through cultivating a selfless equanimity free from grief and joy, delight and anger, and desire and greed for gain. Thus, the Zhuang Zi states: "To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders."

Even Confucius, in his famous passage concerning the highest learning (da xue), connects utmost knowledge of the universe to the cultivation of one's own person and the rectification of one's mind and moral qualities. If I correctly understand Vedanta, the philosophical teaching of Hinduism, it too emphasizes that jnana (knowledge) requires a solid basis in ethics (dharma). The point I want to make is that I think we need to reexamine this facile linking of Buddhism to modern science. Fascinating correspondences exist, but there are also distinct and important differences. I think we sell ourselves short when we disregard those differences.

We engage in what psychologists call "selective perception," the unwitting seeing and selecting of only what we want to see. Thus, we can all too easily notice and embrace, only those elements of Buddhism that seem consonant with our way of life, and give short thrift to the rest. This psychological tendency is even further enhanced by cultural hubris: the fact that America is in its heyday, and as a triumphalist society feels that our way of knowing, our way of thinking, is the best. Therefore, when something new comes along, like Buddhism, we selectively garner out those elements that reinforce our world view as it exists, and disregard the rest, saying, "Well, it's superstitious; it's mythological; it's apocryphal, we don't need it. We want something that is philosophically and scientifically sound."

Buddhism is a very rich and varied tradition. It contains many elements–some easily appreciated rationally; others that challenge our preconceived notions. But if we get rid of those unfamiliar elements, I am afraid we may be throwing out the baby with the bath water. We miss the opportunity to let Buddhism challenge us and revitalize us in perhaps a new way. For Buddhism has a great deal to add to our understanding of the three basic dimensions of existence: humanity with nature (the natural), people with people (the social), and the individual with him/herself (the psychological). Buddhism offers profound and in some cases, radically different insights into these areas, if we let it. I shudder a little when I hear people say, "Well, Buddhism is just as American as apple pie." No, it is not as American as apple pie. In significant ways it is quite different. Tapping the rich potential of that difference, it seems to me, lies in resisting the urge to quickly Americanize it.

To be continued


LOW GAP路 501號 1090室
加州瑜伽市 郵區號 95482









October 28, 1999

Celebration planning Committee
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Talmage, CA 95481

Dear Chairman:

Thank you for the generous invitation to the 8th annual Honoring Elders Day celebration. It was a very meaningful day and I had a wonderful time. I felt very honored to have been asked to share with you this day of recognition for our elders. I cannot agree more with the message that we must return to the time when there was much respect for our elders and the value that this respect and honor instills upon us all.

I must also comment on how I enjoyed the great performances by the students. These talented youth provided wonderful entertainment for the elders and younger attendees alike.

Thank you again for asking me to be a part of this special event.

Michael M. Delbar
First District Supervisor


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