Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed (Buddhism and Modernity)

Language: English

Pages: 278

ISBN: 0226493199

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing to the present day, both practitioners and admirers of Buddhism have proclaimed its compatibility with science. In Buddhism and Science, Donald S. Lopez Jr. explores how and why these two seemingly disparate modes of understanding the inner and outer universe have been so persistently linked. He argues that by presenting an ancient Asian tradition as compatible with—and even anticipating—scientific discoveries, European enthusiasts and Asian elites have sidestepped debates on the relevance of religion in the modern world that began in the nineteenth century and that still flare today. As new discoveries continue to reshape our understanding of mind and matter, Buddhism and Science will be indispensable reading for those fascinated by religion, science, and their often vexed relation.

            “In Buddhism and Science, Donald Lopez fills a major gap, and he does so with his trademark rigor, concision, and élan. No serious student of science-and-religion can afford to skip this book.”—Jack Miles, general editor, Norton Anthology of World Religions

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looks closely at the contributions of two Tibetans to the discourse of Buddhism and Science. In the early decades of the discourse, as noted above, Tibetan Buddhism, called Lamaism, was sometimes not regarded as a legitimate form of Buddhism by European scholars, and was excluded from the conversation. Tibetan Buddhists were indeed latecomers to Buddhist modernism. The most sustained Tibetan discussion of Buddhism and Science in the first half of the twentieth century came from the renegade

he did not consider the heavens above Mount Meru or the hells below. Instead, he limited his description to the “human” world, that is, the world that can be seen both by the divine eye of the Buddha and the fleshly eye of humans. It was Entsū’s task, therefore, to correlate 48  chapter one the continents in the four cardinal directions around Mount Meru (each of which is flanked by two subcontinents) with the landmasses that appeared on European maps and globes. Thus, Asia, Europe, and Africa

life that appear in the accounts of missionaries and travelers) was “Leben des Budd’a nach Mongolischen Nachricht” by the German Mongolist Julius von Klaproth (1783–1835) and published in his Asia Polyglotta in 1823. There we read, “Buddha appeared as a reformer of the dominant religion of India. He rejected the Vedas, blood sacrifice, and the distinctions of caste. As for the rest, the philosophical principles and his doctrine are the same as those encountered in the other branches of the

symbolism was decoded, of the esoteric wisdom of Theosophy. Müller sought to dispel Olcott’s irrational fantasies. Olcott lamented that so learned a scholar as Müller could not see the deeper meaning hidden on the page. Olcott was not uncritical of the Buddhism he encountered in Asia. He came into conflict with some of the leading monks of Sri Lanka over what he considered the superstitious practice of worshipping the Buddha’s tooth enshrined at Kandy; he claimed that it was not even a human

maladies. In 1886 Edwin Arnold, author of the best-selling biography of the Buddha, The Light of Asia, visited Bodh Gayā, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment in northern India. Finding it in a state of decay and under the control of a Hindu priest, he wrote an essay in the London Daily Telegraph decrying its condition. Three years later he visited Japan and was invited to speak at the Imperial University in Tokyo. He concluded his lecture, entitled “The Range of Modern Knowledge” and delivered

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