Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

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pilgrim
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by pilgrim »

Ajahn Sumedho said something like "We don't use the suttas as a basis of orthodoxy but as a basis for liberation". I can't remember the exact words I read , though.
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by Sanghamitta »

Ajahn Sumedho along with the western born Forest Tradition monks in general are fairly to-the-point about literalist readings of the cosmology of the Suttas.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Sobeh
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by Sobeh »

rahula80 wrote:I believed I had done it for earthquake and big fist
Some sort of Buddhist martial art in there someplace? :smile:
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by rahula80 »

So sorry, I meant big fish
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pilgrim
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by pilgrim »

A story from the Lalitavistara where the Buddha spoke of atoms
http://www.gpb.org/news/2010/10/12/the- ... s-it-right" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by Paññāsikhara »

rahula80 wrote:Hi,

Paññāsikhara, for Meru:

AN VII.62 (Sattasuriya Sutta)
Sineru, monks, the monarch of montains, is eighty-four thousand yojanas in length and breadth; eighty-four thousand yojanas deep in the great ocean, and eighty-four thousand above it.

Samyutta Nikaya 13:11 The Mountain
“O monks, suppose that a man would place on Sineru, the king of mountains, seven grains of
gravel the size of mung beans. What do you think, which is more: the seven grains of gravel the
size of mung beans that have been placed there or Sineru, the king of mountains?”


Majjhima Nikaya i.228 (Maratajjaniya Sutta)
30. "I am one who, by liberaion,
Has touched the peak of Mount Sineru,
Visited India and Pubbavideha
And all the regions of the earth.
---------------

By the way, I just discover this:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5689" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Best wishes,
Rahula
Thanks Rahula, but what I meant was: ALL the sources. The above is just the Pali. And as we know, there was a tendency within the compilation of the Pali canon to standardize things across multiple texts. So we need the other sources for a proper comparison. Scientific method requires looking at all results, rather than just results that will match a given hypothesis (and rejection of the others as statistical "outliers").
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by rowyourboat »

I think Buddha used common concepts which were around at the time simply to make a point or clarify a teaching, rather than as a statement of truth. In fact it could be argued that the Buddha never stated any existing thing thing to be absolutely real or true. Everything was pretty relative- to the viewpoint of the observer.

with metta

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zavk
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by zavk »

Hi all

Just thought I'd add an interesting aside to the three threads about Buddhist cosmology and science. Consider for instance the famous Panadura debate held on August 26, 1873 between Ven. Gunananda and a Sinhalese Christian convert named Rev. David da Silva. The public debate lasted two days and attracted an audience of 5,000 people. Of particular interest here is their exchange on Buddhist cosmology. This is a short summary of the debate which I have written:
In reference to Mount Meru, da Silva held up a globe and argued, ‘Men at no period ever saw such a mountain, nor have they known by science that there could be such a mountain. One who said that there was such a mountain cannot be supposed to have been a wise man, nor one who spoke the truth.’ To counter da Silva, Gunananda too invoked science: ‘The little globe to which the Revd. Gentleman produced was also one made on Newton’s principle; but even amongst Englishmen there were serious doubts and differences of opinions as to whether Newton’s theory was correct or not.’ Gunananda then referred to the work of Richard James Morrison, a prominent astrologer of Victorian England who favoured a geocentric view of the universe over Newton’s heliocentric view. Morrison, whose work Gunananda invoked, authored such books as The Solar System As It Is, And Not As It Is Represented: Wherein is Shewn, for the First Time, the True, Proper Motion of the Sun and Planets, and their Satellites Move with the Sun, in Cycloidal Curves; and That the Doctrine of Elliptical Orbits is False. Another book he wrote was The New Principia; or, True System of Astronomy. In which the Earth is Proved to be the Stationary Centre of the Solar System, and the Sun is Shewn to be Only 365,006.5 Miles from the Earth, and the Moon Only 32,828.5 Distant; While the Sun Travels Yearly in an Ellipse around the Earth, the Other Planets Moving about the Sun in Ellipses Also .


Gunananda, however, did not consider the specifics of scientific evidence: that there was disagreement amongst the English about the movement of the earth vis-a-vis the sun was sufficient for him to reject da Silva’s critique. Having questioned the scientific premises of da Silva’s argument with his own set of scientific evidence (albeit flawed ones), Gunananda then proceeded to ask the Reverend how he would explain the invariable northwards direction of the mariner’s compass if the great mountain was not situated there. The audience, of mostly Sinhalese Buddhists, declared Gunananda the winner.
For a critical account of this incident, see Donald Lopez's Buddhism and Science. The quotes in the above are taken from this book.

Anyway, I highlight this incident not to cast aspersion on anyone. I highlight this because, well, it is quite funny. :tongue: I thought it'd be nice to have bit of a giggle even as we debate serious issues.

But this also draws attention to how debates about Buddhism and science can often reveal more about the social and political conditions influencing these debates than they do what 'science' or 'Buddhism' are really about. In the case of Gunananda vs. da Silva, their attempts to align or critique Buddhism and Christianity vis-a-vis science reveal the social and political tensions of the time--tensions arising out Christian missionisation, colonialism, Sinhalese nationalism, modernity, science and religion.

So, to relate this to the contemporary context: What are the conditions framing contemporary debates about Buddhism and science? What is the impetus behind the desire to link Buddhism and science? To what ends do such debates serve? What gets elucidated in such debates? And more importantly, what gets lost in such debates?

I don't pretend to have the answers. But I think it is worth our while to keep these questions in mind.
With metta,
zavk
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by texastheravadin »

I have to admit, when I read this thread last night, it really disturbed me.

For the past year I have been studying and putting into practice the teachings of the Buddha. What has given me the most comfort is the fact that so far, I haven't come up against any kind of metaphysical posturing or speculation that spirals into complete loss of faith. For example, the whole idea of a Creator God is what killed my interest in Christianity. There are just so many problems with the God-idea, and unlike some very good Christian friends and family members of mine, I just cannot be satisfied with easy answers.
I'm still a little wary of the Buddha's teachings on kamma and rebirth, but I'm willing to keep an open mind, and to be really honest with myself. To actually look myself in the mirror and say "I don't have a clue. There are people out there who claim that after much practice, they attain some kind of supra-mundane awareness and directly experience kamma and rebirth for themselves. So I'll just keep not knowing and be willing to experience what I experience." In the past, I would have laughed at anyone who claimed to experience anything remotely above our material experience. Now, while I still may think some are a bit kooky, I'm more apt to at least listen.

So then I find out that the Buddha apparently said some crazy things about a gigantic mountain, or about earthquakes and fish, and I become nervous. I start to think I've finally hit the dead end. Buddhism has revealed itself to be just like all other religions - primitive ideas about humanity and our place in the universe. And worst of all, here's the story of a 19th century Buddhist monk who went the route so many Christians take, and tried to contort science to fit in with the Buddha's statements.

And then I really started to think, and I realized where all of this doubt and despair comes from. It comes from my Christian upbringing. Only a Christian would expect a human being (even one as remarkable as Gotama Buddha) to somehow be infallible on all matters, secular and religious. I cannot tell you how many times Christian relatives have said something like "Well, nobody's perfect..." only to catch themselves and then add "except Jesus". It seems that the litmus test I've been using to gauge religions is merely the voices of my parents and former pastors, who seem to think that if you follow a Teacher then that teacher just has to be all-knowing and perfect on every subject, or else the entire message is worthless. So you will see Christians frantically trying to contort science to all kinds of ridiculous ends to verify some of the strange claims made in the Bible, while they deride Hindus and Muslims for doing the same thing.

I began to ask myself...what on earth would I actually expect a man living in India 2,600 years ago to know about science? Is it surprising that ancient peoples had false ideas about geography, astronomy, biology, etc.? No, it is not surprising at all. And the Buddha never claimed to have seen and known all. It is true that the Buddha is touted to have been "omniscient", but my understanding is that this means that he could know anything he directed his mind towards, not that he already knew everything. And at any rate, maybe these claims don't make any sense to me because I'm taking them out of their context. Maybe they make perfect sense to someone who's achieved some kind of supra-mundane vision, and sees aspects of reality your average person never sees.

So for me, it's no problem if the Buddha turned out to be factually incorrect on scientific matters. It would only be a problem if the Buddha had claimed to be some all-knowing, infallible God, but he didn't, which is why I respect him so much more.

:anjali:

Josh
"Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed." — AN 11.12
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by Sanghamitta »

Excellent post.... :thumbsup:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Assaji
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Re: Science - Earthquake, Meru, Big Fish

Post by Assaji »

Hi,

It's amazing how science becomes the new religion and how anything which doesn't agree with 'latest scientific findings' is immediately thrown to a dustbin.

The scientists themselves know that they know very little.

"We know very little, and yet it is astonishing that we know so much, and still more astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power."
Bertrand Russell

Personally, I don't find in the statements of the Buddha about Mount Meru anything that would directly contradict observations, and have expressed my opinion in the topic: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5689" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta, Dmytro
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