I do not believe in a soul or in reincarnation,
but neither am I comfortable with the thought of simply ceasing to exist when I die. Amida-butsu lets me feel that I am part
of a life that does go on forever, yet does not require a leap of faith, suspension of logic or refutation of scientific evidence.”
-- Harry Simonsen
Buddhism has been evolving for the past 2,600
years. It’s not a stagnant religion or Way. It has been shaping and reshaping itself over the centuries as its meets
and integrates with countless cultures, peoples and environmental factors. Buddhism is not stuck with Iron Age knowledge or
mentality like many other major modern religions. One can say that the basis
of this evolutionary process is Buddhism’s philosophic approach of non-attachment to views and its willingness to modify
its teachings based on new knowledge and experimentation.
Buddhist practice is all about investigation,
observation, experimentation and analysis of teachings as it relates to the self and phenomena. This is exactly the scientific
model. I’m not saying that Buddhism is a science; clearly it is not. However, of all the religions, it alone is the
most scientific and accepting of science. Dear to its core beliefs lays the value of empirical evidence. The historical Buddha
said, “don’t believe because I told you so, or it is in a book or society or your parents say so but believe it
only after you have experimented with it and found it to be true.” This is
the scientific approach. The Dalai Lama and other prominent Buddhist teachers often say that if science shows that a certain
Buddhist teaching to be false then we must throw out this teaching and accept the scientific evidence. What other religion
would dare say such a thing?
So, what does Buddhism have faith in? It takes
entrusts in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) which is the process of the Way. All three components are like fruit
in the basket, each is integrated with one another but Buddhism looks at the whole picture, the basket. What is the basket?
It is the seeking mind and heart that is open and accepting of all phenomena in its quest to embody reality-as-it-is. The Buddha is our head teacher or investigator, the Dharma is the teaching or instruments
that awake us to reality-as-it-is, by embodying previously gathered knowledge, and the techniques of investigation, observation,
experimentation and analysis of teachings as it relates to the self and phenomena. Equally, our faith includes the Sangha
or the community of practitioners who are the current living investigators of reality-as-it-is. Finally, we, Buddhists, have
faith that everyone and everything will awaken to its innermost potential. Indeed, this is a faith. There is no proof that
this will be and even can be. However, it is like how the teacher enters the profession of teaching based on the rational
assumption or faith that his/her students will be able to learn the subject material. Otherwise, what would be the point of
teaching any thing? Where does the teacher gets his/her entrusting faith? It is by way of his/her own personal experience.
After all, the teacher had a teacher and thus went through the process of investigation, observation etc and mastered the
material. So, we too have our teachers and the master teacher, the Buddha, who said, “You too can wake up, just like
-- G.R. Lewis
“Awakening from a narrow, ego-centered world
to an open, limitless world is the goal of the Buddhist path. One realizes the limits of self-power and awakens to the vastness
of Other Power.
My mind was opened in a BFF sangha discussion
last summer when one of the participants related the buddhist concept of the oneness of universe to the scientific laws of
conservation and energy. At last, a religious belief system greater than myself, that eliminated the conflict between reason
-- Harry Simonsen