Evolution — at least in the United States — has a deeply troubled relationship with religion. Or at least it does with some religions.
As you can see from the Pew Trust chart below, Buddhists on the whole (81% of them) think that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on Earth.
In fact of all the religious traditions included on the chart, Buddhists are the most accepting of evolution, with evangelical Christians, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses being the least accepting.
Those of us who value an objective and evidence-based (read “scientific”) understanding of the world are greatly disturbed by attempts to displace sound science from the classroom, to introduce spurious ideas such as “creation science” and “Intelligent Design,” and to give the impression that evolution is somehow scientifically controversial, when in fact it’s backed by an overwhelming amount of evidence from all branches of science.
Many of us see the intrusion of religion into the public sphere as being a serious erosion of the principles of the US constitution, which protect us from government-sponsored religious coercion by ensuring that no religion can use government to foist itself upon us. We see the fear of Evolution that some religious practitioners have as being a potentially serious threat to our own religious freedoms.
But evolution, on the other hand, holds no fear for Buddhists, and in fact it fits with the Buddhist world view rather well. And this year being the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of “The Origin Of Species,” this is perhaps a good time to explain why it is that Buddhism quite happily accepts evolution as an explanation for the origins of human life, and to explore how Buddhists relate to science in general and evolution in particular.
- Buddhists are pro-environment, pro-evolution
- Science and Buddhism agree: there is no “you” there
- Can empathy be unhelpful?
- The science of happiness and compassion
NO CREATION MYTH
First up is that Buddhism has no creation myth to defend. It’s true that in the Pali Aggañña Sutta the Buddha tells a story about the creation of the world, in which he claims that the the universe goes through periods of evolution and involution (similar to the ideas of the “Big Bang” and what’s sometimes called “The Big Crunch” where gravitational forces draw all the matter in the universe back to a central point).
But the sutta is a parody on the claims of the religious Orthodox of the day — the Brahmins — to be a superior class of human being, with special privileges in society and a special relationship with the gods. The parody shows the gods to be deluded beings just like ourselves and the Brahmins to be Pretenders to social and religious pre-eminence. The Aggañña Sutta is clearly not to be taken literally as a origins myth.
If you need convincing of that fact, you’ll need to take a look at a broader range of Buddhist teachings, including the famous Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. In this parable the Buddha points out that religious practitioners who concern themselves with the origins of the universe and other topics are missing the point of religious practice.
Religion, a very fundamental sense, is not about God, myths, rules, or even beliefs. Instead it’s about moving from a state of suffering to a state of non-suffering. The rest of a religious tradition is merely (in theory, anyway) a tool to help us achieve the end of suffering.
The Buddha in fact said that he only taught one thing, suffering and how to end it. Contemplating the origins of the universe or any other such topic is merely a distraction. Just as a man shot with a poison arrow would die if instead of pulling out the arrow he speculated endlessly about who made the arrow, why it was shot, what kind of wood was used, etc, so too suffering beings continue to suffer as long as they focus on anything but understanding how suffering arises and how to deal with it. And even that is only useful insofar as those beings actually put their understanding into practice.
It’s likely that the Buddha had no special knowledge of the origins of the universe, but even if he had known he wouldn’t have discussed the matter: “And why are [these things] undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That’s why they are undeclared by me.
“Conjecture about the origin of the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness and vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.” [Acintita Sutta]. Certainly, some fundamentalists seem seriously out-to-lunch, so perhaps the Buddha was right in claiming that dwelling repeatedly on things you can never prove from your own experience can drive you a bit crazy.
EMPHASIS ON SEEKING TRUTH, NOT BELIEVING DOGMA
Buddhism has an emphasis on seeking truth, and has no interest in getting people to “believe” anything. Belief is not a path to salvation. No amount of belief that the arrow isn’t poisoned, or belief that it was sent as a test of your faith, or that it’s a relatively new arrow and not the old arrow that carbon dating shows it to be will save you from suffering. It’s our actions that cause us suffering or help us to escape suffering.
Buddhism encourages us not to believe what we’ve been told is the truth, but instead to seek the truth through our own experience. The Kalama Sutta, often called the Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry, is the most important source that affirms that we must each seek the truth though our own experience. The Kalamas were a clan who were rather confused because they had lots of teachers, both orthodox Brahmins and more experimental shramanas, coming to their area and giving contradictory teachings. Who was right? Who was wrong? The Kalamas were interested in the Buddha’s take on how to cut their through the thicket of views and establish what was true. The Buddha said,
Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’
That may not seem to leave much! You can’t trust sacred scriptures, tradition, or even so-called “common sense.” So what did the Buddha say could be trusted as a source of truth? He said,
When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.
So there are two things here. First, we have to trust our own experience. What leads to happiness and what leads to suffering? Second, we can trust “the wise” – but with the unspoken proviso that we have to establish who are “the wise” on the basis of — again — our experience.
It’s precisely fundamentalism’s “belief in beliefs” and its taking the writings of bronze age nomadic herdsmen as the infallible and literal word of God that leads them into the trap of having to deny the evidence of their own senses. As Barbara O’Brien writes on her About.com blog, “I mean, who you gonna believe? A 5,000-year-old book or your own lying eyes?”
For Buddhists, the outmoded scientific understanding of 5th century BCE India is simply not a problem. We’ve already been encouraged to reject anything that conflicts with evidence. And since the evidence from biology, physics, and chemistry suggests overwhelmingly that the universe is billions of years old and that life has evolved, even if Buddhist scriptures did conflict with evolution (which they don’t) we’d have an ethical obligation to discard them.
ACCEPTANCE OF IMPERMANENCE
When Charles Darwin outlined his theory of evolution through natural selection 150 years ago, virtually everyone — scientists and preachers alike — believed that species were fixed and immutable. What would the Buddha have said about the fact that species do in fact change and evolve over time? He’d have said, “Of course. All conditioned things are subject to change.” There simply is no problem in Buddhism with accepting that species evolve.
The monotheistic religions tend to take what’s called an “eternalistic” view of the universe. God is eternal and unchanging (and yet somehow still manages to act). The soul is eternal and unchanging (and yet somehow can be either saved or damned).
This view of things (or at least certain important things) is an attempt to find security in an unstable and impermanent world. Existentially, we find we suffer because we lose the things we love, including ourselves. How do we respond to the raw fact of impermanence? We can either argue that the self is in fact eternal and unchanging, or we can do as Buddhism does and accept and embrace change.
Buddhism sees the problem of change not as being change itself, but in how we relate to it — the problem is that we cling to impermanent things. When we cling to something impermanent (anything from status, or a new car, or a relationship, all the way to life itself) we will inevitably suffer as the thing we depend upon changes. The problem is not change, but clinging.
Buddhism would see the attempt to see species as immutable to be a form of clinging — clinging to the categories that the mind creates. In the mind of the eternalist it becomes a form of blasphemy to question the labels that the mind imposes upon reality. Buddhism is very astute at recognizing that all labels are merely arbitrary and static snapshots of our perception of an ever-changing process of change. Even the categories and labels that Buddhism uses are seen as being, ultimately, false. Thus we have texts like the Heart Sutra that negate important Buddhist concepts such as the Four Noble Truths (“There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path”) as well as numerous other teachings.
In the Pali texts it’s clear that the same approach is taken. The Dharma (the teachings and practices) are seen as a raft, to be abandoned when we reach the far shore of direct perception of reality. We of course need the raft just now, but it’s important also that we recognize that the raft is something to be abandoned. If we cling to it we’ll never be able to step onto the shores of true spiritual awakening.
So in short, Buddhism has no fear of impermanence. The evolution of species is just another example of impermanence and of the lack of inherent selfhood.
CONTINUITY OF EVOLUTION AND DHARMA
While traveling around the world aboard the HMS Beagle, Darwin was struck by the fact that he could understand facial expressions of people from different cultures, but not their languages or gestures. Darwin also believed that our sense of moral compassion came from a natural desire to alleviate the suffering of others. He was an ardent abolitionist. Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco … said … that these views are nearly identical to those of Tibetan Buddhists. “I am now calling myself a Darwinian,” Ekman recalled the Dalai Lama saying, after Ekman read him some passages of Darwin’s work. [From New Scientist]
That’s quite something, that the Dalai Lama considers himself a Darwinist. From an evolutionary point of view, ethics and compassion have evolved. They are a natural part of the evolved universe. This is important to the Dalai Lama because he has a profound belief that goodness is inherent to our nature.
The English Buddhist teacher, Sangharakshita, (who happens to be my own teacher) makes explicit this link between the Darwinianly evolved universe and the path of spirituality. He argues that we have inherited faculties such as self-awareness and compassion, but that our evolution is incomplete. Biological, or Darwinian evolution, he calls “The Lower Evolution,” while he compares and contrasts the spiritual path by referring to it as “The Higher Evolution.”
The Lower Evolution is not a conscious process, has no end-point (it is “non-teleological”), and operates on groups rather than on individuals. The Higher Evolution is not something that just happens to us: it’s the result of our own efforts to shape our consciousness, to make something of ourselves. The Higher Evolution is teleological — it has an end point. We find ourselves suffering, and the sense of self-awareness we have inherited allows us to ask why this is, and what we can do about it. The end point of The Higher Evolution is the attainment of non-suffering. And The Higher Evolution is an individual rather than a collective process. We can practice with others, we can learn from others, and we can even sometimes teach and guide others, but in the end it is we as individuals who must bring about the changes within ourselves that lead to non-suffering.
An old friend of mine once made a very interesting comparison between the Lower and Higher Evolutions. Biological evolution takes place through selection pressure. There are limited resources in the world and creatures must compete for them. Those creatures that are most successful at competing for resources will survive and will pass on their genetic adaptations to future generations. And so species evolve in response to selection pressure.
In the “environment” of the mind we have a “population” of mental habits and mental states. Some of those (greed, hatred, delusion) cause us suffering. Others, by contrast (compassion, awareness) tend to make us happier. Once we commit ourselves to the goal of suffering less, and as we maintain an awareness of that goal in our consciousness, we create a selection pressure of sorts.
Those habits that cause us suffering will tend to lose the battle for inner resources because we will choose not to feed them. Those mental habits that tend to being happiness will tend to thrive and grow because resources (our mental energy) is being poured into them.
Here’s what’s said to be a Cherokee legend, even though it isn’t:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This is evolution in action — not the Darwinian evolution of species but the Higher Evolution of the individual consciousness. Biological evolution has given us the tools of self-awareness and understanding that allow us to “evolve” ourselves into more spiritually advanced — and happier — beings. But it’s up to us to do the work of feeding only the helpful wolf.
Evolution is, for Buddhists, not something to deny or to be afraid of, but something to accept (as long as the evidence is in its favor) and to make use of.
OK I rise to the bait and can’t resist commenting. The switch from evolution through natural selection in the physical world to ‘higher evolution’ through positive emotions on the spiritual path is a tricky one. On the one hand the former occurs without a notion of free will whilst the latter requires the notion of choice at some level. On the other hand there is no free will in the sense that our will to enlightenment must have arisen in dependence on the conditions already present – ‘lower evolution’ has created the conditions in which ‘higher evolution’ occurs. In so many ways these problems are only a product of over intellectualizing the great imponderables – counting angels on the head of a pin. Sitting with any of these things makes one realize they are really a distraction i.e. the Buddha was right.
But there is a far bigger and generally more brilliant thing that comes out of the study of evolution through natural selection. It is the great leveler. We are no more or less evolved than anything else on the planet. Humans are animals that have evolved as an element of an incredibly complex system that includes the plants we eat, the gut bacteria that digest them (are they ‘us’ or are they separate) and the diseases that could kill us. All are equally ‘evolved’ and equally ‘advanced’ and, because of their interdependence, equally as complex. It is a traditional practice to sit in the charnel grounds and observe decomposing bodies. There are also great spiritual lessons to be learned from reaching both an intellectual and spiritual understanding of evolution and how our living world has come into existence. Holding a flower and comprehend our physical, ecological and evolutionary links with it helps dissolve the illusion of an independent self.
I wasn’t trying to “catch” you so there wasn’t really any bait on offer. Honest! I just mentioned that idea of yours because I thought it was an interesting and original one. It’s been in my mind for years now, awaiting a chance to be expressed.
From a strict scientific standpoint there’s certainly a case for saying that all life is “equally evolved.” I understand that argument and I even agree with it as a corrective to the rather linear view of evolution that used to prevail, with diagrams of an amoeba at one end of a line of beings and a human at the other. I know for example that chimpanzees have undergone more evolutionary changes to their genome than we have to ours in the however-many-millions of years it is since our lineages parted ways. So someone could argue that chimpanzees are more highly evolved than humans. The whole concept of things being “more highly evolved” than others is clearly problematic from a strictly objective point of view if you’re just talking about genes. But we’re more than just our genes, and genes are not the only things that evolve.
As a Buddhist as well as someone who respects science I don’t see things entirely from that orthodox scientific point of view where we see everything as “equally evolved” – except from a limited point of view that is mainly genetic. From a Buddhist (and some other — I don’t know its name) point of view I think in terms of the emergence of new orders of existence. In Buddhism this is described in terms of the five niyamas. From a world that began as pure physics and chemistry, life evolved, and then consciousness evolved, and then reflexive self-consciousness (a consciousness that can alter its own makeup) evolved. And then finally a new kind of consciousness (bodhi) evolved. It seems that you can’t quite define one level in terms of the one that came before, so that no definition of life can be made purely in terms of chemistry and physics, and no definition of consciousness can be made (to date, at least) in terms of biochemistry and physiology. I think that, similarly, awakened consciousness can’t be defined or understood in terms of the unawakened mind, because the unawakened mind is limited by deep patterns that the awakened mind has eliminated. I don’t think we can grasp the viewpoint of an enlightened being any more than a dog can have an idea of what’s going on in my mind when I’m caught up in some complex moral dilemma.
So I see these new levels of complexity evolving, and I think that a blue whale, with a complex social structure and the ability to communicate, or a chimpanzee that can make tools, are more “highly evolved” (in the sense of the emergence of higher orders of being) than say, blue-green algae or a prokaryote, even if arguably blue-green algae and prokaryotes are better fitted for surviving in their niches than the blue whale or chimpanzee are in theirs and even if all these animals have undergone the same amount of evolutionary change, genetically speaking. Now in doing this I’m of course making judgments, or to put it another way I’m assigning value. That’s one of the things that higher-order organisms do, and I’m not ashamed of my evolutionary-programmed propensity to do this. Having values is an essential part of being human. Those values may only exist in the human mind but that’s the only kind of mind that (for the moment) I can inhabit. And I think that values are important. That itself is me making a value, but again that’s just what value-perceiving minds do — we have reflexive self-consciousness that allows us to examine our values and to choose those that we think are “best.”
I think the reason that the Dalai Lama said that he considered himself to be a Darwinist was because Darwin thought that compassion had evolved, so that we live in a universe that has in some sense a moral dimension (the kamma-niyama). So the lower evolution does indeed create the conditions in which the higher evolution occurs, and without the lower evolution there is clearly no higher evolution. There is a discontinuity between the two forms of evolution, and perhaps in some ways the word “evolution” with regards to the higher evolution is simply a metaphor and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I’m not attached to the terminology. But the discontinuity, I’d suggest, is of a similar nature to that separating mere chemistry and life, biochemistry and consciousness, and simple consciousness and reflexive self-consciousness. In fact the discontinuity exists where simple consciousness ends off and self-consciousness arises — where we get to questioning our values and deciding things like what kind of person we want to be, what kind of life do we want to live, what kind of society we want to create, and even what kind of values do we want to have fueling our science.
But the main point I’m trying to make in the article is that there isn’t fundamentally any contradiction between evolution and Buddhism. The two can coexist quite peacefully, even if we non-scientists and armchair scientists insist on trying to see connections that might not be welcome from a strictly materialist point of view. You’re not likely to see Buddhists campaigning for the teaching of Buddhist Creation Science in schools.
As for interdependence – absolutely! I’m writing a book right now on the six elements and how examining them reveals the notion of a separate and independent self to be a delusion. There’s a lot of science in the book, including discussion of gut bacteria, and I think you’d find it interesting (although I’ve only finished two chapters so far). The practice itself is a good way to become conscious of unconsciously-held and false assumptions that we project onto our experience. In other words it’s a tool for moving closer to the dhamma-niyama, where any values we hold are in accord with how things really are. The book aims to encourage this kind of reflection, and is in effect a prolonged experience of the six-element practice.
Wow – loads of words :) I am going to add a few more I am afraid.
I think we are in agreement apart from the notion of more/less evolved. I would argue that you can only say a primate is more highly evolved than the bacteria in its gut if you see the two as separate. I feel that the enlightened mind doesn’t make such a clear distinction. By not making this distinction the Bodhisattva ideal becomes a reality.
As a Dharma practice consider the humble mitochondria. Looks just like a bacteria and is in more or less every cell in every eukaryote organism. It has its own simple genome. It has its own evolutionary history separate but intertwined with the host organism. It is typically inherited down the maternal line and does not undergoing recombination at sex. When I say ‘me’ do I include ‘my’ mitochondria? Am I more advanced than they are or am I a colony of simple organisms? Now add in all my other symbiotic relationships.
There really is only one product of evolution and that is the totality of life. You can carve that totality up in many ways to tell many stories but the stories often say more about the story teller than about life. Histories are about historians.
What is it that becomes self aware and travels down the path? I guess that is the question I try to answer through my practice but it certainly is not the lone-primate-me as a product of evolution. Such a thing only exists in one world view and I know that the enlightened mind isn’t bound by a single world view.
I guess I am saying the notion of ‘higher evolution’ bugs me and I find it unhelpful. It leads to people saying the Bodhisattva Idea is a contradiction (“How can we strive for the liberation of all beings even though we know they can’t be saved!”) when it isn’t a contradiction at all. By striving for enlightenment I am all beings. Sadly I see people only considering Bodhisattavas as heroes – not a totally unhelpful image but perhaps not the most useful one for the ‘me’ generation.
Boy! After I posted that last comment I couldn’t believe how long it was.
Anyway, it’s astonishing how your most recent comment parallels what I’ve been writing about in my book on the Six Elements, where I’m using the traditional practice combined with insights from science to demolish the myth of separateness. There’s stuff about us co-evolving with other species in there, plus the intimate role that microorganisms have in the body’s functioning, plus regarding them as a “microbial organ,” plus the fact that 90% of the cells in the body are not human. And I also discuss the role of viruses in evolution and how we are, to a first approximation, about 90% viral. And there’s material about chimerism and microchimerism as well. It’s all stuff that fascinates me. I can tell I’m going to be begging you to read the MS and give me feedback. If you do it’ll be a far better book.
If there were a Heart Sutra for biologists it would probably include lines like:
“No kingdom, no phyla, no class, no order, no family, no genus, no species, no living being; life itself is emptiness.”
When you start to look closely at the universe it does start to appear seamless. We have the idea in the mind for example that there are waves on the ocean. But where does the wave stop and the ocean begin? It’s of course impossible to say. But the mind insists on some level on reifying the difference.
And for good reason, I think. We need to balance Ratnasambhava’s Wisdom of Equality (nothing is separate) with Amitabha’s Wisdom of Discrimination (although everything in the universe is interconnected things are not textureless). There is a very real sense in which I do not exist as an independent being, but only exist as part of an interdependent whole, but there’s also a very real sense in which I have autonomy within the fabric of that interdependence. As a specific node of reflexive consciousness within the universe I am able to take a degree of responsibility for myself and I’m able to influence the way in which I function. I think that in order to engage in the higher evolution I have to act with a consciousness both of the degree to which “I” am interconnected and the degree to which I can act, as it were autonomously.
I mentioned eternalism in the article above, but I didn’t say anything about nihilism. Nihilism (ucchedavada) would be to say selfhood doesn’t exist, and the Buddha seems to have been wary that the teaching of anatta would be taken to be a confirmation that this is “no self”. When the Buddha said that there was no self he didn’t mean that there was no self. He meant that there was no separate and substantial self. So there is a self, but it’s non-separate and non-substantial.
Gah! This stuff makes my head spin, but then I guess that’s the point — to sweep away our normal lazy assumptions about how things are.
By the way, I don’t quite get your point about Bodhisattvas. The apparent contradiction that comes to my mind as being associated with the Bodhisattva path is along the lines of “A bodhisattva can only vow to save all sentient beings once he realizes that there are no beings to save.” I think that’s just a way of saying, “You’re not really a bodhisattva and you don’t have a bodhisattva’s wisdom and compassion until you have insight into the non-separate nature of all phenomena.” I do think of Bodhisattvas as heroes, but not for running around saving living beings. I think of them as heroes for having broken out of a limited way of seeing things. I think that’s the hardest part. Once you have the right mindset helping living beings is easy (or so I imagine).
Anyway, I really appreciate hearing your thinking on this. Would you be interested in taking a look at the occasional chapter from my book as it, so to speak, evolves?
I think that is what I meant by the Bodhisattva contradiction but un-scrambled i.e. knowing (in the spiritual sense) that all beings lack independent selves is part of reaching enlightenment. The concept that beings can be ranked according to their level of evolution is not helpful to reaching this goal of enlightenment. The scala naturae (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_chain_of_being) is buried deep within western thinking and you see it popping up all over the place once you get your eye in.
It would be a pleasure to take a look at the biological bits of your book. I can’t promise a quick turn round but I’ll take a look.
One problem that Christianity and Islam have with evolution that is not a problem for Buddhists, but which I have not seen specifically discussed anywhere, is the idea that only humans have souls. But evolution does not make a clean break between one generation and the next such that the parent is an animal and the child a human, as required by the concept of the soul. Speciation is only apparent after the fact and after a lot of intermediate stages. For Buddhists of course there is no idea of a soul which only humans have, so there is no problem with their being no clear distinction between one generation and the next in terms of their being the same or different species.
That idea was in my mind as I was writing, but never made it onto the page. Thanks for the reminder.
Evolution has no problem with Buddhism since Buddhism looks into the beginning of the world as meaningless. Or in other words, Buddhism supports that it is pointless to look into the beginning whether it could be by means of creation or evolution. Or in other words, Buddhism calls all the Buddhists not to bother whether the world could be formed through creation or evolution.
I like this article because it clarifies a lot about buddhist thought
Not to nitpick, (although I am a little), but Darwin’s theory of evolution is not attempting to explain the origin of life, or existence, but rather how life has progressed and the adaptations various organisms have.
Abiogenesis is the theory I think you’re referring to.
Well, just to nit-pick a little, where do I say that evolution is an explanation of the origin of life?
I am a person who raised in Buddhist community would like to say that buddists can not accept the theory of evolution. What is the base of Buddhist theory. People get sick and get old and die. This is the suffering. Then the main important thing that suffering is never ending because people life not ending at death. They are born again. That is why lord Buddha wanted to find a solution for this suffering. So his path is to how end the rebirth. My question is do evolution accept the rebirth. The second thing is Buddhism is way to stop rebirth, at least attempt to stop it. If that attempt is completely successful that would end up the humanity in this world. Is that the process of evolution. No, Evolution is a process of developing the humanity. but Buddhism try against it
“Buddhism is the way to stop rebirth, at least attempt to stop…”
Buddha can not to stop rebirth, He teach us how to stop…
But a few people can do it…
So Evolution is still accepted by Buddhist.
“Buddha can not to stop rebirth, He teach us how to stop…”
I do not say Buddha can stop rebirth. How ever Buddha wanted to find a path stop rebirth and let everybody to follow. That is why Buddhists respect Buddha. Buddhis also believe Buddha find that path for humans. So you are correct.
“But a few people can do it…”
This is the point that I can not agree with you. I am sure Buddha wanted that every creature including Human would have followed in Buddha’s path and stop the rebirth. (It’s like Teacher wants every child in his class be succesful in graduation. but it never happen . How ever Teacher’s wish is nobel and he still wants and try the same. Can anybody claim that Teacher thinks in his mind that everybody should not be succesful in graduation)
“So Evolution is still accepted by Buddhist”
I don’t know your point. Do you try to say that ” Buddha knows very well everybody can not follow Buddha’s path so Buddha feel comfortable that while he is continue his preaching, majority of humans contribute to the Evolution. I say, if Buddha thinks so, it is cruel and unkind.
Tony’s comment brought to my attention that I hadn’t replied to your comment, Nalin. Basically, what you wrote makes no sense. There’s no conflict between the aim of trying not to be reborn and evolution. The evidence for evolution is absolutely overwhelming. If your understanding of Buddhism causes you to reject that evidence, then I’d suggest changing your understanding of Buddhism.
“Nalin. Basically, what you wrote makes no sense. “
If so I feel sorry about my poor English. So let me explain again my point.
“There’s no conflict between the aim of trying not to be reborn and evolution “
First of all we need to understand what Evolution is and also what Buddhism is (stop Reborn)
Evolution process is develop the living thing in this world through mutation and natural selection. Even today it is continuing and as a result a new creature may replace human’s dominant in this word.
Then Buddhism is – Prince Siddhartha first thought life was full of happiness. But later on he encountered four sights and thought about the cause of human suffering. He realized that this suffering was never ending due to reborn. (But how he realized or accepted the “concept of reborn” is not clear) However he came to concept that if reborn can be stopped then human do not suffer again again. That is why he tried and found a way to stop “reborn” That is called “Being Arhath”
So you say in one sentence without any explanation that there is no conflict in between these two. How ever my point is IF Buddha concept is true and as he expected everybody followed his path “the birth rate” in this world will be declined and one day human and other creatures will be eliminated from this world. Then can we expect the so called new creature as a replacement to the human?
Sorry, it wasn’t your English that was confusing me. There were just unstated assumptions that I needed to hear before I could understand what argument you were making.
Anyway, your assumptions are: 1. that Buddhism is about escaping the rounds of rebirth (which is a very traditional view), and 2. that all beings can get enlightened, and so they’ll all end up not being reborn.
Just taking #1 being true as our starting point, I think #2 is very questionable. What percentage of human beings become Arahats? It’s a tiny, tiny number. So, very few people are going to leave the rounds of rebirth.
What happens to the remaining human beings in the meantime, over, say, the next million years? Assuming we survive, we’ll evolve. We’re already evolving, quite rapidly. So human evolution will continue. Unless there’s a catastrophe and all human life is wiped out, we won’t be replaced by another species evolving to overthrow us. We’ll overthrow ourselves.
Incidentally, there’s nothing in the Pali scriptures about the Buddha seeing four sights. He does tell that story, but it’s about a previous Buddha, not himself.
I am loving this article and ALL the dialogue. So rare and special to see respectful discourse, not rants. My heart and brain thank you all.
Thank you, Annie.