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Buddha Dharma: The perennial wealth

IANS | April 28, 2022 05:56 PM

NEW DELHI: The rise of the great civilisations of the world witnessed the development of literature, art and sophisticated philosophical systems from the Greeks to the Indian system.

One of the great teachers of all times is the Buddha Shakyamuni who was born as prince Siddhartha in the kingdom of Magadha (now India) and taught the 8, 4000 teachings to unravel the mind's true nature to help alleviate the suffering of the sentient beings through the rigorous practice of learning, reflection, and meditation.

Contemporary to Buddhism, other Indian schools of thought like Vaishesika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimansa, Vedanta, Carvaka, Jainism, etc. flourished making the Indian sub-continent a great centre for learning for subjects like Philosophy, Mathematics, Cosmology, Astrology, Metaphysics, Logic, Art, Poetry, etc.

In Dhammapada, the Buddha says: "The Mind is the chief and precedes all phenomena." And further the Buddhist philosopher Vasubandu (4th -5th century C.E.) of erstwhile Nalanda University who was a great light at the peak of India's resplendent Gupta empire, in his text Abhidharmakosakarika said: "The diversity of the world arose from karmas, which in turn is, the intention and its actions. Intention is the mental karma; what gives rise to by (the intention) are physical and verbal."

Further exploring the mind-brain paradox, the great Indian Buddhist logician Acharya Dharmakirti (7th Cent C.E.) in pramanavarttika (Commentary on Valid Cognition) Chapter 2 (pramanasiddhi) which is a commentary on Acharya Dignaga's words of salutation to the Buddha in Pramanasamuccaya has given valid logical reasoning to establish that the mind and the body are two distinct entities.

One of the questions that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, a Noble Peace Prize Laureate 1989, is frequently asked during his Public Talks around the world is, "What is the purpose of our life?" To which he simply answers "To be happy."

Through the platform of Mind and Life Dialogues between the Buddhist scholars and the experts in the disciplines such as Neuroscience, Quantum Physics, Psychology, etc., unprecedented research is being done in the field of consciousness studies and Mapping of Emotions (Emotions Revealed by Professor Paul Ekman).

In Neuroscience, Prof Richard J. Davidson, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Founder and Chair of the Center for Healthy Minds said: "Buddhist monks have known for centuries that meditation can change the mind. Now we are inspired by His Holiness to examine with our technology the precise brain changes that occur with practice... The unique collaboration on meditation is just beginning."

In his paper Buddha's Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation he mentions: "The findings from studies in this unusual sample as well as related research efforts, suggest that, over the course of meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the long-term practitioners had actually altered the structure and function of their brains."

While modern science is still struggling to understand the brain's full potential, it has also crossed the frontiers of its discipline to ask questions about the mind or the subjective experience of humans. In the contemporary phase of modern Neuroscience, we have the term qualia or phenomenal subjective experiences which has been the subject matter of the ancient Indian wisdom for centuries.

In Quantum Mechanics 'A double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wavefunction. The ratio of the interference pattern's double-slit spectral power to its single-slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it.'

Michio Kaku, a professor of Physics at the City University of New York in his book The Future of the Mind unveils the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world- all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics and looks towards a day when humans achieve the ability to upload the human brain to a computer, project thoughts and emotions around the world on a brain-net, send our consciousness across the universe and push the very limits of immortality.

The presentation of the mind in Buddhism can also lay the basic ground for the AI industries catering to the philosophical challenges as to where do we draw the line between a human and AI. Perhaps, no other tradition East or West present a more sophisticated and extensive view on the mind and mental phenomena, and on the nature of reality of existence than Buddhism.

India has so much to offer to the world. The Wisdom of Non-duality, pratityasamudpada (dependent arising), tathagathagarbha (Buddha Nature), Buddhist Psychology, etc.; There was a time when the Doctrine of Buddha was vibrant and spread to different parts of the world. Buddhism was propagated to Sri Lanka by King Asoka's two children Mahinda and Sanghamitta, and to the north-west of India during the reign of King Kanishka.

The Tibetan King Jnanaprabha sent gold requesting the Nalanda Saint Scholar Atisha Dipamkara from Bengal to go to Tibet to teach the Dharma in the 11th century C.E. According to Chinese chronicals, in the 405 C.E. the Indian Buddhist scholar Kumarajiva, who was held captive and taken to China, was revered by the King of Tsin dynasty for his scholarship was assigned with a Translation Bureau under the patronage of the Imperial House and propagated Buddhism in North China.

In 526 C.E., Bodhidharma left for China from India and propagated Buddhist Meditative School in Southern China from which Japanese Zen Buddhism is derived.

The rich legacy of the Buddha's teaching spread far and wide and has stood the tests of all eras assimilating different cultural contexts without losing its essence; more so becomes most relevant in the 21st century when modern scientific and technological advancement has posed serious ethical questions before us.

Today as we are faced with challenges like climate crisis, war and terrorism, pandemic, gender disparity, communal disharmony, etc., this great perennial wealth of wisdom can be an eye opener to the world. The pertinent question being: how can this wealth can be delivered to the world?

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