I have been studying Buddhism because it seems obvious that we humans have a humongous technology problem that is destroying our home on this earth and has two foundations: 1. We don’t want to learn about and live within the scientifically provable (that means measurable, factual) limits to our human power; and 2. We don’t want to learn about and live within our own best human values.

I believe the straightest road from where we are to a resolution of our plethora of biological and social problems is not compassion and it is not science, but it will require that we learn how to combine these two great wisdom traditions.  And of course the greatest of these is applied compassion.

I know more about science than I do about compassion, and so I have been studying Buddhism, because there is no doubt that Buddhism is our best studied condensation of human wisdom over the longest period of human time.  I deeply respect the tools that Buddhism provides for the development of positive human values. The foundations of the wisdom are obviously true as they say (over and over and over, for example, everyone dies, everything changes over time – I believe that — you don’t have to prove it to me).

These things are easy to prove or at least easy to believe, and I am having no trouble following the logic of these foundations of all the Buddhist discussions. Unfortunately, the “proofs” that they use to convince me of the (self-evident) fact that everyone dies and everything changes — the proofs of the foundational assumptions — are not obvious and are not provable or believable. (The last time I said this, someone suggested I should not be so sure they didn’t happen. I did NOT say these stories never happened; please do not reinterpret what I say; I said there is no way I will believe them. If the goal is to convince, then maybe we should use convincing examples.)

Trying to prove something that is obvious by using a proof that is not provable seems to me counter-productive. Maybe some of the mystery of these stories has arisen over the centuries of Buddhist time from a human desire to be more important than other people.   In our current age, I think we are not so impressed with how important someone is, and are more interested in finding straight answers to our questions in a time and place where there is no common cultural history to help us. 

I understand that Buddhist ideas need to be considered and reconsidered, over and over.  Not only understood, but incorporated into our consciousness deeper than the merely intellectual level.  That is part of the effectiveness of the discipline.  But I think we need metaphors that are not so unbelievable if we want to transmit the deep values of Buddhism to westerners.

What a shame it would be if the tools of compassion were abandoned or misused in the same way that our sciences are being misused — just at this time when they are so badly needed to inform our scientists and our corporations and our citizens and voters.


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