The dominant paradigm in science is that mind is an emergent property of the brain whereas Buddhism sees mind as forerunner. If Buddhists want science to recognise the Buddha’s claims about the mind then Buddhism has to play by the rules of science. The burden of proof is upon Buddhists to devise experiments that show beyond reasonable doubt that purely mental activity can be detected and measured independently of matter. Until then, any talk of “Scientific Buddhism” is meaningless.
The fundamentals of existence are visible form or corporeality (Rupa); feelings of pleasure, pain or indifference (Vedana); names, allusions or perceptions (Sanna); conditioned mental formulations (Sankhara); and cogniscance, consciousness, or awareness (Vinnana). According to the Buddha, these five ‘aggregates’ are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and not-self (anatta), and that is how we should contemplate them.
Does modern science lend support to Buddhist ideas about the human mind? Does modern science lend support to the logic behind Buddhist meditation practice? After summarizing what Buddhism says about human minds and meditation, I refer to three scientific studies which may enable one to answer ‘yes’ to both questions.
An enlightened being remains equanimous under any circumstances. If awareness is present we, too, can recognise all experiences as impermanent (anicca) and unsatisfactory (dukkha), and we can remain calm because we do not mistake them as ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ or ‘self’ (anatta). However, we are unlikely to develop and maintain this ability if our practice is confined to a daily session on a cushion in the shrine room at the appointed time.