June 24, 2013

Was the Buddha Just a Nice Guy?.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Dean Radin PhD author of SUPERNORMAL

Did the teachings of a man named Siddhārtha Gautama – later known as the Buddha – persist for thousands of years because he was movie-star handsome? Did his words influence untold millions of people because he had a melodious voice, or because he was an admired advocate of the poor? Or, was it because he was an enlightened being with profound insights into the nature of reality, and because he possessed supernormal abilities?

We might ask the same question about Jesus, Moses, Mohammed or a dozen other historically prominent figures associated with special illumination, wisdom or grace. Did these people just sport great tans and they knew how to work a crowd, or did they understand something genuinely deep that is outside the purview of today’s scientific understanding?

Raising such questions about revered religious icons is asking for trouble, so let’s consider a more contemporary figure. The Dalai Lama regularly hosts discussions between scientists and Buddhist scholars as part of an ongoing series of dialogs sponsored by the Mind and Life Institute. Do the scientists who compete for a coveted slot at one of those celebrated meetings secretly believe that the Dalai Lama is a backwards country bumpkin, and they’re just humoring him long enough to get their photo taken with a famous Nobel Laureate so they can post it on their Facebook page?
Given the praise about those meetings reported in a growing list of bestselling books, and authored by no-nonsense scientists and journalists, it doesn’t seem so. Indeed, most scientists regard the Dalai Lama’s opinions on matters of science and spirituality with the upmost respect and admiration.

Well, almost of all his opinions.

The Dalai Lama, like Buddha and other spiritual icons, confidently accepts a range of “supernormal” phenomena that many scientists publicly dismiss as superstitious nonsense. The Dalai Lama doesn’t maintain his belief out of faith in stories, but from personal experience with the evidence for reincarnation, and with oracles who accurately forecast the future. What does he know that many Western-trained scientists studiously ignore or, in some instances, strenuously deny? Is it possible that some of the legendary superpowers taken for granted in virtually all religious traditions actually do exist? And has science developed such opaque blinders that these topics cannot be discussed calmly and rationally without invariably evoking embarrassment or smirks?

These questions have been hotly debated by philosophers, historians of religion and ordinary people for centuries. But other than a few dozen iconoclastic investigators who are not afraid to challenge orthodoxy, the scientific mainstream has not participated in this debate at all. So when scientists are asked why they are so keen to participate in dialogs with the Dalai Lama, their reply, offered with some embarrassment, is that, after all, the Buddha was a really swell guy. And that’s it.

This curious refusal to even acknowledge that there might be a supernormal side of Buddha comes from the challenge that such phenomena bring to prevailing neuroscience assumptions about the nature, origins and capabilities of human consciousness. This leads some scientists to believe that Buddha could only have been a nice guy, period, because the Buddha’s consciousness, experiences, and all of his perceptions were generated solely by his brain. According to them, the brain doesn’t have the capacity to perceive at a distance through time or space, so ipso facto stories about the marvelous abilities of mystics and saints are simply fairy tales; hagiography gone wild. But it isn’t polite to publicly disrespect the Dalai Lama’s beliefs as utter nonsense, so an orthodox scientist politely coughs and says a few nice words about Buddhism, and then quickly walks away.
The reluctance to offer a more assertive opinion also persists because any answer offered is guaranteed to annoy someone. If you say, “Buddha was just a nice guy,” then Buddhist monks will hurl epithets at you. They may do this in a kind and compassionate way, but you will still have to duck. And if you say, “Buddha was more than just nice,” then you will have to dodge objects thrown with equal gusto by scientists and by devotees of other religions. For the sake of social safety the question is best left unanswered.

But there is another approach that few scientists or scholars have paid close attention to: Scientific studies of the supernormal. I will discuss this in more detail in future blog entries, but to give a hint for where we’re headed, I can say with confidence – based on the same standards and research methods used throughout the brain, behavioral, social and medical sciences – that the existence of some genuinely supernormal phenomena is virtually certain. In future blogs we’ll see why the Dalai Lama’s belief in these phenomena is based on sound science, and why the Buddha was undoubtedly more than just a nice guy.

Write Your Comment

  1. Fern Kuntz

    That is true Buddhism has nothing to do with parapsychology! But reading the book will be interesting.

  2. Fern Kuntz

    I just ordered this book - can't wait till it comes in a couple weeks.

  3. jonny

    buddha exists

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