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11 05 2012 FRIDAY LESSON 605 FREE
eNālāndā Research And Practice

Verses and Stories

Dhammapada Verse 163 . Doing Good Unto One’s Own Self Is

Verse 163.
Doing Good Unto One’s Own Self Is Difficult

is what’s bad to do,
what’s harmful to oneself.
But what is good, of benefit,
is very hard to do.

Explanation: Those actions which are very bad and harmful to
one’s own self can be very easily done. But if some action is good for one’s
own self; that kind of right action will be found to be difficult to do.


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BuddhaSasana Home Page
English Section

What Buddhists Believe
Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera

Part Six - This World And Other Worlds

Chapter 16 - Realms of Existence

The Origin of the World

‘There is no reason to suppose that the world had a
beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to
the poverty of our thoughts.’(Bertrand Russell)

There are three schools of thought regarding the origin
of the world. The first school of thought claims that this world came into
existence by nature and that nature is not an intelligent force. However,
nature works no its own accord and goes on changing.

The second school of thought says that the world was
created by an almighty God who is responsible for everything.

The third school of thought says that the beginning of
this world and of life is inconceivable since they have neither beginning nor
end. Buddhism is in accordance with this third school of thought. Bertrand
Russell supports this school of thought by saying, ‘There is no reason to
suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have
a beginning is really due to the poverty of our thoughts.’

Modern science says that some millions of years ago, the
newly cooled earth was lifeless and that life originated in the ocean.
Buddhism never claimed that the world, sun, moon, stars, wind, water, days
and nights were created by a powerful god or by a Buddha. Buddhists believe
that the world was not created once upon a time, but that the world has been
created millions of times every second and will continue to do so by itself
and will break away by itself. According to Buddhism, world systems always
appear and disappear in the universe.

H.G. Wells, in A Short History of the World, says
‘It is universally recognized that the universe in which we live, has to all
appearance, existed for an enormous period of time and possibly for endless
time. But that the universe in which we live, has existed only for six or
seven thousand years may be regarded as an altogether exploded idea. No life
seems to have happened suddenly upon earth.’

The efforts made by many religions to explain the
beginning and the end of the universe are indeed ill-conceived. The position
of religions which propound the view that the universe was created by god in
an exactly fixed year, has become a difficult one to maintain in the light of
modern and scientific knowledge.

Today scientists, historians, astronomers, biologists,
botanists, anthropologists and great thinkers have all contributed vast new
knowledge about the origin of the world. This latest discovery and knowledge
is not at all contradictory to the Teachings of the Buddha. Bertrand Russell
again says that he respects the Buddha for not making false statements like
others who committed themselves regarding the origin of the world.

The speculative explanations of the origin of the
universe that are presented by various religions are not acceptable to the
modern scientists and intellectuals. Even the commentaries of the Buddhist
Scriptures, written by certain Buddhist writers, cannot be challenged by
scientific thinking in regard to this question. The Buddha did not waste His
time on this issue. The reason for His silence was that this issue has no
religious value for gaining spiritual wisdom. The explanation of the origin
of the universe is not the concern of religion. Such theorizing is not
necessary for living a righteous way of life and for shaping our future life.
However, if one insists on studying this subject, then one must investigate
the sciences, astronomy, geology, biology and anthropology. These sciences
can offer more reliable and tested information on this subject than can be
supplied by any religion. The purpose of a religion is to cultivate the life
here in this world and hereafter until liberation is gained.

In the eyes of the Buddha, the world is nothing but
Samsara — the cycle of repeated births and deaths. To Him, the beginning of
the world and the end of the world is within this Samsara. Since elements and
energies are relative and inter-dependent, it is meaningless to single out
anything as the beginning. Whatever speculation we make regarding the origin
of the world, there is no absolute truth in our notion.

‘Infinite is the sky, infinite is the number of beings,
Infinite are the worlds in the vast universe,
Infinite in wisdom the Buddha teaches these,
Infinite are the virtues of Him who teaches these.’ - (Sri Ramachandra)

One day a man called Malunkyaputta approached the Master
and demanded that He explain the origin of the Universe to him. He even
threatened to cease to be His follow if the Buddha’s answer was not
satisfactory. The Buddha calmly retorted that it was of no consequence to Him
whether or not Malunkyaputta followed Him, because the Truth did not need
anyone’s support. Then the Buddha said that He would not go into a discussion
of the origin of the Universe. To Him, gaining knowledge about such matters
was a waste of time because a man’s task was to liberate himself from the
present, not the past or the future. To illustrate this, the Awaken One
with Awareness related the parable of a man who was shot by a poisoned arrow. This foolish
man refused to have the arrow removed until he found out all about the person
who shot the arrow. By the time his attendants discovered these unnecessary
details, the man was dead. Similarly, our immediate task is to attain
Nibbana, not to worry about our beginnings.





Nālandā (Hindi/Sanskrit/Pali: नालंदा)
was an ancient center of higher learning in Bihar, India. The site of Nalanda is located in
the Indian state of Bihar, about 88 kilometers south east
of Patna, and was a Buddhist center of
learning from the fifth or sixth century CE to 1197 CE.[1][2] It has been
called “one of the first great universities in recorded history”.[2] Nalanda
flourished between the reign of the Śakrāditya (whose identity is uncertain and
who might have been either Kumara
Gupta I
or Kumara Gupta II) and 1197 CE, supported by
patronage from the Hindu Gupta rulers as well
as Buddhist emperors
like Harsha and later
emperors from the Pala

complex was built with red bricks and its ruins occupy an area of 14 hectares.
At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as
Tibet, China, Greece, and Persia.[4] Nalanda was
ransacked and destroyed by Turkic
Muslim invaders under
Bakhtiyar Khilji in
1193. The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported
to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it, ransacked
and destroyed the monasteries, and drove the monks from the site. In 2006, Singapore, China, India, Japan, and other nations, announced a
proposed plan to restore and revive the ancient site as Nalanda International University.


  • 3 Overview
  • 4 Ruins
  • 5 Plans
    for revival
  • 6 Institutions
  • 7 Railway
  • 8 In
    popular culture
  • 9 Gallery
  • 10 See
  • 11 References
  • 12 Further
  • 13 External
  • Nalanda
    city  —

    of Nalanda University




    Location of Nalanda
    in Bihar and India

    Coordinates http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/WMA_button2b.png/17px-WMA_button2b.png25°08′12″N 85°26′38″ECoordinates: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/WMA_button2b.png/17px-WMA_button2b.png25°08′12″N 85°26′38″E Country India State Bihar District(s)
    Nalanda Nearest city Rajgir Parliamentary
    Nalanda Assembly constituency
    Nalanda Time zone IST



    History of the
    university and the Gupta heyday

    historical studies suggest that the University of Nalanda was established
    during the reign of a king called Śakrāditya.[6] Both
    Xuanzang and Prajñavarman cite him as the founder, as does a seal discovered at
    the site.[3]

    historian Sukumar Dutt describes it, the history of Nalanda university
    “falls into two main divisions—first, one of growth, development and
    fruition from the sixth century to the ninth, when it was dominated by the
    liberal cultural traditions inherited from the Gupta age; the second, one of
    gradual decline and final dissolution from the ninth century to the thirteen—a
    period when the tantric developments of Buddhism became most pronounced in
    eastern India.”[7]


    The seal of Nalanda
    set in terracotta
    on display in the ASI Museum in Nalanda

    Nalanda in the
    Pāla era

    number of monasteries grew up during the Pāla period in
    ancient Bengal and Magadha. According to Tibetan sources, five great
    Mahaviharas stood out: Vikramashila,
    the premier university of the era; Nalanda, past its prime but still
    illustrious, Somapura, Odantapurā, and Jaggadala.[8] The five
    monasteries formed a network; “all of them were under state
    supervision” and there existed “a system of co-ordination among
    them . . it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist
    learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pāla were regarded together
    as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions,” and it was
    common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.[9]

    the Pālā period, the Nālānda was less singularly outstanding, as other Pāla
    establishments “must have drawn away a number of learned monks from
    Nālānda when all of them . . came under the aegis of the Pālās.”[7]

    Decline and end

    1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by[10] the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turk;[11] this event
    is seen by scholars as a late milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in
    his chronicle the Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks
    were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot
    Buddhism and plant Islam by the sword[12] the
    burning of the library continued for several months and “smoke from the
    burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills.”[13] However,
    the authenticity of these claims cannot be verified independently from other
    writings. . When Bakhtiyar Khilji defeated Lakshman Sen, Buddhism was already
    in decline in Bengal. Therefore, the exact time and the reason of decline
    and/or devastation of Nalanda University cannot be determined at this time.

    last throne-holder of Nalanda, Shakyashribhadra, fled to Tibet in 1204 CE at
    the invitation of the Tibetan translator Tropu Lotsawa (Khro-phu Lo-tsa-ba
    Byams-pa dpal
    ). In Tibet, he started an ordination lineage of the Mulasarvastivadin
    lineage to complement the two existing ones.

    the Tibetan translator Chag Lotsawa (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197–1264) visited
    the site in 1235, he found it damaged and looted, with a 90-year-old teacher,
    Rahula Shribhadra, instructing a class of about 70 students.[14][15] During
    Chag Lotsawa’s time there an incursion by Turkish soldiers caused the remaining
    students to flee. Despite all this, “remnants of the debilitated Buddhist
    community continued to struggle on under scarce resources until c. 1400 CE when
    Chagalaraja was reportedly the last king to have patronized Nalanda.”[16]

    considers the destruction of the temples, monasteries, centers of learning at
    Nalanda and northern India to be responsible for the demise of ancient Indian
    scientific thought in mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, and anatomy.[17]


    was one of the world’s first residential universities, i.e., it had dormitories
    for students. It is also one of the most famous universities. In its heyday, it
    accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. The university was considered
    an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate.
    Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other
    meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks. The
    library was located in a nine storied building where meticulous copies of texts
    were produced. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of
    learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet,
    Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.[2] During the
    period of Harsha, the monastery is reported to have owned 200 villages given as

    Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang left
    detailed accounts of the university in the 7th century. He described how the
    regularly laid-out towers, forest of pavilions, harmikas and temples seemed to
    “soar above the mists in the sky” so that from their cells the monks
    “might witness the birth of the winds and clouds.”[18] The
    pilgrim states: “An azure pool winds around the monasteries, adorned with
    the full-blown cups of the blue lotus; the dazzling red flowers of the lovely
    kanaka hang here and there, and outside groves of mango trees offer the
    inhabitants their dense and protective shade.”[19]

    entrance of many of the viharas
    in the Nalanda University ruins can be seen with a bow marked floor; the bow
    was the royal sign of the Guptas.


    library of Nalanda, known as Dharma Gunj (Mountain of Truth) or Dharmagañja
    (Treasury of Truth), was the most renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in
    the world at the time. Its collection was said to comprise hundreds of
    thousands of volumes, so extensive that it burned for approximately more than 6
    months when set aflame by Turkish invaders. The library had three main
    buildings as high as nine stories tall, Ratnasagara (Sea of Jewels), Ratnodadhi
    (Ocean of Jewels), and Ratnarañjaka (Delighter of Jewels).[20][21]


    Tibetan tradition holds that there were “four doxographies
    (Tibetan: grub-mtha’) which were taught at Nālandā, and Alexander Berzin specifies these as:[22]

    1. Sarvāstivāda Vaibhāika
    2. Sarvāstivāda
    3. Mādhyamaka, the
      Mahāyāna philosophy of Nāgārjuna
    4. Cittamatra, the
      Mahāyāna philosophy of Asaga and Vasubandhu

    to an unattributed article of the Dharma Fellowship (2005), the curriculum of
    Nalanda University at the time of Mañjuśrīmitra

    the entire range of world knowledge then available. Courses were drawn from
    every field of learning, Buddhist and Hindu, sacred and secular, foreign and
    native. Students studied science, astronomy, medicine, and logic as diligently
    as they applied themselves to metaphysics, philosophy, Samkhya, Yoga-shastra,
    the Veda, and the scriptures of Buddhism. They studied foreign philosophy

    the 7th century, Xuanzang records the number of teachers at Nālandā as being
    around 1510.[23] Of these,
    approximately 1000 were able to explain 20 collections of sūtras and śāstras,
    500 were able to explain 30 collections, and only 10 teachers were able to
    explain 50 collections.[23] Xuanzang
    was among the few who were able to explain 50 collections or more.[23] At this
    time, only the abbot Śīlabhadra had studied all the major collections of sūtras
    and śāstras at Nālandā.[23]

    Yijing wrote that
    matters of discussion and administration at Nālandā would require assembly and
    consensus on decisions by all those at the assembly, as well as resident monks:[24]

    If the monks had some business, they would
    assemble to discuss the matter. Then they ordered the officer, Vihārapāla, to
    circulate and report the matter to the resident monks one by one with folded
    hands. With the objection of a single monk, it would not pass. There was no use
    of beating or thumping to announce his case. In case a monk did something
    without consent of all the residents, he would be forced to leave the
    monastery. If there was a difference of opinion on a certain issue, they would
    give reason to convince (the other group). No force or coercion was used to

    also writes: “The lives of all these virtuous men were naturally governed
    by habits of the most solemn and strictest kind. Thus in the seven hundred
    years of the monastery’s existence no man has ever contravened the rules of the
    discipline. The king showers it with the signs of his respect and veneration
    and has assigned the revenue from a hundred cities to pay for the maintenance of
    the religious.”[19]

    Influence on

    Nalanda layout 1b.JPG

    vast amount of what came to comprise Tibetan Buddhism,
    both its Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions,
    stems from the late (9th–12th century) Nalanda teachers and traditions. The
    scholar Dharmakirti (ca. 7th century), one of the Buddhist
    founders of Indian philosophical
    logic, as well as and
    one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism,
    taught at Nalanda.

    forms of Buddhism, such as the Mahāyāna Buddhism followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, flourished within the walls of
    the ancient university. A number of scholars have associated some Mahāyāna
    texts such as the Śūra
    gama Sūtra,
    an important sūtra in East Asian Buddhism, with the Buddhist tradition at
    Nālandā.[25][26] Ron
    Epstein also notes that the general doctrinal position of the sūtra does indeed
    correspond to what is known about the Buddhist teachings at Nālandā toward the
    end of the Gupta period when it was translated.[27]

    to Hwui-Li, a Chinese visitor, Nālandā was held in contempt by some Sthaviras for its
    emphasis on Mahayana philosophy. They reportedly chided King Hara for patronizing
    Nalanda during one of his visits to Orissa, mocking the
    “sky-flower” philosophy taught there and suggesting that he might as
    well patronize a Kapalika
    temple.[28] When this
    occurred, Har
    notified the chancellor of Nālandā, who sent the monks Sāgaramati, Prajñāraśmi,
    and Xuanzang to refute the views of the monks from Orissa.[29]


    number of ruined structures survive. Nearby is the Surya Mandir, a Hindu temple. The known and excavated ruins extend over an area of about
    150,000 square metres, although if Xuanzang’s account of
    Nalanda’s extent is correlated with present excavations, almost 90% of it
    remains unexcavated. Nālandā is no longer inhabited. Today the nearest
    habitation is a village called Bargaon.

    1951, a modern centre for Pali
    (Theravadin) Buddhist
    studies was founded nearby by Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap, the Nava Nalanda
    Mahavihara. Presently, this institute is pursuing an ambitious program of
    satellite imaging of the entire region.

    Nalanda Museum contains a number
    of manuscripts, and shows many examples of the items that have been excavated. India’s first Multimedia Museum was opened on 26
    January 2008, which recreates the history of Nalanda using a 3D animation film
    narrated by Shekhar
    . Besides this there are four more sections in the Multimedia
    Museum: Geographical Perspective, Historical Perspective, Hall of Nalanda and
    Revival of Nalanda.

    Plans for revival

    Main article: Nalanda International University





    Railway Station

    In popular


    As they stood, before the Nālandā University was

    The Sariputta Stupa

    Back side view of Sariputta Stupa

    Front view of Sariputta Stupa

    Temple and votive stūpas.

    Interior of the Nālandā ruins.

    Bodhisattva statue from Nālandā, 9th century CE.

    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva statue. Nālandā, 11th
    century CE.

    The Buddha teaching at Deer Park, Vārāasī. Nālandā.

    Buddha descending from Trāyastriśa Heaven. Nālandā.

    Bodhisattva on his lion. Nālandā.

    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. Nālandā.


    Mount Meru

    The Center of
    the Universe?

    Buddhist texts and teachers sometimes refer to Mount
    Meru, also called Sumeru (Sanskrit) or Sineru (Pali). Mount Meru is a sacred
    mountain in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain mythology. For a time, the existence (or
    not) of Meru was a heated controversy.

    Ancient Buddhists thought Meru was the center of the
    universe. The Pali Canon records the historical Buddha speaking of it. In time,
    ideas about Mount Meru and the nature of the universe became more detailed. For
    example, a renowned Indian scholar named Vasubhandhu (ca. 4th or 5th century
    CE) provided an elaborate description of the Meru-centered cosmos in the Abhidharmakosa.

    Buddhist Universe

    Ancient Buddhists imagined the universe as essentially
    flat, with Mount Meru at the center of all things. Surrounding this universe
    was a vast expanse of water, and surrounding the water was a vast expanse of

    This universe was made of thirty-one planes of existence,
    stacked in layers, and three realms, or dhatus.
    The three realms were Ārūpyadhātu, the formless realm; Rūpadhātu, the realm of
    form; and Kāmadhātu, the realm of desire. Each of these was further divided
    into multiple worlds that were the homes of many sorts of beings. This cosmos
    was thought to be one of a succession of universes coming into and going out of
    existence through infinite time.

    Our world was thought to be a wedge-shaped island
    continent in a vast sea south of Mount Meru, called Jambudvipa, in the realm of
    Kāmadhātu. The earth, then, was thought to be flat and surrounded by ocean.

    World Becomes Round

    As with the sacred writings of many religions, Buddhist
    cosmology can be interpreted as myth or allegory. But many generations of
    Buddhists understood the universe of Mount Meru to exist literally.

    Then, in the 16th century, European explorers came to
    Asia claiming the earth was round and suspended in space. And a controversy was

    Donald Lopez, a professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies
    at the University of Michigan, provides an illuminating account of this culture
    clash in his book Buddhism and Science: A
    Guide for the Perplexed
    (University of Chicago Press, 2008).
    Conservative Buddhists rejected the round world theory. They believed the
    historical Buddha had perfect knowledge, and if the historical Buddha believed
    in the Mount Meru cosmos, then it must be true.

    Some scholars, however, adapted what we might call a
    modernist interpretation of the universe of Mount Meru. Among the first of
    these was the Japanese scholar Tominaga Nakamoto (1715-1746). Tominaga argued
    that when the historical Buddha discussed Mount Meru, he was only drawing upon
    the understanding of the cosmos common to his time. The Buddha did not invent
    the Mount Meru cosmos, nor was belief in it integral to his teachings.


    However, a great many Buddhist scholars stuck to the
    conservative view, that Mount Meru was “real.” Christian missionaries
    tried to discredit Buddhism by arguing that if the Buddha was wrong about Mount
    Meru, his teachings couldn’t be trusted. It should be noted that most of these
    same missionaries believed the sun revolved around the earth.

    Faced with this foreign challenge, to some priests and
    teachers defending Mount Meru was tantamount to defending the Buddha himself.
    Elaborate models were constructed and calculations made to “prove”
    astronomical phenomena were better explained by Buddhist theories than by
    western science. And of course some fell back on the argument that Mount Meru
    existed, but only the enlightened could see it.

    In most of Asia the Mount Meru controversy continued
    until late in the 19th century, when Asian astronomers came to see for
    themselves that the earth was round, and educated Asians accepted the
    scientific view.

    Last Holdout: Tibet

    Professor Lopez writes that the Mount Meru controversy
    didn’t reach isolated Tibet until the 20th century. A Tibetan scholar named
    Gendun Chopel spent the years 1936 to 1943 traveling in south Asia, soaking up
    the modern view of the cosmos that by then was accepted even in conservative
    monasteries. In 1938 Gendun Chopel sent an article to the Tibet Mirror informing his country
    persons that the world is round.

    The current Dalai Lama, who has
    flown about the round world several times, seems to have put an end to flat
    earthism among Tibetans by saying the historical Buddha was wrong about the
    shape of the earth. However, “The purpose of the Buddha coming to this
    world was not to measure the circumference of the world and the distance
    between the earth and the moon, but rather to teach the Dharma, to liberate
    sentient beings, to relieve sentient beings of their sufferings.”

    Even so, Donald Lopez recalls meeting a lama in 1977 who
    still held onto a belief in Mount Meru.

    Meru in the West

    In the West, in some Buddhist traditions, little is said
    these days about Mount Meru. It seems only to be a quaint bit of irrelevant
    trivia that pops up in sutras from time to time. Possibly some mistake the
    mythical Mount Meru for an African mountain of the same name. In other
    traditions, the old cosmology is still taught as a metaphysical model.

    The historical Buddha taught us about the nature of
    suffering and the means to be liberated from it, not to teach us facts about
    the phenomenal universe. This might teach us to be cautious about linking
    Buddhism and science too tightly. There is no need for Buddhism and science to
    contradict each other, but they are not necessarily about the same things.





    Pythagoras of Samos (560BC -


    “Through Vibration comes

    Through Motion comes Color

    Through Color comes Tone”

    He was a Greek philosopher who was responsible for important developments in
    the history of mathematics, astronomy, and the theory of music. He founded the
    Pythagorean Brotherhood and formulated principles that influenced the thoughts
    of Plato and Aristotle. The influence of Pythagoras is so widespread, and
    coupled with the fact that no writings of Pythagoras exist today, this short
    article will attempt to guide the reader through the life of this most
    remarkable teacher.

    He traveled widely in his youth with his father Mnesarchus, who was a gem
    merchant from Tyre. His family settled in the homeland of his mother, Pythais,
    on the island of Samos, where he studied with the philosopher Pherekydes. He
    was introduced to mathematical ideas and astronomy by Thales, and his pupil
    Anaximander in Miletus when he was between 18 and 20 years old. Thales advised
    Pythagoras to travel to Egypt to learn more of these subjects. Leaving Miletus,
    Pythagoras went first to Sidon, where he was initiated into the mysteries of
    Tyre and Byblos. It is claimed that Pythagoras went onto Egypt with a letter of
    introduction written by Polycrates, making the journey with some Egyptian
    sailors who believed that a god had taken passage on their ship. Arriving in
    Egypt, Pythagoras tried to gain entry into the Mystery Schools of that country.
    He applied again and again, but he was told that unless he goes through a
    particular training of fasting and breathing, he cannot be allowed to enter the
    school. Pythagoras is reported to have said, ” I have come for knowledge,
    not any sort of discipline.” But the school authorities said,” we
    cannot give you knowledge unless you are different. And really, we are not
    interested in knowledge at all, we are interested in actual experience. No
    knowledge is knowledge unless it is lived and experienced. So you will have to
    go on a 40 day fast, continuously breathing in a certain manner, with a certain
    awareness on certain points.” After 40 days of fasting and breathing,
    aware, attentive, he was allowed to enter the school at Diospolis. It is said
    that Pythagoras said,”You are not allowing Pythagoras in. I am a different
    man, I am reborn. You were right and I was wrong, because then my whole
    standpoint was intellectual. Through this purification, my center of being has
    changed. Before this training I could only understand through the intellect,
    through the head. Now I can feel. Now truth is not a concept to me, but a

    He spent the next 22 years perfecting himself in mathematics, astronomy, music,
    and was initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries. When Cambyses II, the king of
    Persia invaded Egypt in 525BC, he made Pythagoras his prisoner and sent him to
    Babylon. He utilized this misfortune as an opportunity for growth, and for the
    next 12 years he studied with the Magi and was initiated into the Chaldean Mysteries.
    Leaving Babylon, he made his way through Persia to India, where he continued
    his education under the Brachmanes. At that time India was still feeling the
    effects of the spiritual revival brought about by Gautama the Buddha. Although
    Pythagoras arrived in India too late to come into personal contact with the
    Buddha, he was greatly influenced by his teachings. He went to India a student,
    he left it as a teacher, and even to this day he is known in that country as
    Pitar Guru, and as Yavanacharya, the Ionian Teacher.

    Pythagoras was 56 years old when he finally returned to his homeland. When he
    arrived in Samos he found the island crushed and ruined, its temples and
    schools closed, its wise men fleeing from the tyranny and persecution of the
    Persian conquerors. Instead of being welcomed by his countrymen, Pythagoras
    found them indifferent to the wisdom he was eager to impart. He left Samos and
    went to southern Italy, settling in Crotona, a town situated on the Gulf of
    Tarentum. He was invited to speak before the Senate of Crotona, and so greatly
    impressed them with his wisdom, that they decided to build him an institute,
    which would serve as a school of philosophy and an academy of science. Although
    it was understood that it would be patterned after the Mystery Schools, there
    was nothing about the place suggesting secrecy save a statue of Hermes
    Trismegistus at the door of the inner school with the words on the pedestal:
    “Let no profane enter here.”

    The institute was comprised of three orders. The outer order was called the
    ‘akoustici’, who lived in their own houses only coming to the institute during
    the day. They were allowed their own possessions and were not required to be
    vegetarians. Acceptance into this outer society was granted after a 3 year probationary
    period. Both men and women were permitted to become members of the order, in
    fact 28 women were admitted to the institute. The inner order of the society
    was called the ‘mathematikoi’, who lived permanently with the society, and had
    no personal possessions and were vegetarians. They were taught by Pythagoras
    himself and obeyed strict rules. The third level of initiation within the
    institute was the ‘electi’, who were instructed in the secret processes of
    psychic transmutation, how to heal with sound, and lived a strict discipline in
    accordance with the code of the Great Mystery Schools.

    The daily life of a student at Crotona followed a strict schedule. At sunrise
    they engaged in meditation, pronouncing a mantram on a certain tone. They
    reviewed all their actions of the previous day and planned the coming day in
    full detail. After breakfast they took a solitary walk and went to the
    gymnasium for exercise. The rest of the morning was spent in study. At noon the
    Order ate together in small groups dining on bread and honey. After lunch
    students could receive their relatives and friends in the gardens of the
    institute. This was followed by another walk in the company of other students.
    At the close of the day, they ate together and read aloud. Before retiring each
    student again meditated and chanted his evening mantram. Those who were unable
    to stand the discipline left the school and went out again into the world. Even
    in the higher degrees of the institute, some occasionally failed by breaking
    their pledge of secrecy or some other rule which bound them. These students
    were expelled from the institute, and a tomb bearing their name was erected in
    the garden. Pythagoras taught that such a student was dead.”His body
    appears among men,” he said, ” but his soul is dead. Let us weep for
    it! ”

    In Astronomy Pythagoras taught that the Earth was a sphere at the center of the
    universe. He recognized that the orbit of the moon was inclined to the equator
    of the earth, and he was one of the first to realize that Venus as an evening
    star, was the same planet as the morning star. He taught that the movements of
    the planets traveling through the universe created sounds, and could be
    perceived by those who were trained to hear them. This music of the spheres
    could be replicated using a single stringed instrument called the monochord.
    Pythagoras used the monochord to explain musical intervals and harmonics to his
    students. He taught how harmony may be produced when tuning the high and low
    notes in the octave, thereby laying the foundation for many of the theories and
    teachings that have come down through the musical traditions.

    Pythagoras observed that when a blacksmith struck his anvil, different notes
    were produced according to the weight of the hammer. That if you take 2 strings
    in the same degree of tension, and then divide one of them exactly in half,
    when they are plucked, the pitch of the shorter string is exactly one octave
    higher than the longer string. He also discovered that if the length of the 2
    strings are in relation to each other 2:3, the difference in pitch is called a
    fifth. Pythagoras stressed that different musical modes have different effects
    on the person who hears them, and that music could be applied to healing
    illness both mental and physical. In 513BC he went to Delos to nurse his old
    teacher, Pherekydes who was dying. He remained at his bedside playing his lyre
    and feeding him until he died. In 508BC the Pythagoreon Society at Croton was
    attacked by Cylon, a noble of Croton itself. Pythagoras escaped to Metapontium
    and most authors say he died there. Evidence is unclear as to when and where
    the death of Pythagoras accurred.

    The beliefs that Pythagoras held were:

    1) that at its deepest level, reality is mathematical in nature
    2) that philosophy can be used for spiritual purification
    3) that the Soul can rise to union with the Divine
    4) that certain symbols have a mystical significance
    5) that all brothers of the Order should observe strict loyalty and secrecy

    Pythagoras was the first to call the heavens a universe and the earth round.
    That the Soul was immortal, and that it changes from one body to another. The
    Pythagorean Brotherhood was one of the worlds earliest unpriestly cooperative
    scientific societies, if not the first, and that its members invented the
    multiplication table, and raised important scientific problems which were
    solved 15 centuries later.



    The Book of Secrets- Osho
    Healing Sounds- Jonathan Goldman


    Ancient Landmarks- Wisdom World
    Greek Philosophy- Hellenism Network
    Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans- Arthur Fairbanks
    Pythagoras and Mystic Science- Dr.Daniel Farhey
    Pythagoras- Britannica
    Pythagoras- Aamodt,Hatlem, and Smebye
    Pythagoras:Music and Space- J. Boyd-Brent
    Pythagoras of Samos- J.J.O’Conner and E.F.Robertson
    Pythagoras and His School- Raghavan Iyer


    Buddhism and
    Probing the Boundaries of Faith and Reason

    Dr. Martin J.

    Religion East
    and West
    , Issue 1, June 2001, pp. 77-97


     Western interest in Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, historically
    coincided with the rise of modern science and the corresponding perceived
    decline of religious orthodoxy in the West. Put simply: Modern science
    initiated a deep spiritual crisis that led to an unfortunate split between
    faith and reason—a split yet to be reconciled. Buddhism was seen as an
    “alternative altar,” a bridge that could reunite the estranged worlds
    of matter and spirit. Thus, to a large extent Buddhism’s flowering in the West
    during the last century came about to satisfy post-Darwinian needs to have
    religious beliefs grounded in new scientific truth.

    As science still constitutes something of a “religion” in the West,
    the near-absolute arbiter of truth, considerable cachet still attends the
    linking of Buddhism to science. Such comparison and assimilation is inevitable
    and in some ways, healthy. At the same time, we need to examine more closely to
    what extent the scientific paradigm actually conveys the meaning of Dharma.
    Perhaps the resonance between Buddhism and Western science is not as
    significant as we think. Ironically, adapting new and unfamiliar Buddhist
    conceptions to more ingrained Western thought-ways, like science, renders
    Buddhism more popular and less exotic; it also threatens to dilute its impact
    and distort its content.

    Historians since the end of World War II, have suggested that the encounter
    between East and West represents the most significant event of the modern era.
    Bertrand Russell pointed to this shift at the end of World War II when he
    wrote, “If we are to feel at home in the world, we will have to admit Asia to
    equality in our thoughts, not only politically, but culturally. What changes
    this will bring, I do not know. But I am convinced they will be profound and of
    the greatest importance.”

    recently, the historian Arthur Versluis, in a new book, American
    Transcendentalism and Asian Religions
    (1993), pieced together five
    or six major historical views on this subject, and presented this by way of

    much people today realize it, the encounter of Oriental and Occidental
    religious and philosophical traditions, of Buddhist and Christian and Hindu and
    Islamic perspectives, must be regarded as one of the most extraordinary
    meetings of our age. . . . Arnold Toynbee once wrote that of all the historical
    changes in the West, the most important—and the one whose effects have been
    least understood—is the meeting of Buddhism in the Occident. . . . And when and
    if our era is considered in light of larger societal patterns and movements,
    there can be no doubt that the meeting of East and West, the mingling of the
    most ancient traditions in the modern world, will form a much larger part of
    history than we today with our political-economic emphases, may think.

    These are not isolated opinions. Many writers, scholars, intellectuals,
    scientists, and theologians have proclaimed the importance of the meeting of
    East and West. Occidental interest in the Orient predates the modern era. There
    is evidence of significant contact between East and West well before the
    Christian era. Even in the New World, curiosity and interchange existed right
    from the beginning, as early as the 1700s. One can find allusions to Asian
    religions in Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, and of course,
    more developed expressions in Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    By the mid-twentieth century this growing fascination with Asian thought led Arnold
    Toynbee to envision a new world civilization emerging from a convergence of
    East and West. He anticipated that the spiritual philosophies of Asia would
    touch profoundly on the three basic dimensions of human existence: Our
    relationships with each other (social); with ourselves (psychological); and,
    with the physical world (natural). What is the shape and significance of this
    encounter? What does Buddhism contribute to the deeper currents of Western thought;
    and more specifically, to our struggle to reconcile faith with reason, religion
    with science?

    Science was already the ascendant intellectual sovereign when Buddhism made its
    first serious entry on the American scene in the latter decades of the 19th
    century. A World’s Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the 1893
    Colombian Exposition in Chicago, brought to America for the first time a large
    number of Asian representatives of the Buddhist faith. These missionaries
    actively and impressively participated in an open forum with Western
    theologians, scientists, ministers, scholars, educators, and reformers. This
    unprecedented ecumenical event in the American heartland came at a most opportune
    time. America was ready and eager for a new source of inspiration, ex orient
    , the ‘light of Asia.’

    By the 1890s America was caught in the throes of a spiritual crisis affecting
    Christendom worldwide. Modern scientific discoveries had so undermined a
    literal interpretation of sacred scripture, that for many educated and
    thoughtful people, it was no longer certain that God was in his heaven and that
    all was right with the world. These rapid changes and transformations in almost
    every aspect of traditional faith, had such irreversible corrosive effects on
    religious orthodoxy, that they were dubbed, “acids of modernity.”
    They ate away at received convictions, and ushered in an unprecedented erosion
    of belief. People like my grandparents, brought up with rock-solid belief in
    the infallible word of God, found their faith shaken to its very foundations.
    It was as if overnight they suddenly awoke to a new world governed not by
    theological authority but by scientists. New disclosures from the respected
    disciplines of geology, biology, and astronomy challenged and shattered
    Biblical accounts of the origins of the natural world and our place and purpose
    in it.          Sigmund Freud captured
    the spirit of the age well when he said “the self-love of mankind has been
    three times wounded by science.” The Copernican Revolution, continued by
    Galileo, took our little planet out of the center position in the universe. The
    Earth, held to be the physical and metaphysical center of the Universe, was
    reduced to a tiny speck revolving around a sun. Then Darwin all but eliminated
    the divide between animal and man, and with it the “special creation”
    status enjoyed by humans. Darwin, moreover, diminished God. The impersonal
    forces of natural selection kept things going; no divine power was necessary.
    Nor, from what any competent scientist could demonstrate with any factual
    certainty, was any Divinity even evident—either at the elusive
    “creation,” or in the empirical present. Karl Marx people portrayed
    people as economic animals grouped into competing classes driven by material
    self-interest. Finally, Freud himself characterized religious faith as an
    evasion of truth, a comforting illusion sustained by impulses and desires
    beyond the reach of the rational intellect. Nietzsche’s famous declaration that
    “God is Dead” may have seemed extreme, but few would have denied that God was
    ailing. And certainly the childhood version of a personal, all-powerful God
    that created the world and ruled over it with justice and omniscience was for
    many a comforting vision lost forever.

    One of the lingering side effects of this loss has been the unfortunate
    disjunction of matter and spirit that afflicts the modern age. It can assume
    many forms: a split between matter and spirit, a divorce between faith and
    reason, a dichotomy between facts and values. At a more personal level, it
    manifests as a mind-body dualism. An unwelcome spiritual and psychological
    legacy from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is still very much with us
    today, something that haunts our psyches.

    Much of today’s near-obsession with therapy in the West, and even the shift
    toward psychologizing religion (including the “New Age” phenomenon) could be
    seen as attempts to heal this deep sense of alienation. The pragmatic
    philosopher, John Dewey, wrote: “The pathological segregation of facts and
    value, matter and spirit, or the bifurcation of nature, this integration [i. e.
    the problem of integrating this] poses the deepest problem of modern life.” This
    problem both inspires and confounds contemporary philosophy and religion.
    Wholeness eludes us while the split endures; and yet, almost tragically, the
    very means we have available to heal it insure its continuation. For, all of
    our philosophies, academic disciplines, therapies, and even religious
    traditions are informed by and rooted in aspects of this dualism. Perhaps the
    most visible expression of this pathological segregation is the gap between
    science and religion.

    Thus, when the eminent philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead
    scanned the broad outlines of our time, he wrote: “The future course of history
    would center on this generation’s resolving the issue of the proper
    relationship between science and religion, so fundamental are the religious
    symbols through which people give meaning to their lives and so powerful the
    scientific knowledge through which we shape and control our lives.” And it is
    in regard to this troubling issue, I think, that Eastern religions, particularly
    Buddhism, are seen to hold out the promise of achieving some resolution. The
    idea dates back over a hundred years.

    After the 1893 Chicago Parliament of World Religions, one Paul Carus, a
    Chicago-based editor of the Open Court Press, invited some of the influential
    Japanese Buddhist delegates to a week-long discussion at the home of Carus’s
    father-in-law, Edward Hegeler. Both deeply felt the spiritual crisis of the
    times. Both were trying to reform Christianity to bring it in line with current
    thought; in short, to make religion scientific. It occurred to them that
    Buddhism was already compatible with science, and could be used to nudge
    Christianity in the same direction. Toward this end, Carus wanted to support a
    Buddhist missionary movement to the United States from Asia. His thinking was
    to create something of a level playing field. Carus had witnessed the most
    ambitious missionary undertaking in modern history that send thousands of
    Protestant missionaries abroad to convert the people ‘sitting in darkness.’ He
    wished to conduct a Darwinian experiment of ’survival of the fittest.” His
    goal: to bring Buddhist missionaries to America where they could engage in
    healthy competition with their Christian counterparts in the East, and thus determine
    the “fittest” to survive.

    With the aid of his wealthy father-in-law who put up money, they sponsored a
    number of Eastern missionaries to the United States: Anagarika Dharmapala, from
    what was then Ceylon, now Sri Lanka; Swami Vivekananda, from India representing
    the Ramakrishna Vedanta movement; and Soyen Shaku, a Japanese Buddhist monk,
    and Shaku’s young disciple D.T. Suzuki. During his stay in the United States in
    the late 1890s and early 1900s, Suzuki lived in the small town of LaSalle/Peru,
    Illinois. He was in his twenties then, and for about eleven years he worked
    closely with Paul Carus translating Buddhist texts into English and putting out
    inexpensive paperback editions of the Asian classics. Suzuki later became the
    leading exponent of Zen in the West, when he returned in the 1950s on a
    Rockefeller grant to lecture extensively at East Coast colleges.  He
    influenced writers and thinkers like Carl Jung, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm,
    Martin Heidegger, Thomas Merton, Alan Watts, and the “beat Buddhists”—Jack
    Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder. Suzuki died in 1966 in Tokyo. His
    influence in the West was profound—making Zen an English word, translating
    Asian texts into English, stimulating a scholarly interest in the Orient among
    American intellectuals, and deepening American respect and enthusiasm for
    Buddhism. The historian Lynn White Jr. praised Suzuki as someone who broke
    through the “shell of the Occident” and made the West’s thinking
    global. His introduction to the West came about through the hands of Paul


    These early missionaries of Buddhism to the West, including Carus himself, all
    shared the same modern, reformist outlook. They translated Buddhism into a
    medium and a message compatible and resonant with the scientific and
    progressive spirit of the Age. They selectived passages of text to favor that
    slant, and carefully presented the Buddhist teachings in such a way as to
    appeal to modern sensibilities—empirical, rational, and liberal. Americans
    wanted religion to “make sense,” to accord with conventional wisdom.
    Then, as now, our primary mode of making sense of things was
    positivist—reliable knowledge based on natural phenomena as verified by
    empirical sciences. So firmly entrenched is the scientific outlook that it has
    for all practical purposes taken on a near-religious authority. Few, then or
    now, critically question our faith in science; we presume its validity and give
    it an almost unquestioned place as the arbiter of truth.

    Thus, the early missionaries of Buddhism to America purposely stripped Buddhism
    of any elements that might appear superstitious, mythological, even mystical.
    Dharmapala, Suzuki, and Vivekananda clearly ascertained that Americans measured
    truth in science, and science posed little theological threat to a Buddhist and
    Hindu worldview. After all, Buddhism had unique advantages for someone who
    rejected their faith (Christian) due to its authoritarianism and unscientific

    Buddhism did not assert or depend upon the existence of a God

    Buddhism was a superstition-free moral ideal; it conformed to the scientific
    view of an ordered universe ruled by law (Dharma)—a system both moral and
    physical where everything seemed to work itself out inexorably over vast
    periods of time without divine intervention (karma)

    Buddhism posited no belief in gods who could alter the workings of this natural

    Buddhism was a religion of self-help with all depending on the individual
    working out his/her own salvation

    “Original” Buddhism was seen as the “Protestantism of
    Asia,” and Buddha as another Luther who swept away the superstitions and
    rituals of an older, corrupted form and took religion back to its pure and
    simple origins

    Buddhism presented an attractive personal founder who led life of great
    self-sacrifice; parallels were drawn between Jesus and Buddha as the
    inspiration of a personal figure exerted strong appeal to seekers who had given
    up on theology and metaphysics.

    Thus, Buddhism was packaged and presented in its most favorable light viz a viz
    the current spiritual crisis in the West; and, not surprisingly, Buddhism
    seemed immensely reasonable and appealing to Americans. Darwinism might be
    undermining Biblical Christianity, but it only enhanced Buddhism’s standing.


    In fact, Darwin’s theory of evolution, which struck the most severe blow to the
    Judaeo-Christian edifice, was taken up as the leading banner for Buddhist
    propagation. With Darwin the concept of evolution became enshrined in the
    popular mind. Everything was evolutionary—species, races, nations, economies,
    religions, the universe—from the micro to the macro. Social Darwinists even saw
    evolution operating behind the vicissitudes of free-market capitalism. As the
    constant interaction of stimulus and response in nature, evolution seemed to
    match nicely with the notion of karma—the cyclical unfolding of events governed
    by the law of cause and effect. So Anagarika Dharmapala could announce in
    Chicago to his largely Judaeo-Christian audience that “the theory of
    evolution was one of the ancient teachings of the Buddha.” As it was in
    nature (at least in the new natural world of Darwin), so it was in the Buddhist

    Most people drawn to Eastern religions did not examine very closely the
    supposed identity of Darwin’s evolution and the Buddhist concept of karma. They
    were content, even predisposed, to imagine them the same. Buddhists ardent to
    convert Americans to Buddhism, as well as Christians eager to find some
    correspondence between modern science and their beleaguered faith, were happy
    to say, “Yes, the similarities are close enough;  look, how the ancient
    Eastern religions anticipated our modern science!” Vivekananda, the
    charismatic and eloquent Ramakrishna delegate from India, met only hurrahs of
    affirmation when he proclaimed to a Chicago audience that the latest
    discoveries of science seemed “like the echoes from the high spiritual
    flights of Vedantic philosophy.”

    This facile view that Buddhism and science were cut of the same cloth accorded
    nicely with the longing to reconnect the sacred and the secular. It held out
    hope that religion could once again assume its rightful place alongside (if no
    longer in the lead of) the emerging disciplines of biology, geology, and
    physics. It also fit neatly with the presumed “unity of truth” that
    Victorians held to so dearly—there could only be one truth, not two. The very
    nature of reality demanded that the truths of science and religion be one and
    the same.  Carus called his new system of thought “the Religion
    of  Science,” and Max Muller called his new theology “the
    Science of Religion.”

    This trend linking Buddhism to science continued, even accelerated, into the
    20th century. Einstein’s work and further developments in the new cutting-edge
    physics seemed to provide even further evidence that science and Buddhism were
    merely different rivers leading to the same sea. Where the old theologies
    crumbled under the juggernaut of science, Buddhism seemed to hold its own, even
    thrive. The early (and even contemporary) exponents of Buddhism pushed this
    idea. It remains an area of great promise and interest; but it is not one
    without difficulties.

    One of the first to question this marriage, interestingly, was also one of its
    earliest  proponents, D.T. Suzuki. When Suzuki came to the United States
    to collaborate with Paul Carus, both were outspoken advocates of the link
    between Buddhism and science. Suzuki’s early writings make virtually no
    distinction between Buddhism and science. For Suzuki, Buddhism was eminently
    modern and progressive, compatible with the latest discoveries in Western
    psychology and philosophy. It was, in a word, scientifically sound.

    By the time Suzuki returned to the United States in the 1950s, however, he had
    experienced a change of heart. He then wrote that his initial thinking—that
    religion must be based on scientific grounds and that Christianity was based on
    too much mythology—was a little ill-founded. An older, perhaps wiser Suzuki,
    came to doubt the sufficiency of a religion based on science, and even saw the
    need for religion to critique science. In 1959, Suzuki wrote that his early
    modernist agreement with Hegeler and Carus that “religion must stand on
    scientific grounds…Christianity was based too much on mythology,” was
    ill-founded. “If it were possible for me to talk with them now,” he
    reflected, “I would tell them that my ideas have changed from theirs
    somewhat. I now think that a religion based solely on science is not enough.
    There are certain ‘mythological’ elements in every one of us, which cannot be
    altogether lost in favor of science. This is a conviction I have come

    What had changed? First of all, two world wars. As the contemporary writer Kurt
    Vonnegut  has wryly observed, “We took scientific truth and dropped it on
    the people of Hiroshima.” Suzuki was, of course, Japanese; he felt directly the
    negative weight of modern science. Having survived the brutal experience of a
    war initiated, carried out, and ended with weapons of mass destruction born of
    modern science, he was left less sanguine about the idyllic marriage with
    religion and science that he had heralded at the turn of the century. Suzuki
    was enjoying the wisdom of hindsight; but in fairness to Suzuki, so were many
    other people.

    Since Suzuki’s turnabout in 1959, there have  been even further, more
    fundamental challenges to the presumed closeness of Buddhism and science.
    Questions have arisen in two areas. One, as a society we have come to reassess
    the blessings and the promise of modern science in terms of the
    socio-psychological impact. While people are mesmerized by science and dream
    about what science can do for them, they also have nightmares about what
    science can do to them. This bittersweet realization lingers in the
    contemporary psyche: we dream about all the wonderful things science is going
    to do for us; at the same time we are haunted by unsettling specters of the
    dreadful things science could do to us. This concern and troubling ambivalence
    seems to grow, not diminish, with each scientific advance.

    At the popular level, movies and television play on variations of the
    Frankenstein, Godzilla, the X-Files motif, reflecting anxieties over
    science-gone-wrong. These “monsters” give form (albeit imaginary) to
    some of humanity’s deepest fears. They reflect not only the apprehension of
    Pandora’s box unearthed, but more significantly, the hubris of human pride and
    lust for power unrestrained. Nowhere is this more evident than in the new field
    of biotechnology—the actual manipulation of life at the subtle genetic source.
    Scientists now talk of the end of evolution, the end of nature, in the sense
    that humans will soon replace nature to direct the course of creation
    themselves. Doctor Panayiotis Zavos, who is now actively engaged in producing
    the first human clone, announced proudly, “Now that we have crossed into the
    third millennium, we have the technology to break the rules of nature.'’

    Thus, the development and unleashing of “advanced” weapons of mass
    destruction through two World Wars, the Cold War, and now almost daily in
    “hot spots” throughout the world; the unenlightened tampering with
    nature that has brought about widespread environmental pollution; the almost
    cavalier experiments with human reproduction, cloning, genetically engineered
    life, chemical-biological warfare—all threaten to make reality more frightening
    than fiction.

    The second area of doubt regarding modern science arises from within the
    scientific community itself. The last decades of the 20th century have seen an
    internal reexamination take place within almost every scientific discipline, as
    each has been forced to question its own foundations and exclusive claims to
    truth. We are in the midst of a major paradigm shift, the outcome of which
    still remains unclear. It revolves around a loss of the positivistic certainty
    that science once enjoyed and now finds slipping away. Ironically, the
    scientific “establishment” finds itself confronting a challenge to
    its exclusive authority that in many ways mirrors the spiritual crisis that
    religious orthodoxy faced with the triumph of modern science.

    Sigmund Freud exemplifies this ironic shift. Perhaps more than any modern
    thinker, he contributed to the undermining of religious certainty. He stated
    quite unequivocally that “an illusion would be to suppose that what science
    would not give us, we can get elsewhere.” Elsewhere, of course, refers to
    religion, as he made clear in his pessimistic indictment of religion in The
    Future of an Illusion
    . And yet his own psychoanalytic theory has become a
    matter of intense debate, and has come under the critical scrutiny of the very
    scientific system he felt would validate his ideas. But it is in areas other
    than psychology, most notably in physics, and increasingly in the life
    sciences, that a growing body of new knowledge is beginning to strain existing
    models of explanation and understanding.


    With the ground-breaking work of Niels Bohr, Heisenberg, and Sir Arthur
    Eddington, the rock-solid presupposition central to that classical scientific
    thought began to crumble. With the “new science” that started to
    emerge in the post-World War II era, the  observer and the observed could
    not be presumed separate and distinct. Gone too was the neat subject/object
    distinction that had come to define classical science. This shift away from the
    study of the “outside” objective world of nature to the
    “inner” subjective world of the observer is a hallmark of the new
    science. As Heisenberg observed, “Even in science, the object of research is no
    longer nature itself, but man’s investigation of nature.”

    For example, Heisenberg pointed out that the very act of measurement interfered
    with what one was attempting to measure. You cannot separate the subject from
    the object of the experiment. So, if the scientist changes the very nature of
    the “reality” he or she investigates, then what is truth? What is
    purely objective fact? Where does the boundary lie (indeed, if there is one)
    between the mind and the external world? Consequently, the quantum theory of
    the new physics no longer claims to be describing “reality.” It
    describes probable realities. The new physics looks for possible
    realities and finds them so elusive that no one model can exhaustively account
    for everything. The indeterminacy of models has replaced earlier certainties.

    Some, like Thomas Kuhn, even questioned the notion of science as an objective
    progression towards truth. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
    (1962), Kuhn observed that science, like religion, becomes heavily encumbered
    with its own baggage of non-rational procedures. Science accumulates its
    peculiar set of  presuppositions, doctrines, and even heresies. Kuhn
    essentially demolished the logical empiricist and purist view that science
    personified the impartial progression towards a universal truth. Instead, he
    saw it as a series of shifting “paradigms”—a global way of seeing
    things which is relatively immune from disconfirmation by experience. One
    paradigm would hold sway for awhile, only to be displaced in a
    “revolution” by another conceptual worldview.  These paradigms,
    both self-contained and self-perpetuating, tended to conserve and perpetuate
    their own ideas, just as religion tends to conserve and perpetuate its own

    For example, Galileo declared in the early 1600s that Copernicus was correct:
    The earth moves, and the sun is the center of our galaxy. The Church denounced
    these views as heresies and dangerous to the Faith. They forced Galileo to
    recant during a trial under the Inquisition. Although he was publicly compelled
    to affirm the existing “scientific” paradigm, Galileo still defied
    the authorities. After getting up from his knees, he is said to have mumbled
    “E pur si muove” (nevertheless it still moves).  Placed under
    house arrest, Galileo lived out the rest of his life in seclusion.

    The world, of course, shifted paradigms to accept the Copernican worldview. The
    Church, however, lagged behind, and only in 1992 did the Vatican lift the 1616
    ban on the Copernican teaching. Einstein, whose theory of relativity was at
    first met with skepticism and doubt, later became an icon of scientific genius.
    And yet, even Einstein found himself resisting the new theories of the quantum
    physicists towards the end of his life—once again adding credibility to Kuhn’s

     Whether Kuhn is correct or not is beside the point. His critique
    illustrates a larger trend: the suspicion that science does not have absolute
    answers, nor even ultimate authority. Thus, modern science presents less of a
    unified front, less of a final bastion of truth. Certainly many people still
    see themselves as living in a black and white world. But, in general, many
    scientists are coming to define their discipline in a more humble and tentative
    way. Science, for people at the turn of the century, stood for absolute, fixed
    truths and principles that held good forever; it embraced and explained an
    unchanging reality, or at least a reality that was changing according to
    constant and predictable laws. Today we are more modest, less presumptuous. A
    better working definition of science now might be “a form of inquiry into
    natural phenomena; a consensus of information held at any one time and all of
    which may be modified by new discoveries and new interpretations at any
    moment.” In contemporary science, uncertainty seems to be the rule.

    Thus, it grows increasingly difficult to believe in an external world governed
    by mechanisms that science discloses once and for all. Thoughtful people find
    themselves hesitant, unmoored, with an up-in-the-air kind of feeling regarding
    the most basic facts of life. It is said that “we live in an age when
    anything is possible and nothing is certain.” This post-modern dilemma
    highlights the felt need to reconcile facts and values, morals and machines,
    science with spirituality. And while traditional Judaeo-Christian theologies
    struggle to address this particularly contemporary malaise, Buddhism maneuvers
    this tricky terrain with apparent ease and finds itself sought after with
    renewed interest and popularity.

    Moreover, some observers have puzzled over this anomaly: Asia accelerates in
    its secular and material modernization (read “Westernization”), while
    the West shows signs of a spiritual revitalization drawing on largely Asian
    sources—especially Buddhism. Buddhism is being ‘Westernized’ to be seen as a
    teaching that can mesh with both the good life and mitigate the stress of the
    faith/reason divide. Part of Buddhism’s immense appeal lies in its analysis of
    the mind, the subject/self—exactly the area where modern science now senses the
    next breakthroughs are to be made.

    The Buddha, well before Aquinas or Heisenberg, stressed the primacy of the mind
    in the perception and even “creation” of reality. A central concept
    of Buddhism is the idea that “everything is made from the mind.” Any
    distinction between subject and object is false, imagined, at best an expedient
    nod to demands of conventional language. In the Avatamsaka Sutra, the
    Buddha uses metaphor to elucidate: “The mind is like an artist/It can
    paint an entire world. . . If a person knows the workings of the mind/As it
    universally creates the world/This person then sees the Buddha/And understands
    the Buddha’s true and actual nature.” (Chap. 20) We think we are observing
    nature, but what we are observing is our own mind at work. We are the subject
    and object of our own methodology. Moreover, this mind encompasses the entirety
    of the universe; there is nothing outside of it, nothing it does not contain,
    according to the Buddha. 

    Such insights early on intrigued Western thinkers, as Buddhism hinted of a new
    avenues of travel through the mind/matter maze. It led scientists like Albert
    Einstein to declare:

    religion of the future will be cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal
    God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual,
    it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all
    things, natural and spiritual and a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this
    description. . . If there is any religion that would cope with modern
    scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.

    Nobel Prize winner was not alone in his positive assessment of the
    Buddhism’s  potential for going beyond the boundaries of Western thought.
    The British mathematician, philosopher Alfred North Whitehead declared,
    “Buddhism is the most colossal example in the history of applied
    metaphysics.” His contemporary Bertrand Russell, another Nobel Prize
    winner, found in Buddhism the greatest religion in history because “it has
    had the smallest element of persecution.” But beyond the freedom of
    inquiry he attributed to the Buddha’s teaching, Russell discovered a superior
    scientific method—one that reconciled the speculative and the rational while
    investigating the ultimate questions of life:

    is a combination of both speculative and scientific philosophy. It advocates
    the scientific method and pursues that to a finality that may be called
    Rationalistic. In it are to be found answers to such questions of interest as:
    ‘What is mind and matter? Of them, which is of greater importance? Is the
    universe moving towards a goal? What is man’s position? Is there living that is
    noble?’ It takes up where science cannot lead because of the limitations of the
    latter’s instruments. Its conquests are those of the mind.

    As early as the 1940’s, the pioneering physicist Niels Bohr sensed this
    congruence between modern science and what he called “Eastern mysticism.” As he
    investigated atomic physics and searched for a unified field of reality, he
    often used the Buddha and Lao Tzu in his discussions on physics in his classes.
    He made up his own coat of arms with the yin/yang symbol on it. The American
    physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer also saw in Buddhism a scientific parallel to
    the puzzling riddles of modern physics; his cutting-edge discoveries seemed to
    echo the enigmatic wisdom of the ancient sage. Wrote Oppeheimer:

    we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we
    must say ‘no;’ if we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we
    must say ‘no;’ if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say ‘no;’ if
    we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no.’ The Buddha has given such
    answers when interrogated as to the conditions of man’s self after his death;
    but they are not familiar answers for the tradition of seventeenth and
    eighteenth-century science.

    In the 1970s, in The Tao Of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between
    Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism,
    Fritjof Capra expanded on some of
    Bohr’s and Oppenheimer’s tentative impressions. He argued that modern science
    and Eastern mysticism offer parallel insights into the ultimate nature of
    reality. But, beyond this, Capra suggested that the profound harmony between
    these concepts as expressed in systems language and the corresponding ideas of
    Eastern mysticism was impressive evidence for a remarkable claim: That mystical
    philosophy offers the most consistent background to our modern scientific

    In the 1970s this notion came as something of a bombshell. Suddenly religion
    and science reunited—though in a rather unexpected way—Eastern religion and
    Western science. This echoed the excitement of a hundred years previous that
    Carus and other late Victorians sensed in Buddhism’s potential. Then, however,
    the emphasis was on how Buddhism could help establish religion on a more
    scientific basis; now, it seems the other way around—that science is seeking
    Buddhism to stake out its spiritual or metaphysical claims.

    Regardless, those familiar with Buddhist texts immediately saw (or thought they
    saw) the correctness of Capra’s revelation. Certain Buddhist scriptures in fact
    seemed most solidly to confirm the linking of science and Dharma. The most oft-quoted
    is the famous teaching called the Kalama Sutta. 

    In this short discourse, we find the Buddha in his wanderings coming upon the
    village of the Kalamas. Religious seekers themselves, the Kalamas were
    bewildered by the plethora of divergent philosophies and teachers vying for
    their attention. They proceeded to ask the Buddha a series of questions. Here
    is the relevant portion of the text:

    Buddha once visited a small town called Kesaputta in the kingdom of Kosala. The
    inhabitants of this town were known by the common name Kalama. When they heard
    that the Buddha was in their town, the Kalamas paid him a visit, and told him:

    “Sir, there are some recluses and brahmanas who visit Kesaputta. They
    explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn
    others’ doctrines. Then come other recluses and brahmanas, and they, too, in
    their turn, explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn
    and spurn others’ doctrines. But, for us, Sir, we have always doubt and
    perplexity as to who among these venerable recluses and brahmanas spoke the
    truth, and who spoke falsehood.”

    “Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity,
    for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas, do
    not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of
    religious texts, not by mere logic or inference, nor by considering
    appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming
    possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’. But O Kalamas, when you
    know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong,
    and bad, then give them up…And when you know for yourselves that certain
    things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept them and follow them.”

    The Kalamas voiced their doubts, their perplexity in determining truth or
    falsehood, as a result of having been exposed to all the competing teachers and
    doctrines of India at the time: not unlike our modern world today. Each
    teacher, each school, expounded different and often conflicting notions of the
    truth. The Buddha’s response was to set down a methodology that was in many
    ways ahead of its time in anticipating the skeptical empiricism of the modern scientific

    He said, “Do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Don’t be led by
    the authority even of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by
    considering appearances”—all of which eliminate exclusive reliance on cultural
    convention, received tradition, and deductive speculation, as well as mere
    sense impressions. Also rejected were opinions and “seeming
    possibilities”—the stuff of preconceived bias and subjective imagination
    and fancy. (Some might argue that being “led by appearances” would
    include a narrow scientific method, at least as it has come to be popularly
    understood—i.e. an exaggerated reliance on natural phenomena as the only basis
    of what is true or real. It would also dismiss the equally exaggerated claim
    that scientific knowledge is the only valid kind of knowledge.The Buddha even
    discounts blind faith in one’s teacher.

     So what’s left? Here the Buddha lays out a subtle and quite unique
    epistemology: “Oh Kalamas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are
    unwholesome and wrong and bad, then give them up. And when you know that
    certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them.” But
    how to interpret this key passage?

    Many scholars and believers, both recently and at the turn of the century,
    jumped at this passage as confirmation that ancient Buddhist wisdom validates
    modern science. Early popularizers of Eastern religions in America like
    Anagarika Dharmapala, D. T. Suzuki, Paul Carus, and even Vedantists like
    Vivekananda, generally waxed enthusiastic about the compatibility of Eastern
    spirituality and Western science. They saw in passages like the Kalama Sutta
    proof positive that the Buddha prefigured the modern scientific outlook.
    Buddhism seemed eminently scientific: detached skeptical investigation of
    empirically testable phenomena; no faith, no dogma, no revelation. Experiments
    carried out by and confirmed by individuals regardless of time or place
    suggested “intersubjective testability”—one of the hallmarks of the
    scientific method. I do it, you do it; anyone can do it and obtain the same
    results. That Buddhism and science should be so nearly identical was
    understandably immensely appealing; it is also misleading.

    While American thinkers and newly converted Western Buddhists thought they saw
    a natural fit between Buddhism and science, Buddhist teachers more steeped in
    the traditional discipline were less apologetic and often more critical of such
    facile comparisons. Two notable contemporary examples come to mind: Master
    Hsuan Hua, from the Mahayana tradition, and Wapola Rahula, a Theravada
    scholar-monk, both threw cold water on this notion. 

    The Venerable Hsuan Hua, a Ch’an and Tripitika master from China, arrived in
    America in the early 1960s to propagate the Dharma in the West. As he observed
    and studied the trends and currents of contemporary thought, he showed little
    enthusiasm for what seemed to him the exaggerated claims of modern
    science—theoretical or applied. He said, “Within the limited world of the
    relative, that is where science is. It’s not an absolute Dharma. Science
    absolutely cannot bring true and ultimate happiness to people, neither
    spiritually nor materially.” This is strong criticism that portrays science as
    a discipline limited to relative truths, and as an unsatisfactory way of life.
    In another essay, he wrote:

    at modern science. Military weapons are modernized every day and are more and
    more novel every month. Although we call this progress, it’s nothing more than
    progressive cruelty. Science takes human life as an experiment, as child’s
    play, as it fulfills its desires through force and oppression.


    In 1989, Venerable Walpola Rahula, a Theravadin monk from Sri Lanka, also
    warned that daily life is being permeated by science. He cautioned, “We have
    almost become slaves of science and technology; soon we shall be worshipping
    it.” His comments come well into the final decades of the twentieth century,
    when many people had in effect turned science into a religious surrogate. The
    Venerable monk observed, “Early symptoms are that they tend to seek support
    from science to prove the validity of our religions.” Walpola Rahula elaborated
    on this point:

    justify them [i.e. religions] and make them modern, up-to-date, respectable,
    and accessible. Although this is somewhat well intentioned, it is ill-advised.
    While there are some similarities and parallel truths, such as the nature of
    the atom, the relativity of time and space, or the quantum view of the interdependent,
    interrelated whole, all these things were developed by insight and purified by

    critique goes to the heart of the matter: the capitulation of religion to
    scientific positivism; the yielding of almost all competing schemes of values
    to the scientific juggernaut. Huston Smith, the eminent scholar on the worlds
    religions, recently said that the weakness of modern religions in the West
    stems from their successful accommodation to culture. The contribution that
    Buddhism and other religions can make to the spiritual crisis facing modern
    society, therefore, may not lie in their compatibility with science, but in
    their ability to offer something that science cannot.

    More importantly, as Rahula argues, Dharma, or abiding spiritual truths, were
    discovered without the help of any external instrument. Rahula concluded, “It
    is fruitless, meaningless to seek support from science to prove religious
    truth. It is incongruous and preposterous to depend on changing scientific concepts
    to prove and support perennial religious truths.” Moreover, he echoes the
    deeper moral concerns expressed by Master Hua regarding the unexamined aims and
    consequences of the scientific endeavor:

    is interested in the precise analysis and study of the material world, and it
    has no heart. It knows nothing about love or compassion or righteousness or
    purity of mind. It doesn’t know the inner world of humankind. It only knows the
    external, material world that surrounds us.

    then suggests that the value of Buddhism redoubles, not as it can be made to
    seem more scientific, but in its reaffirming a different sensibility, an
    overarching and unyielding vision of humanity’s higher potential. He concludes

    the contrary, religion, particularly Buddhism, aims at the discovery and the
    study of humankind’s inner world: ethical, spiritual, psychological, and
    intellectual. Buddhism is a spiritual and psychological discipline that deals
    with humanity in total. It is a way of life. It is a path to follow and
    practice. It teaches man how to develop his moral and ethical character, which
    in Sanskrit is sila, and to cultivate his mind, samadhi, and to realize the
    ultimate truth, prajna wisdom, Nirvana.

     Both of these eminent monks pre-date and, in many ways, stand outside the
    popularization and “Westernization” of Buddhism. Unlike the
    Western-leaning translators of Buddhism Carus, Suzuki, Dharmapala, et al., they
    emerged from a monastic discipline grounded in a more traditional understanding,
    one less enamored of modern science and more critical of Western philosophy.
    They would not so readily concur with Sir Edwin Arnold, who wrote in his
    best-selling Light of Asia (1879) that “between Buddhism and modern
    science there exists a close intellectual bond.”

    With this in mind, it would do well to take another look at the passage quoted
    above from the Kalama Sutta:

    O Kalamas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome
    (akusala), and wrong, and bad, then give them up…And when you know for
    yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept
    them and follow them.

    These lines, I believe, hold the key to understanding the difference between
    Buddhism and modern science. The passage needs to be understood not simply as a
    nod to Western empiricism, but within a specific context of moral inquiry. This
    “knowing for yourself” locates knowledge (’scientia’) firmly within
    the moral sphere, both in its aims and its outcomes. It employs a meditative
    form of insight to penetrate the ultimate nature of reality. It implies a
    concept quite foreign to modern science: that the knower and what is known, the
    subject and object, fact and value, are not merely non-dual, but that knowledge
    itself is inescapably influenced by our moral and ethical being. Perhaps this
    is exactly what Suzuki intuited was lacking in modern science when he wrote in
    1959, “I now think that a religion based solely on science is not enough.
    There are certain ‘mythological’ elements in every one of us, which cannot be
    altogether lost in favor of science.”

    Regardless, none of this critical reassessment should come as a surprise to
    thoughtful Buddhists. The Shurangama Sutra clearly notes, “when the
    seed planted is crooked, the fruit will be distorted.” The close link
    between intention and result, cause and effect, is central to all Buddhist
    philosophy. It should be obvious and expected that the very fabric of modern
    science, lacking as it does a firm grounding in the moral sphere, would result
    in deleterious discoveries and incomplete uses. Tragic examples abound
    attesting to the ill-fated marriage of scientific technology and human

    Nor, from a Buddhist perspective, can these examples be seen as unintended
    consequences or accidents—they are, rather, unavoidable and logical outcomes of
    a partial though powerful system of thought. There is nothing in science per
    that would lead one to equate its advancement with increased social
    benefits and enhanced human values. And certainly the absence of ethical
    imperatives should alert any knowledgeable Buddhist to a fundamental flaw in
    equating the Eightfold Way with the practice of science. In fact, a close
    reading of the Buddhist sources, it seems, would lead one to question: Is
    science in itself sufficient for describing reality? Is it capable of meeting
    human needs?

    Thus, the aforementioned Kalamas passage, depending on one’s frame of
    reference, could be seen more as a critique of than a correspondence with
    modern science. The key to understanding this difference lies in a correct
    Buddhist interpretation of “know for yourselves,”
    “wholesome,” and “unwholesome.” As Walpola Rahula
    indicates, these concepts are part of a specific and disciplined form or
    methodology of self-cultivation which, when diligently practiced, leads to true
    knowledge and wisdom. This method is referred to in Buddhism as the “three
    non-outflow science” (san wu lou xue), and consists of morality,
    concentration, and wisdom (Sanskrit: sila, samadhi, prajna).

    The ethical component cannot be overemphasized, as “seeing things as they
    really are” entails an indispensable preliminary: “purification of
    the mind.” This clarity of mind and concentrated awareness in turn begins
    with and must be sustained by moral conduct. The Visuddhimagga (Path of
    Purification), an early Buddhist manual compiled in the 4th century by
    Buddhagosha, lists the Buddha’s “science” of inquiry as an
    interrelated three-step exercise of virtue, meditation, and insight. This is
    quite a different approach to knowledge than a modern-day scientist would
    presume or pursue. It is interesting that these ancient wisdom traditions
    considered moral purity as the absolute prerequisite of true knowledge, and
    that we today regard it as immaterial, if not downright irrelevant. Thus,
    fundamental and qualitatively different views of what constitutes knowledge and
    the acquisition of knowledge separate Buddhism and science.

    Aspects of the above epistemological formula appear throughout the Asian
    religious traditions. For example, Taoism speaks of cultivating the mind
    (hsin), regarding it as the repository of perceptions and knowledge—it rules
    the body, it is spiritual and like a divinity that will abide “only where
    all is clean.” Thus the Kuan Tzu (4 to 3rd century B.C.) cautions
    that “All people desire to know, but they do not inquire into that whereby
    one knows.” It specifies:

    all people desire to know is that (i.e., the external world),

    their means of knowing is this (i.e. oneself);

    can we know that?

    by the perfection of this. 

    Are we studying ourselves when we think we are studying nature? Will the
    “new science” eventually come to Kuan Tzu’s conclusion that only “by
    perfecting this,” can we truly know that?  These
    ancient writings raise an interesting question: How accurate and objective can
    be the observation if the observer is flawed and imperfect? Is the relationship
    between “consciousness” and matter as distinct as we are inclined to

    The “perfection” mentioned above refers to the cultivation of moral
    qualities and in Buddhist terminology, the elimination of
    “afflictions” (klesa) such as greed, anger, ignorance, pride,
    selfishness, and emotional extremes. It seems less an alteration of
    consciousness than a purification and quieting of the mind. Mencius talks of
    obtaining an “unmoving mind” at age forty, again referring to the
    cultivation of an equanimity resulting from the exercise of moral sense. He
    distinguished between knowledge acquired from mental activity and knowledge
    gained from intuitive insight. This latter knowledge he considered superior as
    it gives noumenal as well as phenomenal understanding. Advaita Vedanta, the
    philosophical teaching of Hinduism, as well emphasizes that jnana (knowledge)
    requires a solid basis in ethics (Dharma). Chuang Tzu, spoke of acquiring knowledge
    of “the ten thousand things” (i.e., of all nature) through virtuous
    living and practicing stillness: “to a mind that is ’still’ the whole
    universe surrenders.” 2
    Confucius’s famous passage concerning the highest learning (da xue) connects
    utmost knowledge of the universe to the cultivation of one’s person and the
    rectification of one’s mind. 3

    The challenge from these eminent Buddhist teachers to the nearly ex cathedra
     authority generally accorded to science should give pause to anyone
    attempting a facile identification of Buddhism with science. Their aims and
    methods, though tantalizingly parallel, upon closer analysis diverge.
    Correspondences do exist, but fundamental differences inhere as well. To gloss
    over them not only encourages sloppy thinking, but approaches hubris. So we must
    ask: to what extent is our conception of science as the arbiter of knowledge
    culture-bound, even myopic? Could our near total faith in science blind us to
    an inherent bias in such a stance: we presume that the logic, norms, and
    procedures of the scientific method are universally applicable and their
    findings are universally valid. Science may not only have limited relevance for
    interpreting Buddhism, but may distort our very understanding of its meaning.

    Thus, in a quest to reach an easy and elegant reconciliation of faith and
    reason, we may unwittingly fall prey to “selective
    perception”—noticing and embracing only those elements of Buddhism that
    seem consonant with our way of thinking and giving short shrift to the rest.
    Overplaying the similarities between science and Buddhism can lead into a
    similar trap, where our dominant Western thought-way (science) handicaps rather
    than helps us to understand another worldview. In Buddhism, this is called
    “the impediment of what is known.”

    It may prove more salutary to allow Buddhism to “rub us the wrong
    way” — to challenge our preconceptions and habitual ways, to remain
    strange and different from anything to which we have been accustomed. To borrow
    a metaphor from Henry Clarke Warren, we might enjoy a “walking in
    Fairyland” in shoes that do not quite fit:

    large part of the pleasure that I have experienced in the study of Buddhism has
    arisen from what I may call the strangeness of the intellectual landscape. All
    the ideas, the modes of argument, even the postulates assumed and not argued
    about, have always seemed so strange, so different from anything to which I
    have been accustomed, that I felt all the time as though walking in Fairyland.
    Much of the charm that the Oriental thoughts and ideas have for me appears to
    be because they so seldom fit into Western categories.


    1 ArthurWaley, The Way And
    Its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought

    (New York: Grove Press, 1958), 47.

    2 ibid, 58.

    3 James Legge, Confucius:
    Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean

    [Translated by James Legge], (New York: Dover, 1893, 1971), 4-7.

    4 Henry Clarke Warren,  Buddhism
    In Translations
    (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1896), 283-84.




    boro_panoramic_7.gif (228529 bytes)

    In Pursuit of Sacred Science, Part I

    Architectural   Survey of Borobudur’s Summit

    by Mark Long

    Table of

    Lords of the Mountain

    In 1976, University of Michigan researchers announced the
    results of a scientific study which suggested that the architect of ancient Cambodia’s
    Angkor Wat had encoded calendrical, historical and cosmological themes into his
    architectural plan for the temple. Published in the journal Science, the study also demonstrated
    how Angkor Wat’s architect had established solar alignments between the temple
    and a nearby mountaintop shrine that took place during the summer solstice.

    “Astronomically, it (Angkor Wat) has built-in
    positions for lunar and solar observation. The sun itself was so important to
    the builders of the temple that solar movement regulates the position of the
    bas-reliefs. It is not surprising that Angkor Wat integrates astronomy, the
    calendar, and religion since the priest-architects who constructed the temple
    conceived of all three as a unity. To the ancient Khmers, astronomy was known
    as the sacred science.” (1)

    1304-009.gif (51801 bytes)

    In 1998, one of the authors of the aforementioned
    University of Michigan study published Angkor
    Wat: Space, Time and Kingship,
    which further defines the
    calendrical, historical and cosmological themes contained in the temple’s
    architectural plan. According to former University of Michigan professor
    Eleanor Mannikka, the process that eventually led to her discovery of Angkor
    Wat’s ruling unit of measure began with an intuitive deduction.

    Angkor_02.gif (59881 bytes)“On close inspection, I noticed that the temple’s measurements were
    extraordinarily precise along certain sectors. As an example of this precision,
    both the northern and southern corridors of the third gallery are 202.14 m
    long. The eastern and western corridors are 114.22 and 114.24 m., respectively.
    Why–and how–would anyone construct the circumference in such a remarkably
    accurate manner?”

    “To find out why Angkor Wat was constructed so
    precisely, I started to search for the unit of measure used to build the
    temple. That unit had to be a cubit length–the distance between the elbow and
    outstretched fingertips–since no viable alternative existed in Khmer

    Diagram 1
    (above right):  Architectural plan of Angkor Wat.

    “A standard cubit in Cambodia would range roughly
    between .40 and .50 m. I used this range to divide axes and circumferences at
    Angkor Wat until finally, after four months of trial and error, a very precise
    unit of .43545 m yielded the most consistent results.” (2)

    By applying Angkor Wat’s cubit to various dimensions
    within the monument, Professor Mannikka was able to decode numerical themes
    that have a calendrical, astronomical and cosmological significance. In
    addition, she discovered that Angkor’s architect often duplicated numerical
    themes that had already been expressed dimensionally through the grouping of
    nearby architectural elements, such as pillars, windows, and steps.

    For example, the western entrance bridge that connects the
    outside world with the temple grounds consists of a 200-meter horizontal span
    that is divided into two halves by a set of staircases that lead down to the
    water of the moat that surrounds the entire temple complex. Each half of the
    bridge measured 216 cubits in length. In addition, the architect had installed
    a total of 216 sandstone columns and balustrade supports as part of the bridge’s
    overall structure. (3)

    The expression of calendrical, astronomical and
    cosmological themes within the dimensions of Angkor Wat raises an important
    question. Was this purely a Cambodian innovation or had Angkor Wat’s architect
    learned of the practice from an even earlier source representing a
    tradition that was practiced elsewhere?

    According to the account written in 916 CE by the Arab
    trader Abu Zaid, the Maharaja of Zabag (Java) once sailed his fleet up the
    Mekong River to the Khmer capital for the express purpose of capturing and
    decapitating the Cambodian ruler. This legend receives a modicum of historical
    support from several stone inscriptions found on the mainland of Southeast Asia.
    Discovered on the Malay peninsula in what is today the kingdom of Thailand, the
    Stone of Ligor commemorates the victories of the Rajadiraja (King of Kings)
    Vishnu, who is described as “resplendent like the Sun” and born of
    the “Sailendra”–a Sanskrit word that means “Lord of the
    Mountain.” Historians ascribe the construction of several of central
    Java’s Buddhist temples to the Sailendra dynasty of kings that ruled over this
    part of the island during the late eighth and early ninth centuries CE. (4)

    Other stone inscriptions that have been discovered in what
    is today southern Vietnam–also refer to sea-faring invaders out of islands who
    had conducted raids along the coastline during the latter half of the eighth
    century, with an inscription dating from 787 CE specifically referring to
    an invading army of Javanese origin. (5)

    Bakhong.gif (50838 bytes)In 802 CE, the founding king of Cambodia’s Angkor civilization
    participated in a ceremony that involved the installation of a linga–the
    phallic emblem of the Hindu deity Shiva–on top of  Mount Kulen north of
    Angkor.  This inaugurating act of King Jayavarman II, which is
    commemorated in the Khmer inscription of Sdok Kak Thom, states that “…a
    Brahman…well versed in magic, came…at the invitation of the king to
    establish a ritual in order that Cambodia might no longer be dependent on Java,
    and that there might only be one king ruling the country. This Brahman recited
    the texts from beginning to end, to teach them to the (king’s) chaplain, and he
    instructed him how to initiate the ritual of the deva-raja (literally
    “god-king”). Each succeeding Khmer ruler during the Angkor period of
    Cambodian history followed Jayavarman II’s example by building a sanctuary for
    the cult of the deva-raja in the form of a pyramid-mountain, either natural or
    artificial, that was located at the very center of the Khmer ruler’s realm. (6)

    Photo 1
    (above): Bakhong temple near the modern city of Roulous  in north-central

    Despite the Khmer King’s commission of this symbolic 
    declaration of  
    independence, the Javanese continued to have an influence over Khmer cult
    Bakhong_03.gif (35917 bytes)ure, especially in the area of  architecture, where certain
    Javanese building techniques were incorporated into the design of various
    waterworks and where Khmer artists employed Javanese art motifs in the creation
    of some of the oldest temples from the Angkor period.   (7)

    Did the extent of Javanese influence on Khmer architecture
    also extend to the practice of encoding calendrical, historical and
    cosmological themes into the dimensions of their temple designs? If so, can
    these practices still be discerned today in the form of the Javanese Buddhist
    temple of Borobudur?






    Diagram 2 (right): Bakhong temple architectural plan.

    Architectural Traditions

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    Now available at Amazon.com

    Following the collapse of the East Javanese kingdom of
    Mahapajit in the fifteen century CE, members of the Hindu royal court fled to
    the nearby island of Bali, carrying with them a number of palm-leaf manuscripts
    governing architecture. Ever since, the temple architects of Bali have
    continued to consult the texts of the Asta
    Kosala Kosali,
    which set forth the principles for deriving
    measurement units from various dimensions to be found in the human body, which
    are then used as units of measure for laying out various architectural
    dimensions. (8)

    The Balinese believe that the architectural plans for
    temples and family compounds play a direct role in determining the fate of each
    structure’s occupants. The goal of the Balinese architect is to harmonize the
    microcosmic forces that govern life in the human world with the macrocosmic
    forces that rule over the realm of the gods. According to this point of view,
    the extent to which any building fails to conform with an architectural
    plan  designed to mirror the perfection of the cosmos can make the
    difference between a “living” structure that will allow benevolent
    spiritual forces to enter and take up residence and a structure that is considered
    to be blocked, closed off or “dead.”

    “Other frames of reference also operate, including
    the metaphorical representation of the compound and its various structures in
    terms of the human body. Thus, the family shrine is identified with the head;
    the sleeping quarters and pavilion for receiving guests with the arms; the
    central courtyard with the navel; the hearth with the sexual organs; the
    kitchen and granary, with legs and feet; and the refuse pit in the backyard,
    with the anus.” (9)

    In deriving the dimensions of a Balinese household
    compound, the Balinese architect directs the owner of the household to pace off
    the distances between the various structures to be constructed within the compound
    in units consisting of eight foot lengths a number that has a symbolic
    significance with regards to the eight points of the compass as well as the
    specific Hindu deities associated with each of these directions. (10)

    Photo 2 (below
    right): Javanese carving of a lotus on the back of a tortoise, with each of the
    petals bearing the emblem of a Hindu divinity associated with one of the eight
    directions of space. National Museum - Jakarta.

    The Javanese practices inherited by the Balinese were based on even
    earlier architectural principles developed in India, under which the temple’s
    patron was responsible for appointing a priest to preside over the entire
    temple construction process. Called the Sthapaka,
    this priest was responsible for guiding the activities of the temple’s chief
    architect, called the Sthapati,
    who had to be well-versed in all the traditional sciences, including

    The Sthapati’s primary disciple, often his son, was called
    the Sutragrahin. Charged with
    the responsibility of carrying out the Sthapati’s orders, the Sutragrahin had
    to know the proportionate measurement by both cord (sutra) and rod (danda) as
    it applied to the entire building as well as its various parts. (11)

    Although Borobudur’s construction period lasted for more
    than fifty years and consisted of several distinct phases, the rules
    of Indian architecture required that the builders maintain continuity
    with regards to certain basic principles.

    “The temple or any other (construction) begun by these two
    should be continued by them only and by no other. In case they should be not
    available, the work should be done by either their sons or disciples who are
    competent in the work.” (12)

    Determining the Monument’s Dimensions

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    The Faculty of Engineering at Indonesia’s
    Gadjah Mada University believes that the temple architects of central Java used
    a basic unit of measure called the tala,
    which is defined as the length of a human face from the top of the forehead’s
    hairline to the tip of the chin. The tala is also equal to the distance from
    the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger when the palm and thumb
    are at their maximum distance from each other.  (13)

    Photo 2 (above
    right): Bust of a Javanese monk found in the vicinity of the Buddhist temple of
    Candi Sewu, which is located some 35 kilometers to Borobudur’s southwest.
    National Museum - Jakarta.

    The tala measurement system originated in India, where it
    was more often employed by sculptors when determining the proportions for the
    statues of deities that they had been commissioned to carve. According to the Agni Purana, the sculptor used the tala
    to define the crown of the statue’s head as well as the regions of the face,
    neck and heart, the space between the two breasts, and the circumference of the
    forepart of the arm. In addition, the distance between the navel and the
    genitals equaled one tala, while the length of the thighs was equivalent to two
    talas. The tala in turn consisted of twelve smaller divisions called angulas
    (the width of a finger), which the artist employed in the laying out of smaller
    dimensions such as the width of the ears and mouth or the length of the bridge
    of the nose. (14)

    Since the dimensions of the human body vary widely from
    one person to the next, Indonesian archaeologists have limited their
    examination of the dimensions for temples to the ratios that exist between
    building components. Without denying the above, the possibility remains that
    several temples could all have been based on the same measurement unit if they
    had all been founded under the patronage of a single person. In addition, it is
    even possible that a single royal dynasty might have elected to arrive at a
    standardized measurement unit based on a dimension derived from the body of an
    illustrious ancestor.

    If just such a unit of measure could be determined, then
    the information that could be derived from this knowledge would give
    archaeologists an additional tool for discerning the architect’s original
    intentions. This is what this writer set out to do in 1998.

    My initial survey of the literature that describes
    Borobudur was disappointing. The reported dimensions, which varied widely from
    one text source to the next, were only rough approximations that typically had
    been rounded off to the nearest quarter of a meter. In addition, the dimension
    of certain components of the structure have, to my knowledge, never been
    disclosed in print. For example, each of the three terrace platforms at
    Borobudur’s summit has a slightly oval shape that consists of two minor axes
    aligned with the cardinal points of the compass and two major axes aligned with
    the intermediate directions. None of the available sources provides the
    dimension of these platforms in the intermediate directions. With regard to the
    platform axes in the cardinal directions, A. J. Bernet Kempers has reported
    them as follows:

    “Three circular terraces with a radius of 25.60
    (D=51.2m), 19.2 (D=38.4m), and 13.40 (D=26.80) m, respectively, support three
    rows of stupas (diam. at the base 3.40-3.80, height 3.50-3.75m) with perforated
    walls and a space inside which contains a Buddha image.” (15)

    In 1998, I conducted my own ad hoc survey of Borobudur’s
    summit–no simple task in a monument that receives more than one million
    visitors each and every year! After rising with the dawn, I would scamper up
    the monument’s eastern staircase to beat the first wave of tourists to the top.
    The resulting measurements are provided in Figure
    below, where the outermost figures in the cardinal directions
    represent the distances between the walls that surround the summit.

    Figure 1:
    Summit dimensions according to the author’s own survey (in meters).

    Beginning in the 1970s, the Indonesian government, in
    cooperation with UNESCO, undertook a major renewal of the entire monument in
    order to prevent its further deterioration. In advance of the reconstruction,
    the length of each wall segment for Borobudur’s four lower rectangular
    galleries were accurately measured and reported in Reconstruction Committee
    documents. However, the Reconstruction Committee’s survey did extend to
    reporting the actual length of the monument’s two axes in the cardinal

    To gather this supplementary information, this writer
    moved down each of the four axes, pausing to measure and record the distances
    between the various levels of the monument, from the outer rim of the main
    stupa platform at the monument’s summit all the way down to the tip of each
    makara nose on each of the monument’s terminating staircases at ground level.
    In addition, I measured the length of the monument based on both the west and
    north sides of the monument in order to estimate the base perimeter, which is
    no longer in its original condition on the east and south side of the monument.

    This particular report therefore represents the very first
    time that all of Borobudur’s major dimensions have been reported within the
    confines of a single document. However, this is not to say that additional work
    is not needed. For example, a more detailed survey of the summit in which the
    individual circumference and height of each stupa is calculated would be most
    welcome, presented together with the spacing between the stupas as well as the
    precise position of their central axes with respect to the platforms upon which
    they rest.

    Gunadharma’s Ruler

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    This writer obtained the first potential clue for arriving
    at the precise length of Borobudur’s governing measurement unit upon reading a
    casual observation of Dr. Kempers, who had noticed that the majority of
    Borobudur’s stone masonry blocks were between 22 and 23 centimeters in height.
    (16) It is possible
    that Kempers was inspired to make this observation by Jan Rombout van Blom, who
    had observed more than 50 years earlier that the three temples of Borobudur,
    Pawon and Mendut were all constructed using stone blocks of about the same

    At Tjandi Sadjiwan (Van Blom 1935:41) “…one finds
    stone layers with a cross-section of 27 - 40cm, whereas the average height at
    Borobudur, Mendut, and Pawon only amounts to 23cm.”

    According to the Borobudur Reconstruction Committee’s
    survey of the lower gallery levels, the combined length of the fourth gallery
    walls that surround the monument’s summit is 247.33 m. Presuming that this
    perimeter must have had a major symbolic significance, I examined possible
    units of measure between 22 and 23 cm in length that might enhance the
    symbolism of the structure itself. When I employed a “tala” of
    22.9 cm as the defining unit, the perimeter equaled 1,080 talas. (17)

    The composers of the Hindu scriptures often used the
    number 108 and its multiples as the basis for defining various time cycles.
    When the author later applied a tala of precisely 22.9 cm to other dimensions
    within the monument, other numbers are produced that play distinct astronomical
    and cosmological roles  in the sacred sciences of India. The tala of 22.9
    cm also happens to be a close approximation of one-half of the 43.545-cm
    “cubit” that Mannikka had previously determined was the measurement unit
    employed by Angkor Wat’s architect. According to the temple building traditions
    of India, there is a class of temple that does indeed call for just such a
    half-cubit measurement system.  (18)

    In addition, when a tala of 22.9 cm in length was applied
    to the dimensions of the Buddhist temples of Candi Pawon and Candi Mendut
    located in Borobudur’s general vicinity, similar calendrical themes became
    evident. (The relevant measurement results will be reported in part IV of this

    The number 108 appears in material form throughout
    Borobudur. Its multiple 10,800 represents the number of muhurtas (the 48-minute
    Hindu “hour”) of the calendar year. The Satapatha Brahmana provides detailed instructions
    governing the construction of a sacrificial altar consisting of 10,800 bricks.
    The altar is considered to be the body of the Lord of Creation, Prajapati,
    “whose body is the year.” His presence in the altar is indicated by a golden
    effigy that is installed in the bottom of the altar on top of a golden plate
    that symbolizes the Sun, which rests upon a lotus leaf. This golden effigy of
    this “Man in the Sun” faces the sky, with its head in the east and
    its feet in the west.

    Gunadharma.gif (39811 bytes)The Menoreh (”Tower”) ridge to the south of Borobudur presents
    the shape of an anthropomorphic figure that–like the golden effigy of the
    Satapatha Brahmana–faces the sky with the “head” in the east and the
    “feet” in the west. According to local legend, this is the body of
    Borobudur’s legendary architect Gunadharma, who has elected to remain in the
    area in order to keep watch over his creation. Since Gunadharma is a pure
    Sanskrit name, the Dutch scholar N.J. Krom thought that this local legend might
    actually be based on some historical figure. Javanese folk tales typically
    present figures that bear the names of local, rather than Indian characters.

    The Javanese Gunadharma legend may represent the forging
    of a link between Borobudur’s architect and his macrocosmic form, for it is
    Prajapati who “…bears the measuring rod, knows division and thinks
    himself composed of parts.” The measuring rod symbolizes his role as
    the architect of the universe, Visvakarman, who is the celestial model for the
    human temple architect who is Prajapati’s microcosmic manifestation and
    representative on Earth. (19)

    Photo 4 (above
    right): The “head” and “torso” of Gunadharma face the sky
    in the form of the Menoreh ridge to Borobudur’s south.

    The Purusha is mentioned in King Sanjaya’s Gunung Wukir
    inscription of 732 CE, which calls the island of Java the footprint of the
    Purusha. Perhaps the natives regarded the anthropomorphic shape of the Menoreh
    hills to be yet another signature of the Purusha’s local presence, one which
    clearly marked the site of Borobudur as a spot from which an ascent to heaven
    could be make.

    In the later literature of India, Prajapati is the
    inheritor of the persona that earlier Vedic legends had assigned to the
    primordial giant called the “Purusha,” whose undifferentiated body
    was said to initially fill the entire universe. In the Rig Veda, the Hindu gods conduct a
    primordial sacrifice during which they divide the Purusha’s body into parts
    that become the discrete components of material existence.

    In the Satapatha
    , the building of the altar is a ritual process that
    reverses the division of material existence into discrete parts to provide
    the Prajapati/Purusha, in the form of the sacrificer who symbolically assumes
    his identity, to make a re-ascent to heaven to assume his primordial,
    undifferentiated state. This symbolic re-ascent to heaven would later be
    incorporated into the rituals surrounding the rituals surrounding the
    construction of the Hindu temple, within which the patron assumes the mantle of
    the Prajapati/Purusha and the temple foundation becomes the architectural body
    through which one undertakes a re-ascent to heaven to assume the “immortal”
    life. (20)

    This belief in one’s making of a re-ascent to heaven
    is  reflected in the Javanese inscriptions, which at times have compared
    the ancestor-spirits of the kings of old to demi-gods “rushing along the
    firmament.” They also warn those who might be tempted to interfere with
    the well-being of a religious foundation that they risk being thrown off the
    firmament. So let it not be said that you weren’t warned to be courteous and
    respectful when visiting Java’s cosmic pyramid-mountain! :-)

    Borobudur’s Head, Body and Foot

    Figure 2:
    Borobudur’s “Head, Body and Foot” in the Vertical Domain according to
    Professor Parmono Atmadi.

    Figure 3:
    According to Parmono Atmadi, each of the three basic divisions of the temple
    also has its complementary segments of head, body and foot. The figure above is
    based on Professor Atmadi’s analysis of Borobudur’s “head.”

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    The temple architects once employed ratio formulas to
    subdivide the temple’s architectural plan into three major divisions that were
    linked with the “foot, body and head” of a human body. Modern recognition
    of this ancient practice has actually provided Indonesian archaeologists with
    valuable assistance in restoring several of the island’s temples to their
    original form. This correspondence between temple and body is reflected in a
    famous poem by the Indian poet Basavanna:

    “The rich
    will make temples for Shiva.

    What can I a poor man do?

    My legs are

    the body a shrine,
    the head a cupola made of gold.

    Listen O Lord
    of the meeting rivers,

    things standing shall fall,
    but the moving shall ever stay.”

    In 1977, Parmono Atmadi conducted a survey of Borobudur’s
    dimensions for the express purpose of determining the ratio formula that the
    architect had used to lay out the dimensions of Borobudur’s foot, body and
    head. The ultimate goal of this exercise was to determine the original height
    of Borobudur’s main stupa pinnacle above ground level. (21)

    To accomplish this task, Atmadi measured a large number of
    the monument’s architectural elements in the vertical domain. From the
    resulting data, he was able to determine that  a ratio formula of 4:6:9
    had been employed by Borobudur’s architect (See Figure 2 above). In addition, Atmadi reported that the
    identical ratio formula was employed at the nearby Buddhist temples of Candi
    Pawon and Candi Mendut.

    Atmadi’s study also states that the ratio formula of 4:6:9
    had been used in the layout of each of the monument’s three major subdivisions;
    i.e., the monument’s “head” also incorporates three subdivisions that
    we might call the minor head, body and foot of the monument’s entire head. This
    discovery allowed Atmadi to calculate that Borobudur’s original height must
    have reached 41.81 m above ground level (see Figure
    above). Using a tala of 22.9 cm, this dimension equals 182.576
    talas, a number that closely approximates one half of a solar year of 365.25
    days. (22)

    The horizontal dimensions of the summit’s second round
    terrace platform in the intermediate directions equals 41.8m (NE/SW) and 41.86m
    (NW/SE), respectively, which again present equivalent dimensions in talas that
    evoke the duration of one-half of a solar year. In addition, the mid-point of
    the entire monument based on Atmadi’s height estimate for Borobudur, also
    corresponds with the mid-point in the vertical domain of the summit’s second
    terrace platform.

    In Hindu cosmology, a “day of the gods” consists
    of the half-year period from the vernal to the autumnal equinoxes, when the
    duration of daylight exceeds the daily period of darkness. This time period is
    also called the “northern progress” (uttarayana) of the sun because
    it is during this particular period of the solar year that the position of the
    rising sun on the eastern horizon progressively moves northward from one day to
    the next. 

    The conventional method for laying out the temple in
    conformance with the annual movements of the celestial realm is in terms of a
    square diagram called the vastupurusha-mandala. In my article on the Essence of Buddhahood, I have described
    how Borobudur’s summit conforms with the essential characteristics of the
    vastupurusha mandala, which is not only the residence of the Prajapati/Purusha
    on earth but also the schematic for all Hindu temple foundations within which
    the equinoxes and solstices are represented by the four faces and four corners
    of the diagram. A Mahayana Buddhist text discovered on Sri Lanka called the
    Mañjusri Vastuvidyasastra makes use of the same types of diagrams are are
    described in Hindu architectural texts such as the Mahamatam, but calls these
    plans “candita” — a word that may have serves as the point of origin
    for the Javanese term candi.

    On the second terrace platform at Borobudur’s summit, the
    sum of the two axes in the intermediate directions equals 365.3 talas (t),
    nearly equaling the duration of one sidereal year of 365.2562 days. Therefore
    the combined dimensions of what might best be called the “solar core”
    at the center of the entire monument also represents both halves of the solar
    year. This core area resides at the center of the monument, surrounded by the
    32 stupas of the first terrace platform; likewise the core of the abode of the
    Devas on Mount Meru is surrounded by 32 divinities according to Hindu

    After conducting my own survey of the monument’s
    dimensions, it became evident that Borobudur also conforms with the same 4:6:9
    ratio formula in the horizontal domain (Figure
    below). The diagram
    presented below
    shows how the architect had expanded a vastupurusha mandala
    of 9 x 9 squares by gnomonic projection to include the entire temple within a
    larger diagram that consists of 19 x 19 squares (Figure 5 below). In other words, the central square at the
    center of the monument is only surrounded by 360 squares to symbolize the
    360-degrees of the celestial circle that surrounds the Earth but the outermost
    tier of squares also numbers 72 in total. This particular design has been
    echoed in a Buddhist architectural text from Tibet, which delineates a
    procedure for mapping out the temple site within a square diagram that has been
    divided into four equal quadrants, each of which contains 90 blocks. (23)

    On the monument’s lower rectangular terrace levels, the
    architect has observed the principles of Indian architecture by avoiding the
    placement of structures on top of the of the intersections of the horizontal
    and vertical grid lines that define the overall structure of the plan.
    According to Indian architecture, the lines represent the immanent breaths
    (prana) of the temple and their intersections are the deemed the plan’s
    vulnerable points. In particular, we can see how Borobudur’s has avoided
    placing any structures directly over the “diamond” intersections
    formed by the main diagonal lines of the plan.

    During the last reconstruction efforts, archaeologists
    noticed that the walls of the first gallery had an inclination of more than 1
    degree. Assuming this to be an architectural defect, they attempted to re-set
    the walls vertically but found that this would not allow the corners to meet.
    As this small inclination is now regarded to have been intentional we can
    suggest a plausible reason for its presence in the overall design.
    By the same token, the architect’s avoidance of the plan’s “points
    of vulnerability” at the lower levels of the monument may explain why
    walls have been “rotated” from true north/south or east/west

    Up on the summit of the monument, the architect was unable
    to avoid the placement of stupas over the intersections of the plan’s lines of
    breath, but in this case it did not matter. The perforation holes in the 72
    stupas provide the means whereby the vastupurusha mandala’s lines of prana
    retain their unimpeded access to the remainder of the monument. The stupa
    perforations are equivalent to the perforation holes in the bricks that the
    builder of the Vedic fire altar lays down over the image of the “Golden
    Man.” According to the Satapatha
    these naturally perforated bricks are the breaths of the
    Purusha whose image is buried at the very bottom of the entire structure.


    boro_ratio_3.gif (29339 bytes)

    Figure 4:
    Borobudur’s North/South axis in the horizontal domain conforms to the same
    4:6:9 ratio used in the monument’s layout in the vertical domain.

    mandala_grid_lines_2.gif (122335 bytes)

    Figure 5:
    Borobudur’s corresponding layout in terms of a 19 x 19 grid of squares.

    The proportions that Borobudur’s architect used in laying
    out the head, body and foot of his architectural plan also compare to
    proportion ratios that were later incorporated into the certain mandala
    traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, where the tripartite design of the kalachakra
    mandala, for example, represents the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. This
    does not necessarily mean that Borobudur’s foot, body and head were also meant
    to represent the “three jewels” of the Buddha or the derivatives
    called the Buddha’s three mysteries in certain Vajrayana Buddhist texts.
    However, the illustration presented below does bring to mind a saying of the Buddha
    Vairaja from the Lankavatara Sutra: 

    “Within the body, measuring one vyana…the measure
    of two extended arms…there is a world; the cause of its rising, the attaining
    of cessation, and the path (pratipad)–this I teach to sons of the Victor (i.e.,
    to the Bodhisattva sons).”

    Figure 6A:
    Borobudur’s mandala with an overlay representing the proportion system that was
    incorporated into the later mandala traditions of Tibet.

    mandala_grid_man_2.gif (97571 bytes)

    It is also entirely possible that Borobudur’s 4:6:9 ratio
    formula and its resulting 19 x 19 grid of squares was based on mystic
    mathematical diagrams that were well known in ancient China, where they were
    used in the design of buildings and even entire cities. They also were used in
    India as part of tantric practices involving geometrical magic diagrams called
    yantras. In the first set of examples presented below, the sum of each of the
    columns, rows and diagonals three squares equals 15. Each of the four sides of
    the square also represents one of the four elements of earth, air, water and

    Figure 6B, 6C
    and 6D:
    The rhythmic expansion of the nine (3×3)
    squares of the vastupurusha mandala occupied by Borobudur’s main stupa
    (3^2 = 9; 9^2 = 81; 15^2 = 225; 19^2 = 361). (For a detailed description of the vastupurusha mandala and its
    parallels on Borobudur’s summit, see the article Essence of Tathagatahood, Part Three.)


    The ruling cipher of the first set of examples presented
    above is the numeral 5 at the center of each diagram, which enters into each
    and every calculation. Here the combined sum of the three rows and columns is
    90, or 120 when the diagonals are included. With regards to Borobudur, the 3x
    expansion of the central 9 squares of the diagrams presented above, produces
    the sum of 3 x 120 or 360–which is also the total number grid squares that
    surround the central square of the entire diagram.

    Moving on to the second set of the examples presented
    below, the ruling number is 6 and the combined sum of the three rows and three
    columns is 108 (18 x 6), or 144 when the two diagonals are included. At
    Borobudur, the 3x expansion of the central 9 squares of the second diagram
    presented below, produces the sum of 3 x 144 or 432–which is also the number
    of Buddha statues that were installed beween the summit and Borobudur’s
    outermost walled perimeter.

    There are many other possibilities inherent in the two
    sets of examples provided. I will leave it up to each reader to delve as deeply
    as he or she wishes.

    Even if the mathematical yantras cited above were not
    expressly intended to play a numerical role in the monument’s design, the
    rhythmic expansion of the brahmastana–the nine central squares of the
    vastupurusha mandala at the summit–is reflected in the major divisions to be
    found within the overall architectural plan.

    Figure 6E and 6F:
    In ancient China, the Lo-shu number
    diagram centered around the number 5 was intended to represent the divisions of
    the earth. Its celestial counterpart, in which the number six is the ruling
    cipher that enters into every calculation, is presented in the diagrams below.
    (For further details on how these diagrams were incorporated into building
    designs in China, see
    Architecture, Time and Eternity, Volume II by Adrian Snodgrass.)



    The Main Stupa Platform

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    Borobudur’s summit is crowned by a stone platform that supports the
    large stupa located over the monument’s central axis. This structure is the
    only round terrace platform that presents a truly circular form. The other
    three terrace platforms at the summit have two major axes in the intermediate
    directions as well as two minor axes that are aligned with the cardinal points.

    Photo 4: A
    statue of the Buddha Vairocana with Borobudur’s main stupa in the background.

    To derive the diameter of the main stupa platform, the
    author first measured the structure’s circumference and then divided the
    results by pi. The circumference of the main stupa platform as measured at its
    mid-point in the vertical domain equals 50.83m or 222.0t. The equivalent
    diameter was calculated by divided the main stupa platform’s circumference by
    pi, which equals 16.18m or 70.66t. What is particularly significant here is
    that the diameter of the platform also equals the averaged dimension of the
    monument’s architectural “body” in the vertical domain (See Figure 1 above) according to Professor
    Atmadi’s pioneering study of Borobudur’s defining ratio formula.

    The total length of Borobudur’s horizontal axis in the
    North/South direction (between the tips of the makara snouts on the
    ground-level north and south staircases) equals 123.13m. When this dimension is
    divided by the diameter of the main stupa platform, the ratio of 7.61:1 is
    produced, which comes very close to equaling the decimal equivalent of
    Borobudur’s southern latitude of 7 degrees, 36 minutes, 29 seconds (7.608).

    The length of Borobudur’s axis in the East/West
    direction– i.e., between the tips of the makara snouts on the ground-level
    east and west staircases–is considerably shorter, equaling just 122.3m. At the
    location of 7.608 degrees south latitude, the circumference of the Earth is
    indeed slightly shorter than the polar circumference of the globe. In this
    respect, Borobudur conforms precisely with its geographical location on the
    sphere of the Earth. 

    We should not be surprised if Borobudur’s architect
    intended for all this information to be embedded into his architectural
    representation of the universe in microcosm. The sages of India had known that
    the Earth was a sphere long before Borobudur was constructed. In addition, the
    ancient Hindu astronomy textbooks taught the means whereby the latitude of any
    location could be determined through calculations based on the length of the
    shadow cast by a vertical stake or “gnomon.”

    In Angkor Wat:
    Space, Time and Kingship,
    Eleanor Mannikka explains how the
    architect of Angkor Wat employed a similar method for indicating the temple’s
    location in terms of latitude.

    “The latitude unit was first derived from the central
    sanctuary of Angkor Wat. The sanctuary has many coordinates that place it in
    relation to the earth, conceived as a globe floating in space. One of these
    coordinates is the north-south axis between doorways: 13.43 cubits. Since
    latitude is one’s position on a north-south meridian, the north-south
    measurement is appropriate in orientation as well. If this unit were confined
    to the central sanctuary it would be interesting in its own right. But it turns
    out that 13.43 cubits was a construction module in the prieu cruciform and
    second gallery as well. It is close enough to 13.41 to be acceptable as the
    temple’s latitude, and so I have called it the latitude unit.” (24)

    When the distance between the apex of Borobudur’s summit
    and Candi Pawon is divided by the diameter of the main stupa platform (1750
    m/16.18 m) the ratio of 108:1 is produced. This particular dimension has also
    been embedded into Borobudur itself, where it equals the distance of the six
    circuits of worshippers (1750.06m) around Borobudur’s second, third and fourth
    galleries (x2 each), a prerequisite for “reading” all of the reliefs
    in this particular part of the monument in their correct order.

    According to a study by Jacques Dumarcay, Borobudur’s
    three terrace platforms at the summit were probably added during the third
    stage of the monument’s construction, at which time the architect also elected
    to expand the monument’s rectangular terrace levels through the addition of the
    walled perimeter, rounded cornice and broad base that surrounds the entire
    monument. (25) Based on the
    author’s own measurements, Borobudur’s exterior walls extend outward from the
    first gallery at the gateway points by 4.03m to the North, 3.99m to the South,
    4.15m to the East, and 4.02m to the West, or 16.19m in all, which once again
    suggests the possibility of a connection with both the monument’s
    “body” in the vertical domain (16.18m) as well as the diameter of the
    main stupa platform. In addition, the length of the eastern staircase, from the
    staircase at promenade level to the base of the first round terrace platform at
    the summit, equals 1/2 of the main stupa platform’s circumference (25.44 m or
    111 tala). In addition, the total length of Borobudur’s eastern staircase–from
    the very first step up to the promenade level to the base of the first round
    terrace platform at the summit–equals 111 t or 1/2 of the main stupa platform
    circumference (25.44 m).

    However, it must be pointed out that this writer’s
    decision to apply the main stupa platform’s circumference at its vertical
    mid-point is entirely arbitrary for there are no signs in the platform’s design
    to indicate a favoring of vertical mid-point over vertical top (16.16m/70.57t)
    or bottom (16.225m/70.85t). At various junctures later on in this article
    series, it shall be demonstrated how the use of the bottom circumference
    dimension can be employed to provide potentially significant results).

    Figure 7: The
    dimensions of the monument’s summit form the “cross of the four
    seasons” of the solar year in the cardinal directions (364 talas) as well
    as present a total of 505 talas in the intermediate directions, which may bear
    a relationship to the 504 Buddha images that were incorporated into Borobudur’s
    original plan, together with the entity represented by the main stupa

    The Square-Circle Terrace Platforms

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    From the bottom edge of the main stupa platform, the author measured
    outward along the four axes of the cardinal directions until each of the
    measurements terminated at the edge of the inside-facing wall that surrounds
    the  summit area. The sum of these four dimensions, which were presented
    above in Figure 7, equals 83.41m or 364.24 tala. 

    At Borobudur, the four spokes of the summit area in the cardinal
    directions suggest the four quadrants of a 365.24-day solar year, with perhaps
    the main stupa providing the final unit required for completing the calendrical
    symbolism. Alternatively, the architect may have intended for the four
    quadrants to represent the duration of one sidereal year, according to the
    observational practices of astronomy.

    The sidereal day, which consists of the
    time interval between two successive passages of a star over the same meridian
    of longitude, is nearly four minutes (3 minutes 56.555 seconds) shorter than
    the apparent solar day–that is, the amount of time between two successive
    transits of the Sun over the same meridian. Over the course of the solar year,
    this apparently insignificant time difference accumulates to just over 1,460
    minutes, equivalent to 24.3333 hours or 1.0138 days. For this reason, the four
    seasonal axes that radiate outward from Borobudur’s main stupa platform could
    also represent the solar year in terms of sidereal solar time as opposed to the
    apparent solar time. In addition, there is a possible relationship with the
    cycle of Jupiter, which according to the Suryasiddhanta completes 364,221
    revolutions in a Great Age or “kalpa” of 4,320,000 terrestrial years.

    The sum of the round terrace cross-axes in the
    intermediate directions, which terminate at the four corners of the summit
    area, equals 505.28t (See Figure 7 above). Borobudur’s architectural plan
    originally called for the placement of 368 Buddha statues in the niches of the
    lower galleries, together with the 64 statues in niches of the fourth gallery
    and the 72 statues within the 72 stupas that grace the monument’s summit, or
    504 statues in all.

    The dimensions of the summit’s three round terrace
    platforms in the intermediate directions are also significant in several other
    respects (See Table 1 below).
    For example, the sum of all six round terrace axes equals 1,079.2t, yet another
    possible correlation with the Hindu sacred number 1,080, which the architect
    also used to define the fourth gallery perimeter. In addition, multiples of 364
    are generated when the axial dimensions of the summit’s three round terrace
    platforms are multiplied together. For example, the product of the four NE/SW
    cross axes are approximately 364 million talas, while the product of the four
    NW/SE cross axes is almost 364.5 million talas (See Table 2 below). 

    Table 1: Sum of Round Terrace Axes (Intermediate Directions)

    Round platform

    1st RT - NW/SE: 54.73 m 239.00 t
    2nd RT - NW/SE: 41.86 m 182.80 t
    3rd RT - NW/SE: 27.04 m 118.08 t

    Subtotal NW/SE: 123.63 m = 539.9 t

    1st RT - NE/SW: 54.60 m 238.42 t
    2nd RT - NE/SW: 41.80 m 182.53 t
    3rd RT - NE/SW: 27.11 m 118.38 t

    Subtotal NE/SW 123.51 m = 539.35 t

    TOTALS  247.14 m = 1,079.21 t

    Table 2: Product of the Cross-Axes of the Round Terrace Platforms
    (Intermediate Directions)

    NE/SW Axes: (in m/tala) (product)

    MS RT   16.18 m 70.66 t   —-

    3rd RT - 27.11 m 118.38 t = 8364.73
    2nd RT - 41.80 m 182.53 t = 1,526,814.3
    1st RT - 54.60 m 238.42 t = 364,023,068.5

    NW/SE Axes: (in m/tala) (product)

    MS RT   16.18 m 70.66 t   —-
    3rd RT - 27.04 m 118.08 t = 8343.53
    2nd RT - 41.86 m 182.79 t = 1,525,114.36
    1st RT: 54.73 m 238.99 t = 364,487,081.0

    The average of the two axes equals 364,255,074.8

    Atmadi’s estimate of the monument’s original height above
    ground level is echoed in the dimensions of the second round terrace platform
    in the intermediate directions: 182.53t from NE/SW and 182.79t from NW to SE,
    or 365.32t in total. In addition, the monument’s pivotal mid-point in the
    vertical domain coincides with the vertical mid-point of the second round
    terrace platform. The coordinates appear to delineate the boundaries for an
    invisible geometric sphere located at the very core of the monument that is defined
    by dimensions that are related to the duration of a solar year. (26)

    Go to: In Pursuit of Sacred
    Science, Part II



    Figure 8: Round Terrace Platforms, North-South Direction

    RT_platforms_E_W.gif (37788 bytes)

    Figure 9: Round Terrace Platforms, East/West Direction

    Figure 10: Intermediate Direction NE/SW

    Figure 11: Intermediate Direction: NW/SE

    Figure 11: A
    complete measurement survey of Borobudur’s summit.

    Go to: In Pursuit of Sacred
    Science, Part II



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    (1)Stencel, Rober; Gifford, Fred; and Moron, Eleanor. “Astronomy and Cosmology at Angkor Wat.” Science magazine, Volume 193, Number
    4250, July 23, 1976 issue, p. 281.

    (2) Mannikka,
    Eleanor. Angkor Wat: Time, Space and Kingship
    . Honolulu: University of
    Hawaii Press (1996): 17-18.

    (3) Ibid.,
    p. 31.

    (4) See Chandra, Lokesh. Cultural Horizons of India. New Delhi: Aditya
    Prakashan (1995) [vol. IV]

    (5) Coedes,
    George. Angkor: An Introduction.
    London: Oxford University
    Press (1963): 71.

    (6) Ibid.,
    pp. 76-77 and 83.

    (7) Dumarcay,
    Jacques. The Site of Angkor. Singapore:
    Oxford University Press (1998):
    1, 17, 18 and 42.

    (8) Eiseman,
    Fred B. Jr. Bali: Sekala and Niskala. Berkeley: Periplus (1990):
    194 [vol.

    (9) Sularto, Robi. “The Balinese
    House” in Miksic, John et. al. Indonesian
    Heritage: Architecture
    . Jakarta: Archipelago Press (1997):36.

    (10) “Eight is an important number to the
    Hindu-Balinese, representing the four cardinal directions and the four
    intercardinal directions. One god is assigned to each of these eight, plus Siwa
    in the center, completing the so-called nawa sanga, the compass rose
    symbolism.” Eiseman (1990):196
    [vol. II].

    (11) Kramrisch, Stella. The Hindu
    Temple. Calcutta: University (1946):10 [vol. I].  

    (12) Ibid.

    (13) Atmade, Parmono. Some Architectural Design Principles of Temples of Java.
    Gadjah Mada University Press (1988):182-183.
    Javanese may also have associated the tala with the sole of a human foot, a
    distinction of particular significance with respect to the ritual procedures
    still employed by the Balinese architect. According to an Old Javanese
    religious text called the Bhuvana-Samksepa, “Tala is the sole of the foot.” See
    Chandra, Lokesh. Cultural Horizons of
    India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan (1997):
    142 [vol. V].

    (14) See the Agni Purana 44.3-44.36.

    (15) Bernet
    Kempers, A.J. Ageless Borobudur
    . Servire: Wassenaar (1976):43.
    slight variations that exist between the figures presented by Kempers and those
    provided by the author in Figure 1
    below can easily be accounted for. The vertical walls of the main stupa
    platform curve inward slightly. If the figures provided by Bernet Kempers had
    been derived by measuring the circumference of the top of the main stupa
    platform rather than at the platform’s bottom, this would generate a difference
    of nearly 7 cm in all subsequent platform diameter measurements, which appears
    to be just what has happened. The figures also appear to have been rounded off
    to the nearest whole measurement unit. In addition, Bernet Kempers’ statement
    does not take into account the slight differences in dimensions between the N/S
    and E/W axes of the three round terrace platforms.

    (16) Ibid., p. 59.

    (17) Dumarcay, Jacques. “Report on Measurements and
    Dimensions: Remarks on the Drawing of the After Reconstruction Situation of
    Borobudur” Borobudur Reconstruction Committee document
    Pelita CC/III7 (1974):225
    - 232.

    (18) According to a text on Hindu temple
    architecture called the Manasara, a class of one-story buildings called Vikalpa
    should be defined in terms of half-cubit measurement units
    (see Admadi
    1988:324-325). The Vikalpa is a sub-category of the South Indian Jati Vimana
    (from “vi ma,” which literally means “to measure out”)
    class of temples, “…which represent each a collection of various
    classes, namely the storeyed temples, on the head of which is placed a small
    shrine plus a rampart of chapels surrounding each story” (see Kramrisch

    (19) Kramrisch 1946:67-68.

    (20) Kramrisch

    (21) Atmadi, Parmono. “Study on the
    Height of Candi Borobudur.” Borobudur Reconstruction Committee document Pelita CC/VIII/8 (1979):129.

    (22) In addition, 182.576 talas comes very
    close to equaling the square root of 33,333 (182.573). 

    (23) Dorjee, Pema. Stupa and its Technology. New Delhi: Motilal
    Bandarsidass (1996):34.

    (24) Mannikka (1996):211 - 212.

    (25) Dumarcay, Jacques. “The Various
    Stages During the Building of the Candi Borobudur.” Borobudur
    Reconstruction Committee document Pelita
    CC/VI/7 (1977):

    (26) Atmadi(1979):129.


    copyright 2002 borobudur.tv. All Rights Reserved.




    Science | Dr. Rick Hanson - Author of Buddha’s Brain and Just One …


    For thousands of years, philosophers, poets, mystics, and
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    Building on that foundation, the modern sciences of
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    This emerging “science of mind” is in its infancy,
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