The Role of Zen Buddhism in the Modern Scientific Era  

Yongjeung Kim
Emeritus Professor
Dongguk University

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The Role of Zen Buddhism in the Modern Scientific Era
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1. Our Scientific Era and its Doomsday Effect

I want to begin to write this essay with mentioning Prof. Seonglae Park, who is the famous scholar in the history of science. Prof. Park carefully explained in his heading remarks of the quarterly journal, Gwahak Sasang(The Thought of Science) how the West occupied the East, and how the moral civilization of the East has been changed by the Western mechanic civilization and anticipated the situation of the coming 21st century world as follows:


I dare to say that human beings would be disappeared just before 3,000 years. As dinosaurs disappeared in the past, human beings, who reigned during a few million or ten thousand years and ruled this world with their absolute power, would be completely disappeared in the earth too.1) 


Even though what he said suggests a direct warning for human beings who live in this modern world, his warning must be seriously considered due to his thoughtful scholarship. He is very cynical about the real contribution to our capitalistic and individualistic society. He continues to say:


The coming 21st century will begin in a chaotic condition with the fever of capitalism and individualism. we tend to interpret the word 'ism' as an expression of will of human beings....However, capitalism and individualism are not 'isms' by which we, human beings, consciously remake our world. They are nothing but the results of the thought in which we let our nature leave, namely, the give-up of our will. In the past a thousand years, the fact that capitalism or individualism has been survived among other thoughts means that we gave up our attempt to improve our society with our will.2)  


Any body would agree that the crisis of our modern world occurs because of the unlimited enlargement of human beings' nature, the unlimited economic development, and the accompanying the destruction of environment and the falling-down of our natural humanity. Of course, I do not ignore the advantage that capitalism and technology have given us. In other words, its flourishing material growth. But, the problem is the material civilization radically flourished, while the mental civilization is decreased. Furthermore, men forget what nature gives us and what freedom they really have to enjoy.

Karl Jaspers once pointed that the modern history of the West has been made with a false enlightenment. According to him, the spirit of the modern Europe tended to go 'either-or' direction, namely, going into a mechanic view of nature but not a harmonious view. Hence, the modern spirit of Europe becomes falling into insincerity. 3) Here, the 'false enlightenment' means that our knowledge, will, and act are based on the mechanic view of nature by which our intellect becomes insincere.

According to Jaspers' criticism, Descartes did not see the limit of science and forgot its practical aim. And, he attempted to construct 'universal science.' However, his idea was dogmatic and was based on a mechanic mythology. 4)  In other words, in the beginning the spirit of Europe aimed to a kind of balance between organic and mechanic views of nature. But, Cartesian 'universal science' overemphasized the mechanic view and a technological knowledge and finally mechanic control of natural environment. Hence, man, who is often symbolized as 'the son of nature' or 'the humanity of internal nature,' is buried with the destruction of external nature.

Today the limit of science is shown in the world here and there; that is, the destruction of natural environment and the collapse of humanity as well as the limit of science itself. The American science critic, John Horgan, says how the limit of science is going on as follows.


Moreover, science itself, as it advances, keeps imposing limits on its own power. Einstein's theory of special relativity prohibits the transmission of matter or even information at speeds faster than that of light; quantum mechanics dictates that our knowledge of the micro realm will always be uncertain; chaos theory confirms that even without quantum indeterminacy many phenomena would be impossible to predict; Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem denies us the possibility of constructing a complete, consistent mathematical description of reality. And evolutionary biology keeps reminding us that we are animals, designed by natural selection not for discovering deep truths of nature, but for breeding. 5) 


Science itself does not give men a complete truth but a partial truth by which men are destined to satisfy. In his book, Horgan presents ten kinds of eschatology; eschatology of development, philosophy, physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, social science, neuro science, and et cetera. For him, the radical development of science itself shows the end of science. Quoting Gunther Stent, Horgan argues the paradox of development and the end of science.


If there is a limit of science and a difficulty by which there cannot be any development of science, science will be developed in a very speed just before meeting such difficulty. When science is shown successful, powerful, and effective, it means the end of science coming close. Stent said in his book The Incoming of the Golden Age that this speedy development of science makes us think such development and will be stopped in our life or one or two generation. 6) 


The above quotation predicts that the end of science is coming close in proportion to the speed science develops.

Science has a double-value, positive and negative. If science is employed in a negative way, for example, the war using atomic bomb, the earth and our world would be ruined. In addition, the moral consciousness of human beings would be crashed.

In modern society, the life of men is getting comfortable and wealthy, but they are interested in seeking after pleasure. What is worse, they make a mistake the effect of drug and virtual reality for the true reality. Stent cynically ended his argument in his book that sooner or later our scientific development will be stopped, ...and all our attempt for art and science during 1,000 years finally will let our life seem a true result by a just impromptu happening. 7)  Although we do not much need to worry all these negative phenomena, we still have to keep in mind these phenomena because the negative phenomena are getting serious.

The principal problems of our modern techno-scientific society are rooted from intellectuality, measurement, quantification, symbolization as well as bureaucratization, materialization, economicalization, business-making. Although the industrial society has been developed by the above items, these items, which come from the reason-based thoughts, are nothing but mechanic systems which are against our true life. The systematic and mechanic power of the modern techno-scientific society respects the dignity of humans, while such power debilitates the value of life and is indifferent to the dignity of our human life.

Therefore, A. N. Whitehead earlier found that although matter itself lacks sense, value and aim, the mechanic and materialistic view of nature comes from the classical view of physics because it is supposed that matter is absolutely real. 8)  So, Whitehead called such materialistic view of nature as a lose of value and aim, and attempted to change it into a holistic view of nature.

Erich Fromm, who was the greatest of psychoanalysis, realized that the mechanic power of modern technological civilization wrongly guided our true life into senseless thing and finally drew our life into a material death. 9) This disease of necrophila is made by the external power of modern environment in which the bureaucratic, technocratic information system consists. What is worse, school system and education are easily involved in such a negative modern system.

Among all these difficult conditions, the information society alienates and isolates human beings, and finally transforms the moral men into the machines. Today we live in the period of great change that we have not experienced. In the name of the frontier science, the development of technology established the invention of new materials with the super-computer and the satellite communications. Besides, by the genetic science, we became to make a new kind of species and a radical development of agriculture and livestock farming, and the medical science.

But, the unlimited flood of mas media and the computer game guide young men to be given to the intemperance for their sexual instinct and make them the playful murder. The problems of information society are shown in other cases: for example, the problems of virtual reality on the dimension of cyberspace, computer hacking, and the outflow of information and etc: all these cases make us consider moral questions we have not experienced in the past.

Especially we cannot properly cope with our technological crisis, because we realize that with moral treatment, we cannot well control the technological problems of computer. For example, because the organism of long-range gun, missile or atomic bomb is absolutely unhuman, even any coward can kill a million people at a moment only using buttons without a serious conscience. In fact, in the modern automatic machine, computer chips and automatic sensors are attached, and so we easily forget our responsibility about the results when we operate the buttons of the machines. Then alienation from using the machine is made. In next chapter, I will discuss such alineation problem with the information engineering.


2. Information Engineering and Alineation

The modern society establishes its network system through autonomy, separation, or cooperation. For example, each robot, which has relatively a simple tool functioning independently and cooperating with other parts of it, establishes a given aim.

Since 1990s, people have been interested in the artificial life (AL) rather than the artificial intellect (AI). That is, beyond the artificial intellect, they have researched making a kind of artificial life. The research of AL goes a step farther than the research of AI. Christopher Langton is the scientist who used the word 'artificial life.' He presumed that if the ability of 'self-copy' might be defined 'life,' with a relatively simple model an artificial life can be made. In his model of AL consists of a cellular automaton which is a two dimensional grid. Each grid means a cell and each time transforms into a new cell responding to the mixture of a current condition and others. At this moment, a collection of each grid-cell is defined as life. 10)

The alive image through a computer graphics is also considered as a kind of artificial life because through the graphic image, real or unreal life can be depicted in a given space-time condition without any difficulties. The live expression through the computer graphics has an 'elementary meaning' among the several visualization of simulation. For example, a high quality of technology is necessary in order to express the move of human body with the computer graphics. If this technology can be acquired, a high quality art can be made only by the computer graphics. Then, a real machine like an alive animal can be an area of artificial life.

Now we meet a new era treating a life without a real life, namely, an artificial life. At the late 20th century, the leading technology is information by computer, while the beginning 21st century will be laid with the science of artificial life as the leading technology. Recently by the robot technology, a micro-precision machine goes into the human body and then treat the disease of human body. DNA simulation is possible even on the computer, and by the life information technology, the reproduction of sheep becomes possible. At the moment, agriculture and livestock farming and medical science contributes for human welfare by the DNA simulation and the technology of reproduction.

On the other hand, negative phenomena of life science happens to young generation: for example, a possibility of virtual reality which harms their personality and make them be in a chaotic state. The confusion of virtual reality and true reality are paradoxically made by the development of science. Another example of the negative phenomena is a third kind of life and an absolutely new kind of bacteria which are produced by the extravagant use of the reproduction technology.

The more urgent problem is the human alienation by the increase of information system. Today most young generation spend their time playing the computer game, and so they do not have enough time to talk with their family. In a certain sense, computer is a machine which helps to isolate humans. Computer, as a machine which is a phase of a given game, offers an isolate space to people: personal computer offers a series of discontinuous scenes. All these scenes are the thing given but not a chosen by people consciously. In it, there is a given rule, but people operate the given scene by a programmed rule.

By the development of the information technology of the computer, labor is replaced by robot and plants are robotized. According to this robotization, men's labor is restricted and isolated by automation. Men work with a fixed order and a given information which are already programmed by the production and sales fields.

Although all these programmed information originally are set up for men's welfare, they feel, in a sense, anxious to the given machine-like ordering. A reasonable question what nature and humans are become meaningless by such development of science, in which humans are proved as a limited entities. The anxiety was due to the development of warfare, which was possible by the scientific civilization through the 1st and 2nd World wars. Human anxiety is not due to a special object or event but a limited existence of humans which is rooted from the power of science. Furthermore, the anxiety comes from the increase of much freedom which is made by the progress of industrialization and a misguided democracy.

For Kierkegard, men feel anxious to the possibility of freedom, namely, the free choice of picking up the fruit of good and evil, when Adam and Eve heard God's order Not to eat that fruit. 11) According to J. P. Sartre, man cannot escape from his existence because he is a man. Hence, anxiety comes from man's existent choice. But, nowadays people get losing the feeling of anxiety by the progress of information society. 12) Such lose must be 'oblivion' which is different from Heideggerian 'existence forgetfulness' or J. Derrida's. (which was mentioned in his speech published in 1968's book The End of Man.) Men just act according to the programmed order of computerized database. When they perform any work depending upon computer, they are overwhelmed by it, and finally get forgetting their existence and losing their personality.

In fact, insects and animals do not feel anxiety. instead, it is right if they just live following their natural equipment or their own information system. But, now men act by a given programmed information when they use computer and cannot live without computers. Hence, they do not feel any more existential anxiety and a sense of death, and finally do not need to feel such assumed anxiety.

Men become busy with the development of information media rather than taking a rest. They spend most time using beeper and handphone, and invest more time watching television, typing on the computer, sending facsimile to others. Although the development of multimedia gives them a great advantage, such development take their valuable time and energy.

Norbert Wiener, who invented cybernetics, claimed that if the modern man is interested in 'know-how' by which a method of establishment is acquired and neglects 'know-what' with the question What is the value and aim of man's life?, he won't help kill themselves. 13) He also warns: The time is too late, and the choice of good and evil knocks at our door. Human atoms are knit into an organization in which they are used, not in their full right as responsible human beings, but as cogs and levels and rods.14)  

In any way, in this modern information society, men must choose from the programmed menu of computer. If most works we have to treat are practical things in our ordinary life, we cannot have much time the important problems, what the ideal life we must pursuit. What is worse, we cannot escape from the network system because we spend a lots of time for making program and using the given programmed data on the computer.

In a short word, the modern man falls into a programmed system, like in a cage and alienates himself. The question is how man can recover such alienation. It is possible through the Zen meditation by which he becomes a 'true man.' The only way to become the true man is acquired by the Zen meditation.


3. The Recognition of the Quantum Theory

Although I have criticized the negative side of the modern science and its culture, I also have to point out a positive side. For the positive side, I will consider the philosophy of the Middle Way of Buddhism and the thinking method of quantum physics in terms of their epistemic way. It is because the quantum theory can help for mediating religion and science, and East over West: the quantum theory will present an absolutely different thinking method from the traditionally existing causal determinism.

In the beginning of 20th century, from the fact that the micro materials of electron and photon tend to have a double qualities of particle and wave at the same time, the quantum physicists began to understand the quality of quantum: that is, they realized the quality of wave from that a quantum makes diffraction and an intereference fringes. But, when they realized that a quantum reflected an electron from the surface of metal by the photoelectric effect, they also must accept that a quantum is a particle. When they found the double quality of particle and wave of a quantum, they had to change their existing understanding of nature.

As you see, in the beginning of 20th century two radical development of the relativity theory and the quantum mechanics changed the traditional views of matter and world. Since the quantum mechanics has been born, the opposed theories of particle and wave are modified into a unified theory for a quantified particle and wave. That is, the quality of particle and wave for light is not a separate character, rather shows a double character of an identical substance: in other words, the double character is considered as a 'wavecle.' Matter consists of the continuum of particles which oppose and mediate each other, and matter finally reveals a complementary property of micro material. Supposing the existence of a photon, the wave of light is accompanied with a particle which holds a quantum units of energy, and then matter and energy become to have a double character of wave and particle. It is by the complementary function of the double character that a new understanding of physics is made. In a macro way, both matter and light consist of a continuous wave, while in a micro way they also consist of a discontinuity of particles. N. Bohr's theory of complementation is the result that men attempted to understand the double character of wave and particle without any difficulty.

By this double character of wave and particle, it is possible that an uncertain element lies in the micro world of the photon, electron, and atom. In 1927, Heisenberg measured this uncertainty in which he tried to measure the position and speed of the quantum particle at the same time. We want to get an exact measurement of the position of an electron, while we cannot get any knowledge about the momentum of the electron. In the other hands, if we can measure the momentum of the electron, we cannot do its position. This paradox happens because if an electron is fixed in a certain position, the process of 'fixing the electron' makes an effect for the momentum of the electron. The attempt to measure the momentum of the electron also makes an effect for us to realize exactly the position of the electron because the momentum shakes the position of the electron.

This paradox is due to the original meaning of nature rather than the limit of human recognition accompanied by technology. That position and momentum of an electron cannot be measured at the same time shows that in a micro world a causal determinism is meaningless. 15) 

By N. Bohr and Heisenberg, we become to know that the position and momentum of a particle cannot be measured at the same time, because the atoms of matter and light are resulted as the phenomena of particles in a certain experiment, and as the phenomena of waves in the other experiment. Consider a more logical answer why these different phenomena occur. Hans Reichenbach explains the problem of this paradox mentioning L.V. de Broglie. While the classic physicists had been involved in the two-valued logic for the double character of particle and wave, de Broglie dared to think a possibility that light could consist of a particle as well as a wave. For him, the two-valued logic, 'either-or' logic, must be replaced by 'both-and' logic in which a complementary theory would be made. He set up a three-valued logic which consists of 'true (T),' 'false (F),' and 'indeterminate (I),' and then considered a true result by an experiment of a momentum of a particle as an indeterminacy. What a particle is in a state of indeterminacy means that when a momentum of a particle is determined, the determinacy is uncertain. That is, when an utterance is true, the other utterance must be in an indeterminate state from the given condition. Furthermore, de Broglie's 'both-and' character of particle and wave makes us interpret a possibility that particle and wave exist at the same time. Of course, such existence does not mean that they are real in a certain condition, rather real only in an interpreting condition. That is, both particle and wave are true all the time.  16) 

His argument is to divulge a limit of human recognition, and makes us imagine the thought of the middle Way in buddhism. For N. Bohr, it is meaningless to ask what the electron is. And, according to Paul Davies, with the development of Bohr's idea, the Western philosophical view of the whole and part, and the macro and micro world is radically changed.


So the quantum reality of the microworld is inextricably entangled with the organization of the macroworld. In other words, the part has no meaning except in relation to the whole. Thus holistic character of quantum physics has found considerable favour among follows of Eastern mysticism, the philosophy embodied in such oriental religions as hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Indeed, in the early days of quantum theory many physicists, including Schrodinger, were quick to draw parallels between the quantum concept of part and whole, and the traditional oriental concept of the unity and harmony of nature.17)


With the paradox of Schrodinger's cat which is understood by Paul Davies and J. Brown, I will show a similarity of quantum mechanics and Zen Buddhism.  18) 

A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device. Suppose that the probability of radioactive substance half in a given period. If the radioactive substance flows out, the counter tube discharges, and moving a hammer by an attached cord shatters the flask which holds hydrocyanic acid. Then, the hydrocyanic acid comes out and the dies.

 

According to the quantum theory, matter consists of a double-laid state in which radioactivity can flow out or not. Then, we can suppose that the probability of life and death of the cat is half. The probability of alive and dead state is half if we express the cat in terms of the quantum mechanics. How to understand this strange state is expressed by the paradox of Schrodinger's cat.

In our common sense, the cat should be dead or alive. There is no choice between alive and dead. Because each probability of alive and dead state of the cat is half, we cannot say that the cat is alive and dead. If we, however, observe these states, one of the states occurs in a real condition. If we suppose that the cat is alive, and open the steel chamber, the cat is found alive, while if we suppose that the cat is dead and open the chamber, the cat is dead. That is, according to our chosen will, the cat is alive or dead. Technically saying, we can say that a wave function is broken and each state has its own value.

Although all these results happen in a micro state of an electron, when we understand nature, these results have a significant meaning in which our subjective recognition works. This curious relationship between particle and us is found as the spin state of particle.

The particle of neutrino and electron have a kind of internal rotation, namely, a spin (of course, all elementary particles have a spin). If we make an experiment apparatus to find the direction of spin and choose a certain direction for a co-ordinates, we discover that the spin is pointing a field-direction. That is, the spin of the particle is always pointing the direction we choose. A particle always points a direction as we want to point. In the micro world of the elementary particles, our subjective element is mediated. This state is very similar with the cases of 'a smile with the flower shown' and 'an immediate communication from mind to mind' in Buddhism in which people can intuitively feel a co-understanding without any word. In the case of the quantum mechanics, particles of electron work like human beings pretending to communicate by the mind. Of course, we do not know why this happens.

Davies and Brown argues that the significant role of observation in the quantum mechanics lies in dealing with the relationship between matter and mind. That the wave function suddenly changes when we observe the quantum shows the idea that mind is over matter. This idea is similar with the Buddhist idea 'Buddha nature all over the world': the physical state affects the spiritual state and vice versa.

P. Neumann uttered that anything cannot 'break' the wave function. The wave function, however, is broken when man's consciousness is involved. In other words, when a result of measurement enters into man's consciousness, the complex pyramid organization of quantum is easily shown as a distinct reality.

For Eugene Wigner, mind plays an important role in which mind determines the nature of measurement and makes happen an irreversible change of the quantum state of matter.

As Davies and Brown says, the relationship of mind and matter in the quantum physics is very similar with the thinking method of Eastern religion in many ways. In Zen Buddhism, there are some important arguments: 'language beyond language' and 'a secret beyond canon.' A true reality is understood only by mind from mind and the canonical truth is understood just by our self-reflection but not by the Buddhist canons themselves. All external things and events are only the mirror-like thing of our original nature and all canonical principle are just the musical echoes of our true nature. Therefore, we should not identify our original nature with such a mirror-like thing or echoes. We can identify ourselves only if we directly observe our original nature.

The reality of Zen Buddhism is well understood by the relationship between Buddha and K??yapa. 19)  K??yapa is known as the founder of the Indian meditation. Originally 'dayana' meant a concentrated meditation. On the other hand, the Chinese meditation meant the sudden enlightenment. Hence, the real nature of meditation means the revelation of self and self-proof.

According to D. T. Suzuki, the Zen meditation presents a method in which we go into an object itself and realize the object as it is. To know what a flower is a means for us to become the flower, blossoming with the flower and getting wet with rain and being exposed to the sun. Hence, the flower wants to talk with us and at the same time I share, with the flower, joy and suffer. Now I can understand the phase of the flower, namely, its life. Not only I know the mystery of the universe with enlightenment but also I know the mystery of itself. 20) At this moment, universe and I are unified: in this unity universe becomes me and vice versa.

Here, the Zen meditation and the quantum mechanics meet each other. That is, the quantum mechanics cannot be explained by the two-value thinking as the Zen meditation cannot do. Although in a sense the quantum mechanics is a new way of recognition, it indirectly is to show as what the Zen meditation is. In next chapter, I will explain the Buddhist thought of the Middle Way with 'language beyond language' of the Zen meditation. When we understand that thought, we also can find the logical ground of the intuitive world of the Zen meditation in which life and death are unified as one.

4. The Epistemology of the Middle Way

Nagarjuna unfolded his philosophy of the Middle Way by paramartha-satya and lokasamvrti-satya: Nirodha-?ryasatya belongs to the param?rtha-satya and suffering, attachment, and way belong to lokasamvrti-satya: that is, the paramartha-satya means a state of salvation, while lokasamvrti-satya means its previous state or a means of the paramartha-satya. Therefore, Nagarjuna said that paramartha-satya cannot be required without lokasamvrti-satya, and without such paramartha-satya, we cannot get nirvana. 21)   The point we have to keep in mind here is that paramartha-satya is divided into both an expressible absolute and an unexpressible absolute, and that lokasamvrti-satya must be considered reasonable as well as non-reasonable.

Param?rtha-satya of an unexpressible absolute is the true suchness beyond language' as a truth, while param?rtha-satya of an expressible absolute is the 'true suchness depended upon language.' The latter belongs to the lokasamvrti-satya because 'satya' depending upon language cannot be an experience of salvation. The Hegelian dialectics proceeds in a reasonable way depending on language. So, such dialectics cannot deal with 'the transformation of reasonableness into un-reasonableness.' Nagarjuna's 'dialectics of negation' does not accept reasonable thinking. To negate reason, we have to be reasonable which is a self-negation of reason. Through a reasonable thinking we discover a paradox and throw it away. The self-negation of reason is performed by the paramartha-satya which is expressible by language; that is, negating language by language. Hence, T.R.V. Murti calls this form of logic as 'reductio as absuridum.'22)   Although the expressible stage might be reasonable, this stage is still unreasonable because it has a paradox in which a reason has to be explained by reason. So, we must reveal the unreasonableness and then we can transcend from the limit of language and get nirvana.

Won-Hyo (617-686) said: To cut all kinds of problems of the world with wisdom is a secular law but not a principal law. It is because in the emptiness there is no dying thing and no making thing die, and so everything is empty and is in a state of nirvana.23)  In other words, for him there is no division between truth and falsity, which are not different. His idea is analogous to the idea that 'stopping observation' is two wings of birds and two wheels of carriage.

Although Won-hyo criticizes some parts of the thought of the Middle Way, his original idea of truth and falsity is same with Nagarguna's. Truth and falsity (or secularity) are same, in which we should not be attached to not only falsity but also truth. We have to throw away the attachment for truth and falsity.

Won-hyo's idea becomes clear if we research one of 'the first dialect' which explains Sung-lang's thought that two different values reveal the Middle Way. His dialect might be schematized as follows.


** Two different values reveal the Middle Way.

1. Birth/Death..........the Middle Way for Secular Value

2. No-Birth/Death...........the Middle Way of True Value

3. Not-birth/Death and Not-(No-Birth/Death)............the Middle Way of Revealing Two Different Values  24) 


According to the above schema, birth/death is set as the Middle Way of secular value. Most people believe that there in this world birth and death really exist. Hence, the law of birth/death is considered a secular or false value and no-birth/death is considered as true value. Since many intellects do not have any difficulty to understand the fact that there is no-birth/death, in this schema birth/death and no-birth/death is set to be responded to the secular or false value and the true value, respectively.

If we, however, consider birth/death as a real phenomenon and no-birth/death as a real phenomenon, our consideration is also mistaken. We need a unity for two different values which reveal the Middle Way.

Therefore, Sung-lang explains two different values as follows.


"Those two values are a mysterious teaching for the Middle Way as well as a true sermon in which our culture and language are searched. Being and non-being are discovered by a principle. Although being and non-being are separate and cannot be recognized as a unity, reality is found as one principle. Hence, with the ways of truth and falsity, we can educate people to make them find a right way.25)


Won-hyo, in his Sipmunhwajaengnon(ڦ) said: When people, who had attained Buddhahood, lived, their world was peaceful. However, in the future world, people are involved in a vain arguments and fight each other, and finally they would not escape from their inevitable retribution, namely, karma. 26)   So, Won-hyo said that with the light of wisdom the world can be equal.27) He continued to say: Like the difference of birds's marks in the air, the example of the air accompanies with such difference. Although the birds's marks once existed, we cannot differentiate the actual marks of birds.28) After all, enlightenment is attained by throwing away fancies which always occur. The state without fancies is like the air.

Now we know that the quantum mechanics and Zen meditation share with the thought of the Middle Way in terms of recognition of the world. Although there must be more careful understanding about this argument, I, at least, can claim that quantum mechanics and Zen Buddhism are in the state of complementation.


5. The Contemporary Meaning of Zen Meditation in the Era of Science

Today the scientific civilization can be described as the civilization of machine, possession, ambition, and competition. On the other hand, by the Zen meditation we can acquire culture for life, non-possession, freedom from desire, and harmony. We, however, know what the problems this techno-scientific world have. We also find a similarity between the quantum mechanics and the Buddhistic thought of the Middle Way. Hence, modern science tends to hold favorable and non-favorable view with Buddhism. Then, we need a careful insight to discriminate the right and wrong points about the effects of modern science.

As I said before, people are not interested in recovering their natural humanity. They are losing their mind just being interested in using computer, television, handphone, money and enjoying sensual pleasure and playing golf and gambling. To escape from these bad situations, we must consider the real meaning of the Zen meditation.

People often say that yoga is for attaining ecstasy and Zen meditation for enlightenment. As the Great master Seo-Ong once said, enlightenment is acquired when man becomes free without having any discrimination against others. All critical situation is due to our dualistic thought and unfair discrimination. The extreme materialism, individualism, and egoism bring our world to a crisis and aggravate conflicts and split. Zen meditation accepts all forms of State, nationality, religion, thought, and culture. That is, Zen meditation provides a universal ground in which all forms of societies are harmonized.

To prove the effects of Zen meditation, I will explain Zen meditation summarizing its five steps (which are read in Korean as follows.)


1. Jeong Joong Pyun.....the Pyun in the Jeong (substance behind phenomena)

2. Pyun Joong Jeong.....the Jeong in the Pyun (phenomena transitioning to substance)

3. Jeong Joong Lae.....coming from the Jeong (phenomena coming from substance consciously)

4. Gyum Joong Ji....the arriving in the Gyum (substance and phenomena coming together)

5. Gyum Joong Do.....the settling in the Gyum (substance and phenomena harmonizing each other)


Suzuki said that "The sho [Jeong in Korean] and hen [Pyun in Korean] constitute a duality like the yin and yang in Chinese philosophy. Sho literally means 'right,' 'straight,' 'just,' 'level'; and hen is 'partial,' 'one-sided,' 'unbalanced,' 'lopsided.' 29)  He explained the relationship between Jeong and Pyun in English as follows.30)

1) Jeong is translated in English as follows; the absolute, the infinite, the one, God, dark (undifferentiation), sameness, emptiness, wisdom, and the universal. And, Pyun is translated as follows; the relative, the finite, the many, the world, light, difference, form and matter, love and the particular. I will quote Suzuki's explanation for the five steps.

[Jeong Joong Pyun] means that the one is in the many, God in the world, the infinite in the finite, etc. When we think, the [Jeong] stand in opposition and cannot be reconciled. But in fact the [Jeong] cannot be the [Jeong] nor can the [Pyun] be the [Pyun] when either stands by itself. What makes the many [Jeong] the many is because the one is in it. If the one is not there, we cannot even talk of manyness. 31)

2) [Pyun Joong Jeong] complements (1). If the one is in the many, the many must be in the one. The many is what makes the one possible. God is the world and the world is in God. God and the world are separate and not identical in the sense that God cannot exist outside the world and that the one is indistinguishable from the other. They are one and yet each retains its individuality: God is infinitely particularizing and the world of particulars finds itself nestled in th bosom of God. 32)  

3) We now come to the third step in the life of the Zen-man. This is the most crucial point where the noetic quality of the preceeding two steps transforms itself into the conative and he becomes really a living, feeling, and willing personality. Hitherto he was the head, the intellect, in however exacting a sense this might be understood. Now he is supplied with the trunk with all its visceral contents and also with all the limbs, especially with hands, the number of which may be increased even up to one thousand (symbolizing an infinity) like those of Kwannon the Bodhisattva. And in his inward life he feels like the infant Buddha who uttered, as soon as he came out of his mother's body, this pronouncement: 'Heaven above, earth below, I alone am the most honored one.'33)

The [Jeong in Jeong Joong Lae] is not used in the same sense as in [Jeong Joong Pyun] or in [Pyun Joong Jeong]. The [Jeong] in [Jeong Joong Lae] is to be read together with following [Joong] as [Jeong Joong], meaning 'right from the midst of [Jeong] as [Pyun] and [Pyun] as [Joong]. Jeong Joong Lae is like the 'thunderous silence,' which is the eye of the hurricane. The eye is the center of the hurricane and without the eye the hurricane does not occur. The eye is what makes the hurricane possible. Eye and hurricane conjointly constitute the totality. When the Gyum Joong Ji arrives, it jumps in the hurricane escaping from the eye, namely, the center. Here, both Jeong and Pyun are enfolded by the wind which comes from all over directions. Then, man becomes the hurricane itself.

[Gyum] means 'both' and refers to the dualism of black and white, dark and light, love and hate, good and bad -- which is the actuality of the world in which the Zen-man leads his life now. While [Jeong Joong Lae] still reminds us of something in the preceding two steps, [Gyum Joong Ji] has altogether left them behind, for it is like itself shown of its intellectual paradoxes, or rather, it includes indiscriminately, undifferentially, or better, totalistically, everything that is intellectual or affective or conative. It is the world as we have it with all its 'brute facts,' as some philosophers take them, irrevocably facing us. 34) The Zen-man finally realizes that 'klesa' is Bodhi, and at this level experiences that appearance which is reasonably understood, and substance is one. Furthermore, appearance and substance cannot be separated and must be in a complementary condition.

Let's continue to understand Suzuki's explanation: We now come to the last step, [GyumJoong Do]. The difference between this and the fourth is the use of [Do] instead of [Ji]....But, according to the traditional interpretation, [Ji] has not yet completed the act of reaching, the traveler is still on the way to the goal, whereas [Do] indicates the completion of the act. The Zen-man here attains his object, for he has reached the destination. He is working just as strenuously as ever; he stays in this world among his fellow beings. His daily activities are not changed. 35)  

In the fourth step, Zen-man really wants to jump into the universe. His desire might be called a step of meta-cosmic. On the other hand, this fifth state is the transmeta-cosmic state, in which the Zen-man must come back to the condition unifying both appearance and substance. Although he is described as a hero, now he discovers a paradise in this world and becomes to respect all trivial things. He comes to be sincere for himself and helps others and shows a life-model for them. He hereby becomes a true-man.

Suzuki summarized all five steps as follows: These five are divisible into two groups; noetic, affective or conative. The first three are noetic and the last two are affective or conative. The middle one, the third 'step,' is the transition point at which the noetic begins to be conative and knowledge turns into life. Here, the noetic comprehension of the Zen life becomes dynamic. 'The word' takes flesh; the abstract idea is transformed into a living person who feels, wills, hopes, aspires, suffers, and is capable of doing any amount of work. In the first of the last two 'steps,' the Zen-man strives to realize his insight to the utmost of his abilities. In the last he reaches his destination, which is really no destination.36)  

The American philosopher of religion, Thomas Merton said in his book Mystics and Zen masters that If the West continues to underestimate and neglect the spiritual heritage of the East, it may hasten the tragedy that threatens man and his civilizations. If the West can recognize that contact with Eastern thought can renew our appreciation for our own cultural heritage,...then it will be easier to defend that heritage, not only in Asia but in the West as well.

Now the time that religion and Western science meet each other was made. I will specify such meeting of science and religion, quoting a Korean newspaper.


Recently an attempt was to find a commonality between two different thoughts. With using brochures, television and making workshops, this great meaningful conference was given in Berkeley, California with the topic 'Science and the meaning of mind.' Most scientists who participated in this conference were Christians, Jews, and Islamics. For a long time they attempted to solve the conflicts between religion and science. There was a common sense in this conference in which the universe had a purpose and by its purpose human beings would be really existed.

- Munhwa Daily (number 2054) July 20 -

 

6. Conclusion

Since 1970s, I have been researching comparative philosophy as well as philosophy of science to harmonize modern science and Eastern religion and ethics. Gwahak Sasang (Thought of Science), the quarterly journal in which I have worked as a chief-editor, has been published to harmonize Eastern religion and science.

In his Dharma teaching, the Great master Seo-Ong once said that the real nature of man penetrates his consciousness as well as unconsciousness, and does his free and easy state, and finally enlighten himself without any limitation. Such unlimited penetration of human nature is to attain the divine enlightenment.

According to Seo-Ong, men have to critically consider their given civilization which has been affected by modern science, and consider the relationship between their civilization and the Zen meditation. When the relationship between them is well harmonized, men can solve the problem how their future world must be guided. Seo-Ong presents his idea as follows to solve this problem.


In Zen Buddhism, we can find a principle of existence in which one and many is unified, and particulars and universals are also unified. Without particulars, 'one' becomes meaningless, and without one, particulars are split, lacking unification. Today men are losing such a 'universal one' because of particularism due to the modern science, and is taking conflicts. In a short word, our modern civilization is implicated in seeking after particulars still losing 'one.' Men can easily be fallen into a mental disease. To solve this problem, they have to create a new kind of scientific civilization in which one and many are unified. Then, men can harmoniously develop their civilization anticipating a peaceful world.37) 


The significance of Zen meditation is found when it is the basis of harmony and unification of all over things in the world, because by the meditation people can be in an absolute freedom. As Seo-Ong said, the absolute freedom is accomplished by 'penetrating freedom' itself. Furthermore, through the absolute freedom all conflicts disappear and finally all antagonistic concepts of truth and falsity, the absolute and the opposite, one and many, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, and 'I and you' are harmonized in which 'one' belongs to 'two' and vice versa.

Erich Jantsch, who is the Austrian physicist and one of the founders for Rome Club, said that Buddha's thought is the best example of process philosophy, an that each man is the mind at large and with evolution of his mind each participate with the sacred principle and purpose.38)  If we can say that the real meaning of the Zen meditation is identified with the purpose of all universe through the Zen meditation, we can actively participate with the dynamic state of the holy universe.

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1) In the Gwahak SasangVol.25, (Seoul: Bumyangsa Press, 1998) P.24.

2) ibid., pp. 24-25

3) Karl Jaspers, Rechenschaft und Ausblick, R. Piper & Co. Verlag (Munchen), 1951, pp. 240-241.

4) Karl Jaspers, Descartes und die Philosophie, (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter & Co., 1966), p. 97.

5) John Horgan, The End of Science, p.13. Also refer to gunther Stent's The Coming of the Golden Age, (Garden City N.Y.: History Press, 1969)

6) ibid., p. 20 Also Refer to Gunther Stent's The Paradoxes of Progress, (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman,1978)

7) ibid., p.

8) A. N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, Cambridge, 1938, pp. 61-68.

9) Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, 1968, p. 59

10) M. Warldrop, Complexity, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). Refer to chapter 6.

11) Refer to The Concept of Anxiety of Kierkegard.

12) Refer to Sartre's Being and Nothing.

13) Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Being, Cybernetics and Society, AVON BPPKS, 1967. p. 253.

14) Ibid., p. 254.

15) P. Brown and J. Davies, The Ghost in the Atom, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

16) Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, University of California Press, 1973, pp. 175-184.

17) Davis, Brown, op. cit., p. 12

18) Davies, Brown, ibid., pp. 29-35.

19) (Zhiyuelu), Vol. 1, p. 11.

Buddha once delivered a sermon for people. Ending his sermon, Buddha picked up a flower and showed it to people without a word. People were embarrassed with his strange act and sat with curiosity. Only K??yapa smiled. here, Buddha said: I know how the right truth is saved and how nirvana lies in our deep mind. The real image pretends to have no image. The delicate way to open the truth is to know 'the language beyond language' and 'the secret beyond canon.' I hereby give you truth.

20) Erich Fromm and D. T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, Harper & Row, 1970. p.134.

21) ˧, {}, ˻, pp.120-121, , {}, 8, 24, 10.

22) T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, George Allen and Unwin, 1974, p.132 and p.140.

23) Junghee Un, Won-Hyo's Taes?ng Kisillon So(), IIjisa Press, p.211.

24) Naeseok Kim, 'Sung-lang's Thought of Three-Principle,' in Anthology of Buddhistic Essays for honoring Dr. Baek Seonguk, Dongguk University Press, pp. 43-67.

25) Refer to the same page of the above book.

26) Refer to his introduction of Sipmunhwajaengnon(ڦ)

27) Refer to introduction of the above book.

28) Refer to the introduction of the above book.

29) Erich Fromm & suzuki, op. cit., pp.60-61.

30) Ibid., p. 61.

31) Ibid., p. 61

32) Ibid., p. 61

33) Ibid., pp. 61-66

34) Ibid., p. 67-73.

35) Ibid., p. 74

36) Ibid., p. 60

37) Seo-Ong, The Collective Essays of Dharma Teaching, Minjoksa Press, 1998, p. 196.

38) Erich Jantach, The Self-Organizing Universe, Pergamon Press, 1980 (trans. by Dongsun Hong, 1989) pp. 422-423.


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