Thursday, February 09, 2012

Meditators are the real Psychologists

Venerable Bodhi and Debbie was fetching me to NTU to visit their exhibition and talk that night after the Clearing Misconception talk with her in NUS. They were generous to let me tag along and even got dinner for me too! I was reading Shadow of the Hegemon,, (Read Ender's game to see the joke) and was excited about writing a science fiction book with an active engaged Buddhist in it.

On the way, we were talking about Physics and Buddhism, interpretations of Quantum Physics, many world theories, the search for the theory of everything.

Despite whatever we think Physicist meant when they say everything, it's not everything. It meant that everything fundamental, one master equation from which you could derive all the other laws from it and learn how the world works. Because from a reductionist point of view, everything can be reduced to Physics. Maths doesn't count, as you need to have experimental observation to know which mathematics is the right one to describe nature.

According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (Niyamas) which operate in the physical and mental realms:

  1. Kamma Niyama, order of act and result, e.g., desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results.
  2. Utu Niyama, physical (inorganic) order, e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains.
  3. Bija Niyama, order of germs or seeds (physical organic order); e.g., rice produced from rice-seed, sugary taste from sugar cane or honey etc. The scientific theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to this order.
  4. Citta Niyama, order of mind or psychic law, e.g., processes of consciousness (Citta vithi), power of mind etc.
  5. Dhamma Niyama, order of the norm, e.g., the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisatta in his last birth, gravitation, etc.
I'm sure you can link which science is which, while Citta Niyama includes psychology, and Kamma is just not able to be tested by science, only the Buddha can know the full workings of Kamma. For us, if we try to think too much about it, we would go crazy at the complicated details. Well, there are books about understanding of Kamma, and these are good for the spiritual path. The full workings that I meant is like perhaps trying to figure out if there is a (local?) hidden variable model for the otherwise intrinsic randomness of quantum phenomena. (Just guessing here, but since Kamma rejects that things happen by chance, could it be that the hidden variable model itself is influenced/determined by Kamma?)

I think Physicists left out a lot of things unexplained. So first, the realm of Kamma is out. Next, we can only claim to know the other 2 Sciences if we are serious in ignoring the complexity effect, of the sum is greater than it's parts (that's why they needed to be studied separately). Finally, Psychology is still a soft science, not being able to predict stuffs with total accuracy. Sure, it makes sense most of the time and helped some people from counseling and psychotherapy, positive psychology etc... but it is still way primitive compared to what meditators already know about their own mind.

I wouldn't call Psychology a science as what I would call Physics, Chemistry and Biology sciences. Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Medicine are all proves of just how applicable and reliable those sciences are. While we can't put the same credentials to counselors, psychologists, or people who manipulate others into positions of power etc...

However, each meditator, with mindfulness well trained are able to see how their mind works and therefore from there, catch what they are doing, and then direct their efforts and energy to do something better. That's a true application of the workings of the mind, that's the way the mind works that makes me say: Meditators are the real Scientists!

Of course, we are still being subjected to greed, anger, and delusion, therefore unable to perfectly follow the model above.

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