If we recall the analogy of the horse and pebble, the magician and the latecomer represented the two ways in which sunyata can be understood: inferentially and directly. Direct understanding of sunyata is often described by way of the Greek term gnosis. This gnosis is achieved by means of meditational practices of various kinds, but it is based on a correct inferential understanding of emptiness, which is brought about by reason. The experience in meditational equipoise is rooted in the conceptual understanding of emptiness, but that conceptual understanding is also altered by the meditational experience. There is a feedback loop that can eventually lead the practitioner to the fruits of the path being followed, be it Sravaka, Pratyekabuddha or Boddhisattva. These paths to salvation are unique to Buddhism, as are some of the methods employed on the paths. It is this soteriological aspect of Buddhism that accounts for the western tendency to categorize it as a "religion".
However, the practice of testing a hypothesis (one's inferential understanding of sunyata) against reason and experiment (meditation) has been the cornerstone of the "scientific method" since it took form in the days of Galileo, Bacon and Descartes. For a thousand years, Tibetans have used the techniques that came to them from Indian civilization. In the West, the inheritance of Greek, Roman and other influences helped shape the nature and direction of inquiry. Since we have already explored, very briefly, the results of Tibetan modes of inquiry into physical existence, let's turn to Western physics to see how it has fared.
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End Notes and Works Cited
Copyright © 2005 Dan Haig