Life – an unanswered question?

Posted: 15/04/2016 in Buddhadasa, Zen

“The Buddha remained silent when asked these fourteen questions. He described them as a net and refused to be drawn into such a net of theories, speculations, and dogmas. He said that it was because he was free of bondage to all theories and dogmas that he had attained liberation. Such speculations, he said, are attended by fever, unease, bewilderment, and suffering, and it is by freeing oneself of them that one achieves liberation.” Taken from Wikipedia.

If asked what type of Buddhist I am now, I will answer Zen, but if asked which Buddhist dogma I know about and the answer is Theravada – I am in transition. So when Brad Warner talks about the existence of life here, I immediately react by saying that the Buddha considered it an unanswered question. In the above wiki quote, which I find consistent with what I have studied, it basically says that the question doesn’t lead anywhere, is headbanging and doesn’t help. Perhaps zen takes a different view. Consider koans, they are headbanging. And they lead somewhere in the sense that they unhinge the intellectual mind allowing truth in. Would zen consider the unanswered questions in a similar vein – “koanic”? I would like help in resolving this issue of zen and the unanswered questions.

One important point about unanswered questions is that they can never be proven, and to accept one or other theory or dogma concerning any unanswered questions means accepting something that cannot be proven. In the Kalama sutta, a Theravada sutta – is it accepted by zen/Mahayana?, the Buddha says you have to know for yourself – that is the proof. For me this sutta was important in considering all the discussion of reincarnation. How can I prove reincarnation? I don’t accept it, many Theravadans do – amongst others including some Mahayana and zen? Reincarnation is covered by unanswered questions.

Buddhadasa, a now-dead Thai monk, discusses reincarnation when considering consciousness (vinnana) one of the 5 khandas. “In Thailand the Hindu teachings came here first, way before Buddhism came. When the Hindu or Brahmanistic teachings came, they brought this idea, this teaching, of vinnana in the sense of the soul or spirit that inhabited all kinds of things, not just people but trees and rocks – all over the place. All things had this spirit, and when the body died, that thing died, vinnana would go to be reincarnated. This is a Hindu teaching which existed in Thailand long before Buddhism came, and it was very firmly and deeply implanted in the Thai religious culture. So later when Buddhism came, everybody already had this Hindu understanding of vinnana, and so many people have been unable over the centuries to understand the Buddhist teaching of vinnana. It must be understood in light of the central teaching of Buddhism, anatta, that is that in life there is no self, no soul and no spirit in the Hindu sense; Buddhism denies that there is any such thing (self, soul or spirit),” [here and scroll]. He considers Thai belief in reincarnation as Hindu, and as many of the western Theravada monks have trained in Thailand – Forest Sangha, this “Thai-Hindu” thing has become a Theravada thing.

So to life as an “unanswered question”. Buddhadasa uses a device to examine the suttas in which he talks of truth and relative truth (truth in daily life). With regards to life I try to understand it in a similar vein. There is Unity, One life that I often refer to as Gaia; I specify that Gaia is not just the ecology of earth but Gaia includes all lives (relative) including humans. We are all One. In description of life there is a theosophist phrase that Annie Besant uses that “there is consciousness in every atom”, similar to the Hindu view of vinnana. Every atom is part of Gaia. Because of the schism of knowledge into religion and science I feel science rarely has anything to offer on such matters. Whilst science demands proof as discussed above with the Kalama sutta, science does not accept subjective experience and the empirical proof of meditation. However in this case (quoted in Brad’s blog) the scientist has come up with an interesting comparison. “Consciousness resides … in the microtubules of the brain cells, which are the primary sites of quantum processing.” Without getting into the question of mind and brain, this is similar to what Annie Besant says. However it would have to be if we accept the universal description of life as Gaia.

As to relative truth this is more the question that Brad is asking. The relative truth says that Brad and I are different lives – separate beings. Then there is life animals, bacteria, microbes and other small stuff. The smaller you go the harder it is to establish the meaning of life, but as the universal truth of Gaia there is no separation, no unity, only One life – and all is alive “universally” but not relatively.

Science works on an unwritten axiom, and acceptance of this axiom leads to many of the problems to do with the separation of scientific knowledge from other knowledge – such as insight or zen. That axiom is that we are separate beings as opposed to the Unity – Gaia. Science does not see ant but separate ants and wonders how they communicate. But as part of Gaia there is no need for such an explanation. In Brad’s blog the quoted science has all subscribed to axiom of separation, and so can only determine definitions and conclusions within the realm of relative truth.

With universal truth of Gaia Unity or ONE planet there is no need to be confused by that – there is existence of ONE life.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.


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