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Home > Approaching Buddhism > Buddhism in the World Today > Buddhist Science, Psychology, and Religion > Buddhist Science, Psychology, and Religion

Buddhist Science, Psychology, and Religion

Alexander Berzin
Sofia, Bulgaria, 2012

Unedited Transcript
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I’m very happy to be with you all this evening. I’ve been asked to speak this evening about “Why Buddhism?” which is of course a valid question, especially in the West, where we have our own religions, so why do we need Buddhism?

I think it’s very important to understand that when we speak about Buddhism, we have many different aspects to it. There’s what can be called Buddhist science, Buddhist psychology, and Buddhist religion:

  • When we speak about Buddhist science, this is referring to things like logic, how we know things, and basically the view of reality – how the universe has come about, etc., these type of things – the relation between mind and matter. All of this is dealing with scientific topics, and Buddhism has a lot to offer in these areas.
  • Then Buddhist psychology deals with various emotional states, especially disturbing emotions that cause us a great deal of unhappiness (anger, jealousy, greed, etc.). And Buddhism is very rich in methods for how to deal with the problems that come up from these disturbing emotions.
  • Buddhist religion, on the other hand, deals with various ritual aspects, prayers; it deals with topics like rebirth. And that also is a very rich area.

So when we ask, “Why Buddhism? What need do we have for Buddhism in the West in the contemporary world?” then I think we need to look specifically at Buddhist science and Buddhist psychology. If people are interested in the more religious aspects of Buddhism, that’s very good; no problem. But in general it is not very easy if you are brought up in one religion to change to another religion, and for most people it causes conflict within themselves, loyalty conflict, and particularly can cause problems at the time of death – you’re very confused about what to actually believe.

So we need to be very careful about being Western people growing up in Western traditions and turning to the religious aspects of Buddhism, because there are additional problems that can be there, such as superstition coming in and expecting miracle things from the Buddhist rituals. So it is much better, much more recommended, at least in the beginning, to focus on Buddhist science and Buddhist psychology. These are areas that can be integrated very well into our Western traditions without conflict. So let’s look at some of these aspects of Buddhist science and psychology.

Buddhist Science

Logic

Logic is a very important part of the Buddhist training, and the way that it is studied is in terms of debating. So what’s the purpose of debate? The purpose of debate is not to win over your opponent, to prove that the opponent is wrong. But rather the whole point of the debate is that there’s somebody who is the proponent, and they state a certain position or certain understanding of one of the Buddhist teachings, and the other person challenges their understanding and is trying to test the other person to see how consistent they are in their understanding. So if you believe this or that, then logically something else follows from it. And if what follows from it is nonsense, doesn’t make any sense, then there’s something wrong with your understanding. So this is very important because if we’re going to try to understand something deeply concerning basic facts of reality, let’s say, such as impermanence, then we want to – what’s called meditation – we want to think deeply about it and make it a part of the way that we view the world.

Everything is changing moment to moment to moment, and that’s something which is important to understand in terms of our general mental peace. For instance, you buy a new computer, and eventually it breaks, and you get all upset about it: “Why should it break?” and so on. But if you think about it logically, the reason that it broke was that it was made in the first place. Because it was made from so many different parts and so many different things that are interconnected, then it’s very unstable, and of course at some point it’s going to break.

Even when we meet somebody and we develop a strong friendship or even a partnership, eventually it ends. So why did it end? Why did we break up? We broke up because we met. Every moment after we met, the circumstances and the conditions changed in this person’s life and in my life. The circumstances that supported our initial friendship are no longer there, and the friendship is dependent on all these conditions, so when it ends – well, of course it’s going to end, because the conditions supporting it have changed. So the final event which seems to us to cause the breakup – an argument, let’s say – is only the condition for the friendship to end. If it wasn’t this condition, it would have been something else. But the actual cause for it to end was because it began.

So the same thing in terms of our life (this is the Buddhist attitude toward death): What’s the reason why we died? The reason is we were born. The actual sickness or accident was just the circumstance of death. So if you’re born, you die. Simple. That’s reality. These are the aspects of Buddhist science, and this is logical. So in a debate, the other person would test your understanding of this and try to find holes in your argument:

  • “Well, you could say, ‘If I didn’t eat this or didn’t go to this place, I wouldn’t have died.’”
  • Whereas the other person would say, “Yes, but there would be other circumstances. Because you were born, you’ll die.”

So like that, through logic, through debate, one comes to a definite understanding without any indecision (“Is it like this, or is it like that?”). That way, our understanding becomes very firm, very stable. And whether we’re doing meditation after that or whatever, it becomes much more effective. So this type of discussion, debate, logic, is very helpful for anybody in any situation. Very often we think in ways which are very unclear; we don’t think of the consequences of our actions or the consequences of our way of thinking. So if we can learn to think logically, then we’ll have far less trouble in our lives.

So this is one aspect of Buddhist science.

Reality

Then in terms of reality, one point we already discussed is in terms of impermanence. Everything is changing moment to moment to moment and coming closer and closer each moment to its end. This is reality. It’s true about our age. We can think, “Oh, every day I’m getting older” and think, “Well, okay,” but how many of us think every day that: “I’m getting closer to my death. That’s just reality”? But if we are aware of that, that each day we’re getting closer to our death and that death can happen at any time, which is true, then we don’t waste our time. We don’t put things off until tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, but we use our lives in as meaningful a way as we can. And what’s most meaningful is to try to be of benefit to others. So this is reality. And it’s very helpful to think, “If this was my last day, what would I want to do in this last day? How would I use it in a meaningful way?” Because we never know when our last day will be. We could be hit by a car when we leave this room. This is not meant to make us depressed; it’s meant to make us use our time much more meaningfully.

Let’s take another example in terms of reality. Imagine being in an elevator with ten other people, and the elevator gets stuck. The electricity goes off, and you’re stuck in this elevator with these ten people for a whole day. How would you deal with each other? If you start to fight, if you start to argue, and so on, it’s going to be like a hell in this elevator. The only way that you can survive is if everybody is helpful, friendly, and kind to each other, because you’re all stuck in this elevator together; you’re all stuck in the same situation. So this is logical. This is reasonable, isn’t it? So then we extend this to the whole planet: The whole planet is like a big elevator, and we’re all stuck on this planet together. If we argue and fight with each other, it just becomes absolutely miserable for everybody. So the only way that we can survive is by everybody being friendly and kind and helpful to each other, because we’re all here together and we’re all in the same situation. We breathe the same air; we share the same ocean, water, land. We’re all in the same elevator. So like this. This is reality together with logic.

Also we have many fantasies and projections. We imagine that we and others and the world exist in all sorts of impossible ways. We project that, and it seems as though this is the way things exist, but it doesn’t correspond to reality; it’s just our fantasy, our projection.

For example, I might think that I can act in a certain way and it doesn’t have any consequences. So, “I can not get a good education, I can be lazy, and somehow this isn’t going to have any effect on my life; I’ll still be successful.” Or that “I can be late, or I can say cruel things to you, and it won’t have consequences.” A lot of people regard other people as not really having feelings. They never think that what they say might hurt the other person. So “I can be late, and it doesn’t matter.” Well, this is not reality. This is a projection of fantasy about cause and effect. But the reality is that everybody has feelings, just as I do, and what I say and how I act with you is going to affect your feelings, just as the way that you treat me and speak to me affects my feelings. So that’s reality, isn’t it? And the more that we understand that and keep mindful of that, the more considerate we are of others. We care about how we affect them, and we modify our behavior accordingly.

Or I could imagine that I exist independently of everybody else. This also is not reality, is it? If I think like that, then I’d think, “I should always get my way. I’m the most important. So I should always be served first before everybody else in the restaurant,” and if we don’t get our way, we get very upset, very angry. But the problem of course is that everyone else thinks that they’re the most important person and nobody will agree that we’re the most important. So this is our projection. This is our fantasy. This is not reality. Nobody is the center of the universe. Nobody is the most important. We’re all equal in the sense that everybody wants to be liked, nobody wants to be disliked. Everybody in the restaurant waiting to be served wants to have their meal, not just me. Everybody waiting in a doctor’s office wants to have their turn, not just me. So we’re all equal. This is again reality.

Buddhist Science and Western Science

This is part of Buddhist science, to understand reality and to modify our behavior accordingly. There are of course other aspects of the teachings about reality. And it’s very interesting how Western scientists are starting to find that many of the points made in Buddhist science are correct – different ways of looking at things which they had not considered before.

For instance, we have in Western science the law of conservation of matter and energy: matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only transformed. If we think in terms of that, what follows logically is that there’s no beginning and no end. So when we think in terms of the Big Bang, then we might think the Big Bang came from nothing – it started from nothing – but the Buddhist point of view is that there was something before the Big Bang. Buddhism has no problem with the Big Bang as the start of this particular universe, but there have been countless universes before, and there’ll be countless universes after. And Western science is slowly starting to think in these terms as well. And also it’s logical from a basic Western scientific point of view. So here again we come to logic. If you believe that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed but only transformed, then it is totally inconsistent logically to assert, “But it had a beginning with the Big Bang.” So this is a clear example of the application of this Buddhist logic and debate to positions that we have in Western science.

One of the main assertions in Buddhist science is the relation between mind and matter. Mind and matter are interrelated. You can’t reduce mind to just the brain or some chemical process. You see, the problem is when you use the word mind you tend to think of it as being some sort of thing, but that’s not the Buddhist concept. The Buddhist concept is speaking about mental activity. And mental activity – which means knowing things – we can describe it by some chemical or electrical process in the brain, but we can also describe it from an experiential point of view, and it’s this experiential point of view that we’re talking about when we speak about mind.

And the medical scientists are discovering that it’s true what Buddhism says, that our state of mind, the quality of our experiencing life, will affect our physical health. So if we have peace of mind, inner calm... That means being free of always worrying and complaining and thinking in a very negative, pessimistic way. If we think in these negative ways, it is harmful to the health. Whereas if we are optimistic, kind, thinking of others, friendly, calm – this strengthens the immune system, and it is conducive to better health. So medical science, in various centers around the world, is doing research about this, and they’re finding that what Buddhism says is true, that our state of mind affects the body, so it affects matter. And we have many programs in the West now using what’s known as “mindfulness” meditation for control of pain to help people to deal with stress, pain, difficult situations. This is basically staying focused on the breath, which keeps us calm. It connects us to earth, in a sense, to a physical element, so that you’re not so upset about thinking, “Me, me, me and my pain and my worry” and “I’m so upset.” So it calms one down and is very, very helpful for pain management. So we certainly don’t have to follow Buddhist religion in order to benefit from such methods.

So this is Buddhist science.

Buddhist Psychology

Now, Buddhist psychology deals with how we know things, so in other words cognitive science (the difference between psychology and science is not so strict). So we have the study of ways of knowing – how do we know things? – and we also have how we deal with emotional problems. These are the two areas of Buddhist psychology.

Ways of Knowing Things

What is very important is to be able to recognize what’s the difference between valid ways of understanding and invalid ways of understanding or knowing things. Buddhism has a lot to say about this. A valid way of knowing something is defined as a way of knowing which is both accurate and decisive. Accurate means that it is correct – it corresponds to reality; it can be validated by others. And decisive means that we are sure; we’re definite. It’s not the state of mind: “Well, maybe it’s like this, or maybe it’s like that, but I don’t really know.”

So what are the valid ways of knowing things? We can have what’s known as bare perception. This is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling some physical sensation (and we can also have these in dreams, and then it’s mental). So when we see someone, this needs to be valid. It’s not always valid: “I thought I saw something over there, but I’m not quite sure.” “I thought I saw you in the crowd, but I’m not quite sure. I thought I saw you, but actually it was somebody else.” “I thought you said this, but maybe I was wrong and I heard differently.” That’s not valid, is it? This isn’t accurate and decisive.

And there can be a lot of causes for distortion. Like I take off my glasses and I see just a blur in front of me. But you don’t exist as a blur, do you? There’s something wrong with my eyes, and that’s why it looks distorted. If I asked somebody else, “Do you see a blur over there?” they would say no, so I would know that this was wrong.

So we have bare perception, and here we’re talking about accurate, decisive perception.

And also valid is inferential understanding. It has to be a valid one though, not an incorrect one. Inference. Reasoning. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” is the classic example. You see smoke coming from a chimney on the far mountain. So we have a valid perception – you see the smoke – and we can infer a fire (we don’t actually see the fire). Where there’s smoke, there must be a fire. So that’s valid.

But there are some things that you can’t even know by logic, like the name of the person who lives in that house, and for that you need a valid source of information. That’s also a type of inference – that this person is a valid source of information, therefore what they say is true. The best example for that is: “When is my birthday?” There’s no way that we could know our birthday by ourselves. The only way we can know our birthday is by asking our mother or seeing the records, so a valid source of information.

There are many forms of inference. There’s inference based on well-known conventions: You hear a sound. How do you know that it’s a word? And how do you know what meaning it has? That is quite an amazing process if you think about it. We’re just hearing sounds, basically, but because we have learned certain conventions, we infer when we hear this sound that it is the sound of a word, and we infer that it has a certain meaning. Of course we have to check because sometimes we think that a person means something by what they say when they actually mean something completely different.

So this is what we’re talking about when we talk about this aspect of Buddhist psychology, cognitive science. We have to check. “I infer from what you said that this is what you mean, but is that correct or not?” Very often we misunderstand what the other person’s meaning is, don’t we? Somebody says, “I love you,” and we could think that means that they are sexually interested in us, whereas that’s not at all their meaning. A lot of misunderstanding can come because of that incorrect inference.

So if it is valid inference, it is accurate and decisive.

Presumption is invalid. “I presume that you mean this, but I’m not sure.” Presumption is a guess basically. “I guess this is what you mean.” It could be right, it could be wrong, but it’s indecisive. “I think that this is what you mean.” That’s presumption. But we’re not sure.

Then there’s indecisive wavering: “Do you mean this, or do you mean that?” We go back and forth.

And then there’s distorted cognition, where we think something completely incorrect. This isn’t at all what the other person meant.

So this is how cognition works, and Buddhism speaks a great deal about this. It’s very, very helpful for us to understand, from any type of background, “Is my way of knowing this correct or incorrect?” If I’m still not sure, then I need to recognize that and try to correct it, try to find out again what is reality. So this is helpful for anybody. You don’t need Buddhist religion and rituals for this.

Disturbing Emotions

Then the other main topic in Buddhist psychology has to do with emotions. We have both positive and negative emotions. These negatives ones are disturbing emotions; they disturb our peace of mind. We’re talking about things like anger. The definition is that this is a state of mind which, when it arises, causes us to lose our peace of mind – so we become a little bit upset, a little bit nervous – and it causes us to lose self-control. So when we get angry, our energy – you can feel it, it’s disturbed. And we say and do things that later we might regret. We just act compulsively.

We hear a lot in Buddhism about karma. And what karma is talking about is this compulsive aspect of our behavior based on previous habit. So when we have great attachment or desire or greed, then again we’re not calm – we are upset because we want to have something – and again we have no self-control, like with that chocolate, that I just have to eat it.

So these are disturbing emotions. But on the other hand, there are positive ones. Buddhism isn’t saying to get rid of all your emotions. There are things like love, which is the wish for others to be happy and to have the causes of happiness regardless of what they do, regardless of how they treat me or my loved ones. And there’s compassion, the wish for others to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. There’s patience. There’s respect. So there are many positive emotions as well. So we need to learn to be able to differentiate between what is constructive and what is destructive in our emotions and in our way of acting. And Buddhism is very rich in teaching not only all these different emotional states so that we can recognize them, but also rich in methods for helping us to get rid of these disturbing states of mind.

So you remember we were speaking about misconceptions, about projections of what’s just not real? One of the most prominent projections is about how we exist. As I was saying, in very simple style, we think that we’re the most important one, that we exist solidly by ourselves, and we should always have our way, and everybody should like us. What’s very interesting is to think in terms of: “Not everybody liked the Buddha, so why should I expect that everybody’s going to like me?” A very helpful statement to remember.

So, anyway, we think in terms of: “I am this solid thing sitting inside my head, the author of the voice going on in my head, worrying about What should I do? What do people think of me?” As if there’s a little me sitting in the head seeing all the information coming in on a screen and loudspeaker from the senses and pushing the buttons that make the body move or the speech work: “Now I’ll do this. Now I’ll say that.” So this is a disturbing misconception about ourselves. How do we know it’s disturbing? Because we all feel insecure. Thinking like that, there’s this insecurity and worry about myself: “What do people think of me?” etc., etc.

So what happens is that we have these projections not only about ourselves but then about everything around us. We see various objects, and we exaggerate the good qualities that they have. We project even good qualities that they don’t have. Like when we fall in love with somebody, “They’re the most wonderful person in the world.” We totally ignore any shortcomings they might have. “They’re the most beautiful, desirable person I’ve ever seen.” And then if we don’t have them, longing desire: “I’ve got to get them as my partner, as my friend.” And if we have them as our friend, attachment (we don’t want to let go) and greed (we want more and more of their time).

So this is a disturbing state of mind, isn’t it? We need to see reality: everybody has strong points, weak points. We often think, and this is completely unreal, that: “I’m the most important one. So I’m the only one in your life. You should give all your time to me,” and we forget completely that they have other people in their lives, other things that they’re involved with, not just us. So we get angry. We feel insecure. And if they don’t call us, we exaggerate the negative quality of that, and we don’t want to see any of the good qualities of our relation with this person. And we get angry; we want to get this away from us, so we yell at them, “Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you come?” So that’s based on there’s a little me, that I should always have my way, I should be the most important one, and the unreality that I am the only one in this person’s life.

Buddhism gives a very clear analysis of what is upsetting, what is incorrect, in this way of thinking and feeling. Because, you see, our minds make things appear like that, and the problem is that we believe that it corresponds to reality. So we have all these methods to, in a sense, pop the balloon of our fantasy. It may feel as though I’m the only one who exists, because when I close my eyes I don’t see anybody else anymore and there’s still the voice in my head. But this is silly. That’s not reality. That doesn’t correspond to reality. You don’t stop existing when I close my eyes. So this is basic Buddhist psychology.

Developing Love and Compassion

Or in terms of love and compassion. We have many methods for developing these that are taught in Buddhism, and anybody can benefit from them (again without following the religious aspects of Buddhism). Love and compassion is based on everybody being equal: everybody wants to be happy; nobody wants to be unhappy. Everybody likes to be happy. Nobody likes to be unhappy. We’re all the same.

We’re all interconnected. My whole life depends on the kindness and work of others. We think of all the people involved in growing the food that we eat, transporting it, bringing it to our stores. Then there are people who built the roads and the people who built the trucks that carry the food. And where did the metal come from? Somebody had to mine the metal to make the trucks. What about the rubber for the tires? Where did that come from? So many people involved in that industry as well. And what about the petrol and the dinosaurs and so on whose bodies decomposed and made this petrol? So if we think like that, then we see that we are totally interconnected and dependent on everybody else. And this becomes even more evident in terms of our global economy.

So on the basis of understanding that equality of everyone and our interdependence with everyone, then we think in terms of: “Whatever problems there are, they have to be solved.” Because as one great Indian Buddhist master said, “Problems and suffering do not have an owner; suffering needs to be removed, not because it’s my suffering or your suffering – it has to be removed just because it hurts.” So when there’s a problem with the environment, let’s say, it’s not just my problem or your problem; it’s everybody’s problem. There’s no owner to the problem. It has to be solved because it’s a problem, simply because it’s a problem and causes trouble to everyone.

So like that, we develop love and compassion in a method that has nothing to do with religion, but is totally based on logic and reality.

Buddhist Religion

So when we ask, “Why Buddhism?” these are the aspects that make Buddhism relevant for us in the Western world, the scientific aspects and the psychological aspects. Then for a few of us Westerners, we might find in addition the religious aspects of Buddhism beneficial – the rituals, the teachings about rebirth, the prayers, and so on. But as I said, it’s very important to examine very carefully what is our reason for this attraction. Is it just fascination with the exotic? Are we looking for some sort of miracles? Are we doing it as a rebellion against our parents or our traditions? Are we doing it just because it’s the present trend; it’s so-called “cool” to be involved with Buddhism? These are not valid reasons, because they don’t last; they’re not stable. If we are attracted and we find that it is beneficial for us (it helps me to be a kinder, more compassionate person), and it supplements the scientific and psychological aspects – and that’s very important, that it needs to supplement the science and psychology and not substitute for it – but if the religious aspects have those characteristics for us, then fine.

So like that we differentiate Buddhist science, psychology, and religion.

That’s all for my presentation. Perhaps you might have some questions. Any questions?

Questions about Mind and Rebirth

Participant: When we speak about rebirth, we use the notion of a mind. How much does it overlap with the idea of a soul?

Alex: When we talk about rebirth, we speak about mind. How much does that overlap with soul? We have to understand what we mean by mind and what we mean by soul.

Rebirth is speaking about continuity. Just as matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed but only transformed, similarly our individual, subjective mental activity can neither be created nor destroyed. It’s illogical for it to start from nothing. And if each moment generates a next moment in the continuity, then it’s illogical for it to just come to an end and turn to nothing. Of course there’s always some physical support for the mental activity, but it can be very, very subtle energy; it doesn’t have to be a gross body with a brain. So this is what goes from lifetime to lifetime to lifetime, even into Buddhahood, the continuity of individual, subjective mental activity, which can be very subtle or very gross, many different levels of it, but it continues moment to moment to moment without a break.

Now, when we talk about soul, of course it’s a Western word. And in different languages – Western languages as well – we have words for mind, we have words for spirit, we have words for soul. They don’t correspond to each other, even in our Western languages, and different religions are going to define soul differently in different languages. And then in Western religions there’s the relation between the soul and God. And then in Indian religions we have atman, and again with different ideas about atman. So it’s hard to just generalize in terms of the word soul.

But what is much more easy to discuss is me, the concept of me – not the concept of me, but what is me? The me or the self is something that we all have, but we project onto it ways in which it exists which do not correspond to reality. Like there’s some sort of solid me, like a piece of luggage on a conveyor belt, that goes through our whole life and into our next life as well. It’s very interesting: You look at a picture of yourself as a baby, and you say, “That’s me.” What’s me about that? Every cell in the body has changed. The way of thinking, the way of knowing things, is completely different from when we were a baby. And yet we say, “That’s me.” So what is me? Me is a word which is labeled onto all these changing instances in our life. And me is not any of these pictures, but the word me refers to something on the basis of all these different moments of my life, which is changing from moment to moment to moment.

The example that I always use is a movie, let’s say Star Wars. What is Star Wars? We say, “I saw Star Wars,” but can we see the whole movie in one moment? No. Any one moment of the movie, is that Star Wars? Well, yes. It’s a moment of the film Star Wars. So Star Wars is not the same as each moment of the film. Star Wars is not just the title “Star Wars.” The name “Star Wars” does refer to a movie – there is a movie Star Wars, it exists – but you can’t find it in any piece of the plastic of the film, you can’t find it in any scene, but it exists as changing from moment to moment to moment.

So the me or the self is like that. There’s the word me. It refers to something – I’m sitting here; I’m doing this; I’m talking to you. But it’s not identical with my mind or with my body or any moment of it. But on the basis of the continuity of body and mind, we can label it me. It’s not you. It’s changing moment to moment, and it’s nothing solid. So do you want to call it soul? What do you want to call it?

Any other questions?

Participant: What was the term that Buddha Shakyamuni used in Sanskrit or Pali about this same thing?

Alex: The term that Buddha used was anata in Pali or anatman in Sanskrit, which is “not the atman” asserted by the other schools of Indian philosophy. The other schools of Indian philosophy assert the atman as being something which is static (it never changes and is not affected by anything), partless (which means it’s either the size of the universe, atman is the same as Brahma, the whole universe, or the atman is like some tiny spark of life), and which can exist totally separately from a body and mind in a state of liberation.

Some Indian philosophies assert that that type of atman has consciousness. That’s the Samkhya school. And the Nyaya school says that it doesn’t have consciousness. The one that says it has consciousness says that it just inhabits this body and uses the brain. And the one that says it doesn’t have consciousness says that it enters the body and says that consciousness just arises from the physical basis of the body.

So these are the positions that Buddha was refuting when he said, “No atman.” He means no atman in the way it’s defined and asserted by these other schools. But there is an atman, there is a self, but it exists in a different way – what’s called the “conventional self,” the “conventional atman.”

Anything else?

Participant: If somebody believes in rebirth and they say they will be reborn, how certain can they be that all the characteristics and all the information stored in their consciousness will go on into their next life?

Alex: First of all, Buddhism asserts that rebirth is beginningless – no beginning – which means that we have habits and instincts from endless lifetimes. So, depending on many, many different factors, only some of these instincts and tendencies will manifest in any particular lifetime. It’s certainly not the case that all one’s instincts and learning from the immediately preceding life are going to manifest again in the next lifetime even if we are reborn as a human with a precious human rebirth, which is rare. A lot depends on what we were thinking and our state of mind when we died. And then all the circumstances and conditions of our next lifetime, which aren’t limited to just the conditions of our family, but there could be a famine in the country, there could be a war – there could be so many things that are going to affect what becomes manifest.

It’s very important, then, to try to put the main emphasis in our life into positive thoughts, not negative thoughts or behavior, and to die with calm, peace of mind, and positive thoughts and intentions to be able to continue on the spiritual path.

Dedication

Maybe this is a good place to end. So we think whatever understanding, whatever positive force has come from this, may it go deeper and deeper.

That might sound like Buddhist religion, but it’s also quite scientific as well. If you have a nice meeting with somebody, and you are having a meaningful, positive conversation, and it ends with the telephone ringing, then the energy just drops completely and you completely forget about the positive conversation you had before. But if we end an interaction with thinking “May this make a positive influence on me,” then that positive feeling, that understanding, comes with us and can help us in our lives. So that’s how we end our discussion, and that’s a very helpful way of ending any positive interaction with anyone.

Thank you.