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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 105 Western historical sources posit only one origin of sci ence: classical Greece, beginning around the fifth century BCE. According to the prevailing narrative, this initial spark was interrupted by a long pause and incubation through the Middle Ages and wouldn’t be rekindled until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, during the European Renaissance. Aside from acknowledging some antecedents to the Greeks in ancient Babylon and Egypt, such ethnocentric accounts fail to recognize the many and varied origins of science, spanning eras and geographical regions. India and China, in particular, were home to numerous scientific achievements in mathemat ics, astronomy, technology, logic, linguistics, and medicine. From that standpoint, the first volume of Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, a new series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thupten Jinpa, is both a revelation and a precious resource on these civilizations that coinvented the scientific spirit. The editors define science as a form of knowledge of nature and its laws, based on empiri cal observations and striving to reach intersubjective agree ment by shared rational principles. Based on that framework, they reveal the ways in which Indian Buddhism could rightly be considered a budding scientific discipline, illustrating in exquisite detail the methods, concepts, and models of nature developed by Indo–Buddhist thinkers at a time (around the sixth to eighth centuries) when the Greco–Roman civiliza tion was sinking into its socalled “dark ages.” This strain of scientific inquiry was just as demanding in terms of empirical accuracy, logical rigor, explanatory standards, and theoreti cal ingenuity as ancient Greek or early modern science. The Science of Early Buddhism Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, Volume 1 Conceived and introduced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; edited by Thupten Jinpa Wisdom Publications, 2017 552 pages; $29.95 Review by Michel Bitbol REVIEW opposite | Time’s Arrow (1987) Hiroshi Sugimoto (seascape: 1980; reliquary fragment: Kamakura Period, 13th century) Gelatin silver print, gilt bronze