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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
108 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY was that matter is anything composed of the “great elements.” Another more explicit definition said matter is that which occupies space and is visible, resistant (or obstructive), and capable of modification through contact. As it happens, resistance and spatial extension were also seen as defining features of matter according to a Greek tradition, spanning from Aristotle to Simplicius. Theories of atoms, consid ered to be the basic constituents of material phenomena, were then derived from the former definition. In Buddhist texts, atoms are either space particles out of which ele ments are elaborated or are themselves composed of the major elements. The epistemological aspect of scien tific inquiry also received thorough atten tion, particularly within the Sautrantika school. In the Indo–Buddhist tradition, the method for obtaining valid knowl edge was an object of study in its own right, just as in Aristotle’s Organon and Sir Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum. According to Sautrantika epistemological theory, developed by Dignaga and Dhar makirti, uninterpreted “direct” percep tion was deemed to be the most reliable foundation for knowledge. However, Sau trantika thought qualified this, noting that perception only gives access to “evident facts,” whereas the “slightly obscure facts” (such as atoms or elements), which might explain the evident facts, are ignored by it. In order to understand such unseen factors in causation, a theory of inference from observable facts to unobservable facts was needed. The Sautrantika method of infer ence involved the principles of logic—such as the laws of identity, contradiction, and excluded middle—and was bolstered by a universal presupposition of causality; it also submitted to selfcorrection through a developed art of debate. This approach was not only similar to, but also often more accurate than, that employed at the dawn of modern science, prior to Galileo. In view of this, one might wonder why Indian Buddhist culture did not spawn the kinds of predictive and technological leaps that occurred in late seventeenthcentury Europe. One reason is that inferential knowledge and manufactured achieve ments were not strongly correlated in Indo– Buddhist monastic universities, whereas in seventeenthcentury Europe there arose a systematic collaboration between think ers and engineers. This alliance led to the development of laboratories, where observed phenomena could be controlled and tested. Another reason was the relative isolation of mathematics within the Indian sciences. European scientists transformed mathematics into a powerful tool of infer ence, allowing them to relate phenomena with greater precision than was possible through logic alone. A deeper reason, however, may be that unlike its Western counterparts, Indian Buddhism was reluctant to engage in what Schrödinger denounced as a “sim plification” of the project of understand ing nature by excluding the observer from it. The Indo–Buddhist mode of scientific inquiry explicitly included lived experi ence, especially the experience of medita tion, among its sources of information; Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics offers many glimpses of the ways in which the lived experience of human subjects was among the tools of Indo–Buddhist science. Thus, His Holiness the Dalai Lama notes in his introduction that, in Buddhism, “empirical observation