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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
110 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY is not confined to the five senses alone ... it includes observations derived from meditation.” In the same way as reading a treatise on physics requires commitment to rehearse its mathematical reasonings and experi ments, reading a Buddhist treatise requires one to meditate and realize the meaning of its propositions. The results of this broad ening of the basis of knowledge were sig nificant. For one, Indo–Buddhist science was innately critical of ontologies. Indeed, the ontology of permanent substances endorsed by both common sense and clas sical science is criticized by most schools of Buddhism on the basis of its manifest decomposition in meditative experience. The Sautrantika school thus denied the ultimate reality of universals, substances, and relations. It relegated the ontology of enduring substantial bodies, includ ing bodily atoms, to mere “conventional reality,” whereas the domain of “ultimate reality” was restricted to instantaneous particulars. The Cittamatra school pushed this criticism of substantiality and intrin sic existence even further, considering any manifest entities projections of the mind. It saw atomism as illogical, since the spa tial extension of atoms conflicts with their alleged indivisibility. The Madhyamaka school completed this critical process by rejecting any view of inherent existence, while generalizing the “radical relativistic standpoint” of dependent origination. Broadening the basis of knowledge also has consequences on the socalled “mind– body problem.” As long as perception is the exclusive source of knowledge, the objects of sense perception, circumscribed by experimentation, will be considered the only constituents of the world. Phe nomenal consciousness, then, is ascribed a derivative status. The alleged physical origin of phenomenal consciousness, the objective origin of subjectivity, becomes a “hard” (but biasgenerated) problem. By contrast, if, as in Buddhist epistemol ogy and in Francisco Varela’s Neurophe- nomenology, the sources of knowledge are twofold—both thirdperson and first person—then consciousness is no longer relegated as a derivative phenomenon. Rather, material and mental phenomena are on a par. Matter and consciousness coarise as mutual cooperative conditions. No dualism is implied, since neither mat ter nor consciousness is ascribed inherent existence. This dissolves the “hard prob lem” of identifying the material origin of phenomenal consciousness. This input from lived experience, espe cially from meditative experience, may have represented a hindrance on the path toward modern science, but the situation today is different. As Varela pointed out, in our present, globalizing culture, an acknowledgment of the relevance of lived experience could trigger a new scientific Renaissance, enriching Western science with an aspect it has been missing from the outset. Narrow objectification is per haps the most expedient, technologically efficient way of acquiring knowledge, but it has stumbled on its own limitations. In domains such as quantum physics, the observationdependence of phenomena is engraved in the axioms, such as the non commutativity of observables. And how can one still take the position of an exter nal observer when one of the last “objects” of sought knowledge is nothing other than oneself, one’s lived experience? In that con text, the extended epistemology of Bud dhism presents an opportunity rather than an inherited burden.