Buddhism and Neuroscience

Since I have been teaching on Buddhism, I was particularly interested in this program by Tom Ashbrook of On Point. A guest on the podcast is Edward Slingerland, professor of Asian studies and research chair of Chinese thought and embodied cognition at the University of British Columbia. Author of the new book “Trying Not To Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity.” Also author of “Effortless Action: Wu-wei As Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China.”

He attempts to bring Taoism and Confuscianism into parallelism with findings in neuroscience. In both these worldviews the human being can embody the way the world works. It has a memory and powers of cognition that move beyond mental cognition. Once we learn, the theory goes, to stop being tossed to and fro by the body’s desires, the whole person can come into the Power of the Way (Tao De Ching) and surf, as it were, the waves of reality. There is some wisdom here, is there not?

Note the Apostle John’s warnings about the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Romans 7 and 8 speak of this reality as well. Christians must take the body seriously, even though it is corruptible and must be put off before we can be raised whole, body and soul. And yet the corruptible body is not trash and can be, once tamed, a spiritual vehicle of a kind; it can sense God’s presence and God’s way as it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. BTW, this is one of the dangers of Antinomianism, which puts little stock in the value of bringing the body in subjection according to the Law of God. The way a large number of Christians live demonstrates that their bodies call the shots and are means of resisting the Holy Spirit.

We must be careful here, for the Christian view is not Buddhism.

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