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Why should we consider Buddha's path as the one and only path to end suffering? Can there be a path (let's say through science) where we get to understand how everything got created including consciousness which can be help us identify ways in which to eliminate suffering may be for all of us?

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6 Answers 6

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Every path that leads to the cessation of suffering is dharma. Gotama Buddha expressed the dharma one way; another Buddha might express the dharma a different way; another person might express the dharma a third way, and not call it 'the dharma' at all.

The dharma is not a matter of words and practices, and is not constrained by such. The dharma is an understanding, and we want what words and practices get us there.

If we ever have a science of consciousness, that might lead to the dharma. But that's a ways off...

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If a teaching is equivalent to the Buddha's teachings, then it can lead to the goal of the end of suffering.

However, if it is not, then it cannot lead to the goal of the end of suffering.

There is no track in the sky,
and no recluse outside (the Buddha’s dispensation).
Mankind delights in worldliness,
but the Buddhas are free from worldliness.

There is no track in the sky,
and no recluse outside (the Buddha’s dispensation).
There are no conditioned things that are eternal,
and no instability in the Buddhas.
Dhp 254-255

The term "recluse" above refers to the persons of different degrees of enlightenment.

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It is not about "Buddha's path" being the only path to end suffering because it is "Buddha's". The only path is "only" because it identifies the root cause of suffering and establishes the method to remove that. Science cannot do that simply for the reason that Science is materialistic/physicalist in its conception and therefore does not identify 'mind' as something that exists. If it cannot do that, there is no way it can identify the root cause of suffering or the methods to transform mind.

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  • the alternative path does not need to come from science. It can be anything, may be another religion. Buddhism nor science explain 'consciousness' and perhaps any theory that explain how consciousness arise may be able to provide an alternative path.
    – peter
    Dec 14, 2022 at 8:35
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There once was an argument about the variety of paths.

DN13:4.1: Vāseṭṭha said this:
DN13:4.2: “This is the only straight path, the direct route that leads someone who practices it to the company of Brahmā; namely, that explained by the brahmin Pokkharasāti.”
DN13:5.1: Bhāradvāja said this:
DN13:5.2: “This is the only straight path, the direct route that leads someone who practices it to the company of Brahmā; namely, that explained by the brahmin Tārukkha.”
DN13:6.1: But neither was able to persuade the other.

Frustrated, the arguers sought out the Buddha.

DN13:7.1: So Vāseṭṭha said to Bhāradvāja,
DN13:7.2: “Bhāradvāja, the ascetic Gotama—a Sakyan, gone forth from a Sakyan family—is staying in a mango grove on a bank of the river Aciravatī to the north of Manasākaṭa.
DN13:7.5: Come, let’s go to see him and ask him about this matter.
DN13:7.6: As he answers, so we’ll remember it.”

The Buddha's answer is long, so it would be best to study DN13 for more information. However, we might borrow a part of the Buddha's discussion to address the question about science as a path.

Science is a tool for solving problems. Indeed, science itself has brought us many tools for solving problems. We have used science to make hammers that build us houses to keep us warm and dry. Yet the sciences, like hammers, have also been used to kill people. Science has been used as a tool for ill will as well as good will. Knowing this, we well might ask of those who rely solely on science:

DN13:32.6: “Are their hearts full of ill will or not?”

DN13 is interesting because the Buddha advises non-Buddhists on how to proceed on their own paths to end suffering. The Buddha does not demand that they become Buddhists. However, his clear answer does inspire the non-Buddhists to follow the Buddha.

DN13:82.4: We go for refuge to Master Gotama, to the teaching, and to the mendicant Saṅgha.
DN13:82.5: From this day forth, may Master Gotama remember us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life.”

There are many ways to decrease suffering. However, if there is a teaching that illuminates the path all the way to the end of suffering, we all have the choice to step on the well-lit path or simply flounder around in the darkness. Science gives us flashlights, not a path.

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  • Unfortunately, I do not see how this relates to my question.
    – peter
    Nov 24, 2022 at 18:23
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Is it conceivable that a way will exist one day ("let's say through science"), that will somehow put an end to all human action (in thought, word, or deed), or will make all action inconsequential?

Because, the Buddha taught the importance of action: the science of causality as it occurs in the mind. Unskillful mental action, according to the Buddha, is the cause of all stress and suffering. Bad things may happen, but it's in the unskillful ways that we respond (to our mental experience of them) that suffering is born. His teachings help us learn to use our minds more skillfully in order to stop causing suffering. And with that in mind, logically, and as far as we know, this is the only way to end our (self-inflicted) suffering.

Why speculate about something that we admit doesn't exist, when we have something that does, and has stood the test of time?

Check it out. I would suggest that you start with the core teachings, in the Pali Canon. These are accepted to be what the Buddha taught by all branches of Buddhism. You might even enjoy it!

I reccommend this site, whatever your current knowledge of the teachings.

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  • Thanks for the explanation. To give some context, I am by birth a Buddhist and 40 years old now and have been following Buddhism fairly well. My main requirement is to understand how to help others - starting with my immediate family to become enlightened. Thats why I wanted to know if Buddha explicitly denied the existence of other paths some of which may work at a higher level influencing all souls. As an example, understanding how consciousness fully may give some answers. I do not think Buddhism explains consciousness fully, it just explains how it behaves.
    – peter
    Nov 26, 2022 at 19:26
  • Yes, other people, it's something of a thorny problem. Have you considered equanimity as a possible solution? At least until an insight comes regarding how to help others. Nov 27, 2022 at 17:09
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Can there be a path (let's say through science) where we get to understand how everything got created including consciousness which can be help us identify ways in which to eliminate suffering may be for all of us?

No that's not possible. Only the Buddha's teaching (The Noble Eighfold Path) can lead to the end of suffering. That's because no other teaching can eradicate the defilements on the deepest level (third level: anusaya).

In DN 16 the Buddha said to the wanderer Subhadda that only teachings containing the Noble Eightfold Path can produce the 4 types of Enlightened beings:

The Buddha said this:

"Subhadda, in whatever teaching and training the noble eightfold path is not found, there is no true ascetic found, no second ascetic, no third ascetic, and no fourth ascetic. In whatever teaching and training the noble eightfold path is found, there is a true ascetic found, a second ascetic, a third ascetic, and a fourth ascetic. In this teaching and training the noble eightfold path is found. Only here is there a true ascetic, here a second ascetic, here a third ascetic, and here a fourth ascetic. Other sects are empty of ascetics".

That is why the Buddha's path is the only path that can lead to total freedom from suffering.

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  • But this does not imply that there is no other path?
    – peter
    Nov 24, 2022 at 18:05
  • It means that to become free from all suffering there exists only the Buddha's Teaching. No other paths can do that.
    – user24100
    Nov 25, 2022 at 16:31
  • my question is how one can prove that it is the only path. What did Buddha said about that. Did he say that his path is the only path? And if he did, what was the basis.
    – peter
    Nov 26, 2022 at 19:16
  • The Buddha himself said that teachings that does not contain the Noble Eightfold Path cannot produce enlightened beings. Only teachings that contain the N8P can lead to enlightenment and freedom from suffering.
    – user24100
    Nov 28, 2022 at 11:42
  • Updated my answer with the Buddha's reply.
    – user24100
    Nov 28, 2022 at 12:33

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