Another aspect of long interest to the Buddhists has been the scientific nature of Buddhism. There is a usual claim, and also a pride, among the Buddhists that Buddhism is the most scientific of all religions. An instance of this can be found in the following words of U Chan Htoon, former justice of the Supreme Court of Burma: "In the case of Buddhism.........all the modern scientific concepts have been present from the beginning. There is no principle of science, from biological evolution to the General Theory of Relativity, that runs counter to any teaching of Gotama Buddha."1 "There cannot be any achievement of science, no matter how revolu-tionary, that will ever contradict the teachings of Buddhism."2 Professor von Glasenapp, an eminent German Indologist, specifies the following Buddhist concepts as unchallenged by modern scientific ideas: the principle of universal order (dhamma); a positivistic denial of eternal substances; the contention that soul or self is an artificial abstraction; the recognition of a plurality of worlds; and the affirmation of the essential similarity between man and animal.3 As Dr. Swearer says in his "Buddhism in Transition": "There are at least three principal ways in which the assertion of the scientific nature of Buddhism is presented: Buddhism is more scientific than other religions, especially theism (viz., Christianity); there is a general agreement between the approach or method of Buddhism and science; and, science proves or validates particular Buddhist teachings such as the doctrines of rebirth (samsara) and impermanence (anicca)."4 Here, Buddhist meditation becomes the experimental laboratory where the Truth of one's existence can be proved by intuitive insight, an experience of the individual, each for himself. The concept of impermanence finds its confirmation in Einstein's field theory of modern physics.
THE ESP Also covered in the field of scientific study of Buddhism is the research on parapsychology, especially the ESP (extrasensory perception), and on the problem of rebirth. The growth of scientific interest in these ancient beliefs was evidenced by the founding of the Society for Psychical Research of London in 2425/1882, the American Society for Psychical Research in 2431/1888, and other similar societies later on in most European countries, especially in the Netherlands, France and Italy where active work has been carried on. Stimulated by the effective work of these societies, a few universities in America and later in Europe have taken up psychical research as a serious subject for study. Parapsychological laboratories or research departments were opened in leading universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Duke Universities in the United States, and the University of Utrecht and Groningen University in the Netherlands. Leading psychologists like William James, William McDougall, C.G. Jung, and Sigmund Freud took an interest in the research. During the period from the 1930s to the 1960s the best-known work was that of Duke University in North Carolina. So far, however, except for hypnotism which is no longer regarded as paranormal, parapsychology has been of comparatively little interest to most professional scientists. But, a few years ago, much excitement was caused among some groups of the Buddhists by the research of psychologists and psychical research institutions working on the problem of remembering past existences. It was Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia and Professor Gillbert Rhine of the Parapsychology Institute in Durham, North Carolina, that did much for the progress of study in this field. In Stevenson's "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation," a study is made of a number of case histories of people who remembered past lives. Joseph Head and L.S. Cranston, in their compiled and edited work "Reincarnation in World Thought," present an exploration of what great thinkers through the ages have said on the subject, examining the contributions made to the discussion by the World's religions, philosophies and sciences. Francis Story,1 probably the Buddhist most active in trying to prove the truth of the doctrine of rebirth, wrote a booklet entitled The Case for Rebirth, made an inquiry into the memory of past lives of hundreds of Burmese and Ceylonese citizens, and around the year 2511/1968 made a tour of the United States and Asian countries lecturing on this subject. Finding in the alien-traditioned Western hemisphere their co-believers represented by historic figures such as Pythagoras, Empidocles and Thomas Alva Edison, and their belief supported by scientific study of modern Western scholars, some Buddhists have become convinced that the truth of the doctrine of rebirth has been proved. To the practising Buddhists, however, the ESP is something peripheral. The positive report on it may rouse in some people a stronger belief or a more active interest in Buddhism. But, so far as the essential aspect of Buddhism is concerned, the Buddhists realize that the attainment of the real benefit of Buddhism is dependent on their own efforts and striving, not subject to the scientific verification of the ESP.