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Excerpted from The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Copyright © 1998 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"You have the constraints of the idea that everything can be explained within the framework of a single lifetime, and you combine this with the notion that everything can and must be explained and accounted for."

Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness, Part 4

Sensing some discomfort on my part, he observed, "In trying to determine the source of one’s problems, it seems that the Western approach differs in some respects from the Buddhist approach. Underlying all Western modes of analysis is a very strong rationalistic tendency – an assumption that everything can be accounted for. And on top of that, there are constraints created by certain premises that are taken for granted."

For example, recently I met with some doctors at a university medical school. They were talking about the brain and stated that thoughts and feelings were the result of different chemical reactions and changes in the brain. So, I raised the question: "Is it possible to conceive the reverse sequence, where the thought gives rise to the sequence of chemical events in the brain? However, the part that I found most interesting was the answer that the scientist gave. He said, ‘We start from the premise that all thoughts are products or functions of chemical reactions in the brain.’ So it is simply a kind of rigidity, a decision not to challenge their own way of thinking."

He was silent for a moment, then went on: "I think that in modern Western society, there seems to be a powerful cultural conditioning that is based on science. But in some instances, the basic premises and parameters set up by Western science can limit your ability to deal with certain realities. For instance, you have the constraints of the idea that everything can be explained within the framework of a single lifetime, and you combine this with the notion that everything can and must be explained and accounted for. But when you encounter phenomena that you cannot account for, then there’s a kind of tension created; it’s almost a feeling of agony."

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