I am now writing this post at the Colegio Mayor Padre Pedova in Madrid, Spain. I am attending the annual conference of the Metanexus Institute, which is an organization that promotes dialogs between science and religion, and one of the few in the world that specialize in asking, and funding, big questions. All these have been possible because of the visionary insight of Billy Grassie, the founder of the Metanexus, who believes that the world really needs these big questions such as “Who are we?” “Why are we here?” “What are the relations between mind and body, or consciousness and reality?” and so on.
This is the first time that a Metanexus conference is held outside of the US. The Institute and its programs are expanding globally, and in fact they are funding a large number of organizations that are not in the US. The Thousand Stars Buddhism and Science Group, a part of the Thousand Stars Foundation, received its funding from the Metanexus too, and this is why I am here right now.
This year they are going to talk about the subject and the soul, a very big topic that lends itself to various interpretations in both different religions and in many fields of science. This is what I particularly like about the Metanexus conferences. I firmly believe that real answers to questions that I mentioned earlier will not be satisfactorily answered if one is narrowly focused on the methods and vocabularies of only one academic discipline. This sounds to me like rowing a boat in a tub — you don´t go anywhere (This is a Thai proverb, by the way).
So Buddhism has a lot to contribute to this topic. The Buddha says that, ultimately speaking, there is no self. The phrasë “ultimately speaking” is important because if we are not talking about the ultimate level then there is clearly a self, as talks about “I”, “you”, “me” and so forth won´t make sense otherwise. Another thing is that I happen to be teaching a course on philosophy of language this semester, and one topic I talked to the students is an analysis of the meaning of pronouns such as these. Would it make sense to say that sentences such as “I am here typing on a computer terminal.” means exactly the same as “Soraj is typing on a computer terminal at the Colegio Mayor Padre Pedova in Madrid, Spain.”? This is really interesting.