The laws of nature and Dharma

While chatting with with a friend recently, he said, “Things happen for a reason”, brief pause, “Don’t they?”

I replied “Yes, things happen according to the laws of nature”.

My friend “Or according to the laws of God?”.

I replied “For me both are the same”.

Then this insight occurred to me, but since that friend wasn’t very receptive to ideas such advaitha or philosophical discourse and would have said “That’s a load of crap”, I thought I don’t need to tell all of this to him, but I can write in this blog instead.

So things always work according to the laws of nature, whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not. When I say “Laws of nature”  one may take it for the laws of physics; but that’s not the whole of it. I don’t believe in a “Law giving God who sits on judgement”, so that’s not what I meant either. The physical laws are only one part and probably the better understood among the different levels or domains.  Here are some domains where the law operates.

  • The physical lawsDharma_Wheel_small
  • The laws of biology
  • The laws of psychology
  • The laws beyond the above

The physical laws are the better understood among all. We understand gravitation, momentum, electromagnetism and so on, which help us to understand and control many things in our environment. The radio, television and automobile are all possible because of this understanding of the physical laws.
Many of these laws were unknown in the last century.

The living organisms also operate according to laws, but there is a degree of freedom more than the laws of physics. We have, or at least doctors and people who have studied life sciences have a fair grasp of the laws that govern biology.   We know effect of particular nutrients, or hormones. We know the cause and cure for many deceases.

We know some things about psychology. We know many things about how the conscious mind works. There has been many studies on behavior and the knowledge has been applied to to various things including advertisement, education, politics and so on.  This is still a very shaky science.   Here the degree of freedom is much more. No one can really predict with any certainty how people will behave in a given situation, its in the realm of probability.

Beyond the above levels operates the feelings, perception and subconscious; but the conscious mind operates on the basis of those laws that we don’t have a good grasp of. For example, it’s hard to explain dreams or visions. Here things operates at a greater degree of freedom. Science is just getting started on these realms.

However, understanding how things work at the sub conscious and beyond is important; it gives a greater understanding on the cause of suffering. The methods and techniques used in this space are different. This is the space that Zen or Vipassana works in.

The word Dharma has many different connotations. It is generally understood as the teachings and laws of religion, or it is generally used as another word for religion itself; but my understanding is that this is what the Buddha meant by Dharma, its the laws of nature that operates on all levels.  It’s also living in harmony with the laws of nature. We try to understand and follow Dharma simply because that’s the reasonable and sensible thing to do;  not because it’s enforced by anyone from outside. It’s possible to go beyond our psychology that’s thought of as the norm and find for ourselves what causes suffering and how to avoid it where possible.

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