Q: Buddhism says that the first ancestor of mankind came from the Heaven of Light-Sound. Doesn't this conflict with modern scientific theory? For example, in science the theory of evolution says the most primitive microorganisms, undergoing progressive changes through hundreds of billions of years, gradually evolved into apes, and finally into humans. Does this agree with Buddhism?
A: People came to the earth from the Heaven of Light-Sound. Their coming wasn't just seven hundred billion years ago. Perhaps such a situation already existed seven thousand trillion years ago. When the gods from the Heaven of Light-Sound came to this world, they were no longer that perfect and had already lost their wisdom. Why? For the same reason that people lose their wisdom when they get reborn. In the beginning, there were no humans in this world, and it was still undeveloped, an indistinguishable mass, like a chicken egg. The gods flew to the world like flies, thinking there was something good to eat here. To get from the Heaven of Light-Sound to the earth, they probably had to travel a long time, just as now it takes a long time for a satellite launched into space to enter its orbit, perhaps several years in human time. The gods didn't come to the earth for any special reason. They had been travelling and had lost their compass, so they were in quite a flurry when they got to the earth. When they reached the earth, they were not as intelligent as they had been in the heavens. All they had left was a perceptive nature. They weren't as perfect and whole as when they were in the heavens. In the same way, a person may be very intelligent, but when he dies and gets reborn as a child again, he will have forgotten all about his previous life. It is also like those victims of car collisions who fall into a coma and become totally stupefied.
Although it's said that they came from the Heaven of Light-Sound, they gradually lost their original virtue and wisdom and only had a little bit of perceptive ability left. Although they are said to have come from the Heaven of Light-Sound, only a few came, and ultimately no one knows how many. No one can verify when they came either. There are no historical records to consult, nor is there much basis for this theory.
As for the so-called science, there is no real thing called science. People just made up the name "science" and called it that. It's actually just a body of theories. Is this kind of reasoning perfect or not? It depends on each person's perspective and faculty of understanding. Some people understand it. Others have not studied science before, and do not understand science. Does that mean the people who haven't studied science before lack that kind of reasoning in their own nature? No. Regardless of whether you've studied science or not, that kind of reasoning exists in your nature. You cannot say that if someone has studied science, then he has the ability to understand science, and if he hasn't studied science, then he doesn't have the ability to understand science. It's the same with the Buddha-nature; everyone has it in his own nature.
Science is only a small part of the Buddha-nature, and it is not a very complete kind of reasoning. You may say people are doing such and such research in science, and writing about such and such theories, but actually, those are just the upside-down attachments of people. They are as if "adding a head on top of a head." Having nothing to do, they look for something to keep them busy. Busily doing this and that, they never discover anything. They study science, investigating back and forth, but they never reach any real conclusions.
People become attached to science, thinking it's something special. In fact, it is all inherent in our nature, and you don't need to look outside. If you seek outside, you'll never find it. You may say it's real, but that's just the superficial. The real thing can neither be found nor spoken of. Basically, science doesn't exist. It's just called science because that's what we call it.
A talk given on November 28, 1982