(This article was extracted from "What Buddhist Believe", written by Ven (Dr) K Sri Dhammananda.
Buddhism goes beyond modern science in its acceptance of a wider field of knowledge than is allowed by the scientific mind. Buddhism admits knowledge arising from the sense organs as well as personal experiences gained though mental culture. By training and developing a highly concentrated mind, religious experience can be understood and verified. Religious experience is not something which can be understood by conducting experiments in a test-tube or examined under a microscope.
Buddhists' View of Science
The truth discovered by science is relative and subject to changes, while that found by the Buddha is final and absolute: the Truth of Dharma does not change according to time and space. Furthermore, in contrast to the selective theorising of science, the Buddha encouraged the wise not to cling to theories, scientific or otherwise. Instead of theorising, the Buddha taught mankind how to live a righteous life so as to discover Ultimate Truths. By living a righteous life, by calming the senses, and by casting off desires, the Buddha pointed the way through which we can discover within ourselves the nature of life. And the real purpose of life can be found.
The Importance of Practice
Practice is important in Buddhism. A person who studies much but does not practice is like one who is able to recite recipes from a huge cookery-book without trying to prepare a single dish. His hunger cannot be relived by book knowledge alone. Practice is such important prerequisite of enlightenment that in some schools of Buddhism, such as Zen, practice is put even ahead or knowledge.
The scientific method is outwardly directed, and modern scientists exploit nature and the elements for their own comfort, often disregarding the need to harmonise with the environment and thereby polluting the world. In contrast, Buddhism is inwardly directed and is concerned with the inner development of man. On the lower level, Buddhism teaches the individual how to adjust and cope with events and circumstances of daily life. At the higher level, it represents the human endeavour to grow beyond oneself through the practice of mental culture or mind development.
Buddhism has a complete system of mental culture concerned with gaining insight into the nature of things which leads to complete self-realisation of the Ultimate Truth - Nirvana. This system is both practical and scientific, it involves dispassionate observation of emotional and mental states. More like a scientist than a judge, a meditator observes the inner world with mindfulness.