On this page, I’m going to host writings and the creative works of others, starting with a piece previously published on the older site. It’s called, A BUDDHIST’S VIEW OF UFOLOGY by Sally Sheridan.



A BUDDHIST’S VIEW OF UFOLOGY

by Sally Sheridan


Over the years I have read many thought-provoking books and articles concerning the Christian view of UFOs. Their authors have raised many important questions. However, they are primarily concerned with the ways in which UFOs either confirm or challenge Christian thought and doctrine. It occurred to me that it might be appropriate to explore the same problem from another viewpoint. As both a Buddhist and a former UFO investigator, perhaps I can attempt to explain how a Buddhist might view the problems and questions raised by UFOs.

WHAT BUDDHISM TELLS US ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF OTHER BEINGS

First, the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is an idea taken for granted by Buddhists. Like Christians, Buddhists have formulaic prayers and parts of prayers. The standard ending for a Buddhist prayer is a dedication of the accumulated merit to the benefit of all sentient beings everywhere in the cosmos.

Buddhist cosmology, which is very complex and varies somewhat between the different traditions, includes many other worlds and even other universes. It also recognizes other realms which are not the world as we know it, yet are not other planets. So possibly, as Jacques Vallee has said, they (the UFO beings) are not us, but they are not from another planet, either.

Second, it is assumed that all sentient beings are subject to certain things. They experience suffering. They are subject to the cycle of birth and death if they have physical bodies. Even if they don't have physical bodies they will still be subject to a cycle, or what we would call a life-span.

Third, they are responsible for their individual and collective actions. This is what is called Karma. This tells us that their actions, like our own, can range from good to bad. Therefore, we cannot assume that their motives and actions are necessarily either for our good or for our detriment. In other words, they are neither angels nor demons.

In 1981, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, perhaps the foremost spokesperson for Buddhism alive today, lectured at Harvard University and was asked to compare Darwin’s theory of evolution to the Buddhist view of human origins. The question and his answer are as follows:

Question: The theory of evolution describes development of higher forms of life out of lower forms, such as humans out of the animals, whereas Buddhism depicts cyclic existence as going up and down in cycles. Can your Holiness reconcile these two views?

Answer: The explanation of evolution and the Buddhist explanation that our own series of rebirths are indefinite in terms of type have different contexts. Evolution has to do with the development of this particular world whereas the indefiniteness of birth is concerned with one person1s birth in many possible worlds. Thus, the point of the controversy does not come in here.

However, one problem is found in different explanations of how this world system first formed. In Vasubandhu's Treasury of Knowledge (1), it is explained that when beings first formed in this world system, their lifespan was immeasurable and that their bodies were like that of a deity, something like a spiritual body, it not being necessary for them to partake of coarse food---their sustenance was the food of meditative stabilization. Also, there were not any males and females. But then, gradually, things got worse and worse; the average lifespan became shorter and shorter, and it will continue shortening down to a minimum of ten years. Thus, it is quite complicated to put this together with Darwin's theory of evolution. So, how can we make a compromise? Frankly, I do not know. Perhaps, we are again to poke some fun at Vasubandhu! Still it may be possible that there are two levels happening at once. Some of you may be interested in an account of a mystery:

In Tibet, there were several occurrences of children of gods even in this generation. Among my parents' generation, there was a person in the Hor area of Northern Tibet called Ga-gya-darn-nga, who was known to be a child of a god. His mother slept with a god of her area and gave birth to him. He himself was a very powerful and clever bandit; no one could get the better of him. This story illustrates how there can be a relationship between a human and a non-human. So, perhaps the best compromise is to say that there is one level of being undergoing the type of process that Vasubandhu describes---proceeding downwards---and there are other types of beings on the same planet that are evolving in the same manner described by Darwin.

In our own indigenous history, the Tibetan race is said to have come from a male monkey who mated with a female ogress. Perhaps, from the viewpoint of the mother, this is like Vasubandhu's theory and from the viewpoint of the father, like Darwin’s theory! (2)

The Dalai Lama's proposal of two evolutionary tracks proceeding on this planet at the same time may remind us of the idea proposed by some that the greys are on a downhill evolutionary slope and are trying to save themselves by mixing biologically with us. Of course, that still doesn't tell us who they are or where they come from.

WHAT BUDDHISM TELLS US ABOUT OUR INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER BEINGS

Buddhism teaches much about human interactions. In the UFO field there is a great amount of print and discussion that boils down to expectations. The alien beings are alternately believed to be space brothers, monsters, doctors, geologists, ecologists, philosophy teachers and various other characterizations. We base our guesses about their intentions upon whichever characterization we have assigned them. This is a very natural attempt on our part to understand that with which we are dealing. But Buddhism tells us to resist the urge to make quick and final judgments because it limits our range of responses and can destroy possible relationships. My experience as a UFO investigator also tells me this because we just cannot know their character or intentions based on the contradictory information we now have. To purposely delay making judgments is extremely difficult. It goes against our instincts. However, that is the very thing I think we must do as individuals and as UFO investigators.

WHAT BUDDHISM TELLS US ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The Dalai Lama convened a group of cognitive scientists for a week in India in the Fall of 1987. The topic was "Mind and Sciences; Dialogues between Buddhism and the Cognitive Sciences."(3) At this conference His Holiness was asked the following:

Question: Can computers ever advance to the point of being regarded as sentient beings?

Answer: We cannot reject the possibility that at some point a computer might be a suitable basis (for sentient beings choosing to reincarnate in them).

Many reports of UFO beings seem to be describing robots. I believe that if this is true, they are robots which are likely to be advanced to the point of being regarded as sentient beings and, as such, are subject to a life cycle and Karma, as stated above.

The word sentient deserves some examination here. It is an interesting word having three meanings. It derives from the Latin word "sentire", having feelings. It also means having the ability to think. When I asked a meditation instructor at a Tibetan Buddhist Center in Colorado what "sentient" means in the context of Tibetan Buddhism he said it meant "having consciousness.”

Some researchers have postulated that the UFO beings who move in unison may be clones. But are clones capable of individual thought? We have an example of human clones right here on Earth: identical twins. Identical twins are made from the same cell and, therefore, are, technically clones. Yet, while alike in many ways, they are definitely capable of individual thought and action. As much as they are alike, they are still individuals and, as such, are capable of making different choices. The key word here is 'capable'. We are all capable of overcoming our bad habits, for example, but whether we actually do it is another question.

CONCLUSIONS

Buddhism seems to tell us that the UFO beings, if they indeed are beings and not our own mental projections, are sentient, i.e. thinking and feeling, conscious beings. One might ask to which UFO beings am I referring, since there seem to be several. some say many, species of UFO beings. I am referring to all of them. Whatever they are, they are all sentient beings. I will here remind the reader that this is a Buddhist's view not the Buddhist view. I don't know if we can work with them as Whitley Strieber says (4).

I don't know if we can defend ourselves against them as Ann Druffel says (5). But hatred and thoughts of violence directed toward them are a cure worse than the problem. And that is THE Buddhist view.


NOTES

1. As of 1988, available only in Tibetan, Sanskrit and French.
2. Hopkins, Jeffrey (Translator and editor). The Dalai Lama at Harvard, Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1988.
3. The Vadjradhtu Sun, Feb/March 1988.
4. Strieber, Whitley. Transformation, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1988.
5. Druffel, Ann. The MUFON UFO Journal, Oct. 1987, and UFO Magazine, Vol. 4, No.4 , Sept/Oct 1989.

Originally published in CONTINUUM - Vol. VI, Nr. 2, Winter, 1996-97.

© Sally Sheridan, all rights reserved

PUBLISHED BY PERMISSION
May what is discovered here benefit all beings...