Artificial Intelligence vs Authentic Intelligence: A Zen Buddhist Perspective on Consciousness

Earth, Nature, Zen Buddhism

– Composed by Duane Steffens, and Edited Glenn Nangaku Leisching


In the age of rapid technological advancement, the debate surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) versus authentic intelligence has gained considerable momentum.

While AI has transformed our world with its computational prowess, it is worthwhile to consider how Zen Buddhism views these concepts, especially concerning consciousness.

This article delves into the intriguing comparison between artificial and nature’s authentic intelligence from a Zen Buddhist perspective.

“Everything we are talking about, AI or computing power, will never be able to beat the complexity that nature presents to us. The real intelligence is Nature’s Intelligence. AI is good, but AI is just a tool to serve Nature’s Intelligence. Nature’s Intelligence is four and half billion years old. To think that something that is less than a hundred years old can beat something that is four billion years is a bit of an extension.” – Agam Khare


Understanding Artificial Intelligence

Defining AI

Artificial intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines, allowing them to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks encompass problem-solving, language comprehension, and even decision-making.

The Growth of AI

Over the years, AI has evolved significantly, thanks to machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning algorithms. These technologies enable AI systems to adapt and improve their performance based on data and experience.

AI’s Impact on Society

AI has found its way into various aspects of our lives, from virtual assistants on our smartphones to self-driving cars and recommendation algorithms on streaming platforms. It has streamlined processes and made our lives more convenient.

Nature’s Authentic Intelligence in Zen Buddhism

The Zen Approach to Consciousness

Zen Buddhism places a strong emphasis on mindfulness, meditation, and self-awareness. Through inner exploration in meditation (an ancient technology) practitioners de-condition themselves from the veil of mental programs to experience the pre-existing state of enlightenment – their authentic state of natural intelligence.

Consciousness and the Self

Zen views consciousness as a complex interplay of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. It questions the nature of the self and the concept of ego, seeking to transcend these barriers to attain a higher level of consciousness.

The Quest for Authentic Intelligence

In Zen, authentic intelligence is not about computational power or problem-solving abilities; it’s about the ability to perceive reality and respond with natural authenticity – without the filter of ego and desires. It involves being fully present in the moment and achieving a deep understanding of the self and the universe.

Bridging the Gap

Finding Harmony

While artificial intelligence and authentic intelligence may seem worlds apart, there is a way to find harmony between them. Zen teaches us to use all technologies mindfully, ensuring it enhances our lives without overshadowing our authentic experiences or causing harm.

The Role of Technology

From a Zen perspective, technology can be a tool to aid in our quest for authentic intelligence. Online meditation and self-awareness training, for instance, can guide us on our journey to awakening, making authentic intelligence more accessible in our fast-paced world.

It is important too, to remind ourselves that spiritual technologies and their instruments to support our human well-being have existed for thousands of years. Modern, digital technologies have at their root, these ancient, practical technologies which were created from the interconnection between humans and the intelligence of nature.

The Intelligence of Nature – Examples of Nature’s Authentic Intelligence

In contrast to current AI methods that focus on specific tasks and rely on large amounts of offline data and extensive, slow, and mostly supervised learning, natural intelligence is quick, versatile, agile, and open-ended.


Fungi – The Original Internet?

With an estimated 1.5m species of fungi, their fine fungal threads called mycelium act as an underground, natural ‘internet’, linking the roots of different plants. Up to 90 per cent of land plants are in a mutually-beneficial relationship with fungi. By linking into the network, plants share nutrients and information with neighbours and can sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals.


Birds have (GPS) Global Positioning Systems!

For centuries, scientists dismissed birds as being less intelligent than mammals. Now they’re finding a new place in the pecking order. Tests have shown rooks and crows to be better than eight-year-old children at reaching treats by making and using wire hooks. Birds can remember where they hid thousands of pieces of food even after landscapes are covered in a metre of snow. Birds can find their way home after migrating thousands of miles. Arctic terns, for example, travel an average of 44,000 miles per year.


Plants – The Sensorial Superconductors

Humans have five basic senses. Scientists believe plants have at least 20. Plants release pheromones to warn of insect attacks and other plants respond. They also send distress signals, attracting predators of the insects that threaten to eat them. Plants are sensitive. Every root apex can detect 20 physical and chemical parameters, from light and gravity to humidity and pathogens. There are at least 600 species of animal-eating plants, including the venus flytrap. Plants can survive even after losing 90 per cent or more of their biomass.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the essence of artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence aims to replicate human intelligence in machines to perform various tasks.

2. How does Zen Buddhism view consciousness?

Zen Buddhism sees consciousness as a complex interplay of thoughts and emotions, seeking to transcend the ego and attain higher awareness.

3. Can technology enhance our quest for authentic intelligence?

Yes, technology can aid in our journey toward authentic intelligence by providing tools and guidance for self-awareness.

4.Is it possible to balance technology and authentic experiences?

Absolutely, finding harmony between technology and authentic experiences is attainable through mindfulness and conscious use of technology.


In the clash of artificial versus natural, authentic intelligence, it’s vital to remember that they need not be mutually exclusive. Zen Buddhism teaches us that both can coexist harmoniously, with technology serving as a means to enhance our understanding of consciousness. Embracing this duality can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

What’s important to remember is that intelligence, like language, is a tool used by nature and humans. Be wise! Maintain your sovereignty by not allowing yourself to be used, limited or manipulated by any tool.

In today’s tech-driven world, the relationship between artificial and authentic intelligence is more relevant than ever. By integrating the wisdom of Zen Buddhism into our lives, we can navigate this complex landscape with mindfulness and a deeper understanding of consciousness.