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Posted by Glenn on December 19, 2003 12:25:49 UTC


A crutch is a very useful if you have a broken leg and we all have 'broken legs' at some times during our lives. If this were to be all that religion gave us - that is, support in times of need - then that in itself would be sufficient reason to have a religion. However, a religion should provide more than this.

Fundamentally, all human beings are seeking happiness. Whether or not we can achieve happiness, while not denying the reality of life's inherent suffering, depends on our attitudes. Positive attitude consist of such feeling as hope, confidence, energy and sensitivity to others. Whether we can sustain such positive attitudes to living depends on what we most value. The thing we value most can be called our 'religion'.

With the swing away from spiritual values to materialistic ones, may people nowadays most value money and power. However, these things are obviously transient and provide no solid foundation for happiness in themselves. Of course, material needs are important contributory factor to happiness, but they are not the whole picture - if we lose all our money, for example, where do we get our hope.

One of the most important things for people's happiness is to keep progressing, to keep searching for self-improvement and betterment of society. The pursuit of truth may be unfashionable these days in some quarters, but this is what religion should provide. Religion should teach us the truth and values to which we can aspire; values that are much more profound than those we would have thought of ourselves in our mundane, day-to-day lives, but which, very importantly are not unattainable.

In Buddhism, the truth of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the Gohonzon, with its limitless, profound philosophical basic, took over 2,000 years of Buddhist thinking and practice to crystallize into its essential form. In fact, one can speed a whole lifetime studying and practicing Buddhism and find that the whole philosophy keeps expanding, becoming more and more profound.

Secondly, and perhaps the most importantly, religion should provide us with a means to change from our limited habitual thinking and promote a wider vocabulary of humane thoughts and actions.

In my experienced of Buddhism [taught by Nichiren], because chanting to the Gohonzon enable us to bring out our innate Buddhahood, we are able to break out of our habitual reactions formed, in quite natural way, by the influences of the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity in our lives. Instead, we can react with humanity, wisdom and justice.

With a crutch one hobbles along in pretty much the way, but with this Buddhist practice we can actively seeking to change the old ways of behavior which have made us suffer and find new and better ways which will bring joy and fulfillment to ourselves and others.

Finally, a religion should contribute to both our spiritual and material welfare. In the past, many religions have been concerned only with spiritual needs. Buddhism, however, teaches that person is inseparable from his environment. It is very difficult to be continually poor, cold and hungry. Religion should never ignore this basic fact. In Buddhism, the material and the spiritual are of equal importance, and this is why you often hear about people who practice this Buddhism chanting for jobs or places to live.

And it works! So, far from providing a crutch to hobble along with, the teachings of Buddhism are all focused on enabling each person to throw away all crutches and props and stand along as a fulfilled, wise, compassionate and creative human being, living life to the full, and creating value out of every situation, even seemingly hopeless ones.

This is achieved by bringing out the inherent strength and wisdom which everyone possesses within themselves - their Buddhahood - by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. As Nichiren Daishonin states,

"In Buddhism, that teaching is supreme which enables all people, whether good or evil, to become Buddhas. So reasonable a standard can surely be grasped by anyone."

All things reside in the realm of phenomena, subject to the cycle of birth, duration, change and extinction. What we call matter is simply a phenomenon that has entered a temporary stage of stability or duration. Classical science, and particularly its core of Newtonian mechanics, is based on a material view of existence. For example, in Newtonian mechanics, two objects exist, and between those two solid objects a force called gravity operates. This system explained many physical phenomena very adroitly, with the result that eventually the view that life was nothing more than matter, nothing more than a machine, came to predominate.

This view, however, is not really fundamental to science itself nor it is not part of science per se. Its real source is in "the religion of science," I would say. Some describe this tendency to fix on one aspect of reality and then declare that it applies to every-thing as "reductionism." This kind of reductionist thinking makes the error of reducing the whole to one of its parts and then extending that partial view to encompass the whole.I think that this reductionist way of viewing things has cast a dark shadow over people's lives today, and it is one of the things that has robbed them of hope and contributed to an increase in their sense of powerlessness.

To avoid falling into the error of worshiping science as a religion, we need a true philosophy that expresses a holistic view of life. Proper scientific method recognizes a partial view as just that--a partial view. And since the search for truth lies at the very root of science, when a once-authoritative partial view reaches a dead end, science strives to break through that impasse and discover new, more creative theories that approach reality more closely. This is how scientific revolutions occur.

Many of these scientific revolutions, as historical records show, are sparked by the genius and creativity of a single individual. Brilliant scientists like Albert Einstein are a good example of this.

Einstein described the motivation for his passionate search for the truth as "a cosmic religious feeling" It was, he said, "to experience the universe as a single significant whole." He perceived "the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought." He also wrote that "Buddhism . . . contains a much stronger element of it [this cosmic religious feeling]."

Einstein emphasized that science and religion are not in opposition. Not only was religious feeling a motivation for scientific pursuit, but the results of scientific investigation made humankind humble in the face of the wondrous natural laws that govern all existence. He writes:

.."This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious1spiritualization of our understanding of life."

The main source of conflict between science and religion, according to Einstein, was the "concept of a personal God." The "dross of anthropomorphism" in the passage I just quoted refers to this concept. The humble search for the law of life, which is the way of Buddhism, was, according to Einstein, simultaneously scientific and religious. From the Buddhist perspective, we could say that Buddhism is an all-encompassing body of wisdom focused on the totality of life, while science is focused on temporary aspects of existence. In that sense, science is a part of Buddhism. That is why there can be no conflict between the two. All of the truths of the world are, without exception, the Buddhist Law.


Of course, science and Buddhism belong to two separate dimensions, and their approaches are different as well. I am not saying that Buddhist teachings are correct by virtue of their validation by science. Scientific knowledge changes and evolves on a daily basis, but the absolute truths of Buddhism are in no way affected by the relative truths of science.

Nevertheless, we do see that the more science advances, the more it is arriving at a position that is in harmony with Buddhism. Today, this agreement acts as a strong recommendation of the preeminence of Buddhist philosophy. For example, Einstein's theory of relativity is extremely close to a worldview that is phenomenal (dynamic and integrated) as opposed to material (static and mechanistic.

The theory of relativity postulates that all physical phenomena exist in a four-dimensional continuum known as space-time, where the three dimensions of space are merged with the dimension of time. In classical Newtonian mechanics, time and space were regarded as absolute and separate. This was based on our everyday perceptions of and assumptions about time--for example, that time passes at the same rate for a person riding in an automobile and a person walking along the road. But the theory of relativity tells us that the faster one is moving through space, the slower time passes for the observer. Time and space are indivisible, in other words. One cannot be divorced from the other. It is the relationship (phenomenal in nature) between the two that governs the way each of them appears.

Modern physics has also discovered that it is impossible to accurately measure at the same time the position and velocity of an object, especially in the realm of subatomic particles. The attempt of measurement itself exerts an influence on the activity of these particles. At work here is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which effectively destroyed the distinction between object and subject upon which modern analytical science rested. In other words, object and subject are inseparable. The results of scientific observation are determined by the relationship between observer and observed.

In its pursuit of the basic building blocks of the universe--a search taking it to ever smaller and smaller components, from molecules to atoms, from atoms to subatomic particles--modern science has stumbled on a paradox: the most basic subatomic particles have a dual nature. They are not only particles, but also waves. This discovery has forced scientists to reassess their way of looking at the world of matter, hitherto viewed as fixed and unchanging, and instead view it in terms of the actual changes occurring to matter itself and the interrelationship between different kinds of matter. In other words, to take a phenomenal, integrated view. They were also compelled to take into account the relationship between observer and object.

The picture of the world painted by modern physics has thus undergone a dramatic change, from a conglomeration of infinite matter to a tapestry of infinite relationships. And this latter vision of the world has much in common with the insights and perceptions of Mahayana Buddhism.

Einstein revealed that matter is simply energy in a temporarily stable state. According to this theory, matter and energy are not separate. But at the same time, they always take either one form or the other. In other words, they are indivisible but manifest themselves temporarily as separate.

Einstein discovered that energy equals mass times the speed of lig

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