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Posted by Glenn on December 19, 2003 12:25:57 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 light squared. This is the famous equation E=mc2. Light travels at close to 300,000 kilometers (approximately 186,000 miles) per second, so it is clear that an enormous amount of energy is produced by a tiny amount of mass.This discovery was later used in the development of the atomic bomb. That is a tragedy that occurred because Einstein's theory took on a life of its own as it was put to use by people who did not understand the significance of the phenomenal worldview, which the theory originally suggested. The world is an intricately interwoven web of infinite relations. When we apply this worldview to matter and to all living things, including people, we can see the world as Mr. Toda did, as one great life entity, [or]as the Thus Come One. And further, we can perceive that it is the true entity of our own existence as well.

A weapon such as the atomic bomb, whose only purpose is destruction and division, is nothing more than the product of the ignorance and delusion that shrouds the true entity of existence. The fundamental darkness inherent in life manifests itself as the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. Mr. Toda declared that whoever used atomic weapons was a devil incarnate, a fiend. This declaration was an expression of his enormous rage at anyone who would so violate and annihilate life, something so infinitely precious and noble. At any rate, the revolution in scientific thought from a static to a dynamic worldview shook all human thought to its very foundations. We might say that this scientific revolution, the result of analytical reasoning having reached its limits, has provided us with a glimpse of a vast realm that a static, partial worldview had not been able to come to grips with. It was based on that realization that Einstein and Heisenberg, among others, came to reflect on the existence of a larger whole, the ultimate reality of which the laws of physics occupied only a certain portion.

Analytical reasoning has been a powerful weapon of modern science. Many of the rules governing the natural world were discovered by analyzing matter into small parts that could be easily observed and reducing the complexities of natural phenomena to simpler elements. In that process of simplifying a phenomenon into its elements, there is a tendency to discard or ignore other aspects of the phenomenon. Instead of turning their attention to the true entity that is inherent in all ever-changing, interrelated phenomena, scientists working from such assumptions choose to view such phenomena as fixed entities, ignoring certain aspects of them, and proceed to extract laws from this limited reality--laws which they then regard as the whole truth.

Recently, there has been a reaction within the scientific community to scientific thought of this kind. One of those reactions has been the recognition that we have been able to gain only a very limited, partial understanding of the natural world by means of rational analysis.
We see frequent evidence that science cannot predict future phenomena, no matter how deeply it may analyze them. I have no intention whatsoever of criticizing the work of meteorologists, but weather forecasting is the perfect example of this inability to predict the future. Long-term weather forecasts, in fact, are generally expected to be wrong! There are simply too many complex, interrelated meteorological factors to be taken into account for accurate long-term weather forecasts to be possible by means of any sort of analytical reasoning.

The "science of complexity" seems to be one of the new currents of science today. While science until now has tried to attain certain knowledge by simplifying phenomena and stripping them of their natural complexity, the science of complexity focuses on the complex nature of phenomena just as it is, without reducing phenomena to simpler models that are easier to analyze. America's Santa Fe Research Institute in New Mexico is famous for its new research system that dismantles the traditional boundaries of biology, mathematics, physics and other sciences and seeks to comprehend phenomena from a holistic perspective. Weather, ecology and the brain are all examples of complex systems that cannot be fully understood by mathematical analysis or simulations. Why is it that "simple" science does not apply to such natural phenomena? One reason is that in such phenomena, very small changes can produce very great changes--the so-called "butterfly effect." The butterfly effect gets its name from the following scenario: a butterfly in the Amazon rain forest flaps its wings. That tiny action becomes the starting point for an infinite chain of events, eventually resulting in a change in the global weather. Somewhat like the saying, "For want of a nail... the kingdom was lost."

But though the same butterfly may flap its wings the next day, it might have no effect on the weather at all. This uncertainty is one of the distinctive characteristics of the science of complexity. Another difference between the science of simplicity and the science of complexity is clearly demonstrated in the difference between the way a computer and the human brain work. Computers are excellent at mathematical computations, data processing and memory storage, but if even the smallest error enters the data, they cannot function properly. The human brain, on the other hand, is not well-suited for such large computations or processing or memorizing huge volumes of information, but it has a flexibility that allows it to deal with small errors in data, as well as an ability to extract in a moment the data it needs from a wide variety of data. A computer programmed to play chess, no matter how sophisticated it is, often loses to a human player.

The teaching the true entity of all phenomena, which Shakyamuni's original intent, was to urge us all to rise to the same challenge wanted to let his listeners know that all people, no matter what their circumstances, are equal and have unlimited potential. And took himslef the lead and fought that battle. As the "Expedient Means" chapter [Lotus sutra]states:

I view things through the Buddha eye,
I see the living beings in the six paths,
how poor and distressed they are, without merit or wisdom,
how they enter the perilous road of birth and death,
their sufferings continuing with never a break,
[they] enter deeply into erroneous views,
hoping to shed suffering through greater suffering.
For the sake of these living beings
I summon up a mind of great compassion."

Compassion means to feel others' sufferings as our own. It originates from a deep inner cry of sympathy when we share someone's pain. Shakyamuni sought a way to free all living beings from the chains of suffering, and he agonized and fought to perfect that way. In the "Expedient Means" chapter, he relates how he cried out in his heart: "I have come into this impure and evil world". With this thought, Shakyamuni resolved to take up the challenge of leading others to enlightenment.

The Lotus Sutra has often been likened to the great ocean. Nichiren Daishonin writes, "It [the Lotus Sutra] is like the water of the great ocean, a single drop of which contains water from all the countless streams and rivers" . The whole is included in the parts. All the treasures of the universe are there in each individual. The drama of infinite value-creation begins with the actions of one person.

The English philosopher Alfred Whitehead (1861-1947) taught that nature was not a conglomeration of things but a series of events. He writes, "Life can only be understood as an aim at that perfection which the conditions of its environment allow. But the aim is always beyond the attained fact." In other words, life aims for perfection, always seeking to approach it as closely as possible. It is always trying to transcend the attained fact, the present reality.

Life is not some simple mechanism governed only by physical laws of cause and effect. Of course, since living things are made of matter, they do have a mechanical aspect. But they are not simply machines and nothing more. All life has a fundamental desire to create value. Value is a relative notion, and in this world that is a tapestry of relationships, life is always seeking to create ever better relationships, that is, ever greater value.

Life tries to weave a more beautiful tapestry (the value of Beauty), a more useful tapestry (the value of Benefit), a better tapestry (the value of Good). I think there can be no doubt that the activity of creating value is a very important characteristic of life. In that sense, the struggle to achieve perfection is the proof of life. Life aspires toward a perfection that is "always beyond the attained fact." From the perspective of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, all life, whatever its present form, is seeking to transcend its present state in pursuit of perfection.

The essential nature of life is to aspire for the perfection that is the state of Buddhahood[being a buddha]or absolute happiness/or enlightenment. This aspiration is expressed in the phrase that appears throughout the sutra: "Pressing their palms together and turning toward the Buddha." In other words, all life, at the most fundamental level of existence reveres the Buddha. The teaching of the true entity of all phenomena, I think, reveals this truth that every living thing is an irreplaceably precious existence.

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