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Posted by Glenn on May 10, 2001 01:54:37 UTC


Science has in fact encouraged a materialistic view of human beings and life, a perspective in which adversarial relationships dominate not only between living things, but between living things and their environment. This has in turn encouraged environmental destruction and the exploitation of the natural world human beings.

In the wake of much soul-searching on this destructive course of humanity, we saw the emergence of new sciences and greater ecological awareness in the 1980s. For example, Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics 6 urges a transcendence of dualism and reductionism and outlines truths common to the cutting edge of modern physics and the wisdom of Eastern thought. Lyall Watson's Lifetide 7 presents the idea that the living things on earth are not discrete entities but live in symbiosis, in a matrix of interrelations. Jim E. Lovelock's Gaia-A New Look at Life on Earth 8 explores the "Gaia hypothesis" that the earth itself is one giant living organism.
Gradually, forgotten values such as harmony with nature, a sense of unity with others, equality and diversity are being rediscovered and emphasized by thinkers such as these.

Science is beginning to look seriously at the interdependence of all things, what is described in Buddhism as "dependent origination" (engi). he unified view of nature, of life phenomena, held by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is also being rediscovered. Goethe wrote, for example:

"The time will inevitably come when mechanistic and atomic thinking will be put out of the minds of all people of wisdom, and instead dynamics and chemistry will come to be seen in all phenomena. When that happens, the divinity of living Nature will unfold before our eyes all themore clearly."

Phenomena indeed represent the Law itself. People are coming to see the world as not made up of things but of phenomena. The Lotus Sutra ateaches the true entity of all phenomena. "All phenomena" refers to each individual living thing. The "true entity" of this phenomena is cosmic life itself. It is an entity which is simultaneously the infinite macrocosm and each of the microcosms that represent countless individual living beings. It is an enormous life-entity, always undergoing dynamic change and, at the same time, eternal and everlasting.
This teaching reveals to us the wondrous interrelationship of all things, clarifying that all phenomena--in other words, all individual life entities--are identical to the true entity--that is, the life of the universe. Each part is identical to the whole. Today, many different fields of modern science are affirming this same principle--that the whole is not simply a conglomeration of its parts but, in fact, the whole is contained in each of its parts.

In fact, viewed from this perspective, it may even be easier for us today to understand the true entity of all phenomena than our predecessors in ages past. There are many scientific findings that indicate that the whole is inclusive in its parts.
Perhaps the most easily understood example of this is the DNA in our cells. DNA--deoxyribonucleic acid--is the substance that carries the genetic information of an organism and is found in each one of its cells. The human body is made up of approximately two hundred different kinds of cells, each with its own function. So it would be natural to assume that the DNA of each type of cell is distinct, but in fact the same DNA is found in almost all cells. In other words, every cell of our body--whether it is a cell that produces the hair on our head or a liver cell--contains the genetic information of our entire body. recisely because each cell in the body contains a full complement of genetic information, it can perform the function appropriate to its location in the body. A hair cell functioning as a hair cell, a liver cell as a
liver cell. There is harmony within the body as a whole. This is the mystic function of life.

This harmony of component parts of living beings being in their proper place was something that Josei Toda described as exemplifying the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai's assertion: "The Law of all beings is mystic". The fact that all of the body's genetic information is included in each and every cell has been likened to an enormous library. The information defining the way we laugh, cry, walk, all our physical traits and
characteristics, are included in this giant cellular library. One scientist has said that the information contained in a single cell is equivalent to one thousand five-hundred-page books. If we take the brain itself as a single
library, given that it stores all the information we acquire during our lifetime, it has a storage capacity equivalent to some twenty million books. It is said that the brain will become the greatest frontier of science in the coming century. It is such a vast realm that it could be described as a miniature cosmos, a universe in its own right. Up until now, I believe, brain research has largely focused on the functions of individual parts of the brain. But as brain research proceeds, we are discovering that the brain is not simply the conglomeration of the functions of its parts. For example, the human brain consists of two parts: the left side, which controls
intellectual functions, and the right side, which controls creative and artistic activity. But the surprising fact is that there are fully functioning individuals who lack an entire hemisphere of the brain. For example, there was a young man who was leading a perfectly normal life, but was discovered during a routine medical examination to be missing his left cerebral hemisphere. Since he was lacking the hemisphere that directs intellectual activity, one would expect to find him unable to understand language or to control the right side of his body. But this
was not the case. His right cerebral hemisphere had taken over the functions of the missing left hemisphere. Life is filled with potential that is truly unfathomable. At last we are coining to see the enormous power it possesses. That is why we must never count anyone out. In particular, we mustn't put boundaries on our own potential. In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves.

Some suggest that there is a similarity between this capacity of the brain to rejuvenate itself and the principles of holography. A hologram is a three-dimensional image created by overlapping waves of light. When the film of a hologram is cut into pieces, each piece contains the whole hologram image. It may not be as sharply focused as the original uncut film image, but the full three-dimensional image is visible.
Fractal theory, which has recently come under a lot of attention, is another contemporary articulation of the idea that the whole is included in each of its parts. Fractal theory originally developed as a part of geometry. It refers to a structure in which component parts and the whole have the same shape, a characteristic known as self-similarity. Fractal structures can be seen everywhere in the natural world. The branching of airways in the human lung are fractal, because the branching of even the smallest portion thereof is identical to the branching of the whole system. The same phenomenon can be discerned in the branching of the capillaries in the brain; in the way streams branch out from rivers; in the shape of clouds; and in the way branches are arranged on trees. This similarity of the part and the whole can be found in many natural phenomena which, until now, were thought to follow no set pattern.

Nor are fractal structures restricted to the natural world. It is said that they can be observed even in such things as telecommunications errors and social phenomena such as stock price fluctuations and the distribution of wealth.

This concept of the part containing the whole can be stated in terms of the principle of the Ten Worlds: each of the Ten Worlds (the part) contains all of the Ten Worlds (the whole). In other words, each of the Ten Worlds is a microcosm of its own. That is the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds. Each individual life contains the Ten Worlds, and at the same time, the life of the universe itself contains the Ten Worlds.

During a discussion on the theory of life, Mr. Toda once said:
On any other planet with the same conditions for life as Earth, a human presence can be sensed.
Perhaps "sensed" is not the best way of putting it. What I mean is that, since the entire universe
contains the Ten Worlds, on that other planet, a human-like, a humanoid life form, will appear, in response to the Ten Worlds. Or let us imagine that only dogs or cats live on that planet--just as a
supposition. Not a single human life form exists on that planet. But even in that case, the human
realm will be sensed within the animal realm, because the Ten Worlds are mutually inclusive. So
in a sense a human-like being is born on that planet.

Mr. Toda is describing the principle of "mystic response." Since the universe itself is an entity that embodies all of the Ten Worlds, the Ten Worlds within the universe appear in response to the conditions existing on various planets, in response to various causes, or having sensed that the time or some other circumstance is right for their appearance.
The principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, I think, offers valuable insights that may contribute to the theory of evolution and other aspects of the life sciences. From the standpoint of the wisdom of the true entity of all phenomena, which sees the part as being identical to the whole, every single thing in existence is worthy of supreme reverence, possessing the treasure of the entire universe. The "Expedient Means" (second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra restates the principle of the true entity of all phenomena as: "Phenomena are part of an abiding Law, / that the characteristics of the world are constantly abiding" (LS2, 41). The "characteristics of the world" (all phenomena) are the manifestation (true entity) of the abiding Mystic Law.

Great teacher T'ien-t'ai of China(6th century B.C.), a Buddhist scholar, writes, "All things having color or fragrance are manifestations of the Middle Way."4 The phrase "all things having color or fragrance" refers to the tiniest bits of matter. Even the smallest things are the embodiment of the true entity of the Middle Way--in other words, entities of the life of the universe. In that respect, it is
absolutely clear that nature is not something for human beings to use and exploit as they see fit, solely for their own interests. Both nature and humanity are part and whole of the life of the universe. Nature and humanity are one. To destroy the natural world is to destroy human life as well. The principle of the true entity of all phenomena has a direct bearing on environmental ethics, then.
In the "Ongi Kuden" (Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings), Nichiren Daishonin says:

The countless entities in the three thousand worlds which are undergoing the process of birth,
duration, change and extinction are all in themselves embodiments of [the Thus Come One's]
transcendental powers. (Gosho Zenshu, p. 753)

In other words, all phenomena, ever-changing, appearing and disappearing, are themselves manifestations of the Thus Come One's transcendental powers. Ceaselessly changing though they are, all things in the universe are in fact constantly abiding; are the Middle Way; are the true entity; are the Thus Come One. Mr. Toda remarked: Ultimately, each instant of existence should be called "Thus Come One." Not only our own lives but all things in the universe never cease to change for the briefest instant. They are transformed and transformed again from one moment to the next. Since every single thing is constantly changing its form, a house as a house, the very house itself, is constantly changing what it is. Time passes and it turns into clods and dust. The clods as clods, the clods themselves, become dust, and the dust continues to disintegrate as well.

When we see all things for what they are, this is called the principle of temporary existence. And since these phenomena are temporary, they are not real. In that respect, they are nonsubstantial-- this is the principle of nonsubstantiality. If we look at each moment as existing just as it is, that is the Middle Way. So the appearance and nature of all things, in their moment-by-moment existence, are the true entity. Our moment-by-moment existences and lives are also the true entity, and in that momentary true entity, all life from the beginningless past is included, as well as all life into the infinite future. This single instant of life contains the effects of all our past lives and the causes for all our future lives. This is the Law of the Lotus, the law of cause and effect. This single instant of life is the activity of the universe itself, our own life, and actual existence. The activity of the universe from moment to moment is constantly changing and manifests itself as various phenomena, all of which are undergoing a transformation within that activity. This is what we call "transcendental powers." It is not a matter of someone bestowing some kind of power on us. What it means is that the free and unrestricted transformation of all universal phenomena, in response to all other activity therein, represents the true entity of the universe.

This was Mr. Toda's view of the true entity of all phenomena. It is not the least bit different from the passages cited earlier from the Lotus Sutra, T'ien-t'ai, or Nichiren Daishonin.

As the term "all phenomena" indicates, Buddhism's view of matter, too, is not as some fixed and unchanging object but as a dynamic phenomenon that goes through a cycle of generation and disintegration. In other words, Buddhism views matter from the dimension of the phenomenal, as opposed to the purely material. It regards life, too, as a dynamic phenomenon that undergoes a cycle of birth and death.

Usually, it would be thought a mistake to view a phenomenon in the same way we do a material object, that is, as a static and fixed existence. But we cannot say that a phenomenon does not exist, either. It neither exists nor doesn't exist. Yet there are times when it is fair to describe a phenomenon as existing, and times when it is just as appropriate to describe a phenomenon as non-existing. This way of looking at things is called the Middle Way, because it takes a middle path without adhering either to existence or non-existence. This is the same as "the true entity" when it is correctly understood just as it is.

It's easy to understand when we look at reality in terms of its phenomenal and material dimensions. We could probably apply this to the three truths of nonsubstantiality, temporary existence and the Middle Way that Mr. Toda mentions. For example, to look at matter not as something fixed or static(material) but dynamic (phenomenal) in nature would correspond to the truth of nonsubstantiality. Yet, it is also possible to temporarily view matter as static, so this would correspond to the truth of temporary existence. To refrain from adhering to either view, meanwhile, would represent the truth of the Middle Way. T'ien-t'ai described a perfect and fully integrated understanding of the true entity of all phenomena from all three of these perspectives as the "unification of the three truths." This was the true entity of all phenomena of which he spoke.

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. 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.

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