Where is the love in Buddhism?
Up until now we have spoken very much in a language that would assume that the ‘mystic law’ is something rather impersonal, perhaps cold and somewhat uncaring. It frightens some people to think of the universe as a place of strict rules (laws). A universe that regardless of what its inhabitants are doing, ensures that they get exactly that which they are asking for (good or bad – consciously or unconsciously); A universe that responds to the actions (karma) of all that which exists within it equally and fairly, but at the same time is instantly forgiving when one changes his/her actions sincerely.
Scientists typically have no problems relating to this as they can see these causal laws operating in their experiments. They are evidence based investigators, logic driven and they are used to only believe what they can proof beyond a doubt.
But even learned men find it rather disturbing to find themselves reduced to the simply self enforcing effects of a cause. We know deep within that there must be more than this cold hard rule by which everything seems to function. Perhaps something greater than us? This is why many of us like the idea of a creator; something larger than us; a benevolent being, God or Allah, Krishna or Buddha, someone that we can relate to; someone that takes care of us, guides us and gives us hope; someone that we can trust beyond our limited smaller self.
But when we assess it carefully, then we will come to the conclusion that the mystic law is very much a conscious entity in the way just described. Perhaps a better way of defining it (which is of course only possible in a hypothetical way) is by calling it a ‘superconsciousness’ which is made up of the sum total of all individual consciousnesses combined.
Just like our body exists because of its many cells that make up our body, but with each cell having its own individually important function.
But then we have to ask ourselves ‘who runs the operation?’ ‘Who is in charge of all these individual consciousnesses that make up the superconsciousness?’
Or when thinking of our own body, who is in charge of all these cells? We will probably have to say that it is our mind (thoughts and feelings) that moves our body, and thus we have the impression that we have a sense of control over what we do, think and feel.
At the same time, there is no doubt that we are absolutely dependant on every single cell in the body to function in perfect harmony with the rest of the body so that we can sustain our life. On the other hand, every single cell in the body benefits from the coherent workings of all cells making up that body. If even one cell ‘misfires’ the body as a whole is affected (i.e. think of cancer cells). Therefore, one could say that there is a universe within and we are its creator (consciously or unconsciously).
Then again, according to NDB we are the expression of the mystic law, and even if we come to know ourselves as the creator of our own universe, we are after all the ‘mystic law’ expressed (our true identity), and even if we were part of an even larger being, that being too would be the ‘mystic law’ expressed.
It is like the Russian Doll game where one doll fits into a larger doll and the larger doll fits into an even larger doll, and so on. No matter how many dolls there may be, they are all still expressions of the mystic law.
Thus, we are back where we have started, the mystic law as expressed in NMHRGK.
So, again, is the universe really uncaring and cold when examined from a Buddhist perspective? It seems quite the contrary. We could say that the purpose of the universe is to create conditions that support life, just like our body provides nourishing support for all of its cells. This is the bodies constant (subconscious) thought ‘how can I make sure that all my cells are in perfect working order?’ – or ‘in event of an illness, what can I do to make things better?’ – or ‘how can I develop an even better adapted body?’ The list of life affirmative thoughts goes on. Even the brutality of a volcanic eruption is at the end of things a life giving event. Without it, we wouldn’t have an atmosphere and the nourishing nutrients that make the soil fertile. Life dies to give life in a never ending sequence.
Thus, the universal mystic law of life is ultimately loving and supportive by default. It is plain to see that even under the most trying circumstances life takes hold wherever it can. May that be in the icy desserts of Antarctica or the Sahara, wherever there is an opportunity, life will blossom and it will endeavour to evolve towards enlightenment from the depths of delusion to the highest possible state of being. Giving and sustaining life is the main aim of the mystic law. Buddhism is life promoting.
Even when we should get sick, the purpose and challenge of our sickness is to bring out a better more enlightened way to go about our lives in future.
Life is all around
For those who are sceptical when it comes to believing that the potential for life exists everywhere in the universe, perhaps it would be best to consider that there are people in gas, rocks and water.
Now…this statement may puzzle some and that is perfectly understandable. However, when we look out into the distant Milky Way we can only see gas and stars in the making. If one follows the logical argument that the human body consist of a number of gasses, at least 70% water and minerals, it is really not too difficult to realise that we are indeed star matter and that life is possible wherever there is an environment that provides the right circumstances for life to form. To believe that this should only be possible on planet earth is rather unlikely when we consider the unfathomably size of the universe. Buddhism regards the universe as a living entity in general.
How did it all start?
Many of us will eventually want to make sense of the big ‘how’ did it all start? Even children typically ask “what was first, the chicken or the egg?” Parents will struggle with an adequate answer that would meet their level of understanding as we are mostly at a loss ourselves of how to answer such a question.
However, when seen from the perspective of the mystic law, it can indeed be explained. The question that we first of all need to ask ourselves is “how do we know that we ourselves exist?”
The answer could be as complex as it is simple. Psychologically speaking we define ourselves by that which surrounds us. By being able to give names to the things we perceive in the environment we have a sense of ‘being’. Because I interact I have a sense of existence.
Psychological experiments show that when people are put in isolation deprived of external stimuli they will lose their sense of self rather quickly. When we are thus deprived for too long our brain will in fact create halluzinations to keep some level of stimulation going. If we are too long without stimulation entire neural pathways literally ‘die’.
To understand the theory behind ‘pure consciousness’ (or the Buddhist term of ‘emptiness’) imagine someone is taking your whole environment away, step by step, all is disappearing until you are just a couple of eyes looking out into – well…nothing (which is hard to imagine of course). But just for hypothetical reasons, let’s imagine that this is the case. There is no environment left and all you are is a couple of eyes that stare into nothingness.
At this point you have no more awareness of self because you can’t bounce off anything that surrounds you. Let’s further assume that you have lost all memory of what you have ever been before. Your mind is empty and so is the environment around you (in fact, there is no environment in the first place). At this stage you have simply no way of knowing yourself because there are just no reference points which could give rise to such belief in a ‘self’.
However, in Buddhist terms at this stage you are pure consciousness that is ready to be ‘potentially’ anything it wants to be. But you need a cause. At this stage you are ONE.
But now there is the problem, you have no awareness that you exist and there is no environment that could give you such awareness. You are simply completely ignorant of your existence. So…the question would be, what could you do to change that?
The following metaphor will highlight what could have happened.
At the beginning there was only ONE (Buddha, God, Life-force, etc.). This ONE had a dilemma, IT could not experience itself because IT was ALL there was (and nothing else, i.e. no environment, no space and thus consequently – no time or reference point for awareness to exist). Therefore IT decided to ‘split’ (i.e. ‘divide/explode’) into two (i.e. ‘matter and antimatter’, ‘good and evil’, ‘yin and yang’, ‘positive negative’, etc… ) and so on into ‘many parts’ (to create reference points in order to look at ITSELF)– an event physicist Albert Einstein called the ‘Big Bang’.
This ‘explosion of the smallest – ‘all there was’ thus created ‘space’ (defined as the ‘distance’ between matter) and consequently ‘time’ (also measured as the distance between parts) came into existence.
Science at this stage has hinted that this process of expansion (measured by means of cosmic radiation), will eventually lose its velocity and thus reverse to contraction (the dichotomy of life once more at work- up/down, left/right, good/evil, yin/yang, hot/cold, life/death, happy/sad…!). In other words, everything will shrink back to being ONE once again.
This process is believed to be eternally repeated. In other words, to motivate this process of expansion (or evolution), the positive/negative relationship (dichotomy) is essential, i.e. if no pain/desire, there would be no movement towards happiness (or experience of what one would call ‘life’ for that matter).
Taking the likelihood of this ‘split’ scenario into consideration we may even relate the biblical Adam and Eve story back to the attempt of explaining that eating an apple from the tree of knowledge in paradise to the cause for the occurring split.
In other words, when the ignorant was infiltrated with ‘knowledge’ it started a process of awareness and with it came the desire of expansion. Hence we have what is called ‘evolution’.
Therefore the ‘big bang’ is still in all of us and everything around us. We are all still expanding. And the law by which this process operates requires the transformation of energy expressed through the phases of birth, aging, decline and death (i.e. constant flux). However, death in Buddhism is simply seen as a phase of eternal life which brings us to the concept of reincarnation.