Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Archive for August, 2014

Spirituality Is Not A Fashion Statement

Coexist6jtDetailSpirituality and faith, no matter the teaching, is about the compassionate expressions of the heart, for the betterment of your fellow man (in the general sense not gender).

Jesus himself said these two commandments are most important Love thy god and love thy neighbour, never once was uttered hints of exceptions.

Abraham J. Heschel, a Jewish philosopher said that a religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.

Albert Einstein said that a human being is part of the whole called by us ‘universe’ – a part limited in time and space. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Buddha himself said that in separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength. Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little. Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

I say this, if someone, anyone, dies for any reason, and your first words, neigh your first thoughts are not out of compassion but are born from mean spiritedness; even in poor jest, your spirituality, no matter how exotic, is simply a fashion statement.

The Divine in Nature.

kevin-beiler-networkWhen we say ‘namaste’, we are saying we recognize what is good and divine in someone else and we are honouring that spirit in them. This is what gives root to my pantheist approach to Buddhism.

The cosmos is also within us, we’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. -Carl Sagan

“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.” -Buddha


Buddha himself gave quite a few talks on interconnectedness, one of which Shakyamuni used the image of two bundles of reeds leaning against each other to explain this deep interconnectedness. He described how the two bundles of reeds can remain standing as long as they lean against each other. In the same way, because this exists, that exists, and because that exists, this exists. If one of the two bundles is removed, then the other will fall. Similarly, without this existence, that cannot exist, and without that existence, this cannot exist.

Recently through scientific study Dr. Suzanne Simard discovered that Mycorrhizal fungi form obligate symbioses with trees, where the tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrate energy in return for water and nutrients the fungal mycelia gather from the soil; mycorrhizal networks form when mycelia connect the roots of two or more plants of the same or different species. Graduate student Kevin Beiler (network pictured above) has uncovered the extent and architecture of this network through the use of new molecular tools that can distinguish the DNA of one fungal individual from another, or of one tree’s roots from another. He has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees. Through careful experimentation, recent graduate Francois Teste determined that survival of these establishing trees was greatly enhanced when they were linked into the network of the old trees.Through the use of stable isotope tracers, he and Amanda Schoonmaker, a recent undergraduate student in Forestry, found that increased survival was associated with belowground transfer of carbon, nitrogen and water from the old trees. This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.

Not only did this lead to the discovery of these networks and their hubs, but through observation Dr. Suzanne Simard was able to discover that in this network the younger (offspring) trees received the nutrients before the hubs even when these nutrients were introduced at the Hubs first.

This is a prime example how compassion extends outside the realm of mankind and exists not only in the animal kingdom but in the plant kingdoms as well. It is my belief that it is suggestive that consciousness exists in these networks on a unquantifiable level, and that just as Carl Sagan and the Buddha suggest, everything is connected, the divine exists with in us all.

~ “We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

A Simple Student

indexOn Wednesday the 30th, quite the surprisingly controversial posting went live.  I had no idea that it would be so popular.  Some people took it as I was trying to create a new teaching, a pseudo form, or bastardized form of the Dharma.  This was far from my intention.  Some even thought I had not read or studied Buddhism at all because my thought was in conflict with their tradition of Buddhism.  I was merely doing as the Buddha himself suggested, question the teachings trying to get them to agree with my own reasoning and common sense. I meant to offence to any one, nor did I expect anyone to take what I had said at faith and to accept it as truth.  It was merely a theory based on my understanding of the tales told of the Buddha’s awakening once he reached enlightenment.

Although I know I am not supposed to rely solely on my own pondering and probability of thought, I was merely voicing a theory that made sense to me and unified the accounting of the Buddha having lived many lives before and the concept of No Self. My thought was even if there was no traditional soul some part of who Buddha was, separate from his consciousness connected him to those previous lives.  With those teachings and my pondering I gave voice to theory that is all.

I have never claimed to be an expert, I apologise if I seemed that way, I am merely a curious student.

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.” -Buddha