Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

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

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