This Uposatha Day I proudly present an amazing topic from David's book to you all.
The Science of Peace
[From the book written by Dr.David N.Snyder]
An understanding of the relativity of life is closely related to the interconnection of life. When
we realize this through scientific knowledge and personal insights, we become more peaceful.
Six degrees of separation
The fact that we do not continue our personalities from one life to the next does not mean that
there is no connection. Re-birth is a continuation of the series. In fact we can say that we are
always connected to not only our previous lives, but also to all other beings.
A popular story that has also been made into a movie is the concept of ―six degrees of
separation. All of our lives could have been very different if we could have changed just a few
things around, or just a few different decisions.
If we look back at our lives, we can see several important decisions we made. What if we
took the ―other road or made some different choices. Our life would be completely different.
Imagine choosing a different spouse or partner. If you change just a few choices around, our
personalities could have been different, our social class could have been different, or our
physical location and friends would be different. A rich man could have just as easily been a
poor man if some simple choices would have been done differently, or vice versa.
The famous monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, has written several books on socially
engaged Buddhism and was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King.
He has coined the term ―interbeing‖ to help describe the inter-connectedness of all life and the
universe. He describes something as simple as a piece of paper as representing the whole
universe, as does everything else. When you look at a piece of paper we can see the tree from
where it came, but also the sun, the rain, the river, the ocean, and the workers. The tree would
not have grown if there was no sun or if it did not rain. The rain itself falls down, then
evaporates into the sky where it becomes a cloud, then it falls again, perhaps to a river or ocean.
The paper could not exist without the sun. The forest needs sun to grow. The paper could not
exist without rain or the cloud. If there were no rain the tree would not grow. There would not
be rain without the cloud, the river, or the ocean. If we look further we can see the logger who
cut the tree to make the paper. There is also the food the logger ate, such as bread. The logger
could not have worked without eating his bread or meal. This is also in the paper. Thich Nhat Hanh
continues in his explanation in this manner to show how the whole universe can be seen in something
as simple as a piece of paper. All beings and things are inter-connected, therefore, ―interbeing. (Thich, 2001)
Once I remember hearing on the news that grains of sand from the Sahara desert in Africa
sometimes find their way to the U.S. Scientists have been able to track even these small grains
through the jet stream winds. When philosophers sometimes talk about the ―fluttering
wings of the butterfly in the Amazon effecting the whole and changing the landscape in a far off
land, there is a definite scientific case to support that.
Thich Nhat Hanh also describes what he calls, ―continuation day instead of birthday. When
something dies, be it a thing or a life, it does not really die. It just continues. It gets transformed
to something else. For example, scientists have not been able to really destroy anything.
Buildings may get knocked down in wartime and other disasters, but where do they go? The
rubble is still there. Large rocks and boulders decompose over millions of years, but never
disappear. The sand at beaches is from these large rocks. They became sand. In fact, scientists
have not been able to destroy even the smallest speck of dust. When we burn something like
water or rubble or dust, it does not disappear. Its vapors go into the air or atmosphere and
become something else, like a cloud and then return to the earth.
I have often wondered if people would be able to accept the inter-connectedness of life easier
and the concept of no-self if they walked around one full day wearing infra-red night vision
lenses. When you wear those lenses, everything shows up by temperature. What you see is a
sort of fluid picture of shapes with varying degrees of yellow, red, and orange, based on
temperature. Even the air has color to it, due to its temperature. The whole world looks together
as one living organism. This is reality in an absolute sense.
Inside our bodies are the genes of our ancestors. Our shape, internally and externally was
developed over the gene pools of millions of years and millions of ancestors. In Ethiopia, an
almost complete skeleton was found of an ancient human who lived almost four million years
ago. Scientists have named her, ―Lucy.‖ Lucy‘s genes are still within us. Her legacy is still
within us. Animal bodies and food remains become compost which then nourishes the land
which produces more food. The cycle continues on. There is no real death, only continuation.
War is not the answer When we realize our close connection to other beings and our
interconnection to all life, we understand that violence is useless. War is not the answer to
any human problem and only compounds the problems already present. Founding father of America and vegetarian,
Benjamin Franklin has said:
―There is no good war and no bad peace.
Dr. Martin Luther King has said of war and violence:
―The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it
seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may
murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence, merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already
devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Dr. King was very successful in instituting civil rights through nonviolent means. He did much
reading and learning from Mahatma Gandhi, who obtained independence for India without firing
a single bullet. Gandhi had the following famous quote to say about violence and warfare:
―An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
We can see that these great leaders had the Buddha as a teacher with the Buddha‘s words of:
―Hate never ceases by hatred. Only love dispels hatred. This is an ancient and timeless law. It
is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. (Dh., chapters 2 and 8)
These words by the Buddha have rung true in every generation and can be paraphrased to the
modern saying of:
―War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate.
When we know from scientific facts or personal realization the universal characteristics of
suffering, impermanence, and no self, how could we inflict violence and warfare on others? We
know that everyone suffers, it is not just people from our home country.
Impermanence shows us that there is no such thing as a ―holy land. The earth is moving all the
time. The current location of the ―holy land of Palestine and Israel could have been a part of a
land mass thousands of miles away, during a previous geological period. A former soldier of the
Israeli Army has said that whenever you call something ―holy you should put ―blood in front
of it. Calling something ―holy only causes much bloodshed and attachment to a small,
insignificant amount of land.
The concept of no self shows us that we are all connected. An understanding of our
interconnection to other beings does not allow us to inflict violence to others. If we attack
others, we attack ourselves.
An understanding of re-birth means that if we kill someone who is different from us, just because
they have a different nationality, then we also kill our parents, our uncles,. aunts, and children.
A Palestinian person could have been a Jewish person from New York in a previous life. An
Israeli could have been a Palestinian from Gaza. We all could have been each others‘ spouses,
aunts, uncles, and children.
This is directly confirmed by the Buddha in the following:
―Bhikkhus, this samsara [round of births and rebirths] is without discoverable beginning . . . It is
not easy, bhikkhus, to find a being who in this long course has not previously been your mother .
. . your father . . . your brother . . . your sister . . . your son . . . your daughter. For what reason?
Because, bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning . . . It is enough to be
liberated from them. Samyutta Nikaya 15.14
In the Buddha‘s teachings, the Buddha of our time, born as Siddhatha Gotama is just one of
many buddhas who have taught the Dhamma when the teachings died out, a re-discoverer of the
truths. There were many buddhas before Gotama. All of the previous buddhas attained
enlightenment under a tree and in one discourse the Buddha states which type of tree the
previous buddhas attained enlightenment under. ―The Lord Buddha Kakusandha under an
acacia-tree Digha Nikaya 14.1.8 Acacia trees are especially common in Africa. We also
know that the first humans evolved and lived in Africa. There is always at least several
thousands of years between these teaching buddhas who re-discover the Dhamma. Therefore, it
is possible that the Lord Buddha Kakusandha was a black African.
Also, Moggallana, one of the foremost highest monks of the Buddha‘s monastic Order, known
for his great psychic supernatural abilities, is described as being very dark in complexion
(Buddhavamsa from the Khuddaka Nikaya and in Dhammika, 2007). We know that the people
of the Indian sub-continent come in many shades of colors and that some; especially the
Dravidians have a dark complexion with ancestry more directly from Africa. The fact that Lord
Buddha Kakusandha and Moggallana were most likely Black makes Buddhism the only major
religion with ―prophets or founding teachers who were either Black or very dark in complexion.
Confucius considered nationalism, a hindrance or barrier to getting to heaven. Attachment to
anything, including your own people is a self imposed limitation on growing and obtaining
**********to be continued************
Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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