Atom, Yin and Yang, and Religion

The below is cited from Mr Wen-yi Chang’s seminar on science, published in Vajra Bodhi Sea magazine No.268.

On the third day of the seminar on science, Mr. Wen-Yi Chang, who studies the relationship between worldly dharma and Buddhadharma, was invited to lecture at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. From the various points of view of physics, literature, art, and philosophy, Mr. Chang talked about impermanence, no self, the great continuous stream of cause and effect, contrast of time and space, and reincarnation in Buddhism. The variety of topics in his lecture gave the seminar a greater scope. The key points of his speech are given below:

Since all people have the Buddha-nature, all the knowledge in the whole universe is actually within ourselves. A poem written by Tagore says:

Stray bird of summer fly to my window
Sing a song and fly away
Autumn leaves which have no song
Flutter and fall there with a sigh

In this poem, we can see the concepts of ceaseless change and impermanence: the changing of seasons, the coming and going of a bird, the sighs of the withered leaves. “When my time comes, I fall.” Churchill said, ” When the tavern closes, I’ll go.” It is clear that he understands the meaning of life. Be it troublesome or joyful, when a life comes to an end, one must leave. From this point we know that life is constantly changing and impermanent. Let’s look at Chinese character “Tao” meaning “the Way” (道). The Tao itself signifies changing and impermanence. Let me talk about another word “yi” (易) first.

The word “yi” (易) meaning “change” is made up by the sun and the moon. The sun is Yang (陽), the moon is Yin (陰). When Yin and Yang are unified, it is the Way (道). It is the state of equilibrium of a moving system, the constant operation of cosmic law. So in the Book of Changes it says, “It keeps on going without cease like the revolution of heavenly bodies. One makes earnest efforts to stand on his own feet.” Follows the principle of Yin and Yang, and the Way, the law of Nature is in operation.

Shiva, the Indian god of dance, visualizes the process of universe as a four-step dance. People undergo the process of birth, old age, sickness, and death; the universe undergoes the process of formation, existence, destruction, and emptiness; a year has spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Everything operates within this four-step dance.

In the Tao Te Ching (Classic of the Way), Lao Tze said, “Being great, it flows. It flows far away. Having gone afar, it returns.” The phenomena of the universe constantly change and flow like this, with no permanence.

Aside from impermanence, the most important phenomenon in the universe is no born and passing away. Smaller than the cell, are atoms each containing a nucleus and electrons. In the end they become waves of energy. Among people, there are magnetic fields and energetic fields, which are like great waterfalls. Waves of energy interact without interruption. We are all connected by an inseparable, single substance. Therefore, the whole universe is a great web spanning heaven and earth. With the idea of no self, we won’t give rise to thoughts of hatred or revenge towards people. A person is not an independent unit, but rather an integral part of the world. In reality, we ourselves are the universe.

There is a principle in the universe: a single thought is a sea of kshanas (instants). Kshana refers to time, and sea refers to space. Thus, one single thought means the universe. Vertically, it has no beginning and no end. Horizontally, it has no bound and no end. Such a minute thought can represent the great continuous stream which has neither beginning nor end.

According to the Christian account of history, God created life ten thousand years ago. However, modern geological research into the various strata and structures of the earth indicates that the creation of life happened not ten thousand years ago, but rather much earlier. In Christianity, people want to find the first cause that caused the Big Bang which created the universe. They think God is that first cause. But Buddhism says there is no first cause because the whole universe is just causes and effects, interconnected back and forth, without beginning or end. Thus, the universe is the great continuous stream of causes and effects.

Modern science affirms the reality of reincarnation. Reincarnation is the bringing of all consciousness from previous lives into the present life; it is just a dialogue with yourself. It you did well in your previous life, you will have wholesome retribution in this life. The cultivation accumulated in this life will result in proper fruition in the next life. This is the natural physical law of the universe; this natural force cannot be deterred. Nevertheless, this is not absolutely one to one: As a Buddhist saying goes, “Good is always rewarded, and vice is always punished. It is not there is no result; rather, it is just that the right time has not come yet.” In physics, this is called, the “principle of uncertainty” – an unknown number. “not the right time” refers to this “uncertainty”. One doesn’t know when it will come. It is in this very point that Buddhism surpasses fatalism. Hinduism is a kind of fatalism, for they think that once a person is born, his future destiny is fixed. However, Buddhism speaks of the uncertainty, which gives people tremendous motivation to do good deeds, accumulate hidden virtue, and thus invisibly eradicate evil karma.

In the small universe of the atoms, the case of uranium atoms with 235 electrons and 238 electrons can illustrate the forces of interaction between the electrons and the nucleus. On one hand, the electrons are attracted to the nucleus. On the other hand, they resist being confined to the small space around the nucleus; and fly out in all directions, and then return to the nucleus. Those more than 200 electrons, under the interacting forces, each make different curves, and together they form the shape of a lotus flower. That is why the Buddha spoke of the Lotus Treasury World, which represents the idea that even the smallest atom (mote of dust) contains the secret of the formation, existence, destruction and emptiness of the universe. Moreover, it enables us to understand that the Buddha-nature represented by the lotus fills every corner in any universe, and even minutest the universe on the tip of a hair contains limitless, unspeakably many Thus Come Ones. So it is said that in a lotus is hidden the secret law of the universe. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity says if you travel at the speed of light, you will have 70% longer life than your twin brother on earth. It is said, “One day in heaven is a thousand years on earth.” From a broader point of view, this is the liberation from the standard of time and space, and this is described in the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra as, “One listens to the Dharma Flower Sutra for one day, and in the meantime several hundred billion years have passed by outside.”

Living on Earth, our relationship with the entire universe is like that which the bubbles have to the great sea. We are a great net. Bubbles cannot be separated from the great sea. We all have affinities.

“There must be causes from previous lives to bring people together on the same ship.” And I have added, “Brushing shoulders as we pass by someone is also a kind of affinity.” Among the trillions of planets in the universe, we are fortunate to gather together on this Earth, in the world. All people are my brothers, and all of creation is a part of me.

Some basic concepts of Christianity are similar to the simple Dharma-door of the Pure Land School in Buddhism. For instance, Buddhism talks about “chanting Amitabha Buddha single-mindedly, one is able to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. “In Christianity it says, “With faith in God, one obtains eternal life.” Buddhism says, “Enemies and relatives are level and equal.” Christianity also says, ” Love your neighbours and love your foes.” “Heaven is in your mind.” While Buddhism says, “The Buddha is at Magic Mountain. You need not seek far away. Everybody has a Magic Mountain pagoda. Just cultivate your wisdom at the Magic Mountain pagoda.”

However, we are aware that all the parts of the entire universe rely on one another and cannot be independent. The Mahayana sect does not think that whole-heartedly chanting the Buddha’s name and becoming a Buddha is the end of it; rather, we have to become of the same substance as all living beings. It is like the many tiny bubbles which are part of the sea and cannot be separated from it. All living beings are my parents. We regard each of the living beings as our only son. Therefore, the Mahayana sect believes that since all things are of the same substance, a cultivator alone cannot achieve Nirvana or become a Buddha by himself.

Thus, the Mahayana sect emphasizes the Six Paramitas: giving, upholding precepts, patience, vigor, Samadhi (concentration), and Prajna (wisdom) – six methods to get from this shore of the sea of suffering to the other shore of bliss. All living beings on whole Earth are one great substance of unity. Everyone will be crossed over to the other shore together. Mahayana is like a big ship. Venerable Abbot Hua is also like a big ship, carrying all of you to the Pure Land.

The whole universe is filled with Buddha Lands. Guan Yin Bodhisattva can manifest ten thousand transformation bodies to liberate trillions of people. It is just like listening to the radio, when the right channel is found, many people can receive the radio wave signal. The wave already exists, and we don’t need go out to get it. Matter is energy capacity and electrons are energy waves. This is just “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” And that’s why a Bodhisattva can come and go freely. This energy capacity is even faster than the speed of light and it can go everywhere. And it neither comes nor goes, and is thus, thus, unmoving. Our reincarnation as living beings is nothing but an echo of ourselves.

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