October 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
Buddhism has a history of adapting to the cultures into which it was introduced. Some say it must therefore adapt to the ways of the west or be found irrelevant to the western mind; that Buddhism must adapt to the west’s scientific orientation. To that end, consider the following.
The mathematician’s point (as in an x – y graph) is a location in space that has no property of width, length or height. It is a space of zero dimensions.
The physicist’s electron is a point charge that has mass but no size.
Buddhism’s “I” (the “I” that exists in you and me) is also a point of zero dimensions that is referred to as the anatman or “no self”.
In short, the “point”, the “electron” and the “I” all have zero dimensions or no size.
Note that, in physics, to say something has mass but no size is to say it has infinite density.
Also note that as the mathematician’s point has no dimensions it is indistinguishable from the space in which it exists. As that space is infinite, the point is also infinite. (The result of dividing one by zero is infinity.)
When we follow the electron or the mathematician’s point down to its essence we find, then, that both have the value of infinity.
When we follow the “point-I” down to its essence, as is done in Buddhist and other forms of meditation, we also find that it is infinite. (For example, some descriptions of enlightenment say the point-I immediately expands to encompass the entire universe.)
Considering these together we can say that the fringes of math and science affirm the Buddhist view that the true nature of the “I” as a point of zero dimensions, is infinite. Buddhist thought and experience is therefore consistent with western thought and the western mind.
October 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
One year ago today, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai. The bullets hit her head, went through her shoulder, severed facial nerves and left her deaf in one ear. Today Malala lives as an advocate for women’s rights, as an advocate for the right to education for girls and as one nominated for the Nobel Peace prize.
When the Taliban entered Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Malala tells us she witnessed their flogging of women for no reason other than a strand of hair exposed on their head. She saw women banned from markets and told their only function was to work in the home. She saw how the Taliban’s fear of women lead to their oppression and the oppression of girls wanting an education.
Malala could see no rhyme or reason for the actions of the Taliban and asked, “Why don’t we speak for our rights?”
In an atmosphere of violence and oppression Malala spoke out for education, peace and non-violent resistance to the Taliban. The Taliban’s response was to seek her death: to shoot a fifteen-year old girl in the head. But they failed to silence this young woman. Failed, as must anyone fail when they seek to silence the voice of those who represent the rights of children, girls and women.
Malala was not the only girl shot that day. Her friends, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz were also wounded and today also live in the United Kingdom where they are students who want to one day be doctors.
Kainat says that before they were shot, “there was hardly any concept of sending girls in Swat to schools, but now parents have started to do that.” A measure of how the actions of one can influence a nation.
As to the Noble Peace prize, Malala says that it is a great honor but what’s really important is the support she gets from people all over the world. What is important is that education be given people everywhere.
Malala is extremely humble in that she does not believe she has done enough to merit the Noble. And, truth be told, there are others who have worked harder and longer.
Ultimately, Malala tells us the Peace prize isn’t important except in how it would enable her to further the cause of women’s rights, peace and education. To this we could add that it would be a symbol of the importance of education to the cause of world peace.
To quote Malala, “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
October 4, 2013 § 3 Comments
In the vastness of the universe there arises everywhere what are called “virtual” particles, particles that appear out of the nothingness of space and immediately return to it in such a way that they are not considered to be “real”.
The distinction between real particles and virtual particles is not clear. Virtual particles that last long enough would be called real. Conversely, if a real particle had a very short life span it would actually be called virtual. Whether a particle is considered real or not depends on that indefinable something called time.
Time and space arose together in the creation of the universe called the Big Bang. The Big Bang is often described as an expansion from an initially small point to the present size of the universe today. What’s often ignored in this description is the absurdity of postulating a beginning point as “small” when space itself had not yet been created.
As the universe is not expanding “in” anything its expansion must be considered as apparent, or relative only to itself. That means the question of size is relevant only to an observer in the universe comparing present conditions to past ones. From a non-relative, or absolute point of view the size of the universe has not changed at all just, so to speak, it’s content.
Put another way, the universe reflected in a dewdrop would be seen to be as vast to any intelligent microbe living in it as our real universe appears to us. But, unlike the microbe, we have no “outside” for comparison. And without an outside, there is no distinction between big or small.
The forces that govern the interactions of all matter in the universe – gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force all owe their appearance to the present temperature, or low energy state, of the universe.
At higher states, electromagnetism and the weak force have been found to be just two different aspects of the same force, the electroweak force. At temperatures even higher, like those just after the Big Bang, it is expected that all four forces will be found to arise from one common, as yet unnamed, force.
Beyond this one ultimate force science can go no further, for science only deals with relationships and once all four forces have been unified all relationships cease to be. This upper limit on science, and the question of the whether the universe is getting larger or just undergoing state changes in place, or whether particles are real or not, are questions for philosophy, not science. Questions that ultimately only the mystic can answer, hence she asks,
“The myriad things return to the one: what does the one return to?”
Science has no answer to this question but if it did, it would necessarily have to postulate some “indefinable” from which energy, matter and the “four forces made one” arise.
Being indefinable one wonders why the scientist is reluctant to allow for the possibility that this ultimate reality is Consciousness. And why, as a result, they would deny their own consciousness as part of that greater Reality.