As One with the Universe
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
We Are Fragments of Stars
Just as in this famous haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1763–1827), “‘Get me the harvest moon’ / A child is crying,” you might sometimes get lost in thought when you gaze up at the autumn night sky and your mind wanders off to distant galaxies. I sometimes read scientific journals and books about the universe, which always teach me new things that I find deeply interesting.
For instance, it is said that all the matter composing the human body is considered to be fragments of stars that exploded at the end of their natural life spans and which were scattered throughout the expanse of the universe. We could say that we are made up of fragments of stars. The phenomenon called the Big Bang, which is believed to have occurred some 13.7 billion years ago, is theorized to be the origin of the universe. The Japanese theoretical scientist Dr. Haruo Saji (1935–) has described plainly such concepts as this, and the developments that space research has introduced until now, as follows: “The point is that ‘Everything started from one single thing.’ If this is true, then everything, which was originally one, branched out from that and came into being and so we can say that ‘everything is interconnected’” (Karada wa hoshi kara dekite iru [Our body was made from stars], Shunjusha Publishing Company, 2007).
Considering scientific knowledge in this way, I think that it allows me to understand anew and clearly the Dharma of dependent origination as explained by Shakyamuni. The Chinese Confucian scholar Lu Jiuyuan (1139–92) once wrote, “Everything within the universe is contained inside myself, and everything inside myself is contained within the universe,” and Zen master Dogen (1200–1253) wrote that “the whole body of one’s own comprises the entire world of the ten directions,” because they intuitively perceived the relationship between the universe and the self.
Buddhism has the teachings “all living beings, without exception, are the buddha-nature” and “all plants, trees, and the land, without exception, will attain buddhahood.” They mean, when thoroughly examined, that everything “arises interdependently” and “all things are interrelated,” and therefore, the latest scientific discoveries are something that confirms the teachings of Shakyamuni and the words of our predecessors. At the same time, however, from this we can say that such truth that modern science elucidates is something that our mental faculties are already naturally equipped to perceive. We could even say that science proves this.
Others Also Are Our “Selves”
Looking at photographs or video images of Earth taken from the International Space Station, the question that wells up within me is: “On such a beautiful planet, why do people fight each other?” As not only human beings, but all living beings come into existence in a state of interconnectedness, when I reflect upon the stupidity of our brothers and sisters as fellow human-beings hurting each other and taking each other’s lives, I feel a deep sense of shame that we as their siblings are unable to stop them from doing so.
“‘Gaze at yourself from the universe,’ Shakyamuni and Christ taught us with mercy, from the distant past” was written by the poet Utsubo Kubota (1877–1967); and when thinking of the vast time and space encompassed by the universe, some people come to realize how narrow their own thinking is,decide to cast off their worthless pride and live humbly, and renew their minds. Still other people may gain the courage to accept with a positive attitude some illness or other misfortune.
In experiencing these deep emotions, what is particularly important is contained in the following lines: “Other people are other people, but feel them as myself, and make their joy and their sadness my own joy and my own sadness. . . . No matter what occurs in the great universe, each and every phenomenon is an issue of my own” (Reirin Yamada [1889–1979], Daihorin, March 1969 issue).
This is also the meaning of “the whole body of one’s own comprises the entire world of the ten directions,” which I mentioned earlier, and once we feel this sense of oneness, we cannot help but be struck by an indescribable sensation of awe.
We are one with the universe, one with the truth, and in addition, others are our “selves.” When we chisel this oneness into our minds, and when each and every one of us, in our daily lives, interacts with consideration toward other people, then our actions become the seeds of world peace, and become the fertilizer for creating the proper future for our beautiful planet Earth.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.