Reminds me of a poem I wrote:
If Aristotle Had Loved Women
Aristotle, though wrong, is not to blame
for suggesting an endless series to be insane.
He never had the pleasure of your acquaintance
nor the metaphors of modern science.
If He had known that your every molecule
dies and is reborn in seven yearly intervals.
He’d rejoice with me as we proceeded
to imagine your body caressed and heeded.
And to notice the wondrous insufficiency
as seven years passed much to quickly.
With so many points of beauty left untouched
I’m sure he would gladly concede as much:
That an endless series can hold comfort
eternal past and future but a moment
captured when lovers gaze intently
and the universe collapses gently.
The Buddhist concept of dependent origination is a very satisfying answer to these questions. The concept of an underlying regulatory Law of the Universe which is the ultimate reality of all things also helps. The formal name of the Law is the Mystic Law (with emphasis on Mystic since it is ultimately beyond intellectual comprehension). Rounding out the picture is the work of a sixth-century Chinese Buddhist scholar, Zhiyi (aka T’ien-t’ai or Chih-i). Based on his extensive study of Shakyamuni’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra, he described life and phenomena in terms of three “truths.” These articulate the reality of all phenomena from three separate dimensions.
The truth of temporary existence indicates the physical or material aspects of life including appearance, form and activities. The truth of non-substantiality refers to the invisible aspects of life, such as our mental and spiritual functions, which lay dormant in our lives until they are manifested. Zhiyi proposed a third truth, the essence or substance of life that transcends and encompasses these opposites. He defined this as the Middle Way.
Zhiyi observed that the three truths are unified in all phenomena and thus clarified the indivisible interrelationship between the physical and the spiritual. From this viewpoint stem the Buddhist principles of the inseparability of body and mind and of self and environment.
Ultimately, the Buddhist understanding of human dignity is rooted in the idea that we are able to choose the path of self-perfection. Similar to Zhiyi, Nichiren described life as an “elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both.” In other words, life itself is the ultimate expression of the harmony of contradictions. Like the lotus flower that blooms unsullied by the muddy waters in which it grows, Nichiren maintained that human beings possess tremendous potential and the life condition of Buddhahood which they can bring forth in direct proportion to the depth of confusion and predicament they face. He encouraged individuals to perceive the inherent dignity of all life — their own and others’ — and strive to make this the guiding principle of their actions.
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