Recently on Twitter I found this post:
If you can’t see it, click here. This is a picture of the Milky Way Galaxy (銀河系, gingakei in Japanese) from the perspective of the International Space Station. Out there are millions and millions of stars, and millions of planets too.
I’ve always been fascinated with space, but when I was younger, I often felt a sense of contradiction between what I saw out there (space) and what I was taught in religion as a kid. I felt that I was somehow forced to choose between what an ancient book said and what the world around me said. Of course, I wanted to choose science, but I didn’t want to live without a spiritual structure either.
Even in my college years, when I experimented with a lot of other religions (Catholicism, Islam, etc), I still felt this tension and would get a little frustrated.
Then, I remember one time my wife1 and I were sitting in a cafe and somehow we ended up talking about evolution and Buddhism. Something she said (I can’t remember anymore) gave me one of those powerful “ah ha!” moments. And from then on, I became really interested in Buddhism. A year or two later, we visited Japan after we got married, and that convinced me even more.
Since then, I’ve never felt that same tension between religion and science like I did before. Sure, the stories and characters in Buddhism might not be real, in the material/historical sense, but they are real because they teach us something, because they inspire us, and because they represent truths that we know exist.
So, whenever I see the night sky, I often wonder if there are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on other planets. Maybe they have 8 arms and green skin. Maybe they’re Klingons.2 Who knows?
But it’s a fun possibility to consider. 🙂
1 We were still dating at the time, but even then I often respected her view of things. She is my bodhisattva. 🙂
2 Buddhist sutras in Klingon language would be pretty funny.