The Buddhahood of All Insentient Beings

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The Buddhahood of All Insentient Beings
Citation: Ziporyn, Brook. "The Buddhahood of All Insentient Beings." Dharma World 45 (2018): 10–12.


No abstract given. Here are the first relevant paragraphs:

So far, no lifeless universe has been discovered. That is, the occurrence of matter without the occurrence of life is, judging by the available empirical evidence viewed globally, something that does not happen. In every case that matter has been there in any universe, life has occurred—eventually.
      I do not mean that there has never been a time, a single snapshot moment or a billion such moments, during which there was only matter but no life. Nor do I mean that there is no part of the universe in which, considered in isolation from all other parts, there is only lifelessness. "In every case that matter has been there in any universe, life has occurred" is true even if there are immense periods of time, considered in isolation, and immense swaths of space, considered in isolation, where there is no life.
      The crux of the problem, however, lies in those three words, "considered in isolation." Everything depends on how we divide things up, where our definition of "one thing" begins and ends.
      For what I mean when I say that "matter without life has never existed" is that, scientifically speaking, there has never appeared even one particle of any kind of matter found in any non-life-producing universe, considering that universe as a whole. For no non-life-producing universe has yet been discovered. Likewise, there is no lifeless matter in any period of time that is not part of at least one sequence of time that produces life.
      All matter that has ever been discovered has existed only in a universe that also contains life, and all lifeless times were part of this sequence of time we are now in, the total sequence of time that produced this life.
      No lifeless universe has ever been discovered. Among all the universes that have been discovered so far, there is not even one that is devoid of life. I challenge you or anyone to show me even one particle of matter, or even one moment of time, from a universe without life.
      At this point we have merely been speaking empirically about what has so far been discovered. There are very few things that we can know with absolute certainty without relying on empirical contingency. But in fact this is one thing we can know with absolute certainty: no universe will ever be discovered devoid of life.
      We can know this for two reasons. The first is perhaps relatively trivial, although some philosophers attach great significance to it. It is that the act of "discovering" itself requires a living being. Ipso facto, wherever any discovering is done, life is also present. Therefore no universe devoid of life can ever be discovered.
      The second reason has to do with how we define universe. Th is is the hidden premise of the claims I am making here: it is because we understand the idea of "universe" in a certain way that we can claim, with absolute certainty, that there is no lifeless universe. If the universe is taken in its broadest meaning, which is also its most commonsensical meaning, it means "all that exists." All that exists certainly includes this planet, this solar system, this period of time. The universe in this broadest sense is what includes any more-narrowly construed universes—for example, all alternate universes. If we call the sum total of all possible universes "the universe," then it is obvious that there is no universe but this one, and since this one contains life, no universe can be discovered that is devoid of life. Whatever might be discovered is by definition part of this totality that includes our lives.
      All of the above is true even if life exists only once, for a few million years, on one small planet. Even if there was no life for billions of years—and in most of the universe there never has been and never will be life—even if the phenomenon "life" is a peculiar flash that occurs only on planet Earth between the Hadean Eon 4,500 million years ago until 2018 CE, and never arises anywhere ever again, it is still true that there is no universe devoid of life and that there can never be any universe devoid of life.
      And yet people often contemplate those vast billions of years and expanses of space and speak of "lifeless matter." This makes sense only if we divide the world in a certain way. That is, it is only because we are in the habit of dividing self and other, or mind and its objects, or—to put it most generally—inside and outside, that it is possible to speak of lifeless matter. Only if any one part of the universe is thought of as an entity truly separate from all other parts can anything be lifeless. The key question is how much of the universe do we consider to be "one thing." Where do we draw the line that divides inside from outside? If "me and that rock" are one thing, that one thing has life, just as "my skin and my fingernails" has life. If me and that rock are separate, then my body has life and the rock has no life.
      Mahāyāna Buddhism, particularly that developed in the Madhyamaka school and further elaborated in Tiantai Buddhism, holds that the separation of "inside and outside" is impossible to sustain in any nonambiguous way. These schools generally develop this idea logically by use of reductio ad absurdum arguments that try to demonstrate that any way of drawing common-sense dividing lines to define one object in distinction to another end up being self-contradictory. (Read the entire article here).