Sunday, February 10, 2002

Is This World a "Work of Man"?

I received a lot of questions concerning my morning lecture from those who attended the Seicho-No-Ie Grand Lecture in Chiba Prefecture. I received more than 20 forms with questions. Due to time constraints, I could not answer them all, but I was grateful to see that there was such a tremendous reaction to what I talked about. There was a mixture of different questions, but those that are more complex require more time to answer. Knowing that, there was one question that, although I thought it important, I decided not to answer. It was a question that went something like this:

"There was something in your lecture that referred to this world as being the 'work of man.' Couldn't this expression easily be subject to misinterpretation? I think it would be better to say that we ourselves (including other living things) are being sustained by this Earth. The fact that there is Life that exists on this planet is thanks to the life called Earth."

According to the form on which she wrote her question, this was from, Ms. "T", a designer living in Ichikawa City. Basically, I think what she is saying is correct. The statement that "This world is a "Work of Man" could easily be misconstrued. Even then, however, the way it is stated is also true, so we cannot say that it is incorrect. This is where it gets difficult. If we're talking only about things that are "right/correct" when it comes from a standpoint of common sense, then it doesn't necessarily have to be religion. Then again, if "common sense is correct" then we don't need religion. And, while all this may be true, religion should not lack common sense either.

The phrase, "This world is the work of man" is used on page 51 in the book, Seito Shino Oshie (Lessons on Life and Death)* by Rev. Seicho Taniguchi (Nihon Kyobunsha). This means that all events that occur in this world are a reflection of the mind of Man, and, once you understand this, you will realize that it is a "lesson" to Man. That's what the written words amount to, but it would take one or two volumes to explain in its entirety all that is contained within these words. Despite that, I am trying to explain that within a one-hour lecture. It's probably not surprising that those who are listening get a little anxious and frustrated.

Which brings me to the question of the "correct expression" to which Ms. T referred, the realization that "Man's life itself is sustained by the Earth." Is this that much different than "This world is the work of Man"? To me, it seems that the former is explaining the latter in greater detail. Allow me to explain: What I would like you to note first is that, to render the recognition, "Man is sustained by the Earth", valid, we must be able to recognize that we are "human", different than any other category of living thing on the Earth. In other words, if there were not a "consciousness" or "self-consciousness" that exists within us, the concept or notion of "self" or "human being" would not be possible. Next, even amongst humans, very few have actually seen the planet "Earth", so it's extremely doubtful whether there is anything other than humans who know that the planet called "Earth" exists. For example, chimpanzees probably don't say, "I'm a living thing belonging to the life on the Earth." Chimpanzees apparently have the ability to differentiate between "me" and "you", but do not have a vocabulary that includes the terms "the Earth", "living things", or "a member of"" It's hard to think of them as being conscious of the world in the same way that humans are.

Moreover, "sustained by" is probably something that only humans can understand. The term "sustained by" can only be used with the premise of "cause" and "effect." For example, saying that ""Man is sustained by the Earth" means that the present global environmental condition is the cause for our existence, and from that comes the effect that within that environment, Man breathes the air, and is able to get water and food. The ability to grasp this type of advanced cause and effect relationship based on scientific knowledge, is probably not something even a smart chimpanzee can do. It's probably safe to conclude that things that primates with brains as developed as the chimpanzee can't do, cannot be done by other living things that are considered to be of a "lower level" either. If that's true, the idea that "Man is being sustained by the Earth" is something that cannot exist other than within the mind's of Man. Saying that it is "a work of Man" to describe something that exists only in the minds of Man is really not that absurd.

So, the realization that "Man himself is sustained by the Earth" is something that belongs "to Man", not to chimpanzees, gorillas or dolphins, but to Man only. We can say that all these types of realization/recognition/thinking, believing that one is "right" is "a work of Man"" And isn't it that Man often times refers "all the things that he feels or recognizes as being right" as "this world"? It follows, then, that "this world" is a "creation of Man""

I thought it would be easier to understand if explanations such as these regarding logic are explained through the written word rather than at or through a lecture. Of course, it's not that this fully explains all the vast meanings behind the phrase "This world is a work of Man." That's why I would be grateful if you, the readers, would consider this only a partial explanation taken from only one point of view regarding this subject.

- MT

*Not available in English

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