What it is to be a Substance? and What it is to Exist? We need to establish knowledge about the man on a firm basis and the information it provides must be tested for its accuracy and consistency with an external reality. We have to make the fundamental distinction between the living and the non-living matter. The scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries reinforced the materialistic position concerning the basic similarity of organic living and inorganic physical matter. The man is viewed as a product of natural evolution and is thought to be subject to the same laws of Physics and Chemistry or mechanistic principles.
We need a methodology to study philosophy and to understand philosophical statements. Logical Positivism, also known as Scientific Empiricism aims to clarify concepts in both everyday and scientific language. It describes analysis of language as the function of philosophy. This analysis of language and of concepts is important to understand questions of belief and ideology which affect what we think we ought to do individually and socially. I would use this method of ‘Applied Philosophy’ to analyze the philosophical doctrine of Gautama Buddha and his teaching about life and death.
Gautama Buddha claims that whatever is born, produced, conditioned, contains within itself the nature of its own dissolution. The greatest miracle is that of explaining the truth and to make man realize it. What is the Truth? To know the truth about Life, we have to understand the influence of Time. Individual living entities exist during their own Lifetime while the vital principle that animates all Life remains imperishable, immortal, eternal, and unchanging. Time is defined as the duration in which things are considered as happening in the past, present, or future. Time is the measurement of duration, the period between two events during which something exists, happens, or acts. This concept of Time demands that we must make a fundamental distinction between static and dynamic events. Static is the term used to describe a body, mass, or force that is at rest or in equilibrium and hence it is inactive, stationary, not moving, or progressing. Life is a dynamic event in which the object called the living thing exists by a tendency towards change or productive activity. Life requires presence of a vital, energetic, animating principle that maintains the equilibrium called existence while responding to a flow of events that measure the duration of existence of that living thing. In my view, Death is also a dynamic event and it is not a static event as the change called Death inevitably flows to cause Rebirth. The flow of Life must be synchronized with the flow of Time for both of them to proceed until Eternity. I describe Spirituality as the potency that generates the living experience of Peace, Harmony, and Tranquility in the Time and Life Interactions. To know this, we may have to know about the Cyclical Changes of Matter, and the Cyclical Flow of Time. Chemistry is the Science that would give us understanding of Living Matter and of Cyclical Changes that are caused by Chemical Reactions. In the study of Life, Chemistry is the Science that describes the nature of ‘Spiritual Interactions’. The ‘Spiritual Interactions’ between Time and Matter establish, support, and preserve the existence of Life on this planet Earth.
MATTER – CHEMICAL ELEMENTS AND CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS:
All ‘Matter’ is composed of fundamental materials called Chemical Elements. A substance that cannot be decomposed into simpler substances by ordinary chemical processes is by definition an Element. There are about 88 ‘naturally’ occurring Elements, and about 20 Elements are used in measurable amounts by most living organisms. Phosphorus is an essential Element to all Life as it is component of DNA and RNA that make up the genetic material of all cells and control reproduction of both the cell and the organism. Phosphorus is part of the energy storage and utilization system at the cellular level. In addition, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Cobalt, Cadmium, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Molybdenum, Boron, Sodium, Chlorine, Fluorine, Iodine, Sulfur, and Chromium are all essential to one form of life or another. Elements can combine with one another to form a wide variety of more complex substances called Chemical Compounds. A Chemical Compound is a substance in which two or more Elements are joined by Chemical Bonds. A Chemical Compound can be created or broken down by means of a Chemical Reaction but not by mechanical or physical separation techniques. It helps to make a distinction between Mixture and Compound. Most naturally occurring Matter represents Physical Mixtures of Chemical Compounds that could be separated using simple physical techniques. While the number of known Elements is small, the number of possible Compounds is almost ‘infinite’; perhaps a million or more Chemical Compounds are known to exist. When two or more Elements combine to form a Compound, they lose their separate identities, and the product called Chemical Compound has characteristics quite different from those of the constituent Elements. For example, the Common Salt or Sodium Chloride is combination of the highly reactive metallic element Sodium (Na) and the poisonous gas Chlorine (Cl). The unique taste and flavor imparted by Salt cannot be discovered by studying the physical and chemical properties of Sodium or Chlorine. Elements in Compounds always are combined in definite proportion. For instance, a molecule of Water is always made up of two Hydrogen (H) atoms and one Oxygen (O) atom. Again, I would like to pay attention to the fact of two gaseous elements, Hydrogen, and Oxygen with quite different physical and chemical properties can combine to form the Compound Water which has altogether different properties from either Hydrogen or Oxygen. The simple, pure, original, and sweet taste imparted by Fresh Water cannot be discovered in its constituent Elements. I have mentioned that the Element Phosphorus is basic to all Life. Phosphorus is discovered in c.1674 by Hennig Brand. It is an extremely poisonous, yellow to white, waxy, solid substance. When exposed to air, Phosphorus ignites spontaneously. Some of the commercial uses of Phosphorus include the making of detergents, toxic nerve gases and explosives. We have to learn to make the distinction between Chemical Elements and Chemical Compounds and apply this understanding to know the nature of relationship between things. Calcium Phosphate is the principal material found in bones and teeth. Adenosine triphosphate or ATP is the fundamental energy source in living things. It is very understandable that all Matter is composed of units called Atoms and the physical structure of Atom is well-known. We have to be very careful and avoid deriving understanding about Life and Living Matter from the descriptive knowledge derived from Quantum Physics. To understand the nature of living experience, we need Chemical Molecules and Chemical Compounds whose qualities and characteristics may not be discovered from the study of Nuclear Physics. The phenomenon of creating and breaking down Chemical Compounds in living organisms is known as Metabolism. A Chemical Compound’s smallest units are, Molecules, and Ions. A Molecule can exist in the free state and still retain the characteristics of the Element or Compound; a Molecule can be formed by an Element when it consists of one Atom, or two, or more similar Atoms; a Molecule can be formed by a Compound when it consists of two or more different Atoms. The term ‘Ion’ is used to describe an Atom or Molecule bearing an electric charge as a result of having a number of negative electrons unequal to the number of positive protons in its nuclei. ‘Ionization’ is the process that describes the formation of ‘Ions’ from neutral Atoms or Molecules. ‘Ions’ that are positively charged are known as ‘Cations’, and that are negatively charged are known as ‘Anions’. Simple ‘Ions’ consist of a single charged Atom; double, triple, or even higher positive or negative charges are possible. Oxidation of Hydrogen removes its single electron and gives H+ or cationic Hydrogen which contains no electrons and it has a nucleus which is composed of one proton. This cationic Hydrogen plays a particularly important role in the Acid-Base Chemistry of the human organism with many reactions exchanging protons between soluble molecules. The internal environment of a living cell includes Hydrogen, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Calcium, Chloride, Sulfate, Phosphate and several organic acid ‘Ions’. The chemical events collectively called ‘Metabolism’ require the concentration of Hydrogen Ions and electrolytes to remain within narrow limits in the tissue cells and in the fluid which bathes them. The term ‘pH’ or ‘Acidity’ is a measure of the Hydrogen Ion concentration and a reading level of 7 indicates ‘Neutral’. Human life is possible only if the Hydrogen Ion concentration of body fluid is kept within a narrow range. In health, a blood Hydrogen Ion concentration of 36 – 44 nmol/Liter or pH level of 7.37 – 7.45 is maintained by several closely integrated but widely differing mechanisms.
THE CHEMICAL ELEMENTS AND CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS OF LIFE:
To understand Life, we have to know about Hydrogen as it is the fuel that Sun expends in its role as the Cosmic source of Energy that supports the biological existence of all terrestrial organisms. The man exists on the surface of planet Earth not on account of the merit of his physical, or mental work and effort. Firstly, the man has no direct access to this source of energy produced from Hydrogen fuel. If Hydrogen is important to support the existence of Life, we have to understand the nature of ‘Spiritual Interactions’. Secondly, Hydrogen is important as it is required to form the Water Molecule. However, Oxygen, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, is the most abundant Element at the surface of the Earth. In the terrestrial environment, Oxygen accounts for about half of the mass of the Earth’s crust, 89% of the mass of the oceans, and 23% of the mass of the atmosphere or 21% of its volume. Oxygen makes up about two-thirds of the human body. It is a vital substance which supports vital functions. Among Chemical Elements used by human body, Oxygen has the highest electronegativity and electron affinity. Oxygen can form ‘Anion’ with a double negative charge by accepting electrons from a donor like Hydrogen. Most of the Earth’s rocks and soils are principally compounds of Oxygen with Silicon and other metals. It is well understood that most organisms depend on Oxygen to sustain their biological processes. Biological Oxidation-Reduction Reactions are ultimately the sources of energy for the higher plants and animals. While speaking about importance of Oxygen in the biosphere, we must recognize that Oxygen is responsible for natural decomposition of all organic material. Waste products from activity of the living organisms, dead plants and animals decompose or oxidized through the agency of microorganisms. Thus, Oxygen plays a key role both in its support of important processes of Life and Death. Organic decay and decomposition is of fundamental importance for Life to renew itself and to be reborn and to cause rebirth. The study of ‘Spiritual Interactions’ must include the study of Life and Death.
On planet Earth, Nitrogen, the most abundant uncombined Element occurs as the diatomic molecule. Atmospheric air is 78.06% Nitrogen gas by volume. Nitrogen is an important component of Protoplasm or Living Matter. It is very remarkable to note that one type of organic molecule with a nitrogenous base plays a variety of roles in support of living functions.
The nonmetallic Element, Carbon is known to man since ancient times. Organic Chemistry is the study of Carbon Compounds. All living organisms contain Carbon Compounds and hence Carbon is the central Element in the Compounds of which organisms are composed. The Carbon Element found in all living organisms is primarily derived from Carbon Dioxide found in atmospheric air or dissolved in water. It occurs both free and combined form in nature and makes up about 1% of the volume of dry air. Carbon Dioxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. It is the raw material for Photosynthesis in green plants and is a product of animal respiration and of the decay of organic matter. It can cause Death by suffocation if inhaled in large amounts. If this Chemical Compound Carbon Dioxide, a gas that has the potential to cause Death, can impart ‘SWEETNESS’ to a substance that we recognize as ‘SUGAR’, it speaks about the potency that I describe as ‘Spiritual Interaction’ between the Elements of Life.
Water Molecules are the simplest and most abundant of all the Molecules found in the living cell. The simplest forms of Life such as the Virus particles may exist as Molecules of Nucleic Acids and need living cells for their replication. Most Chemical Reactions inside the living cell require the aqueous medium. Cells contain 70 to 80% Water. Cell Chemistry involves the study of Reactions in aqueous solutions. But, much of the Water in Cells is not ordinary Water; it is found ‘structured’ in shells surrounding macromolecules, especially proteins. The activities inside the Cell are separated and take place inside compartments that are regulated. It is important to know that most of the Water inside the living Cell is structured and the Chemistry of the living Cell demands separation of events at Molecular level.
THE CYCLICAL FLOW OF TIME:
Things in Nature change with Time. Does Time exert a ‘FORCE’ entirely of its own to change things in Nature? If Time is viewed as a ‘FORCE’, or ‘POWER’, who controls this Force or Power and what are the Laws that operate this Force or Power? The Clocks and Calendars that man has invented create the illusion that we live in a world of mathematically measured segments of Time. Sir Issac Newton(1687) stated that the flow of Time is absolute. Time is looked upon as a flow like a river: It “flows equably without relation to anything external.” Herman Minkowski, a Mathematician, added Time as the Fourth Dimension of three-dimensional Space. Time is seen as a dimension like Height and Width and it gives meaning to events and the order in which they occur. In 1905, while postulating the Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein had observed that measurement of Time is affected by the motion of the observer and hence it is not absolute. Gravity affects both Time and Light. Measurement of Time is affected by the gravitational field of each celestial body. The experience of Time on this planet is an illusion and it may not be an absolute experience. Physicists tend to describe Time and Space as the building blocks of this universe. In the context of understanding the relationship between Time and Life, we will be forced to see Time in the internal Biological Clocks that keep all living entities in ‘sync’ with Nature.
All living things have in their nature a plan for their own dissolution and have ability to use some unique Time-Dependent biological mechanism that is indissociable from life itself. Biological Rhythms represent the periodic biological fluctuation in an organism that corresponds to and is in response to periodic environmental change. Biological Clock in man measures Time as the Solar Day, the period of Earth’s Rotational Spin relative to the Sun. Such Biological Rhythms that occur once a Day are called Circadian ( Latin Circa: About, Di: Day ), Solar Day, Diel, Daily, or Diurnal (Day-Active) Rhythm. The Rhythm is synchronized with an external Time-giving stimulus. Within the 24-Hour Cycle, a person usually sleeps approximately 8 hours and is awake 16 hours. For the health and the well-being of man, the daily alteration of Sleep and Wakefulness is important to maintain optimal physiological functions.The man is conditioned to exist under the influence of Time which is operated on planet Earth by its Rotation on its own axis.
THE CYCLICAL FLOW OF LIFE, MATTER, AND ENERGY:
All living organisms depend upon about 20 naturally occurring Chemical Elements. In order for Life to survive, these Elements must be constantly recycled in forms that plants and animals can use. Nutrient Cycle is the term used to describe the natural processes that keep all the Chemical Elements needed to support Life circulating within the Biosphere or Ecosphere. The far-reaching nature of Nutrient Cycles reveal the Interactions between Time, Life, Death, and Rebirth. Life continues using the process called Rebirth. Death is an important requirement to regenerate Life. Dissolution of individual living entities under the influence of Time is a prerequisite for Renewal of Life and propagation of Life over the limits imposed by Time.
THE WATER OR HYDROLOGIC CYCLE:
Water is important to all life forms for its role in the control of environmental conditions and as it is the main mode of transport of many nutrients; it is the agent that leaches nutrients from rocks and soils and make them available for further use by living organisms.
THE CARBON CYCLE:
The Carbon Cycle describes the exchange of Carbon between living organisms and non-living environment.To maintain Life, an organism not only repairs or replaces (or both) its structures by a constant supply of the materials of which it is composed but also keep its life processes in operation by a steady supply of energy. Living Systems must be supplied energy on a continual basis. Once spent, the energy for Life cannot be replenished except by further exposure of green plants to Sunlight. The Chemical Elements of Life are continually recycled by such processes as Photosynthesis and Respiration.
THE OXYGEN CYCLE:
Oxygen is equally important for Life and Death as Death must be accompanied by decay and decomposition of organic material to release the Nutrient Elements for further use by other living organisms.
THE NITROGEN CYCLE:
The Nitrogen Cycle begins when atmospheric Nitrogen and Hydrogen combine to form Ammonia in a process called Ammonification. The Nitrogen Compounds are made available to plants which combine them with the products of Photosynthesis to form Amino Acids, which are the basic components of plant Proteins. Animals eat plant Proteins, break them down into Amino Acids during the process of digestion, and recombine them to form their own particular forms of Proteins in order to build tissues and organs of their bodies. Through the breakdown of waste products, death and decay, organic Nitrogen compounds reenter environment.
THE PHOSPHORUS CYCLE:
ECOLOGY – LIFE AND DEATH SPIRITUAL INTERACTIONS:
Ecology describes movement of Chemical Elements and Chemical Molecules in nature because of the interrelationships and interconnectedness of organisms that form the ‘Food Chains’. This flow has a cyclical pattern and Life and Death could be described as two stages in this exchange of material and energy between the living and non-living environment. Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535 B.C. – c. 475 B.C.) held that there is no permanent Reality except the Reality of Change. His famous maxim: “You cannot step twice in the same River.” I beg to differ from his view. The permanent Reality describes the unchanging Spiritual Nature of a Chemical Molecule that supports Life and Existence. Water Molecule came into its existence billions of years ago and it still retains its unique and distinctive properties and is entirely unaffected by the influence of Time while it undergoes both physical and chemical changes in its Interactions. I seek to describe Spirituality in the unchanging nature of Chemical Molecules that operate the dynamic events of both Life and Death. If Life involves a series of Chemical Reactions such as the Redox or Oxidation-Reduction Chemical Reactions, the same dynamic process continues into Death causing changes to promote Regeneration, Rejuvenation, Renewal, and Rebirth. Spirituality has to be stated as the Dynamic Force that promotes Peace, Harmony, and Tranquility in the material transformations described as Life and Death.