The second question is what is the Buddha nature? All sentient beings possess the Buddha nature. It is an innate element within the mind of every sentient being. It can lead to enlightenment and entry to Nirvana. It does not exist independently of consciousness in any sentient being and it is not the ability to communicate, it is not the id, the ego, or the superego. So, does a dog have the Buddha nature? Yes. Humans are unique only in that we are able to communicate through speech. This has lead to a highly evolved human culture in which technological chauvinism has clouded our world view. All sentient beings are capable of communication.
The new atheists like to say that consciousness is just chemical signals that are converted to electrical impulses that bang around inside our brain and when the “secret” of consciousness is unlocked we will be able to “log in” and communicate with bit streams from long ago dead people. I already do communicate with bit streams from long ago dead people. I call that place where I communicate with long ago dead people the library. I don’t need to “log in” to go to the library. I think the new atheists are barking up the wrong tree. They can’t dissect consciousness. They can study it, conduct experiments, but when they try to isolate it, they will find they will fail. They will be able to only say it exists. Cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore, I am. This is true for all sentient beings.
Consciousness did not evolve in humans only. In fact consciousness was present at the get go, some 3 – 4 billion years ago when the first primordial life forms on earth started to self replicate. It is present in all sentient beings. We have chauvinistically called ourselves “Homo sapiens” or wise man. Today it should be more like “wise ass.” And just like the new atheists who scoff at the Anthropic Principle because they say it puts humans at the center of the universe, Buddhists, Pantheists, and Deists scoff at the new atheists because they are essentially denying existence and consciousness. Anthropic is a misleading term. I think whoever coined it didn’t know what else to call the concept of, “the observed conditions of the universe allowing for the existence of life forms.” Don’t dogs observe and howl at the moon? The problems came about when some Christian fundamentalists used the Anthropic Principle to push “Intelligent Design.” Then the new atheists said “Aha, you can’t trust those cosmologists and physicists.”
When we take into account long distance migratory birds like the Arctic Tern we are even more mystified. They migrate 25,000 miles a year. They nest in arctic tundra in North America, Europe, and Asia. But who really is mystified by this? I’m not. It’s obvious that there is consciousness in action. Fledglings just don’t take off in September and fly to Antarctica. They are born with the tools to achieve this incredible feat but they must be shown the shortest route by their parents. Why? Because when they return to the arctic to nest, timing is of the essence. If they are late then parents and chicks don’t have enough time to fatten up for the flight back to Antarctica. And they don’t have offspring every year. They may only have offspring every other year or every 3 years but they still migrate every year. They are one of the most protective birds there is.
The point is that the new atheists claim that they don’t have or need any belief system. But don’t they hold that all life is sacred? If they hold that all life is sacred, then they have a belief. If they do not hold that all life is sacred then they are not “Homo sapiens,” they are just “wise guys.”