Understanding Jainism

JAIN VISHVA BHARATI INSTITUTE
(Deemed University)
LADNUN, RAJASTHAN, INDIA
www.jvbi.ac.in
Understanding Jainism
THEORY AND PRACTICE
July 23 to Aug. 12, 2013
Jain Vishva Bharati Institute (JVBI) : A Profile
Jain Vishva Bharati Institute is a Institute of higher learning and research blended with spirituality, which came into existence in 1991. JVBI’s avowed aim is to integrate academic knowledge and its application for evolving a new social pattern based on non-violence and peace. “Right conduct is the essence of knowledge” is the motto of the Institute. Every programme and every activity is directed
towards the realisation of this motto.

The mission of the Institute is to integrate modern science with ancient wisdom given to us by great spiritual practitioners and visionary seers. The Institution seeks to interweave moral & spiritual norms and values with the mundane and economic fibers of mankind to foster and develop universal human relationships for the peaceful co-existence of individuals, groups, communities, sects, races,
sexes, religions, nations and peoples. The Institute provides reverential study courses in Jainology and Comparative Philosophy & Religion; Non-violence and Peace; Science of Living, Preksha Meditation and Yoga; Prakrit and Jain Agamas; and Social Work for development of a more balanced human being and humanity.
The Understanding Jainism Theory and Practice (UJTP) programme of the JVBI emphasizes Jain Philosophy, Ethics, Non-violence, Meditation, Art & Architecture and life-style in India. It is interdisciplinary in nature, with participating faculty of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Linguistics.

Objectives
i. To understand the concept and ideas of Jainism.
ii. To develop understanding and attitude of nonviolence.
iii. To familiarize the participants with the philosophy of creative non-violence in India.
iv. To impart training of Preksha Meditation for emotionally balanced life-style.
v. To establish the importance and relevance of amity for the survival of living being.

For more information, please look at the course information poster.

The Place of Religion in the Technoscientific World

Introduction

 

At first glance religion on the one hand and science and technology on the other do not seem to have anything in common. Religion, according to some viewpoints, is a holdover from a bygone era, an era which was full of superstitions and irrational beliefs. Science, on the contrary, is a product of reason and truth. The only way for religion to show that what it offers is worthy of belief is that it is the word of God, that its pronouncement comes from Ultimate Reality in one way or another. Followers have to take these claims on faith, since there is no other independent way of proving whether God or Ultimate Reality really exists or not. Science, according to this common viewpoint, challenges everybody to prove its content. Those who do not believe, for example, that the Moon’s gravity is responsible for the tides are invited to offer their own alternative explanation as to why the tides behave the way they do without referring to these familiar concepts. Science does not rely on faith; everything can be proved and shown to be true or false objectively. As for technology, the challenge for religion is to come up with any solutions that could even remotely rival technology in effectiveness. Medical technology, for example, has progressed very rapidly, resulting in many people living longer than before. We can also think of the results of other types of technology. On the contrary, religion does not seem to offer any similarly concrete solutions. The promise of religion lies mainly in the afterlife, but without relying on faith it is impossible to prove that the afterlife exists. Thus for many in the world today the promise of afterlife offered by religion is nothing more than a false hope designed for the deluded, unenlightened mass. Technology offers solutions for the here and now, for today’s world, not for the world beyond death, which no one actually knows exists or not.

That is certainly a familiar picture. It does not matter which specific religion is there on the side of religion in the dichotomy. Many have claimed that Buddhism fares better on the whole than theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but there are many elements in Buddhism which do not go along with the modern scientific mindset either. For example, the belief in life before birth and after death is central to Buddhism. It does not seem to be possible to have a coherent teaching on moral responsibility without the belief in these things. If everything in one’s life is totally annihilated after one’s death, then what is the point of trying to be a morally better person? Buddhism also has its fair share of superstitions; the Buddha performs many miracles as told in the canonical text; the worlds are arranged according to the moral quality of the inhabitants. It is very difficult to reconcile these to the modern scientific worldview. Owen Flanagan, a philosopher who has recently developed an interest in Buddhism, is clear in saying that the kind of Buddhism he would like to have is the kind that is totally cleansed of all that to him are “superstitions” (Flanagan 2011). To him superstitious elements in Buddhism are those that cannot be explained by science, such as the story that the Buddha travels to one of the heavens to meet his mother who died when he was only seven days old, or the belief in reincarnation. But the problem of stripping these elements from Buddhism is that what is left is only a set of abstract teachings, precisely the kind of thing that is amenable to modern science. As the belief in the afterlife is central to Buddhism’s stance on morality and responsibility, it cannot be eradicated without thereby affecting the whole fabric of Buddhist philosophy all together. What this means is that these so-called “superstitious” beliefs play an important role in Buddhism. Thus the belief found among many scholars that Buddhism is somehow different in this regard from other, theistic religions may be unfounded. Here Buddhism and the theistic religions are in the same boat.

The estrangement between religion and science appears be indicate that religion has become alienated to the modern world. This is because the modern world is so deeply influenced by science and technology that it is very difficult to imagine what the modern world would be like without the two. Thus the main problem facing all religions today is how religion can maintain its relevance in today’s world, a world which is founded upon science and technology. How can religion find its place in the social world when this world is being shaped more and more by science and technology? If science and technology do not need religion and if science and technology are also what is needed in today’s world, then religion appears to be superfluous. Would the belief in God or in Nirvana, which has founded the religious faith for millennia, be replaced by a new religion, that of science and rationality, and the belief that technology can fix every problem that is facing us? These questions have become all the more important when the role of religion in modern society is being usurped by science. Religion used to play the role of providing meaning and consolation to the people, but now that many are turning to drugs and medical help instead of religion, then what is left for religion to do?

It is my contention that the problem of relevance facing religion today is based on the belief that religion and science inhabit totally different world where there is no coming and going between the two. This belief is misguided. Religion still has quite a lot to share with science, something that science cannot find on their own. This is because there is bound to be something that is missed out by science because its own methodology prevents it from the beginning. Furthermore, religion also has quite a lot to learn from science too. It is only by opening the two up so that each can learn from the other than the place for religion in the technoscientific world can be assured. Moreover, it is more important perhaps that science learn from religion. In this way science can then find the kind of meaning that cannot be found otherwise, especially if science insists on proceeding with its own methodology alone.

In fact there are three domains in which religion and science can fruitfully interact, namely ethics, new possibilities for science, and new understanding of religion. Let’s discuss each of these topics in turn.

 

Ethics

The usual methodology of science does not leave a room for ethics. But this is where religion can make its strongest contribution. Science and technology have become so dependent on each other than it makes more sense to put them under the same word, “technoscience.” Technoscience is a unique development of the modern world; in fact the birth of modern science in the seventeenth century owed very much to the development of technology in that period. Galileo would not have been able to put forward his new scientific knowledge of the heaven had he not able to use the telescope which was an invention in that period. Technoscience certainly carries with it ethical implications. This is the case not only in today’s world where technoscience has become so pervasive in every aspect of our lives. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when modern science was at its formative stage, it was clear that technoscience was destined to be the instrument that Europeans used to conquer the rest of the world. To conquer the world, however, is not the stated objective of science, but this was inevitable when science became coupled with technology to produce immense power to those who knew how to harness it. The ethical implication is clear: To use the power of technoscience to conquer the world, as the Europeans certainly did in their colonization of the rest of the world, carries with it strong ethical values. And today when technoscience has become much more powerful, its ethical implications and values are as strong as ever.

It is quite ironic that though technoscience contains within itself strong ethical values, its own methodology does not permit of treating those values as constitutive of its practice in itself. That is, ethical considerations always come from outside of the technoscientific practice. When the scientists in Nazi Germany performed a series of experiments on their prisoners to see how tolerant the bodies of human beings were to extreme cold, they did a meticulous job which was perfect according to the scientific methodology. However, what they did was a blatant violation of ethical standard, for actually what they did was to put these prisoners under various degrees of extreme cold and measured how long they lasted until they finally died. It did not come into the minds of these scientists that these prisoners were human beings and that being put under such a condition would be extremely painful. In the minds of the scientists being in pain could actually be part of the experiment. If they had a way of measuring the pain suffered by these prisoners objectively, then this would have been a part of the experiment because that would contribute to their goals of measuring the threshold of endurance to extreme cold. However, what did not occur to their minds was that these prisoners were human beings, and human beings do suffer when put to the cold. The scientists did not know, or did not care to know, that they themselves could have been put under the same condition, and if they did not want to be in that situation (no one would) then the prisoners did not want so either. That is the crucial aspect of ethical consideration of their experiment, but their scientific methodology told them that this was extraneous to the science, and such feelings needed to be avoided.

If the scientists who were to perform these experiments were the least religious, they would certainly have not performed them. They would realize that both they themselves and the prisoners were not only human beings, but were creatures of God, created in His image, and thus deserve some respect. This realization would prevent the scientists from performing such horrific experiments because they would judge that the suffering of those who are put under these conditions is not compatible with the respect that any human being deserves. Here we see how religion contributes to ethical considerations in science. Nowadays we have strong regulations in using human subjects in research, regulations that stem directly from the horrors performed by Nazi scientists. Even though the regulations look secular, there is no denial that religious consideration could well be the foundation on which these regulations depend.

In other areas of scientific research and experiment, ethical considerations are also needed. Perhaps the hottest topic in technoscientific research and development today is in robotics. The US has developed drone airplanes that can fly far into hostile territory and seek out and destroy targets. In the works are robots that could one day replace human soldiers, with far more lethal consequences. The ethical problem for the drone airplane is: Is it ethical to send such airplanes to hostile territory and bomb targets? If the war is unjust, then the question is closed because in an unjust war every action by the one who starts the war cannot be ethically justified. But if the war is a just one, then should drone airplanes be considered to be an unacceptable means of engaging in warfare, in the same way as the use of chemical or biological weapons are so considered nowadays? What seems to be wrong about drone airplanes is that warfare is supposed to be a conflict between humans, but when drones travel thousands of kilometers into the enemy’s territory and destroy targets there, the human element on the attacker’s side is missing. Warfare then becomes utterly dependent on technology in a way that has not been seen before. It is true that warfare has always depended on technology, but what separates drones from all previous uses of technology is that with the drones fighting can be done remotely. The person who controls the drone can sit in a comfortable room half the world away from the site of the conflict. He or she then is not involved in the conflict in any manner, because for him or her engaging in the war is nothing different from engaging in a simulation game on the computer, something every child today is very good at. This conflation of a real war where real people are killed and a computer simulation game in which everything is happening as blips on the screen, exemplified by the drone aircraft, points to an urgent need for further ethical consideration of the whole thing.

In addition to the remotely controlled aircraft, military researchers today are working on a version of robot soldiers who in their vision would one day take the place of human soldiers in combat situation. What is scary about this development is that the robots are envisioned to function autonomously. This is where ethical considerations come in very poignantly. To function autonomously means the robot does not have to be remotely controlled; instead they can function independently by themselves. For example, a robot that is armed and programmed to destroy targets would be able to travel on their own and seek out the targets by themselves. What makes this particularly scary is that the robot will have to make its own decision as to which exactly is the target and which is not. But what would happen if it fails to make the distinction? What would happen if the information fed into the robot before entering the combat zone is a wrong one so that the robot is misled from the beginning? How could the robot distinguish between civilians and combatants? In real life combatants do not always wear a sign telling the world that they are indeed combatants; they would like to blend with the civilians for obvious reasons. How can then the autonomous robot know which one is actually the combatant? This is still an unsolved problem in military robotics.

Religion can be of great help in instilling a sense of ethical responsibility in robotics. It is right now not possible to engineer a robot who is as fully conscious as a human being. That scenario is still the stuff of science fiction. What is available, however, is a robot which has in it a set of algorithmic commands which allow them to function more or less autonomously. Thus the crux of the matter is not with the robot itself, but with the designers and the whole complex of operations surrounding the robot, the whole human and social context in which the robot develops. It is these systems that are in great need of religious sensibilities. It may be far-fetched to talk about the role of religion in military technology, but the core idea is that in any kind of technology, the military hardware discussed here being only an example, there is a need of religious perspectives and sensibilities, because it is these sensibilities that instill a sense of ethics in the design and implementation of a technology, no matter how crude or sophisticated. In the case of the autonomous military robot, it has to follow the rule of warfare. It must be able to distinguish civilians from combatants in a sophisticated manner, and it has to be virtuous in that it won’t shoot any combatant who has already surrendered. A key ingredient in the religious sensibilities is the realization that all human beings are sacred and deserve respect. Even if a human being is one’s enemy in war, the enemy still deserves respect and when the combat has ceased the enemy is to be treated like the human being that he is. This is a realization that stems ultimately from religion, and it shows how important religion is to such a sophisticated and advanced technology such as military robotics.

 

New Possibilities for Science

Apart from ethics, science itself benefits from religion because religion can provide science with new possibilities and insights which cannot be obtained through scientific methodology alone. For example, the works of such scientists as Francesco Varela, Richard Davidson and others have shown that ancient wisdom from Buddhism could shed light that offers new possibilities for scientific research. Buddhism has offered detailed first-person descriptions of what is going on in the mind. It has cataloged a large variety of emotive and other mental states which have proven to be useful when scientists use the new technique of imaging the workings of the brain and try to interpret what they actually mean. This incorporation of first-person report based on Buddhist terminology is known as “first-person science,” an idea which has started to receive more serious attention from behavioral and cognitive scientists.

Traditional scientific methodology believes that one should prevent elements from the “first person” to come in to play in the process of finding and building up scientific knowledge, because such first-person elements will distort the truth and the validity of the results. For example, scientists are taught to avoid the “secondary qualities” of objects and focus instead of their “primary qualities.” Secondary qualities are those properties of objects that depend on the perception of individuals for their existence. For example, the feelings of warmth or coldness that the hands have when they are immersed in warm or cold water are clear examples of the secondary qualities. The problem, according to traditional methodology, is that feelings felt by the hands are too inexact to be admissible as scientific evidence. Some persons may tolerate heat better than another, so the former may report the same water as being less warm than the other, who is more sensitive to heat. For the report to be scientific, the thermometer is used instead. Instead of relying on the sheer tactile feeling of warmth or coldness, the thermometer reports how much or how little the heat in the water causes the mercury inside the tube to rise up. The thermometer does not report the feeling of heat or coldness in any way. Heat as shown by the rising of the mercury inside the thermometer is an example of the water’s primary quality; whereas the feelings of heat or warmth or coldness felt by the hands are secondary qualities. The key here is that since primary qualities do not depend on the subjective feelings of the observer, they become the foundation for constructing scientific knowledge. This has become the dominant methodology in science for centuries.

However, what Varela is proposing is that, instead of relying exclusively on what is objectively verifiable in the primary qualities, scientific knowledge could advance more if one also brings in the first-person, subjective dimension. Buddhism does not distinguish between the objective and the subjective; instead it assumes that the two are both aspects of the same reality. In other words, when Buddhism describes reality, it does not divide the reality into the subjective, inner realm of private thoughts and sensations of an individual, and the objective, outer realm of publicly verifiable qualities. The so-called “inner” qualities are also publicly verifiable because anyone who follows the same procedure will experience those “inner” qualities in the same way as others. The Buddhist text states, for example, that when one attains the first level of meditative absorption (jñana) one will experience a sensation known as “vitaka,” which is a necessary factor in attaining the first-level absorption. The text describes vitaka as “hitting the bell.” This refers to the act of meditation where the meditator recalls and repeats what she is focusing her attention on. The recalling and the refocusing are known as “vitaka.” The text says that this is a vital ingredient without which no meditative absorption can take place. One knows that one has vitaka by comparing what the text says. It is like hitting a bell. When one is focusing one’s attention on something in the process of meditation, one has to keep repeating and bringing oneself back to the object of one’s meditation. This bringing oneself back is then compared to the action of hitting the bell over and over. What is happening inside is taken to be on a par as an element of reality as what is outside. In fact it is an implication of Buddhist and its main contribution that the inner and the outer eventually break down.

Another example that shows how the inner and the outer is broken down and merged together is that Buddhism has a very elaborate theory of the self and self-formation. This can be a resource for scientists who are studying consciousness and how the idea of the self is formed in a person, or whether there can be located a locus (or several loci) of the self in the brain of the person himself or herself. Buddhism teaches that what is commonly known as the self, i.e., the one who is the initiator of action of an individual, who makes the decision for the individual, who feels and thinks as that individual, ultimately does not exist as an objectively existing entity. Instead what is taken to be the self is a result of various factors, chief among which is upadana, or grasping. What is taken to be the self is a result of various forms and instances of grasping, resulting in various elements being brought together under the illusion that those elements belong to one and the same objectively existing entity known as the self. But the Buddhists ask us to examine this process in order to help us realize that the self does not objectively exist; instead it is only formed out of many elements which would not be related to one another if not for the action of grasping.

What the analysis of the self in Buddhism can offer modern science is that Buddhism has already a very detailed and systematic description of the self and the various processes by which the self come to be formed. This becomes a reference point against which modern neuroscience can conduct their experiments. Modern science has operated on the belief that first-person report should be filtered out, but as the analysis of the self shows, the inner and the outer are in fact aspects of one and the same reality. And if this is really the case, then to take the inner out believing that it is not part of the scientific process would mean that scientific knowledge would miss an important aspect which could have brought much in terms of our understanding of the world. According to Francisco Varela, one of the most prominent pioneers in bringing Buddhism and scientific research together, “… we foresee in the future that the mind sciences will evolve into a form of experiential neuroscience, bridging the gap between external and internal descriptions. Such a unification of our understanding of the world, a new frame for a mind science, is one of the major contributions Buddhism is capable of offering” (Varela 2012).

 

New Understanding of Religion

 

The relation between science and religion does not limit itself only to creating new possibilities in science. The relation goes the other way too. Science and technology can contribute to the many ways that religion can be transformed in order better to respond to challenges of the contemporary world. For example, the Internet and social media can promote religious teachings and create groups of faithfuls and practitioners who can always get in touch with one another through the social media. They can share the teachings and set up real world events where they can meet; they can also engage in discussion on the social media site and so on. A welcome development in how the practice of religion has been transformed by technology is in what is known as “Islamic computing.” An example of this is a software program, which can be downloaded onto a smart phone, that tells the exact time that Muslims have to pray to God. Another application facilitates online banking according to the Islamic system. These are just some of the current applications of modern technology to religious practice. In Thailand, many also use the social media to propagate teachings and to coordinate real world activities such as merit making ceremonies.

The use of technology is not limited to facilitating religious practice, however. His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said that if the findings of science happen to contradict some of the content by past masters, then he would be willing to forego the masters’ teachings and embrace the scientific findings instead. He says: “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview” (Tenzin Gyatso 2005). For example, Buddhism has an elaborate cosmology which claims that there is a central mountain that acts as the core at the center of the world and that the core is ringed by seven smaller mountains. The pillar also supports many layers of heavens and hells. According to the Dalai Lama, this belief has to change in light of the findings of science that show the geographical nature of the world as well as the place of the planet earth in the solar system. This shows that the idea of the world being supported by a central mountain is untenable. One can still be a good Buddhist without believing in the central mountain. Thus the teachings of Buddhism can then be enriched by these findings from science. Instead of believing that the earth is supported by a perfectly straight central pillar, something which cannot be supported by empirical evidence, Buddhists can believe instead that the earth is not supported by anything but float in space and orbit the sun as the third planet of the Solar System.

 

Conclusion

 

Such a belief, I would like to add, does not interfere with the main message of Buddhism, and in the case of other religions, this appears to be true also. A true believer and practitioner of a religion does not have to shut himself or herself off from the advancement in science and technology. Instead he or she finds a congruence, a harmony between science and religion such that the main message of the religion remains intact while becoming part of the scientific world. Becoming a part of the scientific world does not mean that one becomes “scientistic,” i.e., one who blindly follows everything in science and totally believes that science is superior to all other intellectual or spiritual endeavors. Such a person is indeed entirely ignorant. Integrating science and technology into our lives does not have to mean that we become scientistic in this sense. On the contrary, as our discussion on the ethics of science and technology shows, we stand in a real need for religious insights which would help us see the potentially disastrous consequences of technoscience. By doing that we do not become religious fanatics either. In fact religious fanatics, those who blindly believe in the content of religious teachings without reason, and those who are scientistic are but two sides of one and the same coin—they blindly believe in what they want to believe without proper investigation and examination through reason. Today’s world does not need those mindsets, but we need a way in which religion and technoscience to engage in meaningful dialogs so that we human beings can really flourish in both material and spiritual senses.

 

References

Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. (2005). Our faith in science. New York Times. November 12, 2005. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/12/opinion/12dalai.html?pagewanted=1 [Retrieved December 16, 2012].

Varela, Francisco J. (2012). Buddhism and modern science: the importance of the encounter with Buddhism for modern science. Available at http://www.mindandlife.org/about/hhdl-mli/buddhism-and-modern-science/ [Retrieved December 16, 2012].

Flanagan, Owen. (2011). Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 

 

 

 

 

การบรรยายเกี่ยวกับศาสนาเชน

ขอเชิญทุกท่านเข้าร่วมฟังการบรรยายเรื่อง

The Concept of Supreme Good in Jainism

โดย

Samani Charitra Prajna
Vice Chancellor, Jain Vishva Bharati University, India

วันศุกร์ที่ 17 สิงหาคมนี้ เวลา 10 – 12 น.
ห้อง 705 อาคารบรมราชกุมารี คณะอักษรศาสตร์
จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย

Jainism at Chula

Invitation for summer course in Jain Philosophy (Wed, 25 April – Sat, 12 May, 2012)

Program: Social Consciousness & Jainism

Buddhism and Jainism have a lot in common as both are contemporary religious of India belonging to the same Sramanik tradition. Both have much to share and learn from each other. Both complement and supplement each other and hence it is imperative that we start this study and dialog to further strengthen the cultural and educational ties between Thailand and India.

This summer program is available exclusively for the faculty, researchers and students who are involved in Buddhist studies, Indian studies, philosophy, religion, South Asian studies and anthropology. Expert faculty from India will conduct the program in English language.

All participants must be affiliated to a recognized university or college preferably. Applicants having demonstrable interest in Jain or Buddhist studies, South Asian studies, religions, philosophy or anthropology are preferred. Reasonably good English language skills (speaking, reading and writing) are essential for all applicants.

Since year 2005, International School for Jain Studies (ISJS) has also been inviting scholars from the field of Religion and Philosophy from various counties including Thailand to study Jain Philosophy in English language in India during the months of June and July each year. Many Thai scholars have already studied intensive summer course at ISSJS during past 4 years (2006-2011).

For more information please download the poster and the application form.

The Buddha’s Leadership Style

One thing that I learned from the ELLTA conference in Penang last February was that there is a lively academic debate on leadership. This will be old news if one is from the management field, but this was new to me. What was interesting to me was that the people at the conference were interested in seeing relationships between religion and leadership styles. So this got me started thinking about the Buddha’s leadership style.

So what kind of a leader was Buddha? Those who know the Buddha’s life and work would know that the Buddha led not by asserting authority and putting a firm grip on his followers, but on modeling himself as an example for his followers to emulate. In India around the Buddha’s time there were quite a number of groups of “truth seekers” who wanted to know the truth and find the ultimate meaning. The Buddha was a leader of one group among these many groups, and we found many places in the Canon where these different groups were mentioned. We can imagine that the situation then was, surprisingly, not too different from ours today. Our situation today (in Thailand at least) is that there are many religious groups and the people are free to get in and out of a group as they pleased. A person can decide for himself or herself how much he or she would like to get involved with a group. If one enters the Buddhist group wants to get serious, then one becomes a monk or a nun, but if one still has ties with the lay life then he or she can become a lay follower instead.

What is interesting is that the Buddha did not lay down any hard and fast rules for disciplining the conduct of monks or nuns at first. It was only when something happened which led to potential conflict or harm to the order that he laid down rules forbidding his followers from doing this again. So the order was kind of ad hoc. If no incidents had occurred, then it was conceivable that no disciplinary rules would have been laid down at all. In the end the Buddha laid down around 227 rules for the monks and a little bit more for the nuns. All these rules were results of contingent matters that had happened when the Buddha led his ordained followers. None of them originated necessarily out of the content of the teaching itself.

There was one particular incident which showed quite clearly the Buddha’s leadership style. There was one time when the monks argued strongly against one another. They divided into factions and hurled abuses and accusations at each other. The Buddha was so tired of this that he left the monks to argue as they pleased and then he took refuge in a forest. This was the origin of a famous scene in the Buddha’s life where an elephant and a monkey offered him food when he was staying in the forest. Meanwhile the monks continued to their bickering and divisiveness. However, when the Buddha was away there was no one to guide and teach them, and soon afterwards the lay people who supported the monks felt that the monks were too noisy in their arguing against each other. So they grew tired of it too and stopped giving them food. Then the monks realized their mistakes. They stopped bickering and arguing and went to see the Buddha in the forest to ask him to return. After that the monks behaved themselves very well.

So what kind of leadership style is this? One can say “leadership by absence.” But that does not mean that the Buddha leads by not leading, or by disappearing, or things like that. I don’t know if this style can be practiced by today’s managers. When problems arise, just leave them and go away into the forest. Perhaps we should look at the differing contexts to see why the Buddha was in the end effective in managing his bickering monks while the modern manager may get things much worse by going to the forest and leaving the problems unattended.

However, perhaps we can learn from the Buddha that there can be times when the leader does not have to be present at all times for the problems to get solved. In the Buddha’s case this was possible because the monks were not his staff or subordinates in an organization. The Buddha’s was a loose groups of truth seekers each of whom had their own minds and ideas. When they realized that the problems were more than they could handle, then they asked the leader to return. Perhaps the modern manage can learn from this and learn how to “unmanage” the problem, seeing what happens when things are left on their own. Maybe some positive results can occur. Nonetheless, what was important was that the Buddha was never too far away from his bickering followers, so the modern manager must always still keep an eye on the problems while he is leaving them to take care of themselves, always ready to come back.

Buddhism and Thai Society

I just read a transcription of a talk on “Buddhism and Thai Society” by Vichak Panich, Sirote Klampaiboon and Sulak Sivaraksa. The talks are really insightful and one learns a lot from it. Basically these three intellectuals agree that Thai Buddhism as it stands now is out of touch with the changing reality of Thai society, and it functions now mainly as a prop for the state power only. Furthermore, they also agree that Thai Buddhism is also being used as a prop for capitalism. Monks themselves are sucked into the whirlwind of capitalistic desire, either by the demand of the people who see no other ideology or belief except for capitalism and consumerism, or by the monks themselves who in this regard are no different from the people themselves.

There is a talk about how to return Thai Buddhism to the primal state of “pure Theravada” Buddhism that presumably existed during the time of the Buddha. I don’t think this is really possible, and I don’t think that there existed such a thing as “pure Theravada” version either. Obviously there was a kind of Buddhism that was practiced by the Buddha himself and his followers, but I don’t know if this was really “Theravada” as what is usually regarded as “Theravada” is more an adaptation by monks in later period than what existed during the Buddha’s lifetime. For example, state supported Buddhism first took shape in the reign of Emperor Asoka, some three hundred years after the Buddha’s death. Hence I doubt that we can actually return to the state when the Buddha and his followers roams the Indian countryside. The social situation just does not allow it any longer.

Or perhaps the call for the return to “pure Theravada” is a critique of the current situation, where the destination is put forward as an ideal state into which the current situation should be changed. The one who called for the return envisioned that “pure Theravada” meant that the monks are free from state organization, where they really follow and practice the Buddha’s teaching in order to attain cessation of all sufferings. But that is not exactly speaking “Theravada” because what is known as “Theravada,” at least in the Thai context, is always tied up inextricably with state power and state ideology.

There was also talk about how Buddhism and politics could be related. This has always been a problem for Buddhism, because when the Buddha started teaching, he was not affiliated with any state mechanism. In fact he explicitly turned away from such trappings when he escaped the confine of his own palace to seek Liberation. It is when Buddhism became “state religion” that the issue of Buddhism and politics became an issue. In Christianity the issue was solved when Constantine proclaimed that Christians were free to practice their religion and he himself became a Christian, and when later emperor decreed it to be the official religion of the Roman Empire. Then church and state became one. This lasted for many centuries until the rise of liberalism and modernity, which led to the idea of separation between Church and State. In fact the relation between Christianity and the State is an interesting one because Jesus himself was crucified precisely because he was regarded as an insurgent, a rebel who rose up to challenge Rome’s power.

In the case of Buddhism, of course the Buddha was not arrested and sentenced to death. He simply led a mendicant’s life, challenging no authority at all. The Buddha and his followers lived around the margins of society, accepting alms from the people and invitations from them, kings included, to eat at their houses or palaces. But later on Buddhism was not accepted as “state religion” in the same way that Christianity was. Some Indian kings were Buddhists, and during their reigns they supported Buddhism materially, building temples and providing food to the monks. Buddhist monks did not seek to attain temporal power in the same way as the Christian pope did. The situation in Tibet where the Dalai Lama had temporal power came much later, in a very different circumstance that existed in Tibet.

What happened was that, instead of the monks themselves having political power as the catholic Church did during the Middle Ages, the monks were coopted by kings in Buddhist kingdoms as a prop of their state power. And the monks accepted this in return for state support and protection. This has been the norm in India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and in other Buddhist kingdoms (except Tibet where there were no kings, so monks had to assume political power).

But the situation changed with the coming of democracy, and more intensely with globalization. In Thailand, the institutions of Buddhism were made more subservient to the state and the king through the efforts of King Rama IV and his sons Rama V and Prince Vajirayana, who was a very influential abbot during the reign of Rama V. All these resulted in Buddhist institutions becoming more “organized” and bureaucratic, but on the other hand it made them much more resistant to change. Thus when the globalization, post-modern age comes, the monks did not know what to do. Hence all the problems the panel talked about.

I think Thai people are smart enough to figure out a solution by themselves. In fact this is what they are actually doing. They are beginning to listen less and less to the mainstream monks and starting to form their own “Sangha” with no support from the state and certainly none from the Sangha Establishment. This is very welcome. If anything it signifies the spirit of the Buddha when he broke away from his palace. Buddhism in Thailand is becoming more of the property of the people again, and not solely that of the royal court.

การบวชภิกษุณี

ระยะนี้ข่าวเรื่องการบวชพระภิกษุณีเริ่มร้อนแรงขึ้นมาอีกครั้งหนึ่ง หลังจากที่พระอาจารย์บราห์มถูก “อัปเปหิ” ออกจากคณะสงฆ์วัดหนองป่าพง ที่พระอาจารย์บราห์มสังกัดอยู่ หลังจากที่อาจารย์อนุญาตให้มีการบวชพระภิกษุณีในวัดของท่าน ที่เมืองเพิร์ธ ประเทศออสเตรเลีย เมื่อไม่นานมานี้

ในโพสนี้เราคงจะไม่ลงไปในรายละเอียดเกี่ยวกับการบวชพระภิกษุณีที่เพิร์ธ หรือเรื่องราวความขัดแย้งระหว่างพระภิกษุสายวัดหนองป่าพง แต่จะมาดูประเด็นเกี่ยวกับหลักการของการบวชพระภิกษุณี ซึ่งน่าสนใจมากกว่า

หัวใจของเรื่องนี้ก็คือ ในพระพุทธศาสนาสายเถรวาทที่ปฏิบัติกันอยู่ในประเทศไทยนั้น (ที่พูดแบบนี้ก็เพราะว่า การบวชพระภิกษุณีเริ่มเป็นที่ยอมรับในศรีลังกา ซึ่งก็เป็นเถรวาทเหมือนกัน) ยังไม่ยอมรับการบวชพระภิกษุณี เหตุผลที่ให้กันก็ซ้ำๆเดิมๆ คือ “สายการบวชพระภิกษุณีได้ขาดลงไปแล้ว” ทีนี้การอ้างเช่นนี้เป็นการอ้างข้อเท็จจริง และเป็นที่น่าสังเกตว่า ฝ่ายที่อ้างว่าไม่ควรมีการบวชพระภิกษุณีนั้นมักจะอ้างข้อเท็จจริงนี้ แทนที่จะอ้างหลักการว่าไม่ควรมีการบวชดังกล่าว ทั้งนี้ก็อาจจะเป็นเพราะว่า พระพุทธเจ้าทรงอนุญาตการบวชพระภิกษุณีไว้โดยตรงในพระไตรปิฏก ดังนั้นการบวชพระภิกษุณีจึงมีความชอบธรรม เหตุผลเดียวที่เหลืออยู่ที่จะห้ามไม่ให้ทำเช่นนั้นได้ ก็คืออ้าง “ข้อเท็จจริง” เกี่ยวกับสายการบวช

สำหรบท่านที่อาจจะยังไม่ได้ศึกษาเรื่องนี้มาก่อน การบวชพระนั้นจะต้องมีพระผู้ใหญ่เรียกว่า “อุปัชฌาย์” เป็นผู้บวชให้ และอุปัชฌาย์ท่านนั้นก็จะต้องบวชจากอุปัชฌาย์ของท่านเองมาก่อน เป็นเช่นนี้เรื่อยไปจนถึงพระพุทธเจ้า แต่ประเด็นที่ฝ่ายไม่สนับสนุนให้ผู้หญิงบวชก็คือว่า เราหาพระภิกษุณีมาเป็นอุปัชฌาย์บวชให้ไม่ได้ เมื่อไม่ได้ก็ทำตามพระวินัยไม่ได้ แต่ปัญหาก็คือว่า เราหาพระภิกษุณีมาเป็นพระอุปัชฌาย์ไม่ได้จริงๆหรือ? “ข้อเท็จจริง” ของฝ่ายต่อต้านที่สำคัญก็คือว่า “ในปัจจุบันไม่มีพระภิกษุณีเหลืออยู่อีกแล้ว”

การอ้างของฝ่ายไม่สนับสนุนภิกษุณีนี้เป็นการมองข้อเท็จจริงไม่รอบด้าน เพราะความจริงที่ปรากฏอยู่ก็คือว่า ปัจจุบันมีพระภิกษุณีจำพรรษาอยู่ตามวัดต่างๆในโลกนี้มากมายหลายรูป ดังนั้นที่บอกว่าปัจจุบันไม่มีพระภิกษุณีอีกแล้วจึงไม่เป็นความจริง ปัจจุบันมีการประชุมใหญ่ระดับโลกที่พระภิกษุณีจากทั่วโลกมาประชุมกัน ได้แก่การประชุมของ International Association of Buddhist Women ซึ่งได้จัดการประชุมใหญ่ไปที่ประเทศเวียตนามเมื่อไม่นานมานี้ เมื่อมีหลักฐานชัดเจนเช่นนี้แล้วว่ามีพระภิกษุณีอยู่เป็นจำนวนมากในโลกในปัจจุบัน ข้ออ้างที่บอกว่าพระภิกษุณีหมดไปแล้วจึงไม่ตรงกับความจริง

อย่างไรก็ตาม ฝ่ายต่อต้านก็อ้างอีกว่า แม้ว่าจะมีพระภิกษุณีอยู่เป็นจำนวนมากก็ตาม แต่ท่านเหล่านั้นก็มิใช่พระภิกษุณีตามสายการปฏิบัติของประเทศไทย กล่าวคือไม่ได้บวชในประเทศไทย แต่นี่เป็นการอ้างเหตุผลแบบงูกินหาง กล่าวคือเราหาพระภิกษุณีไม่ได้ เพราะไม่มีในประเทศไทย แต่พอมองออกไปนอกประเทศไทยที่มีพระภิกษุณีอยู่เป็นจำนวนมาก กลับไม่ยอมรับเพราะไม่ได้บวชในประเทศไทย การคิดเช่นนี้วางอยู่บนข้อฐานที่ว่า เฉพาะผู้ที่บวชในประเทศไทยเท่านั้น ที่มีความชอบธรรมในการเป็นพระอุปัชฌาย์บวชคนอื่นต่อไปได้ ซึ่งความข้อนี้พระพุทธเจ้าไม่ได้ทรงรับรอง และก็มิได้มีบัญญัติไว้ในพระไตรปิฏกแต่ประการใด (แม้กระทั่งชื่อประเทศไทย ก็ยังไม่มีในพระไตรปิฏก)

ฝ่ายต่อต้านอาจจะอ้างว่า “พระภิกษุณี” ที่มีอยู่ในโลกนั้น ไม่มีความชอบธรรมที่จะเป็นพระภิกษุณี เพราะสายการปฏิบัติได้สูญไปก่อนหน้าแล้ว แต่ปัญหาของการอ้างแบบนี้ นอกจากว่าจะเป็นดูหมิ่นดูแคลนพระสงฆ์ ซึ่งเป็นบาปแล้ว ยังเป็นการหลงผิดอย่างมาก เพราะเราจะรู้ได้อย่างไรว่า พระภิกษุณีที่มีอยู่ในประเทศต่างๆนั้น ท่านมิได้บวชจากอุปัชฌาย์ของท่าน และรู้อีกได้อย่างไรว่า อุปัชฌาย์ของท่านมิได้บวชจากอุปัชฌาย์ก่อนหน้าขึ้นไปเรื่อยๆ เราต้องไม่ลืมว่าในพระไตรปิฏกเองมีหลักฐานยืนยันชัดเจนว่า พระพุทธเจ้าทรงบวชให้แก่พระน้านางของพระองค์เป็นท่านแรก และต่อจากนั้นก็ทรงบวชพระภิกษุณีมาตลอดพระชนมายุของพระองค์ มีหลักฐานว่าสายของพระภิกษุณีได้แพร่กระจายจากอินเดียไปยังจีนเมื่อหลายร้อยปีหลังพระพุทธเจ้าเสด็จดังขันธ์ปรินิพพาน และก็ได้ลงหลักปักฐานสืบทอดการบวชมาตลอด ดังนั้นเราจะอ้างได้อย่างไรว่าสายของพระภิกษุณีขาดไปแล้ว (บทความหนึ่งที่กล่าวถึงหลักฐานดังกล่าว แม้จะไม่ใช่หลักฐานชั้นต้นแต่ก็มีเหตุผลน่ารับฟัง อ่านได้ที่นี่)

อย่างไรก็ตาม ฝ่ายต่อต้านก็อาจจะจำนนต่อหลักฐานนี้ แต่ยังอ้างต่อไปอีกว่าพระภิกษุณีจากประเทศจีนนั้นเป็นสายมหายาน ไม่สามารถบวชให้แก่กุลธิดาในประเทศไทยที่เป็นสายเถรวาทได้ แต่ประเด็นตรงนี้มิได้อยู่ที่มหายานหรือเถรวาท ประเด็นอยู่ที่ว่าพระภิกษุณีในประเทศจีนนั้น สืบสายการบวชมาจากพระพุทธเจ้าหรือเปล่า ถ้าไม่มีหลักฐานอะไรที่แสดงว่าสายดังกล่าวได้ขาดลงไปจริงๆในช่วงใดช่วงหนึ่งของประวัติศาสตร์ เราก็ต้องยอมรับว่าพระภิกษุณีในประเทศจีนสืบสายมาจากพระพุทธเจ้าโดยตรง การเป็นมหายานหรือเถรวาทเป็นเพียงเรื่องของพระสูตรที่ใช้ศึกษา หรือวิธีการปฏิบัติบางประการ แต่ในทางพระวินัยแล้วไม่มีหลักฐานอะไรที่จะแสดงได้เลยว่า ไม่มีพระภิกษุณีที่สืบสายโดยตรงมาจากพระพุทธเจ้า

อย่างไรก็ตาม ฝ่ายต่อต้านก็ยังมีการอ้างถึงเหตุผลเกี่ยวกับ “สัญลักษณ์” หรือ “ความเคยชิน” ที่คนไทยเคยชินกับผู้ชายในผ้าเหลืองมาตลอด หรือสัญลักษณ์ทางวัฒนธรรม (เช่นใน บทความนี้) ซึ่งเสนอว่าการที่ผู้หญิงห่มผ้าเหลืองของพระ จะทำให้พลังทางวัฒนธรรมสั่นคลอนหรืออ่อนแอลงไป

อย่างไรก็ตาม ผู้เขียนบทความดังกล่าวก็มิได้ยกตัวอย่างหรือเหตุผลมาแสดงให้เห็นว่า การให้ผู้หญิงบวชนั้นทำให้วัฒนธรรมอ่อนด้อยลงไปอย่างไร ในทางตรงกันข้าม การให้ผู้หญิงบวชกลับน่าจะทำให้พลังทางวัฒนธรรม (ไม่ว่าจะหมายความว่าอย่างไรกันแน่) เข้มแข็งมากขึ้น เพราะเป็นการเพิ่มสิ่งใหม่เข้ามาให้แก่สังคมไทย ทำให้สังคมไทยมีชีวิตชีวามากขึ้น สามารถตอบสนองต่อการเปลี่ยนแปลงได้มากขึ้น อย่างน้อยก็ไม่แข็งทื่อเหมือนกับของในพิพิธภัณฑ์

เราต้องไม่ลืมว่า จุดหมายสูงสุดของพระพุทธศาสนาได้แก่การละเว้นจากบาป ทำการอันเป็นกุศล และทำจิตใจให้บริสุทธิ์ขาวรอบ จุดมุ่งหมายนี้จะเพิ่มขึ้นหรือลดลงหากมีพระภิกษุณีมาเป็นกำลังอีกแรงหนึ่ง? ไม่ว่าจะมองอย่างไรก็มองไม่เห็นว่าจะทำให้ลดลงไปได้อย่างไร สิ่งที่ชาวพุทธไทยควรทำก็คือ สลัดความเคยชินเก่าๆทิ้งไป อันที่จริงเรื่องนี้ก็ทำไม่ยาก เพราะถึงแม้มหาเถรสมาคมจะยังไม่ยอมรับ แต่ก็เกิดสำนักพระภิกษุณีมากขึ้นเรื่อยๆในสังคมไทย ดังนั้นเรื่องพระภิกษุณีก็อาจจะไม่ต่างจากเรื่องอื่นๆในสังคมไทย คือมีการห้ามไม่ให้ทำในระยะแรก แต่พอคนทำมากๆเข้าเพราะการห้ามนั้นไม่ตอบสนองความต้องการของประชาชน ก็ต้องมีการยอมรับอย่างเป็นทางการเองในภายหลัง แต่เราคงไม่อยากให้รอจนการเปลี่ยนแปลงเกิดขึ้นเองจากการสุกงอม เพราะเรามองเห็นว่าการยอมรับให้มีพระภิกษุณีอย่างเป็นทางการในสังคมไทย มีแต่จะทำให้สังคมวัฒนธรรมไทย และที่สำคัญคือจิตวิญญาณกับการปฏิบัติธรรมของคนไทยเองเข้มแข็งมากขึ้น

Death and Dying

I am now in a hotel in Singapore, having been invited by the Center for Biomedical Ethics of the National University Singapore to attend a conference on “Death and Dying.” Today is the first day of the conference and it’s a very full program. The presentations were very stimulating, and I learned a lot from listening to them.

Death and dying are among the most popular topics in bioethics. The topics concern the profession of medicine quite directly, since they have to deal with patients who are dying. But of course the focus is not exclusively a medical one, as the discussion centers around what doctors should do or should avoid doing in terms of death and dying.

The conference opened with a talk by Alastair Campbell on “What is Death?” This simple question does not find easy answers; in fact the question of what death really is has become much more complex due to advances in medical technology. Now it is possible to maintain the life (or live body) of someone who has completely lost the functioning of the brain. The reason why the body is still warm is a heart-lung machine that constantly pumps air to his lung, prompting the heart to beat even though the brain has stopped functioning.

Such a person is called ‘brain dead.’ This is an indication why definition of death has become problematic. We did not have any problem identifying a dead person. We know it instinctively once we come across one. However, the prospect of somebody lying in bed heaving loudly through a machine is a difficult one to judge. On the one hand, the body is warm and the heart is beating. On the other, he has completely lost all ability to respond to the outside world. He has completely lost consciousness. Due to the demands for bodily organs for transplantation, these bodies that are hooked to respirators were termed ‘brain dead’ — that is, death for a medical purpose. This has thrown all understandings about what death really is into confusion.

Other papers dealed with religious perspectives on death and dying. I myself gave a talk on the Buddhist perspective on the issue. This is a rather difficult task because the Buddha did not directly teach what one should do, say, when one faces the prospect of having one’s life prolonged almost indefinitely but with poor quality of life. But certainly we can extrapolate what the Buddha would have said.

So let’s look at the Buddhist perspective. One thing is that death is not the final end of life, as all sentient beings, wandering in samsara, have to take one life form after another with seemingly no end. A being may be a human being in this lifetime, but can be a non-human animal in another, and so on. This is in contrast with the usual belief in modern medicine where death represents the absolute end of life, after which there is absolutely nothing to talk about. This simple fact known to all Buddhists, and I would bet that everybody has in the back of their minds something along this line. The problem, nevertheless, is that the scientific attitude has it that this belief in the afterlife is unsupported and as Karl Popper said unfalsifiable; thus it does not merit serious attention. Well, I think it’s the problem of those who disregard the discussion of the life after death, not the Buddhists’

Another important point that people should learn from Buddhism is that the quality of the mind of the dying is crucial in determining what kind of life that person will have after he or she dies. The mind at the moment of death is like a door to the other world. If the person dies with a happy, peaceful attitude, then he or she will be reborn in a pleasant realm, such as heaven, but if the person dies when the mind is angry or depressed, then he or she will be reborn in a much lower realm. This is the reason why in Buddhism, and indeed in other religions, the dying person should be given every opportunity to get in touch with the sacred, so that their mind become acquainted with the sacred and the spiritual, which is uplift the mind, resulting in better rebirth.

Of course this cannot be proven by science, so when I gave this talk to the scientists in the audience there were a bit of chuckles. Nonetheless people were very interested in this point. There had been a discussion about the ‘good life’ and more directly the ‘good death.’ My contribution is that ‘good death’ is constituted by the quality of mind leading up to and at the moment of death as I mentioned in the last paragraph. The terminally ill patient should be given both physical care and a spiritual one. The latter is more important because the patient will soon embark on a journey he or she has not experienced before in this life (and in fact all of us have had experienced these cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth countless times before but we have just forgotten.) For example, monks can be invited to attend the bed of the dying and chant. This will lead the mind of the patient to very good places.

Buddhism and Mathematics

One of the many topics that was raised during the talk on the Thai translation of Matthieu Ricard’s and Trinh Xuan Thuan’s book concerned the relation between Buddhist thought and mathematics. There have of course been quite a lot of talks about how Buddhism and science are related, but not much at all on Buddhism and mathematics. So that was a welcome change. Unfortunately we did not spend much time on this fascinating topic.

It was credit to Ricard and Thuan that they spend one entire chapter on this topic. The idea is how mathematics is related to reality and what the Buddhists think of that. The eleventh chapter of the book is entitled “The Grammar of the Universe” or something like that. What is interesting is how mathematics is an accurate description of reality at all. Which comes first, mathematics or the world?

On the one hand, this is a very simple point. We all know that two plus two equals four. So you have two things, add another two, and count the result, which is of course four. But the premise of mathematics is that you cannot get mathematics (or logic for that matter) out of empirical observation. You just cannot form a general statement “2 + 2 = 4″ from just observing two things and another two things. The reason is that you have somehow to know before hand that two plus two equals four in order for you to be able to get the conclusion that these two things and these other two make four! This is Kant’s main argumentative strategy in his entire critical philosophy. And for Kant mathematics is a prime example of what he calls “synthetic a priori” judgments, e.g., judgments that are true by virtue of their correspondence with some outside measuring point but which is known entirely through thinking alone.

We are not actually discussing Kant here; the point is that if the truth of mathematics does not come from observation, then it must come from inside. Ricard and Thuan discussed that perhaps this situation implies that there is some universal and all powerful mind whose thinking made all mathematical statements true (all the true ones, of course). It is this big mind that guarantees that two plus two equals four, that the sum of the squares on the side of the two legs of a right angle triangle is equal to that on the hypotenuse, that the law of modus ponens (‘p’ and ‘if p then q’ always implies ‘q’), and so on.

So this big mind might refer to God. So here the discussion went on to see what the Buddhists think about this. I don’t quite remember what Ricard, the Buddhist representative in the book, made of this, so I am going to present my own thought. I also did this during the talk last Saturday, but time was so limited then.

I think the main difference between the theistic religions like Christianity and Islam and non-theistic one like Buddhism might not appear as large as one might think. Buddhism would have no problem recognizing the Big Mind alluded to above, so long as that refers, not to some external being, but in fact to our own minds. It is us who create mathematics and it is ultimately speaking our own minds, working together collectively, that create the world such that it is true of mathematics. In other words, we could also say that we human beings are gods unto ourselves. There is a Big Mind that creates reality corresponding to math, yes, but that Mind is not apart from us.

Whether this is shocking or not depends on your view on theism. If you believe that humans are apart from God, then you’d find this shocking. However, this is entirely correspondent with the Buddhist attitude that salvation is ultimately the person’s own responsibility and lies entirely within the person’s power to achieve. The Buddha is only a teacher. You don’t need to follow his teaching. The Buddha has no power to drag you to Liberation. No being does. You have to do it yourself.

Coming down from theological discussion and back down to earth, we see that the idea that it is human mind itself that creates mathematics to which reality belongs makes quite a lot of sense. We form mathematics and we perceive the world according to the same conceptual structure that formed the math in the first place, so no wonder the world corresponds to it. However, even thought mathematics looks very certain, it does not describe what reality is like ultimately speaking. This is because all mathematics depends on concepts and language (so is logic), and once you have concepts, you have to divide reality into separate chunks. So at best mathematics is a model or a map, and no map can become identical to the reality it is the map of. This refers to the doctrine of Emptiness or sunyata. We can say that math can always approach that, but never reach it, because if it does, then it would cease to be the math that it is.

Go Beyond Words

I just found out on my blog dashboard that the blog of the Wisdom Publications is the top fastest growing blog. Congratulations. The blog is full of good stuffs for Buddhists, one of which is a post about the most outstanding women in Buddhism award, which was given out last March here in Bangkok. Krisadawan also got the award as is perhaps well known to many of us.

If you are interested, go to http://gobeyondwords.wordpress.com/