(Infinite) Extension of Human Lifespan – What Would a Buddhist Say?

I have just returned from Rotterdam where the World Congress of Bioethics was held. It is a big event, with almost 1,000 participants coming from all over the world. The names of the participants look almost an international Who’s Who in bioethics, a broad field that comprises philosophy, sociology, law, medicine and many others. Among the many sessions at the congress were quite a few on the ethics of lifespan extension. This is a new phenomenon at the World Congress of Bioethics because aging and lifespan extension issues have not figured this prominently. Perhaps this is a reflection of the time. When the technology is there, or somehow promises to be there, bioethicists will surely take it up and talk about it.

At this World Congress Aubrey de Grey, one of the most famous advocates of technology of lifespan extension presented his view on the topic. De Grey is very well known for his championing the cause, and he would like us to believe that the technology that could potentially extend human lifespan significantly is on the horizon. Not only that, but the kind of technology that could eliminate all causes of aging is no longer a fantasy. Before too long, according to him, we would have the means to eliminate aging from our life, with the result that each of us could, potentially, stop of age, so to speak, and decide whether we can stay at the age of our own choosing. One might choose to stay 24 for a very, very long period of time; or one might choose to remain 36. The bottom line is that, once the biological and pathological causes of aging are eliminated, then human beings can stay young for as long as they like, and there is nothing in principle to hold us back from becoming, say, 1,000 years old or more. De Grey is more of a scientist by training, but he presents his talk to the group of bioethicists by saying that all this is a good thing. We human beings are standing on the threshold of a huge transformation that promises to bring very long lifespan, if not immortality itself, to ourselves.

De Grey giving the talk
De Grey giving the talk

This demands a response from a Buddhist. What de Grey is talking is nothing less than the promise that technology could well realize immortality for us humans! Immortality. No less. Humans have dreamed about immortality for a long time. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, was well known for his attempt to become immortalized by searching for the elixir of life, but ironically what he thought to be the elixir in fact shorted his life considerably because it contained a very high amount of mercury. People have come to believe that all human life is limited. Death is always upon us. There is no escaping it. But de Grey came all the way from Britain to tell us that we humans can actually become immortal. It is rather hard to believe. Furthermore, when he says that we should all celebrate the likelihood that we will be able to expand our lifespan very considerably, I myself feel a bit uneasy, not only because it runs directly against my Buddhist sentiment, but also because of the confidence that he shows and his total belief that this possibility of very long lifespan extension is upon us.

According to Buddhism, as is well known, all created things undergo birth, decay and dissolution. Every thing has its own time limit. The limit can be long or short, but it is always finite. This is the fate of all created things, human beings included. So when de Grey came in and delivered this talk that humans could in the near future achieve something like the beginning of immortality, this was shocking to say the least. So this demands a response.

I will not talk about the scientific or technical aspect of the technology of lifespan extension here. Let us grant that what de Grey is talking about is true, that technologies will shortly be developed that will eliminate all causes of aging and can rejuvenate our bodies in the same way as certain species of jellyfish do. Let us suppose that humans can really become immortal. Now the question is: What would a Buddhist say to all this? Is it a good, or bad thing?

We have to admit that there are no immortal creatures in Buddhist cosmology. The longest living samsaric creature, Brahmas, live for a very large number of aeons, but still they die. If humans really do become immortal, they would certainly disrupt the system of rebirths and reincarnations. So this situation does have no precedence in Buddhism. If humans do in fact become immortal, we cannot find any case in Buddhist cosmology to use as an example. There is just no immortal creature in all of samsara. So we have to do some interpretation here.

However, one might object that even in de Grey’s most optimistic scenario, people die anyway. Some may die of accidents (being run by a truck – de Grey’s own example) or being murdered, or committing suicide, for example. So at least some of de Grey’s immortal creatures do actually die. But in principle if one avoids these causes one can stay on forever. Is that a good thing? Many participants at the conference believe so. Some say that the increased lfiespan brings them more chance to do whatever they wanted to do and did not have a chance. But I think that if you have an infinite lifespan, all things that you wanted to do because you did not have a chance would then become rather tedious. Things have value to us because they are hard to get, and the fact that we have a limited time in this world shows that we have to make a choice, an irreversible choice. This is important. The fact that our choice is irreversible makes the choice a meaningful one. The choice will stick with us throughout our lifetime. There is no way for us to go back in time and change it. But if our lifespan becomes infinite as de Grey says, no choice of ours will be really irreversible. We would be in the situation of someone with an infinite amount of money to spend who is in the midst of a very large shopping mall with all the goodies that a human being can possibly want. With an infinite amount of space and time, we might delude ourselves thinking that all the choices — all those things that we want but could not get — will be finally available. But the value of things diminish the easier they come by to us. And if infinitely many things are available for us through an infinite amount of time we have, those things will cease to be valuable. They will just look and feel the same. What makes we think that those things we could not get now are valuable is our expection and our desire for them — it is the fact that they are not there for us that makes it desirable. But if everything is there for our taking and picking, then certainly we will lose interest. And I am afraid that this will be our lot should we really become immortal. I would perhaps prefer a life situation where there is a frame, a clear demarcation of the beginning and the end. This somehow gives me a sense of a meaningful life.

There is quite a bit of Buddhism in the idea above, but this is not unique to Buddhism at all. I have more points to discuss, but this is too long already. So those points have to wait.


How to Care for Dying Children

One of the activities of Nyima Dakpa Rinpoche during his visit to Thailand this year is that he gave a keynote lecture at the international conference on child palliative care at Landmark Hotel in Bangkok. The topic was “How to Care for Dying Children.” Here are some excerpts of what he talked.

Rinpoche started by talking about children in general. It’s a very sad situation when children are afflicted with very serious diseases and that they had to leave this world after only a short time. What is important to dying children is that they need to realize that death is nothing terrifying. It is only a transition, a movement from here to there, and if one is prepared and knows what they will expect after the journey, then there is nothing to worry about or to be afraid of. Caregivers need to reassure the children that death is only like a journey. They will leave this place and arrive at another where there are good and kind people waiting for them.

The quality of the mind at the moment of death is very important. When children or adults for that matter suffer from illness, usually they let their minds be controlled by emotions such as fear and anger. In either case the mind is not still and thus is ill prepared for the journey to the other side. The mind should be cheerful and happy even when one is in full pain. Even though the body may be in pain, if the mind is strong and cheerful then the bodily pain will not do too much harm. On the contrary, if the mind is weak and controlled by negative emotions, then even mild illness can develop into more serious one. This cannot be emphasized enough. Buddhism pays very keen attention on the quality of the mind. Those who are cheerful even though they are very sick shows that they are able to control their pain. Their pain can even be reduced this way.

Rinpoche also gave us a trick. Instead of letting the illness take hold of us, we should instead look at it as our own instrument, our own way of making life better. What we are experiencing as our illness is only a result of past karma. This does not mean that we are bad persons for having done bad karmas that result in our illness right now. But it means that what happens at present is a consequence of what was done in the past. So we should look at the illness we are having now as our past negative karmas coming to fruition. If we survive the illness, then we will be cleansed of these past karmas and can start things anew without being weighed down by the karma. This is a very positive condition because we could achieve much greater things when we are not weighed down.

However, if the disease is so serious that we have to die anyway, then we should look at it as a means by which we have an opportunity to experience life to the fullest extent. Before we got the illness we may not be living to the full; we may think that we have so much time in our lives that we forgot to practice the Dharma and make our lives really worthwhile. But now that we know that we are having this life-threatening disease and that we may have a short while to live, we should make the best use of the remaining time. We should prepare for the journey and learn what to expect after we arrive at the other side. If we are caring for dying children, then we should tell them that they should understand how precious every moment of life is. One of the very good ways of making the situation positive is to make a wish that our own illnesses happen only to us so that countlessly many will not get it. Suppose we are having cancer, we could make a wish that the cancer happen to us alone so that countlessly many sentient beings will not get it any more. May the cancer that is taking place in my body now be the one that draws all other instances of the disease in all sentient beings to us, so that we have the disease alone and that nobody else have it. This is a very powerful wish. When the wish is genuine, then it goes a long way toward alleviating the situation. Even though we may not be able to escape the cancer, at least we are doing a positive action which will only result in our becoming better from now on.

So we can make this wish. Whenever we have a disease or are suffering in any other way, such as suffering from being misunderstood by others or from being a target of harm by others, we make a strong and sincere wish that what we are suffering happen to us alone and as a result all other sentient beings will not have to suffer like this any more. Suppose we are suffering from a headache, we can say to ourselves, making a wish, like this: May my headache be the headache of all sentient beings! May sentient beings be free from headaches and may my headache now take in all the sufferings of all sentient beings! This is a really powerful wish. It is a great way to make merit and a great preparation for the other life after we die. Even if we do not die now, the wish can be a powerful factor in our progress in Dharma practice.

As for children, we can gradually teach them to do this. We can gently teach them to look at their pain and disease as something wonderful. This is hard to do, but the irony is that the more you do it, the less pain you will feel, since the mind will be at peace and is happy. We need to realize that when children fear death, in many cases it is our own fear that is projected onto them, but if we look at the situation in a calm and spiritually uplifting manner, then there will be no fear and the passing away will be a great moment for the children and for us too.

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.

Ethics and Contexts, or Is Killing Permissible in Some Way?

One of the interesting topics discussed during the plenary panel last Saturday at the IABU Conference in Wang Noi was on the question whether it is all right in Buddhism to do something that looks really bad but with the right intention, so that the action is not totally bad after all. This came up among the discussion by Jose Cabezon, who holds the Mahayana posiiton, and Asanga Tilakaratne and Somparn Promta, who are Theravadins.The other panelist, Damien Keown, seemed a bit neutral to me.

A question was posed to the panelists about the foundation of Buddhist ethics — whether there exists in Buddhist ethics something invariable that provides a foundation for objectivity in ethical judgment. Before the panel discussion, Asanga Tilakaratne had given a keynote talk where he said that there was a distinction between behaving according to the social convention and according to the nature of reality. For him the former is changeable, while the latter is not. Killing, for example, is always bad and will always incurs negative karmic results. This is because it runs against the nature of reality. On the other hand, not taking off your shoes when entering a temple is a matter of social convention and can be all right in some contexts and not in others. However, Cabezon raised this typical Mahayana point that it is the intention that governs everything here, so if the intention is a good and wholesome one then the action becomes good and wholesome, and this includes killing.

This kind of raised the temperature during the discussion to at least several degrees. What I particularly don’t want to hear is another Theravada-Mahayana debate; this has gone on for centuries and the content of the debate is utterly predictable. Nonetheless this was what happened during the panel discussion on Saturday. Fortunately the moderator changed to another topic after a while.

What Cabezon said was quite well known. Any act that is performed out of good intention is a good one, and an act is a good one if it is totally devoid of any trace of egoistic trace. That is, you do the act totally out of the wish for the happiness of all sentient beings, and not at all for yourself. Suppose there is a madman who is running to press down a button that wil detonate a nuclear bomb, and the only way to stop him is to shoot him, would it be morally permissible to do that? Suppose he is really mad and does not listen to any warnings. So it is possible that, out of the altruistic intention to save thousands of lives, it is necessary to shoot this mad person to stop him from pushing the button. This will not only save the lives, but more poignantly this will also save the mad persom himself from doing a very seriously negative karma. (But Cabezon did not talk about the possibility of shooting just to stop the guy from moving and not to kill him, but then harming and injuring someone typically incurs bad karmas too.)

Usually a harmful act, such as killing and shooting someone, is done out of dosa, or anger in Pali and Sanskrit. One has dosa when one is attached to one’s self and when one feels that one’s own self is threatened then one acts out in anger, or dosa. But the point is that it is possible for such an act to be performed without any trace of anger, but out of compassion! This idea can be found more in the Mahayana tradition but I would like to say that this is common to all Buddhism as a whole. It is the quality of mind that is of paramount importance, not the very nature of an act itself.

There is a story of Tilopa, an Indian master some centuries ago, who was eventually the teacher of the great scholar Naropa. At first when Naropa saw Tilopa for the first time, he was shocked. Tilopa did not look like a great Buddhist master, but an unkempt fisherman who cared nothing about convention or the world. Tilopa was fishing and killing a lot of fish. And you must know that in medieval India killing and eating flesh was not only a bad thing to do, it was also looked down upon very much socially, and only the lower castes resorted to doing something like that, and never a scholar or a brahmin. However, what Naropa later realized was that Tilopa was not actually doing the same thing as any fishermen did, but he was performing th Phowa or transference of consciousness to the fish so that they are born again in higher states. This was a pure act of compassion which those whose eyes were defiled by attachments did not see.

I am not saying this to sanction killing. This would be an anathema. And I am not saying that Buddhism endorses killing. This is totally wrong. However, the point is that when we talk about ethics and contexts, the Buddhist perspective is that everything is contextual, since everything is interdependent. You incur bad karmas if you kill. That is for sure. But if you are a realized being who have already attained nirvana or enlightenment, then you always act out of compassion and not out of egoistic desires, then if it is necessary for you to kill or harm in order to perform the compassionate act, then you do it. A bodhisattva is one who is willing to go even to hell if that is necessary for saving sentient beings from sufferings.

In the end, one has to realize, I think, that in Buddhism every saying, every statement, is ultimately an upaya, or a skillful means. The Buddha never said anything categorically, but always for the purpose of leading his listener to realize the Truth. Thus he may appear to say one thing to one kind of person, and another thing another kind of person. This may seem contradictory on the surface, but in fact they always lead to the same result. So for someone he may say that killing is wrong (and that is for all of us unenlightened beings), but the non-categorical nature of his sayings means that for some, i.e., those already enlightened, killing out of compassion is all right. But that is NOT to be performed at home by any of us 🙂

Hell Beings, Hungry Ghosts and the Like

Last Sunday I accompanied Krisadawan to her talk at the World Buddhist University, which was on the third floor of the World Fellowship of Buddhism Building behind the Benjasiri Park in Bangkok. She talked about “Practice of Tara in the Absolute and Relative” to about twenty or so audience in a rather small meeting room. The talk went well and there was a lively period of questions, answers and discussion afterwards.

One of the questions posed to Kris was from an Englishman (judging from his accent) who asked her how she did know that hell beings, hungry ghosts (or pretas in Sanskrit) and the like existed. She answered that they resided within your hearts. Whenever you are greedy and are never satisfied with what you have, then you have actually become a hungry ghost. This is true, and I added that the whole point of Buddhism is to teach us to realize this truth so that we naturally become so bored with this pointlessness of all the lives and wanderings within samsara that we strongly feel we need a way out, as if fire was burning on our head and we are instantly looking for a way to put it out. Some beings in samsara are suffering so intensely, like the hell beings and hungry ghosts, which are in these states because of what they have done in their past lives.

In fact the question about how do we know that such beings as those in hell or the hungry ghosts exist is an important one in basic Buddhist teaching. Krisadawan’s answer is that being a hungry ghost is a personification of our unwholesome state. But this state is not wholly subjective. This is the point. If it were wholly subjective, then it is an individual matter and seems to be nothing more than someone’s thoughts and feelings only. But in that case the realm of the pretas or hungry ghosts would be no more than some kind of thought realm without objective reality, whereas there are numerous passages in the Buddha’s original teachings in the Tipitaka of hungry ghosts having objective reality. One such case is mentioned in the Vinaya, the first of the Tipitaka dealing monastic rules. The story is that there was a monk who actually had sexual intercourse with a female preta and then wondered if he had broken the vow of celibacy (The Buddha answered the monk did indeed break the vow, so the monk was expelled from the order). This shows that pretas do exist objectively, and not only in the imagination of the monk, or someone else.

Philosophically speaking, there is also a lot of sense in maintaining that pretas do exist objectively, since the realm of the pretas does belong to the six realms of samsara, and in this respect they are equal in terms of their reality. If this were not the case, then there would be a problem of explaining how someone was born as a human being while in the previous life he or she was a preta. It would make more sense to hold that the realms of human beings and the pretas do exist at the same level, ontologically speaking. 

But then how would one explain how one comes to know anything about the pretas? For this we need to refer to the teaching on what happens to the consciousness after death, a topic that Krisadawan has been talking about for some time. After someone dies, his or her consciousness enters into an ‘in-between’ realm called “bardo” in Tibetan. This is a place where the consciousness stays for a period of time before they move on to a more permanent place within the samsaric realms. And what kind of realm they will enter largely depends on the quality of mind they have at the moment of their entering the bardo, or in other words at the moment of their death. If at the time they die they think of good things, such as the merits that they had done when they were living, or if they think continuously of the Buddha or Bodhisattvas at the time they die, then it is quite assured that they will go to the higher realms (gods or humans). But if they die thinking of nothing other than holding on to power or to their wealth, then it is said that they will accumulate this negative force so that when they enter bardo they will be compelled by their karmic force and enter a lower realm, such as that of the pretas.

So on the one hand, these beings in bardo kind of create their own world out of their karmic propensities. But so did we when we were born as human beings, and we do not seem to think that our world here where we live as human beings are but figments of our imagination. It is as objective as it can be, and the world of the pretas is as objective to them as ours to us too. So we seem to have both the objective and the subjective all in one go. This difficult tenet, I think, is best explained by the Yogacara school. According to the Yogacara, everything is created by the mind from the beginning, so there is ultimately speaking no absolute distinction between the subject and the object. Let’s take the argument whether the Yogacara represents the original teaching of the Buddha or things like that aside for a moment. The point here is that there is a sense in which the distinction between the subject and the object breaks down, and those who are mired in the distinction would have a hard time understanding exactly where the pretas exist. On the one hand they exist in our minds, but on the other they are objective too.


Post-traumatic Stress

I had a talk with Craig Smith the other day, and we discussed a lot of things, including Buddhism. Craig used to be among the first batch of American students of the late Trungpa Rinpoche, and he is now a meditation teacher as well as policy advocate on the digital divide and the use of technology to promote spirituality. We talked about the plight of Tibetans living in China and the situation there and other things too. But what kind of stuck in my mind was that Craig told me that in Buddhist circles in the US today there are talks about living as a kind of suffering through a “post-traumatic stress.” What this means is that life as we know it has ingrained in it a deeply scarred psychological trauma that afflicts all of us who have been born.

This talk emerged after we started talking about death and dying, and what should be done about the terminal patients who are facing death. The idea of living as a kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome is that when we approach dying and death, it is not that these are unique events that we have not experienced before. On the other hand, all of us have experienced countless number of deaths, so numerous that we do not typically remember. And the death experience is so traumatic that most of us chose not to remember them. This is why so few of us can remember our past lives. We live as if we were born fresh, but, alas, things do not work that way. 

We do not remember our past lives because death is so traumatic that we automatically enter a stage of denial once we take over a new form of life. Once the consciousness approaches death, the experience is like being thrown into a fiercely flowing river. The transformation is so tremendous, and the experience so overwhelming that we prefer to leave all those behind and start anew. But that of course is an illusion. Sooner or later the consciousness approaches a new death and the same process continues.

What I like about Craig’s way of putting this is the way he uses contemporary and scientific terminologies to discuss this very old story from Buddhism. We have just described the usual process of samsara. But instead of quoting ancient texts Craig was using modern terms. This may be beneficial for those who are new to Buddhism and would like to see the connection with the life they find around themselves every day. Moreover, it gave me, at least, a chance to ponder on the very meaning of samsara itself.

The main culprit behind all this is the sense of self — the idea that there is something we need to hold on to which we call ‘me’ or ‘mine’. But what is the ‘me’? We fear death before we cherish this ‘me’ and we are afraid that it will go away with death. But, again, what is this ‘me’? In Buddhist term this is the root of all sufferings — ignorance or avidya. When the consciousness is going through the death transformation period, the experience was so traumatic that the consciousness just grabs anything that comes its way. Its needs to get hold of something. Thus the consciousness takes a new form of life, as a hungry ghost, or an animal, or a god, or a human being, depending on what kind or what quality of the mental episodes that happen to get hold of the consciousness at that moment. But the key is that it is trying to hold on. 

So the reason you and I are living right now is that in the past our consciousness streams tried to hold on to something. That is why you and me are not now Buddhas. Living the life in a kind of a post-traumatic stress syndrome, the consciousness tries to avoid what is absolutely there as their past experiences, but they turn away from them, for these experiences are too sickening. The trick of the Buddha is to bring us to face these traumatic experiences head on. We need to see our past lives as every kind of beings there is. Then we will see the pointlessness of the whole thing especially the struggle in the near future when we die. Do we really want to suffer the same experiences over and over again? Kind of reminding me of Sisyphus.

Sisyphus, from Wikipedia.org

It is experiences like these that motivated many to practice and eventually become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 

Buddha Amitabha and Mindfulness of Death in the Tibetan Tradition

Conference and Meditation Training on “Buddha Amitabha and Mindfulness of Death in the Tibetan Tradition”
Room 105, Maha Chulalongkorn Building, Chulalongkorn University
27-28 January 2007

The Thousand Stars Foundation is organizing a conference and meditation training on the Buddha Amitabha and on practicing mindfulness of death according to the Tibetan tradition. ‘Amitabha’ means ‘boundless light’ and refers to the Buddha’s infinite compassion to all sentient beings. On the first day of the conference, January 27, 2007, there will be a teaching on Bardo and meditation on Buddha Amitabha by Ven. Kandroma Palden Chotso from Dzachuka, Tibet. On Sunday, January 28, there will be a series of academic talks by prominent Thai scholars such as Dr. Tavivat Puntarigvivat, Dr. Pratoom Angurohita, Dr. Prapod Assavavirulhakarn, Dr. Somparn Promta and Setthapong Jongsa-nguan. The conference will end with an empowerment ceremony of White Tara by Ven. Kandroma Palden Chotso. English summary will be provided for the event on Jan. 27 and for the empowerment ceremony on Jan. 28. For more details contact Areeratana Sirikoon at areeratana@cpbequity.co.th.