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« Is the End Near? | Main | The Glass is Half (?): Happy Spring Equinox, 2013 »

February 10, 2013

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Oliver

Martin - Thanks for this insight. On the day that the ever so holy Catholic Church appointed and anointed its latest descendant of Peter, yet will doubtless continue a course that is far, far removed from Jesus' teachings, it seems appropriate to ask you a big question in response to your comment:

What is the net effect on the course of human history of Buddhist philosophy, from the moment Prince Siddhartha began to express his deep sapience up until the present day??

Here's my take. Except for a relative few Homo sapiens who genuinely live up to the Buddha's ideal philosophy (not just pay lip service), I see no sign that the expression of wisdom by the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed et al has diverted mankind from its ruinous path these 2,500 years.

My conclusion is that the presence of wise counsel on planet earth cannot divert us from the inevitable bottleneck. If it could have changed society, it would have done. Instead, "we" have ceaselessly displayed "our" feverish drive to exploit, capitalize on and use up every last natural asset available on this planet. No warnings are heeded, no alarm bells heard, nothing but rampant capitalism is permitted (irrespective of occasional totalitarian ideology that inevitably rekindles capitalism, a la Russia and China).

From this conclusion, I am led to another - that it will take a catastrophic fall in population to get to the point where any emergent 'Homo cogitans' [acknowledgement to Aboc Zed] attempt to reconfigure the path of genus Homo on a truly sapient footing.

On this basis, while I am impressed with your ideas and nascent plans, I am not sure that anything we do this generation to save ourselves from the bottleneck will be of use to future planet dwellers - except in the laying down of knowledge in a survivable form (no mean feat). We may wish to live on for personal reasons, but I imagine a New Long Dark Age will separate us from the evolution of true sapients. We can try to breed sapients, but this is a tall order during a long period of mayhem. My instinct tells me that if genus Homo is to evolve, it will evolve without us pushing from this end. Trying to control nature has been disastrous so far.

All this being said, anyone who has the inclination to establish a remote community along the lines mooted by George on this blog would probably have a more stimulating and enjoyable remainder of their lives, so why not?

Martin Gisser

Oliver - yeah, like you I guess the net effect of Buddhism on the grand course of history is negligible. But...

There's the famous example of the ancient Indian emperor Ashoka (304–232 BCE). After his cruel and murderous conquest/unification of India he adopted Buddhism (being shocked by the carnage, according to his 13th stone edict) and was of great help to make Buddhism a world religion. The later Ashoka is fabled for being an ideal and (mostly) peaceful ruler. His stone edicts are the oldest written sources of classical India (after the Indus civilization). The modern Indian flag features the Ashoka wheel , and the lions found on modern Indian insignia (from currency to the supreme court's emblem) are from a pillar erected by Ashoka at the place where the Buddha gave his first discourse.

One can say that Buddhism is by far the least murderous world religion. Notable counterexample: Japanese Zen Buddhism during WWII.

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The Buddhism thing actually entered my sinister plan as an afterthought. I wasn't much interested (except at that time I read some Nagarjuna to distract my brain from mathematical musings) until I discovered Stephen Batchelor (for his latest, detailed yet condensed philosophy see this paper). I have yet to research if (some of) the Buddha's ideas for monastic rules (vinaya pitaka of the Pali canon) are of any organizational help for the proposed double-sense anthropogenic carbon sequestration socio-machine.

Reading Buddhist original scripture is strenuously boring. For the systems science fan I recommend to start with Joanna Macy's Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Living Systems. In my humble opinion this book makes her the Nagarjuna for our time. But that was just her PhD work. She's also a great activist-counselor (for a first glimpse e.g. her book World as Lover, World as Self). That work makes her the Shantideva for our time.

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Yesterday I discovered a U.S. Buddha inspired organization that has long begun to put part of my vision into action: www.earthsangha.org. They're even engaged in Hispaniola at the Dominican Republic - Haiti border, exactly where I would start the proposed carbon sequestration and Gaia-engineering machine. I'm not alone.

Oliver

Martin - Thanks for the further information.

Perhaps I'm just grumpy today (gutful of papal nonsense) but I must say, regarding the Earth Sangha, I never considered that a "Buddhist inspired" community of Earth rejuvenators would be so overtly financial in their posture. As soon as I see "your donation (de facto membership fee) is tax-dedictible" I start switching off. This is not very forward looking, considering the day of the dollar is about to end. I imagine this organization probably just ticks emotional boxes for many donors with spare funds, who can carry on with their energy-intensive imperial lifestyle while feeling better about themselves by [trumpet fanfare] making a difference.

Now, if a modern-day Siddhartha was quietly gathering a community of healthy sapient mixed gender volunteers - in Hispaniola or elsewhere - and building for survival over the next 500 years, then I would believe this was an expression of "Buddhist values in action". And if they'd take in a weary life traveler, I could be useful in the forest camp for bicycle-powered electricity generation for a few years yet. As I pedal, I'd fulfill my procrastinated wish to re-read the entire works of Kurt Vonnegut Jr, who really got what this world is about.

Martin Gisser

Oliver - well, that's how things often work. Even the Buddha was already relying on rich benefactors to set up places where his followers could gather, most famous and crass the purchase of Jeta's grove. And I myself have this year seriously resolved to earning some money. My chronic bankruptcy is not helpful...

Oliver

Martin - I wish you good luck in your endeavor$. I get the distinct impression that many of us visitors to this blog are in the same boat. In my case, my quandary is that I detest and abhor Darwinian-style capitalism and chasing the money dragon, but unfortunately a smile and a kind word is not enough to convince the food store owner to part with the basic nutrition I require to energize my remaining brain cells.

Best wishes, Oliver

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