Sunday, 16 February 2020

Buddhism, the Climate Crisis and Extinction Rebellion Virtue-Signalling





Buddhists are playing a leading role in tackling the climate crisis, usually with a helpful contributions, though in some cases perhaps not (see end of this article).

We'll start with Jayarava, who gives an excellent, easily understandable introduction to the basic science of global warming and the greenhouse effects of atmospheric CO2.  Other Buddhists are involved at grass roots level with numerous activities...

- The Green Monday platform aims to tackle climate change, food insecurity, health issues, and animal welfare by helping individuals, communities, and corporations shift toward sustainable, healthy, and mindful living. 


- Buddhism inspires reforestation in the Himalayas

- “…monks and nuns should not remain on their brocade mats. He wanted them to go out into the community and start grappling with floods, droughts, and abnormal monsoons—the very real environmental changes that they were seeing outside their windows. He was ready to start a plan of mitigation: making the carbon footprint of these Kagyu monasteries as small as possible.”


- Thai Buddhist temple has recycled over 88000 pounds of waste plastic bottles into robes

- “In January, I co-facilitated a weekend retreat for Buddhists from different traditions who are involved in eco-activism. Various themes and questions emerged during our time together. There were questions about how arising anger could be used in the service of activism, and how this fitted with Buddhist ethics. There was frustration about Buddhist colleagues who were in denial about the climate and ecological crises, and how they might be skilfully influenced.

 ...but hopefully not influenced like this...

- Extinction Rebellion Buddhists bring transport to a stop in London

- London Buddhists close train stations


It's debatable whether preventing hot and tired commuters going home at the end of the working day is the most skilfull way to to win friends and influence people.  In fact, the London campaign reeks of ego-tripping and virtue-signalling.


Perhaps the the most perversely counterproductive of all the attention-seekers in the London campaign are those Buddhists who are trying to bring the London underground railway to a standstill by climbing on top of the trains. 
They seem to have little or no understanding of the carbon dioxide problem and its solutions.
 
In their arrogance and ignorance, they are hitting the wrong target. They would be far more effective if they went to a motorway truckstop and signalled their virtue to the diesel-driving truckers by climbing on top of their cabs, because…

- The London underground railway is one of the least polluting transport systems in the world. 

- It produces no emissions of itself, and gets its power from the British electricity network, which is making rapid progress towards carbon neutrality .


- The rolling resistance of steel wheel on steel rail is only a fraction of that of rubber on road, so rail transport is always going to be more energy-efficient than road. 


- Many London underground stations are designed with their station tracks higher than their running tracks. Hence the trains naturally slow down on the rising gradient as they approach, and accelerate by gravity as they depart, thus saving energy which would otherwise be lost in braking.

- As a further bonus, electric trains are able to use regenerative braking, which means that when they need to slow down, they reconfigure their motors into generators and send power back into the system for other trains to use.

We all know we need to change. But let's give the hysteria and polarising confrontation a rest, so we can present a workable way forward in a rational manner.  The engineering solutions are all there (visible even in the mundane setting of the London Underground, if you observe it when it's not being disrupted), they just have to be applied more widely.  


The last thing we need is self-righteous wokespersons sabotaging a low-emission transport system to disrupt the lives of what they disdainfully regard as deplorable proles, then claiming it's done in the name of Buddha.   



Saturday, 15 February 2020

Mind is its own cause

ouroboros loop

Following on from the previous article on the repeated failures to produce mind from machines (Artificial Intelligence or AI), Paul Kieniewicz at the Scientific and Medical Network  offers an additional explanation why AI is bound to fail.  It is because the mind is self-causing:  

'...Another curiosity about consciousness is that it is its own cause. Koch provides a metaphor to explain this. In Plato’s dialogue with the ‘stranger from Elea’, the argument is made that for something to exist, it must affect something else, or be affected by something else.

But consciousness is not like this (paranormal powers excepted). We feel sure it exists but it doesn’t appear to cause anything, nor can anyone else observe it. Unless it is its own cause — consciousness arises from and ends in consciousness, like an ouroboros loop.

According to Koch, the basic circuitry of computers and AI systems do not have this feature. This suggests that machines, unlike the human mind,  cannot create a whole picture and therefore can never be conscious. The conclusion is similar to Penrose’s in The Emperor’s New Mind, where he points out that the feature of self-reference of the mind poses an insurmountable problem for computer algorithms...'

 

This is very similar to the Kadampa Buddhist teaching that the main cause of mind is the previous moment of mind:  'A non-material phenomenon with the power to cognize objects cannot arise from insentient matter, nor can it arise from no cause; the only thing it can arise from is another non-material phenomenon with the power to cognize objects – i.e. a previous moment of mind.' from http://www.aboutreincarnation.org/consciousness.php/

See also

https://kadampalife.org/2014/11/23/are-you-a-traveler-where-are-you-bound-rebirth-part-1/


Thursday, 13 February 2020

BUDDHIST TOLERANCE


From Lankaweb  by Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

'...The Buddha Dhamma is described as ehipassiko, inviting one to come and see for himself. There is no concept of coercion or proselytization in Buddhism. Buddha taught the importance of patience, tolerance, and non-aggression, providing a splendid ideal of tolerance for Buddhists to follow. There is not a single occasion in the Buddhist scriptures of the Buddha being less than compassionate, not only to those who accepted his teachings but also to the followers of all faiths, not only to the good but also to the wicked, not only to humans but also to animals and to all living beings. In striking contrast to the spread of other world religions, which are replete with unethical and forcible conversions and sectarian strife, the history of Buddhism is remarkable for the complete absence of bloodshed in the name of the teacher.

Buddhism started to enjoy a strong interest from the general population in the West during the 20th century, following the perceived failure of social utopias including the conventional religions of the West. After the Second World War, the focus of progress tended to shift to personal self-realization, on the material as well as spiritual plane. In this context, Buddhism has been displaying a strong power of attraction, due to its tolerance, its lack of theistic authority and determinism, and its focus on understanding reality through self-inquiry. According to the latest census it is now the fastest growing religion in several countries in the Western world...'

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Sunday, 2 February 2020

Tantra and Identity



The Real You


Following on from the article on Queen Madālasā’s advice to her young son on not identifying with his identity, Jan Willis has some interesting comments on the liberating effects of tantra on self-constructed or externally imposed identities in this Tricycle article:

‘...According to Buddhist tantra, we remain trapped within a circle of dissatisfaction because our view of reality is narrow and suffocating. We hold onto a very limited and limiting view of who we are and what we can become, with the result that our self-image remains oppressively low and negative, and we feel quite inadequate and hopeless. As long as our opinion of ourselves is so miserable, our life will remain meaningless.


One of the essential practices at all levels of tantra is to dissolve our ordinary conceptions of ourselves and then, from the empty space into which these concepts have disappeared, arise in the glorious light body of a deity: a manifestation of the essential clarity of our deepest being. The more we train to see ourselves as such a meditational deity, the less bound we feel by life’s ordinary disappointments and frustrations. This divine self-visualization empowers us to take control of our life and create for ourselves a pure environment in which our deepest nature can be expressed. . . . It is a simple truth that if we identify ourselves as being fundamentally pure, strong, and capable we will actually develop these qualities, but if we continue to think of ourselves as dull and foolish, that is what we will become.


The health of body and mind is primarily a question of our self-image. Those people who think badly of themselves, for whatever reasons, become and then remain miserable, while those who can recognize and draw on their inner resources can overcome even the most difficult situations. Deity-yoga is one of the most profound ways of lifting our self-image, and that is why tantra is such a quick and powerful method for achieving the fulfillment of our tremendous potential... ‘  


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