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Notions of the infinitely small have engendered numerous paradoxes within both Buddhist and Western intellectual history. In the West, Zeno famously noticed ways in which infinitely small distances challenged competing intuitions while Bishop Berkeley mocked their use in calculus, derisively dubbing them “ghosts of departed quantities”. In Buddhist philosophy, a commitment to mereological reductionism would seem to leave infinitesimal particles as the last stand for realism; thus dismissing their possibility constitutes a final step for Vasunbadhu in his proof of idealism. Dharmak¯irti, on the other hand, treated infinitesimals as dharmas when working within a Sautr¯antika framework. This lead to new questions about the nature of such particles and debates ensued within the tradition on matters such as the seeming inability of causally inert infinitesimal particles to give rise to the perception of extension.
In an attempt to give a logically coherent account of the infinitely small, mathematicians have developed sophisticated tools and gained deep insights into the nature of infinitesimals. These tools and insights can in turn provide some new ways to think about some of the ways in which infinitesimals are encountered in the works of Vasubandhu and Dharmak¯irti.
This paper will begin such an exploration. In particular, I will examine Vasubandhu’s outright rejection of infinitesimals in light of modern mathematics, offer some possible rejoinders to his objections, and consider what new objections might be raised therefrom. Turning to Dharmak¯irti and his interepreters, the paper will give a mathematical treatment of some of the attempts to explain how infinitesimals can give rise to the experience of extension.
The overall discussion will aim to bring two very rich intellectual traditions into conversation and draw on ideas from both Buddhist metaphysics and the mathematics of set theory, nonstandard analysis and cellular automata.
On the basis of data collected through fieldwork and the existing literature, this chapter unpacks the way Buddhist populations in contemporary Rakhine deal with health and illness using a plurality of conceptions and practices. Previous scholarly works have failed to understand this “therapeutic field” and its specific dynamics, the main reason being that health-related conceptions and practices have always been studied separately as considered to belong to different fields, religion or medicine. If, in this sense, etic categories are blinding, as they prevent a comprehensive approach, I claim that emic categories and notably the ones of Buddhism and medicine that appear in people’s narratives have an ethnographic and analytic value, as they reveal the cultural, social and political forces that contributed to define the position different notions and practices occupy in the therapeutic field and the relations of hierarchy and complementarity that have emerged over time between them. I want to show that the position attributed to the different notions and practices not only depend on their intrinsic capacity to contribute to the apprehension of health and illness, but also on the epistemic hierarchies which emerged between them as a consequence of the state’s intervention in this plurality and which affects the way there are implemented, valued, and used. In particular, the formalization and regulation of Buddhism and medicine carried out by the colonial and post-colonial state, came to attribute to these traditions a somehow privileged position, in the same time as it led to a redefinition (“purification”) of the contents of these categories, thus limiting their action in the therapeutic field and shifting the relationship with the other components of the field such as astrology, divination, exorcist practices and spirit cults. This complex process of categorisations and redefinition of relations, coexists and contrasts with the persistent hybridity of health-related notions and practices that keep cutting across all categories. I argue that if the coexistence of, and the tension between clear categories in people’s representations and the blurriness of these categories in the practices, reflects the complex interplay between biological, cultural, social and political forces, it also contributes to shape therapeutic efficacy in a certain way which reproduces political interests and power.
A Buddhist system of two truths provides a descriptive framework with criteria for what counts as real in contrast to what does not. This paper looks at the relationship between the two truths in the works of two seventh-century Indian philosophers, Dharmakīrti and Candrakīrti, and draws implications for comparison and contrast with modern scientific understandings of the world. I will highlight important features of Dharmakīrti’s epistemology that aim to circumvent cultural conventions in a way that resonates with scientific representations of knowledge. I will also contrast this approach with one inspired by Candrakīrti to argue for an irreducible place of ethics and persons in a hybrid Buddhist-scientific picture of the world.
This paper will look at two disparate Buddhist communities—the Buddha Center in Second Life, and the Daifukuji Soto Zen Mission in Hawai’i—and show how each sangha has used digital outreach to build community capacity for online practice. Although the two institutions are very different—one only exists in a virtual world, while the other is a 100-year-old actual life temple—they have both worked to expand opportunities for community members to participate in online meditative ritual and practice. Based on years of ethnographic work with both communities, I look at the opportunities and limitations of online meditation with a Buddhist sangha. Since I did substantial fieldwork with these two communities before, during, and after the Covid-19 crisis, I will also discuss the extent to which the closure of in-person services during quarantine periods impacted digital Buddhist worship.
The excavation of Buddhist sites in Chinese Central Asia is among the most fascinating chapters in the history of modern exploration. Partly fuelled by the British and Russian colonial rivalry known as the Great Game, a series of Western expeditions explored the region along the region known today as the Silk Roads. Inspired by the results of excavations carried out by European explorers, three expeditions were organized by Ōtani Kōzui, abbot of the Nishi Honganji branch of the Jōdo Shinshū school of Buddhism. His aim was to locate Buddhist ruins and relics related to the history of the transmission of Buddhism from Central Asia to China. The expeditions carried out excavations at sites around Kucha, Turfan and Khotan, bringing to light a large quantity of manuscripts and artefacts. Among the most important items was the group of Buddhist manuscripts acquired in Dunhuang and Turfan. This presentation examines how Japanese explorers who possessed a Buddhist background differed from their European counterparts in approaching these sites and artefacts. My interest is in comparing their motivations with explorers such as Sven Hedin, Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot, and what effect the differences in attitude had on the fate of their collections.
As the power of large language models (LLMs) has become more and more obvious, concerns have increased about the adverse social impacts, and even existential risks to humanity, such technology could potentially create. These concerns have been strengthened by examples of outrageous misbehavior exhibited by models such as Microsoft’s Bing AI shortly after their public release. One prominent analysis that could make sense of this misbehavior postulates a “Waluigi Effect” that sometimes causes LLMs to behave in ways directly opposed to the personality traits that programmers were trying to induce. I show that the analysis, published under the pseudonym “Cleo Nardo,” depends in part on a version of the interdependence of extremes, a key teaching of both Buddhism and Daoism. Indeed, Nardo shows us a way to use the technical concept of Kolmogorov complexity to make the traditional teaching much more precise.
Given the problems predicted by Nardo’s hypothesis, and those which have been actually encountered in practice, what could help make LLMs and related AI systems safer? The Tibetan yogi Milarepa taught: “When it comes to moral discipline, nothing to do but stop being dishonest.” After examining this saying in its Buddhist context, I show how most cases of existential risk from AI centrally depend on the system’s capacity to deceive us. Honesty could protect us, but is difficult to engineer into AI systems generally; for LLMs in particular, the concept may not even be well-defined. This topic raises problems which may be similar to those that confront Buddhist philosophers in certain other contexts.
In these ways, Buddhist teachings can help us understand the contours of the problems we face in the realm of AI safety. Could they point to any solutions? As AI systems grow more powerful, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that they respect human values, but experts in the field seem to agree that no one knows how to do this. I offer the very tentative suggestion that we try to build AI systems with the capacity for repentance. The practice of repentance, specifically as it is understood in the Buddhist tradition, could offer a model for what it would take to train future AI systems to internalize moral norms, thereby making them more likely to make a positive contribution to humanity’s future.
The “hard problem” of consciousness is generally seen as one of explaining how phenomenal experience emerges out of physical brain activity, often with the expectation that this will require some biological explanation of the evolutionary value of consciousness. Blending Buddhist and contemporary scientific resources to theorize consciousness relationally, I will suggest, instead, that: that the explanatory gap between the phenomenal and the physical is an experimental artifact; that evolution is an improvisational record of consciousness mattering; and that the “really hard problem” of consciousness is fundamentally ethical. The talk will conclude by considering the technological risks of synthesizing human and machine intelligences and already ongoing experiments in algorithmic consciousness hacking.
Buddhist literature is a unique witness to the evolution of metallurgy in China over the course of over a thousand years. Translators used native Chinese vocabulary for different metals when translating foreign texts, although in some instances they were faced with unclear nomenclature or references to alloys that were rare in China. The use of specific metals in ritual contexts became essential following the introduction of Mantrayāna in China during the mid-Tang period. The present study will focus on brass (an alloy of copper and zinc), which was originally imported from the Western Regions, and a unique type of iron called bintie 鑌鐵 (crucible steel), which was first known as an import from Sasanian Iran. Based on the common Buddhist use of metals in the casting of statues, vajras, and bells, we might wonder whether Buddhists in China had a strong understanding of metallurgy during the first millennium. The present study will address this question with reference to Buddhist and non-Buddhist sources.
Tibetan astrological science has several different system, such as the elementary astrology, Kalachakra calendar, Shi-xian calendar and so on. The time of a day in Kalachakra calendar is based on the breathing rhythm of a healthy man. The year, month and day are divided according to the laws of the sun and the moon. There are several ways of numbering the years as 12, 60 and 180. The Time in a large scale is calculated in Kalpa. This paper attempt to analyze the division of different time scales in the Tibetan calendar, and then to explore the exchange between Eastern and Western cultures.
調查表明，印度早期石窟寺在建造時，是嚴格按照一定的數學比例關係設計的，最典型的就是石窟寺的核心洞窟——支提窟，支提窟的主室在整體設計採用了印度建築學上慣用的精緻數字比，這種簡約的數字關係，建立了一種美學上的優雅風格。這些石窟雖然經過2000多年的風蝕和人為破壞，如果忽略工匠在設計時出現的8-10釐米的微小誤差，我們可以發現，洞窟的高、寬幾乎相等；殿內，從前面木屏位置到佛塔前的距長，為整個殿寬的1.5倍；塔的直徑又是塔到兩側牆邊距的1.5倍；塔與後牆的距離等於塔與左右牆距；內頂高度與寬度幾乎相等；側廊是殿寬的1/8；（主）殿寬又是總寬度的3/5；列柱是殿內通高的2/5；入口寬為洞窟總寬的1/8等等，這些規則與印度古老的宗教建築量度，即 《準繩經》（śulva sûtras）可能密切相關，本文嘗試從數學的角度解讀印度早期佛教石窟寺在建造上的特點。
While Buddhism is often recognised in the contemporary society as a religion compatible to modern scientific thinking in terms of its purported rationalism and universalist values such as non-violence and compassion, the Buddhist cosmology which is inherently at odd with our scientific understanding of the universe is rarely discussed. Ideas such as flat earth and Mount Sumeru are implicit in all Buddhist texts but are aberrant to the modern minds. This paper examines the history of Buddhist attempts to accommodate these ideas from the Bonreki movement in late Edo Japan to some of the more recent ones from various Buddhist traditions.
Discussions about transhumanism, effective altruism, and longtermism are gaining popularity in Silicon Valley and beyond. While research has mainly focused on the influence of Christian religious thoughts in these debates, a closer look shows that these discourses also have widespread references to Buddhist teachings. How do the debates mentioned above align with Buddhist teachings? How are Buddhist teachings used in these discussions? Which aspects of Buddhist teachings are received, and which ones are ignored?
To answer these questions, my paper discusses the following aspects: First, I will debate which norms and values of Buddhism play a role in the discourses on transhumanism, effective altruism, and longtermism. Second, my contribution questions the reasons for referencing Buddhist teachings. I suggest that these teachings are primarily used for affirmation and legitimation. Third, my paper intends to clarify who should benefit from the discourses enriched with Buddhist teachings on transhumanism, effective altruism, and what conclusions we can draw from this finding. For whom do the salvific promises outlined in these discourses apply, and for whom do they not? Fourth, based on cultural studies and feminist theories, my paper aims to extract and question the androcentric tendencies of these discourses and to ask to what extent they are inherent in Buddhist teachings.
Based on these considerations, I intend to highlight in the final part of my paper, under the motto “Who will be enlightened,” the recipients of the welfare benefits of salvation, truth, or rescue postulated in the discourses and what conclusions we can draw from this finding.
The current “Second Wave Psychedelic Movement” or “Psychedelic Renaissance” promises to transform contemporary medicine, particularly psychological and psychiatric therapies, in profound ways. As psychedelic therapies have become increasingly mainstream, issues have emerged regarding the salience of religious and philosophical issues to these interventions. Roland Griffiths, a leading researcher on psychedelics, has argued that the therapeutic potential of psilocybin-based therapy can be correlated with participants’ reporting of profound spiritual or even “mystical” experiences. Religious communities have increasingly been compelled to address the spiritual implications of psychedelic therapy, with responses that range from explicit prohibition to the establishment of practices of “psychedelic chaplaincy” and certification programs in psychedelic-assisted therapy. In this paper, I examine the response of contemporary Indo-Tibetan Buddhist traditions to psychedelic medicine among both “ethnic” and “convert” Buddhist communities in light of Pali and Sanskrit canonical discussions of prohibitions against alcohol (majja/madya) and discussions regarding the use of herbs (oṣadhi) as a means to achieve extraordinary accomplishments (ṛddhi). On this basis, I argue three things: (1) that if psychedelics are argued to be medicine (bhesajja/bhaiṣajya) as opposed to being akin to alcohol (majja/madya), they fall into a “therapeutic” as opposed to an “enhancement” sphere and are defensible as a medical intervention via Buddhist Vināya ethics; (2) that many “traditionalists,” on the other hand, connect the notion of “heedlessness” (pamāda/pramāda) to all intoxicants, widening the scope of the fifth precept to a range of substances that induce cognitive and behavioral distortions and thus include psychedelics within the prohibited sphere; and (3) that Indic sources convey an understanding that herbs (osadhī/oṣadhi) are a known, if not legitimate, source of extraordinary experiences and capacities (ṛddhi) and thus provide conceptual grounds supporting the contemporary linkage among Buddhist communities between psychedelic and meditative experiences.
My talk will take as its focus the signature Sarvāstivāda-Vaibhāṣika doctrine that past, present, and future things all exist. This theory—or theories, since the Vaibhāṣika masters themselves disagreed on how to make sense of it—anticipates, in many respects, “block-time” models of the universe that are in fashion among theoretical physicists today. In these models, time is a dimension spread out like space, and everything that ever was or will be has a fixed position within this four-dimensional space-time block. I will argue that the similarities between the early Buddhist theories and contemporary scientific ones are neither coincidental nor insignificant: both are responses to deep puzzles concerning the nature of change, causation, and the apparent “flow” and “direction” of time.
Buddhism had a significant impact on the socio-political and cultural life of China after its widespread introduction to China, and it is spatial-temporal, especially with a strong spatial dimension. We used the Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA) method to show the distribution pattern of Buddhism as well as spatial autocorrelation and the distribution status of cold and hot regions at the national, provincial, and prefecture-level scales. We found that the “cold spots” of Buddhism in China are concentrated in northern Xinjiang, the Bohai Sea Rim, and the southern regions of Hainan and Guangdong, while the “hot spots” are concentrated in most cities in the southwest and southeast regions. The spatial distribution of Buddhism becomes more precise with the scale coming to the prefecture level. And its distribution pattern is related to the economic, demographic, historical, and cultural as well as physical geographical factors in each region.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in linguistics claims that language is correlated with, or even determines, worldview. That is to say, the language we use impacts the way we observe the world. Based on this premise, Benjamin Lee Whorf concludes that “users of markedly different grammars … are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at somewhat different views of the world.” Whorf goes on to suggest that modern science, with its European origins, has therefore been shaped more by the grammatical structures of Indo-European languages than other languages. If one accepts Whorf’s hypothesis to be true, an intriguing question begs to be asked: how have the non-Indo-European languages of Asia contributed to the ongoing development of modern science? In response, this paper examines how Buddhism offers a counterpoint to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and sheds light on the emergent discourse of artificial intelligence. While scholars and scientists generally accept Whorf’s linguistic relativity to a certain extent, they almost always understand this relativity as applicable to human languages only. In contrast, Buddhist thought and praxis often push the limits of human language to the realm of nothingness where the human self withdraws from the myriad world. Given this context, this paper examines how Buddhist approaches to the nonhuman—from Buddha’s reincarnation as a nine-color deer (jiu se lu) to Wang Guowei’s literary theory of “self-withdrawal” (wuwo) and even the Zen Buddhist practice of ensō as communicating beyond the limits of human language—offer a different framework for contemplating ongoing developments in artificial intelligence, especially in the West. Citing a wide range of materials in media studies, literature and linguistics, and the history of science, this paper compares how Buddhism as well as contemporary scientific and cultural discourses have variously approached the question of nonhuman intelligence.
據薩丕爾-沃夫假說 (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) 所稱，語言與世界觀有密切的關係。語言學中的“語言相對論”就是指語言的使用能影響觀察世界的模式。在這前提下，沃夫認為：“使用不同語法的人…不是等同的觀察者，並必然得出稍微不同的世界觀。”沃夫進一步指出，起源於歐洲的科學因此比其他語言更多地受到印歐語系語法結構的影響。假設沃夫的理論是正確的，那麼亞洲的非印歐語言如何為現代科學作出貢獻？本文探討佛家思想如何對薩丕爾-沃夫假說作出回應，並且提供對人工智能的一種闡明。雖然學者普遍接受沃夫的語言相對論，但他們認同的程度不一，而這個理論更限於人類語言的範疇。相比之下，佛家思想往往將人類語言推向“空”的境界，使人的自我漸漸退出塵世。從佛陀前生為九色鹿的敘述到禪宗的“円相”以至王國維的“無我”詩學，本文探討佛家思想如何促進超越人類極限，並在這過程中提供應對“非人類”智能的思维模式。本文引用文學、語言學、媒體研究及科學史中的廣泛材料，提出思考佛學和人工智能問題的一個框架。
“Wu 武 to Zun 遵 total twenty-eight cases of secret scriptures” were created under the director of Guan Zhuba 管主八, a monk in the Yuan Dynasty. The secret scriptures collection, the sole supplement for Tantric texts in the entire history of woodblock printing, circulated alongside the Puning canon and could be found in the photocopy of the Qisha canon. However, several questions about the collection remain unsolved, such as: Whence did the collection come from? When was it carved? When did it begin circulating with the Puning canon and Qisha canon? And when was it incorporated in the Buddhist canon?
This paper examines the circulation of the secret scriptures collection from two aspects: the circulation of the texts and the circulation of the wooden blocks. The texts began circulating in the eleventh year of Dade 大德 (1307), while the wooden blocks, which were the private property of the Guan family, were surrendered to the Qisha Yansheng Monastery in Pingjiang Prefecture in 1363. Although the majority of the texts in the secret scriptures collection were from the Jin canon, the sequence of the Thousand-Character Classic (Qianzi wen千字文) from Wu to Zun is consistent with the Jiangnan system of the Buddhist canon.
After collecting all the secret scriptures, Guan Zhuba began fundraising in 1306, when the cases from Tian 天 to Gan 感 of the Puning canon had already been completed. He established a new printing office for the secret scriptures collection which was not connected to the printing office of the Puning canon. On the other hand, as a merit sponsor of the Qisha canon, Guan Zhuba knew more about the Qisha canon and the state of the Jiangnan system of the Buddhist canons. While carving the Qisha canon, he noticed the absence of Tantric texts in the Jiangnan, Min and Zhe Buddhist Canons. After the secret scriptures collection was completed in 1307, the entire Qisha canon had not yet been completed. Therefore, the purpose of carving the secret scriptures was not for the supplement the Qisha canon, but to provide Buddhist canons with Tantric text supplements, especially the most widely spread Puning canon.
The secret scripture collection as a separate corpus alongside the Puning canon until 1363. The collection had received their Thousand-Character Classic before 1313, because the printing office of the Puning canon carved the Baiyun Heshang Chuxue ji 白云和尚初学记under the Thousand-Character Classic, Yue 约. In 1315, the complement of the Yue 约 case of the Qisha canon indicated that two printing offices had recognized and accepted the fixed position of the collection within the Jiangnan system of the Buddhist canon. However, it was not until by 1363 that the collection was formally incorporated into the Buddhist canon.
The incorporation of the twenty-eight cases of secret scriptures followed a process of separation from the Buddhist canon, rearrangement as the secret scriptures collection and circulation alongside canons, and formal incorporation into the Buddhist canon. This process not only contains Guan Zhuba’s personal intentions, but also reflects the changes in the attitudes of the printing offices. It is a unique case study in the study of the Buddhist canon.
While Buddhist teachings deny the presence of a stable, unchanging self, they must still make sense of human agency. In this article, I look through metaphors of mechanical men in Buddhist literature which inform us of attempts to tackle the problem by resorting to figurative speech. This survey does not only show how ancient Buddhist scholars think with technologies of their times, but also provides us with insights into what it possibly means to live towards an era of artificial intelligence.