Photo by PatrizioYoga.
Buddhism, Science and Technology:
Challenges to Religions from a Digitalized World
August 9 to 12, 2023
Hong Kong, China
Sponsored by the Glorisun Charity Foundation, this conference is administered by the Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies (https://glorisunglobalnetwork.org) and FROGBEAR (www.frogbear.org) at the University of British Columbia, and hosted by the University of Hong Kong. It will take place from August 9 to August 12, 2023 in Hong Kong.
Buddhism and Science represent two drastically different spheres that differ in their goals, the approaches to achieving the goals, and their impacts on the world. In its early form, Buddhism sought, above all, liberation from the cycle of existences and the attainment of the ultimate truth. Later in Mahāyāna Buddhism, the goals extended to cultivating compassion and benefiting all sentient beings. In contrast, science develops by inquiring objectively about the world and by advancing technologies. Its central tenets are empiricism and a kind of epistemology firmly rooted in logics. Its goal is to explain the unknown world and to bring material advancement to human societies. It is marked by its ‘verifiability’ and it evolves by constantly verifying hypotheses through trials and errors.
In history, however, the relationship between science, technology and Buddhism has in fact been a symbiotic one. For instance, in Indian Buddhism, Buddhist monastics played not only the role of the ‘healer’ of the mind, but also that of the body. Likewise, in medieval Chinese Buddhism, Buddhist medicine contributed to the treatment of tropical disease. Moreover, as Buddhism spread to China, it carried with it the knowledge of Indian mathematics, astrology, calendrical calculation, surgery, and chemistry, all of which expanded the horizon of Chinese science. The Tang-Dynasty Buddhist Yixing 一行 (683-727), for instance, is not only a Buddhist master but also a calendrical mathematician. Similarly, the invention of gun powder was also contributed by Buddhists, while the advent of woodblock printing was likewise facilitated by the need of Buddhists to widely distribute Buddhist texts. At the same time, Chinese Buddhism spread abroad through the efforts of Buddhist missionaries such as Jianzhen 鑑真 (688-763) who notably not only brought Vinaya but also Chinese culture and technologies to Japan. These imports would then exercise indelible influences in Japanese civilization.
Buddhism and science both emphasize observation and empirical verification as the way of deriving knowledge. Science does so through experimentation, while Buddhists seek truths through meditation and mindfulness. Despite their different approaches, both Buddhism and science aim to solve questions of existential import, with some scientific research even affirming, to certain extent, Buddhist answers to these questions.
Separation between Buddhism and science is a late-modern invention. It came about after the Industrial Revolution that saw an ever finer splitting of disciplines and social labors. Science and Buddhism are thereby relegated to two distinct spheres and are sometimes even portrayed as in opposition. In reality, Buddhism and science have been complementary throughout history. Even now, Buddhism could still inform science where the latter falls short, especially with regard to the challenges that accompany the trend of globalization and the rampant development of technology. These include the challenges posed by AI for the fate of the humanity, population explosion and environmental pollution. We propose the following non-exhaustive list of topics for this conference:
- Buddhism and medicine;
- Buddhism and mathematics;
- Buddhism and astronomy;
- Buddhism and calendrical calculation;
- Buddhism and printing;
- Buddhism and scientific and technological revolutions;
- Buddhism and cross-cultural transmission of science;
- Buddhism and Artificial Intelligence.
Call for Proposals
The organizing committee for the international conference on “Buddhism, Science and Technology: Challenges to Religions from a Digitalized World” cordially invites the submission of related papers.
The committee welcomes any papers related to the theme of the formation, translation, and transmission of Buddhist texts. All associated costs, including room and board during the conference, will be covered by the host institutions. Depending on necessity and the availability of funding, some travel cost may also be covered. Please email proposals and CVs to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15, 2023. Scholars confident of completing the draft papers by mid-July and finalizing their papers by mid-November 2023 are welcome to apply.
This conference is planned as part of our annual International and Intensive Program on Buddhism.