Stephen Hawking’s most important message

Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant physicists ever to have lived, used to publicly say this every year or two, because it is perhaps the most important thing humanity should be doing but is only barely/slowly doing. Now that he is gone, I’ll repeat it: for the survival of our species, humans really need to leave this tiny, fragile little planet as quickly as possible. At national and global levels, instead of putting resources into fighting with each other and building things on this planet, we should be focusing on building space stations, fast ships, and colonies on other planets and in other solar systems. Currently, our entire species could be wiped out by global warming, over-population, nuclear war, one large epidemic, asteroid, solar flare, and on and on. We need to go and spread out, now.

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The hells of strong emotion

Here are two early Buddhist quotes I don’t often hear in today’s entertainment-saturated, militaristic societies:

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel’s Sanctuary.

Then Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?” …

[The Buddha replied:] Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,’ that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb. … (Samyutta Nikaya 42.2)

Similarly about soldiers:

“Then Yodhajiva[1] the headman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of warriors that ‘When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?” …

[The Buddha replied:] When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: ‘May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.’ If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: ‘When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,’ that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb. … (Samyutta Nikaya 42.3)

Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

(video)

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done
Another year over, and a new one just begun …

A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear …

War is over … if you want it, war is over … now!”

Changing (how) the world (works)

People don’t really want the world to change; the world changes on its own incessantly, which is the cause of most/all suffering in the world (i.e., whatever one builds or gets attached-to in this world is inevitably destroyed). People want to change *how* the natural, psychological, and social worlds work. For example, the human body and mind are frail, susceptible to disease, and short-lived, so people want to find ways of overcoming those problems. Walking, running, or using carts are too slow/weak and painful, so people invent transportation technologies. Crop yields are too low, so people do genetic and other agricultural engineering. Certain social structures/regimes that are currently in power are destroying the natural environment, causing wars, or allowing prejudiced or unequal treatment of people, so people want to change those regimes. And so forth. Humans rarely want to live in their natural state.

Legalized mass murder

“I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder” (Harry Patch, the last surviving soldier of World War I).

The militarization of US children

There are so many ways in which US children, especially boys, are militarized or government-ized: playing war, childhood movies and TV that glorify either military-intelligence, violent conflict/force, or large governments (from my childhood: GI Joe, He-man, Conan the Barbarian, Kung Fu, Karate Kid, Superman, Iron Eagle, Flight of the Navigator, MacGyver, the A-Team, Rocky, Stargate, Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Files, War Games, wrestling, courtroom and cop shows…), air shows such as the Blue Angels, military displays and parades on holidays, marching bands and drum corps, watching NASA broadcasts in public schools, NORAD “tracking” Santa Claus at Christmas, saturation news coverage of the US’s frequent wars or glorification/justification of police violence on TV, the brutality of American football, and on and on.

Self-conquest

From the Buddhist Dhammapada (103), in Pali:

Yo sahassaṃ sahassena, saṅgāme mānuse jine;
Ekañca jeyyamattānaṃ, sa ve saṅgāmajuttamo.

Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men,
is he who would conquer just one — himself.

From the Jain Saman Suttam (125), in Ardhamāgadhī:

Jo sahassam sahassanam, samgame dujjae jine.
Egam jinejja appanam, esa se paramo jao.

One may conquer thousands and thousands of enemies in an invincible battle;
but the supreme victory consists in conquest over one’s self.

(Gautama Buddha and the Jain tīrthaṅkara, Mahavira, were contemporaries.)