Archive for the ‘Buddhism’ Category

The most beautiful temple in …Busan

October 22, 2012

I’m a little busy these days but promised a coworker pictures of Seokbulsa, which might be the most beautiful temple in Korea.  Yeah, the more I think about this, better I feel about this strong claim.

Having made the claim, I need to back away, at least as far as my photography requires.  I do intend to stitch some more photos together to improve some panoramas and these photos are stacked in a gallery so I can’t describe them properly at this time.  Someday (probably), I will do so.

I do need to say the one of the road is meant to explain the shortest route to the temple.  The guides I found as stated start at Exit 2 of mandeok Subway Station and “head toward the older tunnel”.  Perhaps a better suggestion would be to stick to the left side of the road and just go up.  The older tunnel is named, on the road itself, as ‘1 jeh’.

Its a steep hike, but pleasant.


Religion for Atheists

September 28, 2011

The Herald hosts an interview with Alain de Botton, who has recently authored a book, Religion for Atheists. With the understanding that my views are based solely on this interview and that I have not seen the book, I am at a loss for who he thinks his book is for.

Some excerpts:

“(My family thought) if you are intelligent, you believe in science. … And with respect to my parents, I nevertheless moved away from that position. And even though I am still an atheist, I am now much more sympathetic to many of the lessons and traditions of religion.”

The newly released Korean edition, published five months ahead of the English edition, is de Botton’s philosophical account on how “people who don’t believe in supernaturals” can also benefit and learn from religious teachings and practices.

“It’s my story in relation to religion even though I don’t actually discuss myself in it,” he said. “It is the personal journey of someone travelling in this unusual direction from complete atheism to respecting, not for the supernatural sides of religions, but the institutional, aesthetic, and educational side (of religions).” 

I am not convinced his view is so unusual.  Dawkins is on record as enjoying the singing of Christmas Carols.

I’m a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims.

“So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.

I personally enjoy visiting Buddhist temples and see real value in meditation and the way monks live their lives, without granting any credence to their claims of reincarnation.  I am hugely impressed with the way the Catholic church in Wilno, Ontario dominates the town.

I have frequently heard the strawman argument that atheists hate all that religion has made and it is not true at all.  Perhaps de Botton’s book will assist in explaining why not.

my new hero, Sohn Hong-shik

April 1, 2011

Mr Sohn has donated blood 600 times.

At first the math seemed hinky to me.  Further reading informed me:

In the early years, Sohn donated blood only once every two months, the shortest interval required between donations under law at the time in consideration of a donor’s health.

But advances in medical technology made it possible to draw only key elements of blood, such as platelet and plasma, from donors while putting much less stress on their bodies. Unlike whole blood donations, only two weeks is required between platelet or plasma donations.

I am surprised that he started donating when blood could be drawn every other month.  I started way back in the old days when you could donate only three or four times a year and I am nearly twenty years younger. Still, he has donated twenty-five times more than I have so I’m still impressed.

Foreigners can give blood in Korea but it takes a little work.

More on donating blood at Gangwon Notes: 1, 2, 3 and Buddhist monk donates blood and organs.

I want to agree with this guy, but…

March 22, 2011

Roar Sheppard (poor guy, his parents doomed him from the start) is a “New Humanity Culture leader” and director of the Overseas Seon Culture Life Museum.

In an article for the Korea Times, he writes about the earthquake in Japan and links it to other recent natural disasters.  Then:

I wanted to ask nature, what is the reason for abnormal conditions of the Earth to appear all of a sudden? This was the answer I received.

How can we say all of these are separate phenomena? The one organism, the Earth is showing the signs here and there. Human death and shortage of grains ― these are only the result. Take a look at the fundamentals that are giving rise to these.

What is the present condition of the Earth? When people and nature are uprooted from their homes like in Japan, swept away by extreme rains in Pakistan, how do you think the Earth feels which is the basis of all of these?


If you live on the Earth ― no ― if you are a being with a heart, when you stare at the Earth in this situation, you should wail. Are glaciers melting? Do you know what it will cause to the Earth? It means the immune system and basic circulation of the Earth is collapsing.

If your digestive system has a disorder even slightly, you can’t perform normal activity, can you? Even though the Earth has serious disorders in all of its organs, especially serious damage in essential organs, it is still circulating its blood here and there to send nutrition even now. That is nature.

I sorta agree that we need to take better care of the Earth, but even my so-common-it’s-cliched phrase bothers me.  Whatever happens to humans or living things, the Earth will be okay.  Well, as okay as any inanimate, non-responsive, non-thinking thing can be.  A big rock is okay, after all, even after you break it.  It is now in two pieces but the change doesn’t matters to the rock.

There are some useful lies out there.  Perhaps belief in Santa does make kids better behaved in December and the companies that make Christmas donations to charity might not if there were no Santa.

… I’ve decided to leave religion out of this argument as much as I can.  The author is director of a Buddhist organization so I have to bring it up but I guess I don’t need to connect it with useful lies.

Anyway, there are useful lies and metaphors can carry important ideas.  If we think of the Earth as a living thing that we need to better care for, perhaps we will behave better: we might, for example, work to reduce fossil-fuel use, fight acid rain and other forms of pollution, and be more careful of just how much we harvest out of the ocean.

So long as we keep in mind that we are only discussing a metaphor and not truly thinking of the Earth as sentient, I am satisfied.

However, Roar continues in the same vein and overworks the metaphor – if it is, indeed, a metaphor for him.  I do not believe it is.

However, it is not that the Earth will just watch humans do this forever, because the Earth also has to maintain its balance as a member of the universe.

The events happening now are nothing in fact. It’s already in the state where the balance has begun to crack, and the imbalance will only speed it up and the rate will get even faster.

Even though you know we are headed toward a cliff, we can say it’s a runaway car that cannot be stopped. Please understand the Earth’s situation where it has no choice but to take action.

I’ve questioned in the past whether I let Buddhism get away with such claims, as I do not offer such latitude in my consideration of Christian claims,  but this is far enough into the realm of science that reading it bugs me.  How much does it bug me?  Enough to break my nearly month-long silence on this blog, that’s how much!

Anyway, in addition to disliking Roar’s statements even as metaphor, I also dislike them if uncritically accepted.  I imagine an angry mob with pitchforks driving them into the ground while chanting, “Earthquake, huh?  Take that, jerk.”  After all, if we accept the Earth is actually deliberately quaking or that the previous quakes, and other entirely explainable-through-meteorology natural disasters were twitches of a waking beast and could deliberately quake again, we should obviously be ready to counter attack or try to blackmail the Earth into good behavior.

I am an environmentalist but I can only see improvement in our situation coming through better education, but nightmarish threats of the Earth itself fighting against us don’t help.