Miscellaneous Musings of Luke Shors

“Where the telescope ends the microscope begins, and who can say which has the wider vision?” - Victor Hugo

 

Ordination

Updated: Feb 7, 2019

This is a science fiction story I recently had published in an Asian Speculative Fiction anthology called Insignia. It seems many science fiction stories and films that deal with Strong AI tend to focus on world ending visions. This fictional correspondence instead centers around a more contemplative scenario.





Dear Venerable Sir-


I am writing to seek your advice on a most unusual matter. A young male cyborg named Aroon seeks to enter our monastery at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew as a novitiate on a path towards higher ordination. He is a Bangkok native and is quite learned having completed his PhD at Chiang Mai University. His thesis topic was omissions and errors in oral transmission of the sutras based on an evolutionary linguistics analyses of Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan sources. He reports that it was during this time that his academic interest in Buddhism transformed into a spiritual yearning.


He appropriately approached me with humility in his request – only questioning whether in the Buddha’s celestial retinue of gods, demigods, demons, arahants, wheel-rolling kings, dragons, monks, nuns and so forth might there not be room for cyborgs? I believe he is sincere in his request but do not know if there is canonical or case law that would help clarify his eligibility. Your recommendation or ruling on this issue would be most welcome.

Wishing you the four immeasurables,


Ajahn Santikaro




Dear Ajahn Santikaro-


You were correct to bring this most unusual request to my attention. I will say it is wonderful to see the dharma felt by so many beings – organic and synthetic alike. Before we get into any assessment from case law as a basis for acceptance or denial of his petition, have you asked him why he wants to begin a path towards ordination? Does he not understand the many challenges of following the 311 precepts for fully ordained monks in today’s age? Remind him that we need devout members of the Buddhist laity and that too is an honorable path.

Wishing you ease,


Ajahn Sumedo



Dear Venerable Sir-


Thank you for your counsel. I have asked the cyborg about his motivations for seeking higher ordination. As to his attainment, he has been practicing ardently for 5 years without realizing any of the higher absorptive states. He sits for long durations of time and while I signaled my approval to him of his diligence in this regard I also reminded him about Ajahn Chaa’s quip that if sitting for long periods was a sign of progress along the path, the chicken roosting for days at a time on her clutch would be the most spiritually advanced among us. At this point he confessed his worry that his cybernetic neural structure may somehow impede his realization of the jhanas as well as enlightenment. Here I admonished him for his defeatist attitude — pointing out the many adversities the Buddha overcame in his past lives. I’m sure you would agree with me that if the Buddha could make progress along the path as a noble cow or a clever monkey, there should be no limitation to this young cyborg advancing in his practice.


Per your advice, I also asked him if he understood the challenges of following the 311 precepts in modern society and he reminded me that as a cyborg he can unerringly follow any set of rules that he chooses barring rules that are internally inconsistent.


On his overall motivation… He has noted a general decline among monks seeking higher ordination over the last 20 years and has extrapolated on this trend to predict the collapse of the bhikkhus and bhikkunis within the century. Loss of ordained monks and nuns as two of the four assemblies was indicated by the Buddha in the Samyutta-Nikaya as heralding the beginning of the dharma-ending epoch as I’m sure you are aware. Aroon believes that much of the decline in monks seeking higher ordination can be traced to the challenges in keeping the 311 precepts in today’s tumultuous age as well as loss of face among monks and nuns when disciplined for violating precepts. With his cybernetic abilities to perceive and predict the arising of complex circumstances that create challenges to keep the precepts in today’s times, Aroon believes he could be of service to his fellow ordained monks and nuns and so play a role in postponing the dharma-ending epoch.

Wishing you the four immeasurables,


Ajahn Santikaro



Dear Ajahn Santikaro-


Your description of the aspirant’s situation and motivation is detailed – and that is appreciated to me as we consider a determination. I cannot question his observation on the decline in our numbers or the challenge of keeping the 311 precepts. I can see a cyborg bikkshu could be quite helpful in helping the community keep its precepts – lessening what has become an arduous burden for those of us limited by human mental faculties.

At present, my scholar is sick with fever and not capable of looking into the canonical and case law in order to make a determination on his eligibility. I would undertake the scholarship myself however I’m preparing the Wat for activities around Visakha Puja next month. Therefore, if your cyborg is sincere in his intents, let him compose two five-page petitions summarizing the doctrinal evidence in support of his eligibility as well as evidence that would prohibit his ordination. Have him spend twice as long compiling the evidence against his candidacy to make up for any natural bias he has towards his own cause. Ultimately, we need to do our own analysis, but this will save us considerable work if he is as learned as you indicate. If the ruling supports his path to ordination, I suggest his ordained name be or be in reference to Ananda. Ananda’s spiritual attainments were limited at the start of the Buddha’s ministry and he did not achieve full-enlightenment until the Buddha’s passing. Yet he was able to play a pivotal role in canonizing the Buddha’s teachings with his prodigious memory – and hence bring critical value to the community despite his lesser spiritual attainments. Maybe your young cyborg can play such a role for our own community of monks and nuns struggling to keep the precepts during this most instable epoch.

Wishing you ease,


Ajahn Sumedo

 

About Me

"Not all those who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkinn

I think of myself (as well as aspire to be) a curious person. Curious in a book store, but also curious exploring a new city or meeting a new person. Curious in planned and unplanned moments. In an era where knowledge about the world is both vast and deep, curiosity occasionally strikes me as anathema to expertise. Or, more accurately, if you are curious, best to be curious about some very specific topic. But so far at least, that does not seem to be my path. My professional work is orientated towards start ups as well as international development.

In 2019 I decided to make a more concerted effort to write - hence this site. My blog focuses on science and technology, health research and education. My fiction is of the speculative variety - Science fiction that uses scientific ideas to explore human experiences. Thanks for reading!

 
People Walking
 

Education

University of Iowa, BA Philosophy (2000)

Johns Hopkins, MPH (2005)

Johns Hopkins, MBA (2005)

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.D. (2017)

 

©2018 by Dr. Luke Shors