Extract from "Toward Sustainable Science"
A Buddhist look at trends in scientific development
P.A. Payutto was born in 1939 in Suphanburi Province, Thailand.
He became a novice at the age of 13, and while still a novice
completed the highest grade of Pali examination, an achievement
for which he was honoured with ordination as a monk under Royal
Patronage in 1961. After completing a degree in Buddhist studies
from Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University and a Higher Certificate
in Education in 1962 and 1963 respectively, he acted as Deputy
Secretary-General of the Buddhist University and lectured extensively
in Thailand and overseas, including time spent lectured at the
University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and Swarthmore
College in the USA. His literary achievements in Thailand are
tremendous, the most notable to date being the work of Buddha's
teaching, and many of his lectures on social, scientific and
educational studies from a Buddhist perspective have been printed.
is one of Thailand's most well-known Buddhist Scholars. His
writings cover not only traditional Buddhist subjects but also
Buddhist perspectives on modern academic themes. He was the
recipient of the 1994 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education.
acknowledged as Thailand's foremost Buddhist scholar, Venerable
P. A. Payutto's works range widely, from detailed exposition
of the Suttas and Vinaya to consideration of the problems of
society, environment, economy, law, and science and technology.
On the level
of everyday life, or satisfying the everyday needs of humanity,
science plays the vital role of paving the way for technological
development and encouraging the production, development and consumption
of lopsided technology. On the other hand, social preferences
for a particular kind of technology encourage scientific research
aimed at producing, developing and consuming that technology.
we have seen, science, supported by the beliefs in the efficacy
of conquering nature and producing an abundance of material
goods, has spurred the production and development of technology
along a path resulting in serious problems. Science and technology
may have actually done more harm than good.
of production, development and consumption of technology which
has caused these problems is one geared to feeding greed (selfishly
and wastefully catering to desires on the sensual plane), hatred
(causing exploitation, destruction, power mongering), and delusion
(encouraging heedlessness, time-wasting activities, and the
blind consumption and use of technology).
development of science on the technological level, it will be
necessary to change some of the basic assumptions it is based
on, by encouraging the development of constructive technology,
which is free of harmful effects, within the constraints of
these three principles:
1. Technology which is moderate.
2. Technology which is used for creating benefit.
3. Technology which serves to develop understanding and improve
the human being.
like to expand on this a little.
1. We must
acknowledge the needs of the ordinary human being. Ordinary
people want to be able to satisfy their desires for sense pleasures.
We do not want to suppress or deny these sense pleasures. The
important point is to encourage the constraint of behavior to
a degree which is not destructive or extravagant, by encouraging
restraint on the mind, keeping it within moderate limitations.
It must be a limitation in which self-created sense desires
are balanced by an awareness of what is of real benefit to and
truly necessary in life. This is expressed in the words "know
moderation." This value is closely related to the development
of wisdom. In particular, there should be some principles governing
the production, development and consumption of material goods
wherein they are directed towards real benefit, aimed at bettering
the quality of life rather than satisfying inferior values.
In short, we can call this, "technology which is moderate,"
or technology which puts a limitation on greed.
2. In addition
to selfishness and greed, mankind has a tendency to covet power
over others, and to destroy those who oppose his desires. The
human potential for hatred has found expression in many ways,
causing the production, development and consumption of technology
which facilitates mutual destruction more than mutual cooperation.
Mankind must turn around and change this direction of development,
by establishing a clear objective and creating a firm and decisive
plan to encourage the production, development and consumption
of goods which are constructive and beneficial to human society.
This technology for benefit will help to do away with or diminish
the production of technology which caters to hatred.
3. So far,
the production, development and consumption of technology has
mostly been of a kind which leads people to heedlessness, intoxication
and dullness, especially in the present time, when many parts
of the world have stepped into the Information Age. If mankind
practices wrongly in regard to this information technology,
it becomes an instrument for promoting heedlessness rather than
an educational aid. Witness, for example, the gambling machines
and video games which abound in the cities of the world, completely
void of any purpose other than to waste time and money. Witness
also the ignorant use of technology, without any awareness of
its benefits and dangers, leading to environmental damage. These
things not only degrade the environment, they also debase human
reason we need to effectuate a conscious change of direction
to stress production, development and consumption of
technology which promotes intelligence and development of the
human being, using it as a tool for the communication of knowledge
that is useful, and which encourages people to use their time
constructively. There must also be conscious use of technology,
with an awareness of the benefits and dangers involved in it.
In this way, technology will be an instrument for enhancing
the quality of life and protecting the environment. Society
will become an environment which supports and encourages mental
development. This third kind of technology can be called, "technology
which enhances intelligence and human development," which
is directly opposite to the technology which encourages delusion.
development and consumption of technology can be channelled
in this way, and if science opens the way to this kind of technology,
then sustainable development will surely become a reality.
by Bruce Evans.