Getting Real

The above is an interesting article about functional programming and why it fail to catch on.

Every introduction to a programming language shows you the recursive method to calculate Fibonacci numbers. It’s abstract, many people do not relate to it very well, but it’s only a single example. However, the documentation for FP languages seem to consist solely of these kinds of highly mathematically inspired examples. No ‘Address’ class to be found there. Hasn’t anyone written a functional equivalent of the Pet Store application to demonstrate the power of FP for the regular work that most of us do?

This is sometimes the challenge I hear from people, that they find it too theoretical to apply certain religious concepts (be it Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or the religion you dig!) in their every day life.  While some faith’s tenets and ideals are meant to be other-worldly, Buddhist teachings are meant for daily applications.

When we attend Dharma classes, we need to relate it to our daily experiences
and reflect upon how our life can be further improved.  Is there anything we could have done or said differently?  What can we do in future to be more considerate towards others?  Was there relevance at all?

People that want to improve the world often overlook one fundamental problem: you cannot improve the world just by being right. You need to convince others of that fact if you want to exert influence. If you cannot convince them, find out why you cannot convince them. I think there is a bright future ahead for functional programming, as soon as someone stands up to convince the masses.

We need to be convinced for ourselves that the teachings really do work out.  We need to try it out and see for ourselves.  The Dharma is meant to be explored and experienced, not merely for recitation.

So start now, see if you can pick something about your day that you can change about.  And see if you can apply the Buddhist teachings, then share your findings here.


How About That Fish?

Recently when I was in Kuala Lumpur (KL) to speak at a conference, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of 50~60 nice folks from Kelantan, Malaysia.  Very friendly and lovely bunch I must say.

I noticed that some of the locals in KL were eating live seafood and so I quizzed them on how that relates to the first precept of non-killing.  After a very lively discussion, we concluded that eating live seafood crossed the line for non-killing.  Consider how the fishes were happily swimming around in the tanks … ok, maybe not so happily … but nonetheless, alive and swimming.  Then someone may come along to the restaurant and order a meal, resulting in one or more of them being killed for our consumption.  At that point, it became clear that the meal was quite the cause of death or at least the reason.  So far so good, as far as understanding how we relate to the first precept of non-killing.

Then someone pointed out that sometimes, actually most of the time, only one person do the ordering, so perhaps he is the only person bearing the karma of killing.  I threw it open to the floor for discussion and went through a few possible scenarios regarding the causal consequences of the meal.

Case A: Person ordering get 100% of killing karma, while the eaters get none.
Case B: Person ordering get a majority percentage of say N% of killing karma, while the rest share in the 100% – N% of killing karma.
Case C: Everyone gets an equal share of the killing karma.  So if there were five diners, each get 20%.

Then someone further suggest that those who eat more, should be more responsible!  So the formulae became

Case A: Person ordering get 100% of killing karma, while the eaters get none.
Case B1: Person ordering get a majority percentage of
say N% of killing karma, while the rest share in the 100% – N% of killing karma.
Case B2: Person ordering get a majority percentage of say N% of killing karma, while the rest share in the 100% – N% of killing karma on a pro-rata or weighted basis.
Case C1: Everyone gets an equal share of the killing karma.  So if there were five diners, each get 20%.
Case C2: Everyone gets a share of the killing karma depending on the amount they ate.

Things were getting complex!  In the end, we simplified and just considered the original three cases, although as you will see, the reasonings for each case would lead us to similar conclusions.  Bear in mind that we did not assume any of the case to be the actual mechanism behind how karma would or should work out; we simply cover all possible scenarios as much as we can.  So for the following analysis, we then look at each case and say, if this were true, how would or should we act differently?

Case A, while the person ordering gets 100%, should Buddhists who embrace values and qualities like Loving Kindness and Compassion allow someone to bear the brunt (100%) of painful results for one’s meal while one selfishly tucks into the meal knowing that someone else (both the fish and the orderer) is suffering for us.  While highly unlikely, we saw it unseemly for us to partake in such a meal as it is both selfish and unkind.

Case B, letting someone get the majority share and each diner receiving partial payout for the karma of killing didn’t seem to be such a good idea as well.  Nope.

Case C, for most people in the discussion, going pro-rata seem to be the most likely mechanism for karma, but it then becomes even clearer why we should not partake in the meal altogether!

We could have, and were tempted to, gone further and consider many other factors, including those who arrive late, those who fail to turn up but were on the diners’ list, those who were not, but turn up after the ordering, those who were not but turn up before the ordering etc etc.  But we did not.  Most were duly satisfied with the discussion and analysis and left it knowing how better to relate to the precepts in future.

So what did you eat today?

PS: I do not advocate eating as a means of enlightenment, and the discussion of food was really a day-to-day affair that to me mattered to some of those lay Buddhist I met.

Shifu Can I Do This or That?

Shifu, can I do this?  Shifu, can I do that?  Can I kill insects?  Can I drink whisky?  How about beer?
Can I pay for less bus fare than I travelled?  How about overtime pay?  Can I dock in more hours than I worked?

The answers to the above, would be yes, yes, yes … and more Yes!
If you had asked, can I breathe through my lungs underwater unassisted, it would be a no.  It would be a no to “Can I have an unassisted controlled flight?”, and by controlled flight, free-falling is not included.

Before you quote me saying that I allow you to do all the above former, think again.  You may think that I’m forgetting about the Buddhist precepts that advocate non-killing, non-stealing etc, ala the five precepts (Panca-Sila in Pali).  You see, what most people are mistaken about the Buddhist teachings is that it does not stipulate a “The Buddha says you cannot kill” and impose it upon you.  Instead, it says, killing is harmful to others (apparently!), is in turn unwanted by ourselves, results in pain, suffering and/or stress, amongst other things, and is to be avoided, for the sake of one’s welfare and happiness and that of others.

When we observe the Buddhist precepts, we are really declaring to ourselves and others that having considered carefully, we are choosing not to kill, because doing so (killing) is not fruitful and leads to much suffering.  Further, we recognise that all that are
alive and sentient, cherishes their life; so we seek to protect and care for their well being.  It is not that we are unable to or cannot, it is that we actively choose not to kill.

It is also not that we choose not to kill, so that we can placate the Buddha and ask for blessings.  Instead it is because we choose not to kill, that this positive wholesome karma (or energy if you will) “protects” us.

As Buddhists, we should use our intelligence and common sense to learn the precepts so that we can make well-informed choices and do the right thing on a daily basis.  This can and is what blesses us!  It is our actions, through our body, speech and mind, that if pure and wholesome, protects and blesses us. The Buddha blesses us through his teachings.

For that matter, even if you are not a Buddhist, does it not occur to you that having angry feeling is unpleasant?  And if that anger fester, it may lead to ill-will arising in you?  And if this ill-will, which is unpleasant as well, is left to nuture, you may physically harm someone.  Without being a Buddhist or subscribing to its teachings, would it not make sense that the above train of thoughts and course of actions is unpleasant and leads to stress in oneself and others?  Further, after harming others, would we not feel anxiety of being discovered later?  These are applicable facts or truths that one can observe and see for onself without having to believe in a god or deity or declaring oneself to be a Buddhist.  And seeing clearly, one avoids the path that leads to suffering, and takes that which is more conducive to happiness.

That is why the Buddha’s teachings are declared as Truth, open for enquiry and investigation; ready for us to see for ourselves.  The teachings (Dharma in Sanskrit or Dhamma in Pali) can be adopted by all without going into a sectarian dispute.  It is in many ways, common sense.

So, fellow humans, wake up to your common sense, and do something sensible for someone today! 🙂

Got $60 Million to Spare?

Got US$60 million to spare?

In this crisis, are we still able to give? For some of us, we may not be directly affected and may still have a pretty stable job, but the very fear of possible retrenchment and further worsening of the economy may stifle our giving heart or even immobilise it altogether.

Give within your means. Heard some say “Give with your heart.”. I say “Give with your heart, or at least with your wallet”. 🙂

“A Gift of Dhamma is supreme” — The Buddha

Read on and be inspired to give.
Here’s someone who is not. Caveat emptor: He is able to give US$60mil because he can afford it. However, many others can afford it, but may not be giving enough.

From the link below:
Lots of bosses say they value their employees. Some even mean it.

And then there’s Leonard Abess Jr.

After selling a majority stake in Miami-based City National Bancshares last November, all he did was take $60 million of the proceeds — $60 million out of his own pocket — and hand it to his tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, everyone on the payroll. All 399 workers on the staff received bonuses, and he even tracked down 72 former employees so they could share in the windfall.