Tung Lin Kok Yuen International Conference
Buddhist Canons: In Search of a Theoretical Foundation for a Wisdom-oriented Education
27 & 28 November, 2021 (HKT) | Online & On-site at HKU
G. A. Somaratne
Centre of Buddhist Studies
The University of Hong Kong
G.A. Somaratne (PhD, Northwestern) is Associate Professor in Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong. He is a Sri Lankan scholar in early Buddhism and Pali textual criticism. He was formerly Co-director of Dhammachai Tipiṭaka Project (Thailand), Rector of Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy, Professor in Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka), and Associate Professor in Religion, Miyazaki International College (Japan). His publications include The Buddha’s Teaching: A Buddhistic Analysis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) & The Saṃyuttanikāya Volume I(Pali Text Society, Oxford, 1998).
Conjoining Scientific Knowledge and Dhamma Knowledge for Creating an Authentic Person
The Buddha taught the Dhamma, revealing our conscious reality’s elementary constituents (dhammā) and their functions (dhammatā) and laws (dhamma-niyāmatā), showing how we suffer because of not-knowing the Dhammaand how we can stop suffering by knowing it. The Dhamma knowledge is thus the knowledge of dhammā, dhammatā, and dhamma-niyāmatā, that provides a holistic vision of life and world, in contrast to the scientific knowledge that gives an abstract and fragmented vision of the material world, creating an inauthentic worldly person who merely seeks material well-being by holding into matter. The Dhamma knowledge, on the other hand, creates an authentic person who seeks primarily mental well-being while developing a non-clinging attitude toward matter. For a worldly person in the modern world, a life driven by Dhamma knowledge alone may not be sensible. Therefore, the type of wisdom-oriented education that could be considered holistic and sensible to today's world should consist of both types of knowledge. In this sense, the two knowledge types are not rivals but two complementary perspectives of reality with two different aims. The Scientific knowledge takes us to material well-being more, and the Dhamma knowledge takes us to mental and spiritual well-being more. The Buddha’s teaching in the Suttas explain a threefold process of learning, understanding, and experiencing the Dhamma. Accordingly, the initial Dhamma learning should be through a formal curriculum; next, understanding and seeing the dhammā, dhammatā and dhamma-niyāmatā in one’s experiential world will take place through repeated acquiring and reflection of the Dhammaknowledge; finally, attaining and experiencing the unconditioned dhamma (nibbāna) will take place through repeated understanding and seeing. Therefore, this paper attempts to show that the first and the second stages of the gradual process in particular, together with the scientific knowledge, can help creating an authentic person who has understanding and vision to maintain a sound moral life and face the changing worldly conditions such as gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, and pleasure and pain, with a balanced state of mind, being neither elated nor dejected, and die mindfully and pass old age without grumbling about it.