Wednesday, February 27, 2019

some juicy links to chew on

First link:

"Robot 'GOD': AI version of Buddhist deity to preach in Japanese temple"

A JAPANESE robot has been created to preach the teachings of Buddha in colloquial language at the Kodaiji Temple in the ancient city of Kyoto.

The humanoid robot is modeled after Kannon Bodhisattva, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The robot’s name is Mindar and it gave its first speech on the Heart Sutra, a key scripture in Buddhist teaching. The Japan Times reported that the teachings spoken by the robot offer a path to "overcome all fear, destroy all wrong perceptions and realise perfect nirvana.”

As Mindar gave its speech on the Heart Sutra and humanity, English and Chinese subtitles were projected on the wall as music played in the background.

The chief steward of the temple in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward Tensho Goto during a news conference said: “If an image of Buddha speaks, teachings of Buddhism will probably be easier to understand.”

He added: “We want many people to come to see the robot to think about the essence of Buddhism.”

Another official connected to the temple explained how the robot would “help people who usually have little connection with Buddhism to take an interest” in the religion.”

The words "god" and "deity" that appear in the article's title are somewhat misleading, as is the content of the article itself. The being Kannon, short for Kan-se-on (called Gwaneum, or Gwan-sae-eum,* in Korea, and Kuan Yin, or Kuan Shih Yin, in China), started off as a Chinese goddess of compassion and mercy, but was appropriated(!) by Buddhism to become the East Asian bodhisattva of compassion. A bodhisattva is a compassionate being who, instead of stepping onto the far shore of nirvana, remains in the world to help others across the threshold first. This is a central ethic in Mahayana Buddhism: one's motivation for right action is always the saving of all sentient beings.

As I discussed in my long-ago post about paganism and the Christmas tree, the original name for the bodhisattva of compassion was Avalokiteshvara; the "-ishvara" particle is distinctly masculine; it means "lord." When Buddhism came to China, the bodhisattva's mantle was transferred to the local feminine deity Kuan Yin. When this transference occurred, Kuan Yin became part of Buddhist cosmology and was no longer a deity in the full sense, but was instead a bodhisattva, doing the Buddha's work.

Anyway, having a robot preach the dharma is a creepy reminder of the robotic AI Jesus in George Lucas's masterful film "THX-1138." Sociologist Emile Durkheim would have had a field day with Lucas's vision of the deity: according to Durkheim, the deity basically represents and incarnates society itself, such that when someone says, "God doesn't want you to lie," he's really saying, "Society doesn't want you to lie." Lucas's Jesus is there to reinforce the social structure, making sure all the workers remain docile cogs in the greater machine.

Second link:

Who Is the UC Berkeley Puncher?

Lots and lots of good points made in this article. Some excerpts:

When 16-year-old Nick Sandmann* delivered The Smirk Seen 'Round the World last month, journalists and other liberals pounced and seized on it like the huge national news story it wasn't. The brief video of the MAGA-hatted lad smiling at activist/fabulist Nathan Phillips went viral, and within 24 hours we knew Sandmann's name, where he's from, and where he goes to school. In fact, his school had to be shut down because of all the death threats. When further video evidence appeared, proving that Sandmann didn't do anything wrong and in fact tried to defuse tensions, most of the people who threatened him and tried to get him expelled just pretended they were still right all along. It was #FakeButAccurate. That kid had to be the bad guy if he was wearing the bad hat, right? The outrage mob made a few more pathetic attempts to slander Covington Catholic, and when that didn't work, they stopped screaming about that hoax and immediately started screaming about the Jussie Smollett hoax. It was a busy month for getting angry at things that didn't actually happen.

Fast-forward to last week on the campus of UC Berkeley, and a hate crime that actually did happen. A young fellow named Hayden Williams was manning a table for Turning Point USA when he was threatened and punched (video courtesy of Campus Reform)...

[in reference to headlines about the Berkeley "puncher" hate crime, in contrast to the media's treatment of fake hate crimes as fact]

Once you notice when that word is used and when it isn't, you can't unsee it. When a Democrat or some other designated victim claims to have been attacked, there's nothing "alleged" about it. It's presented as fact. The attack happened, even if there's definitive proof it didn't happen. But if the actual victim of an actual on-camera attack isn't a designated victim, then it becomes "alleged." We wouldn't want to make any hasty assumptions, now, would we?

You can't just go around punching people for saying things you don't like. Not even in Berkeley. The cops need to arrest his guy, or explain why they haven't.

*The name Gwan-sae-eum comes from three Chinese characters (觀世音) that mean "observe-world-sounds." In other words, this bodhisattva hears the cries of suffering in the world. In Buddhism, there are many bodhisattvas in the celestial ranks, and as with saints and angels in Catholic theology, there exists a taxonomy or hierarchy, with each type of divine being serving a specific cosmic and/or redemptive function—bodhisattva of compassion, Buddha of the future, Buddha of the Western Paradise, bodhisattva of insight (Manjusri), etc.

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