Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The apology of Burmakin IV

“Venerable Nagasena, do all the Bodhisattvas give away their wives and children, or was it only Vessantara?”

“All of them do.”

“But do those wives and children consent to it?”

“The wives do but the children do not due to their tender age.”

“But was it then a meritorious deed if the children were terrified and cried at being given away?”
(The debate of Milinda, the King of Pakistan, 100 BC)

Like the laughing lotuses,
which surpass the beauty of the stars mirrored in the water,

Exposing so fully

To the curious gaze of the radiant Moon

With its groping rays

For the delightful titillation (of renouncing).

(Queen Maddi to Vessantra on the way to Vankagiri after his donation of four horses of their chariot to four Bhramins)

King of Angels: My son, I lost this battle to Asuras. I lost your Grand Madam back to my enemies’ hands. However, the words of wisdom I learnt from my archrival enemy, Paharada recompenses all these losses. This is his apology (= defense) for the (rational) reason of Vessantara’s extraordinary actions that are commonly perceived as completely irrational.

(N.B: Vessantara is the future Gautama Buddha in his penultimate life before Buddha’s final life enlightenment)

Burmakin: In general, I can agree with you that Vessantara’s actions are inhumane, too much self-centered on gaining his omniprescient wisdom, and ignoring his moral responsibilities as a father for Jali and Kanhajina, and as a husband for Maddi. What did Paharada say?

Paharada: Ha ha ha, Marga. Before you are suing my Lord as an irrational man, let’s me ask you what is the meaning of the name of Vessanstara?

King of Angles: Why not I can? This is the name given by his mother who actually had been my principle consort in Heaven, Queen Phusati. Yes, she named him Vessantara, as he was born at a place of a commercial centre in their capital. The name, Vessantara means “merchant”, who are the warriors of the market, the architects of economy, the dudes of rationality, and the perfect examples of profit maximization in human nature.

Paharada: Well, this is the signification of all Bodhisattvas to be always paradoxical throughout their life. He, himself has the name, Vessantara, “the merchant”, for he has a purpose to fight against the mercantilism of those rational human beings.

King of Angels: The merchant’s psychology is an instrumental psychology inherent in human beings. All humans are instrumentally overwhelmed by desires to gain a profit and all their actions are always driven to have maximal utility values. This can be regarded as an undeniable fact in humanity. Economically, an action that can minimize your loss and get the maximal benefit from it is considered as a rational action by those instrumental human beings.

Paharada: You sound like that you also despise pragmatism of the mortal humans. Yes, they are just the craven to overprotect their own vulnerability, and to corrupt as much as they can to materialize their actions into enjoyable benefits. It seems to me that you also understand very well about the fact that Vessansara has a moral obligation to prove that this invincible psychological streak of instrumentalism of mortal men as a rational being is essentially on a wrong track. Adherence to instrumentalism will make those mortals so kinky in their justification of paving their ravenous means for achieving their desired ends.

Well, Marga, you probably have known it. Charity of a Boddhisattva is based on this critical purpose that is to fight SELF, your ego. The prima facie reason for charity of Bodhisattvas is not for giving but for renouncing. Charity is the prior principle of the ten perfection practices of Bodhisattva. Unless you have the courage enough to drop off what you have for the sake of others, how someone could be testified as an affirmative would-be-Bodhisattva? If the one who will claim the non-self principle to the whole universe has no courage to struggle against my SELF, my food, my money, my shelter, my wife, my son, my family, my race, my army and my country etc., how can the listeners have a heart to believe that this apparently ego-centered man’s principle is right.

King of Angels: Right. I have no suspect for his willingness to uncover the lid of closed humanity to show what it really is. However, I need to criticize his methods as too principle-centered to be regarded either as a rational action or with a morally sound reason. He should have possessed a sympathetic and fair heart. He should have respected the rights of an individual. I will say that his moral obligation is centered on utilitarian values. Apparently he has favoritism towards saving the whole lot of those ignorant people. On the other hand, he violated the fundamental rights of his own children, and wife.

Paharada, could you say that it is fair for those innocent children and the submissive Maddi: as they are only three in number so they should sacrifice their own integrity of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for the supreme happiness that is to be enjoyed for the numbers of people that Bodhisattva intended to save?

I respect his great willingness to help the humanity but I can’t agree with his principle for doing such unfair action towards minority as small numbers. Humanity is not mathematics. The end (the whole bunches of people to be able to be saved) is not supposed to justify the means (sacrificing three persons) in this case. Even if this is for the purpose of helping the whole society as an unrivalled Messiah, this shouldn’t be done as moral imperative strictly prohibits it. Even though he is to become the Savior to us, in any event, he is not entitled to violate the ethical principles of humanity as fairness, justice and equality. I will sue that he only has the compassion for the numbers. He has not yet possessed a true compassion, as his actions are apparently not fair and equal to this very small number of people.

Paharada: OK, Marga. Let’s me set up a metadrama for critical reasoning about your argument. If your Tavatainta soldiers are injured in the war, who is the main surgeon for treating the warrior patients in your military hospital?

Marga: Well, we built a military hospital near a blessed great pond that is bestowed to us from the merit of my third consort, Sunanda. The pond is also named after her name and so it is for name of the military hospital. And she is the in-charge surgeon in this Sunanda hospital where our warriors could find some solace among those wrecks of wars. She is the caring mother for those devas who are injured, life-threatened, and suffering brain or heart deaths during the war.

Paharada: Let’s us do a thought experiment. Suppose that at one night, Sunanda is trying to survive a nearly brain death patient suffering from allergy. Five warriors who lost their organs get to your hospital emergency department. Suppose that these five warriors need the organ transplants immediately. The probability of surviving the nearly brain death patient is less than 1%. And this going to die patient’s body is perfect enough to support the organs of five warriors who are seriously in need of organ transplant within exacting five minutes or so. But the patient has not died yet and probably he would have been in coma for a few more days. Will you suggest that Sunanda should dissect this allergic patient's body to deliver his organs to those five wounded soldiers for saving their lives.

(To be cont. What is the rational reason of Vessantara Bodhisattva for renouncing his family? To overcome the causation of irrationality of humans, Intimacy)


Anonymous said...

I like this story.

The military regime of Burma forces children into army. Vesantara also forced his children into slavery of Zuzaka.

What is the difference in the same inhumane acts.Why the regime is criticized and Vesantara is free from attacks?

How intimacy plays as a key factor?

Thanks much.

Thiri said...

hi dear,

It should be principal consort, not principle consort.

Karaweik ကရဝိတ္ 妙声鸟 Alvin (Sumedha) said...

I was waiting for this continuation of the story series.

I like that last part on the thought experiment. Indeed a difficult moral choice to make... something that many health workers face at one time or another in their service to humanity.

I guess there is need to be 'irrational' but humane at times. Thanks.

Aye2 said...

Dear Burmakin,

Thank you for very interesting part of this story.Especially, the last part of the story is thought provocative.

I have been also avidly reading all your apology series. One word mysterious is the word apology itself.In this story, this word also comes to be understood. Actually, you are defensing your position instead of seeking apology from someone.

Thanks for all your great job in knowledge sharing,

MG said...


Burmakin no longer needs to apologize, as the one Burmakin apologizes never forgives him.

If you were the elder sister of Burmakin, you could be able to always forgive him:-)


Jack Bodhi said...

Things are very bad in this world.

In Buddhism tales,Paharada and asuras,the ones driven out from Tawatainttta were fighting for getting their home back in Heaven. Today, Hamas and Palestinians are fighting for getting their home back in the holy land, Jerusalem. Asuras have been lampooned as devils of committing unfair war and in the same way, Hamas and his people are also enlisted as terrorists.

I can't understand,Burmakin.Tell me what is a kind of our world?In both legend and the real story of our earth nowadays, why the alien intruders are regarded as heroes of doing the fair war, whereas, the real native landowners who claim their lost home back are defamed as the devils?