Summer activities in Taiwan and Hong Kong, by Assistant Professor Eyal Aviv

 

Now that the academic year has begun, summer memories tend to fade into the background. Still, my recent trip to Asia left a strong impression on me. My first stop was Taiwan, where I spent a week conferencing and spending precious times with friends. In this conference we worked on collaboratively translating a Buddhist philosophical text that has a lasting impact on the Indian, Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. The translation work was challenging and rewarding. 

 

 

My second stop in Hong Kong was a very different experience. I was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the World Youth Buddhist Society about Buddhist Ethics. This conference was organized by students of Khenpo Sodargye. Khenpo Sodargye, who visited George Washington University last year, is one of the most influential Buddhist teachers in Mainland China today. Six hundred of his students were selected to participate with him in five days of panels, discussions and debates about ethics and social responsibility. My role was to give the keynote speech on the second day of the conference. The speech focused on the potential contribution of Buddhist Ethics to debates about ethics of Transhumanism, which is the view that human and machines are becoming so intertwined that the result would be a new kind of species rather that humans as known to us.

While presenting on this topic, which touches on cutting edge developments in philosophy, bioethics and cognitive sciences among others, was a wonderful experience for me, it was the meeting with so many young students from leading universities in China that was the highlight of my visit. China is a rapidly changing society, with a growing number of well-educated young people who are deeply troubled by their environmental, political and ethical realities. Like our students, I found students in China trying to make sense and come to terms with the sweeping changes that this world is undergoing. For many of them, Tibetan Buddhism had become a source for fresh perspective on how to act morally in times when old ethical standards are constantly being challenged. I had many touching conversations about people’s challenges, aspirations and insights.

 

 

I was happy to receive an invitation from Khenpo to visit Larung Gar Buddhist Academy next year. I look forward to meeting him again and see many of the new friends I have made this summer.