Try to imagine your favorite superhero, (my personal preference being Flash) who already has an incredible skill set and super powers, adding even more skills to their repertoire. They’d be ridiculously powerful, right? What if the skill they added was a vast knowledge of science and technology? With their current skills and now this new knowledge, they could make a significant positive impact in this world.
Boston philanthropist, Bobby Sager announced the release of his new book, “Beyond the Robe,” which explains the plans of the Science for Monks program. The programs aim is to show Buddhist monasteries the impacts that monks and nuns can have in not only their monasteries, but in their communities and around the globe. With greater knowledge of science and technology, the monks and nuns will have the tools to improve the health and hygiene in their communities, educate people about being environmentally friendly, and even provide solar power and clean drinking water for an entire community.
The community of monks and nuns, also called the sangha, serves as a model to other Buddhists of how to live an ethical life. It is the example of the Buddhist monks and nuns that the lay people follow when striving for a moral life. Traditionally, Buddhist monks and nuns have fulfilled the roles of providing a living example of Buddhism for the laity, preserving the doctrine and discipline of Buddhism, providing the laity with ways to earn merit by giving gifts and support to the monasteries, and practicing meditation. The main role of Buddhist monks and nuns is primarily spiritual as they attempt to detach themselves from worldly concerns in order to achieve the ultimate goal of nirvana. However, “Beyond the Robe” emphasizes that since monks and nuns have such a strong leadership role and are well respected members of their communities, they should focus more energy on educating the laity about the things they learn through Sager’s Science for Monks program.
Some Buddhist’s might argue that by focusing more time and energy on following Sager’s program, the monks and nuns will lose focus on their ultimate goal of becoming enlightened and reaching nirvana. I can understand this concern because reaching nirvana is the goal of all Buddhist monks and nuns and by taking time to teach the laity about things other than Buddhist doctrines they wouldn’t be able to spend as much time on their own quest for enlightenment. However, the Buddha also called for his students to spread instruction to the laity and show them how to lead ethical lives. I believe that by spreading the knowledge that they learn through Sager’s program, the monks and nuns are doing exactly what the Buddha instructed. They are showing the laity how to improve their lives and are giving them the tools they need to spread the knowledge themselves, pointing them down an ethical path of helping others which is just what the Buddha taught.
In closing, I agree with the views that Sager expresses in “Beyond the Robe,” because with the important leadership role that monks and nuns play in their communities, they have the power to spread the knowledge learned through Sager’s program to the laity community. When they spread this knowledge, they can improve the well-being of many people by providing them with ways to better their health and hygiene, give them clean drinking water, and solar power for example. The impact that these monks and nuns would have on their communities if they followed Sager’s program would be extremely beneficial in improving the lives of the lay people. This possibility should show Buddhist monks and nuns that they have the power to play a much larger role in their local communities and even on a global scale.
– Matt Carlson
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