Saturday, January 10, 2009

Altering DNA

(Picture above may not relate to this post)
(Just for viewing pleasure)

Question: (unedited)
I am writing a critical response paper to Easterbrook and his idea that science could one day end violence via DNA alteration. Assuming that this is possible, How would a Buddhist feel about this? How would this affect the practice of Ahimsa, and rebirth? Does Buddhism believe that violence is, at the least, partly genetic?

My comment:

Thank you for asking me. People throughout history had fantastic ideas. They may be very clever altering this and that. But it's not going to change the world for the better or worse. It would be just doing things differently, or living in a different manner. For example, the computer and digital technology does not solve life's problems. The fast track in space exploration and communications do not lessen our human burdens. We are just doing things differently. Petty bickerings still exist in the office and in the family. Wars and pestilence still scourge the world.

Your notion is like saying modern medical science has advanced to such great heights that one day we will be free from all diseases; there will be no more need for doctors and hospitals.

As for your last question, the Buddhist perspective of life is that this "being" consists of the physical body and the mind. The existence of this being is the results of the energy of the mind taking existence in this physical body. The nature of life-form that this mind energy affixes to, will depend on the nature of the accumulated "kammic" store-house which the being had generated throughout its numerous life existences. If the kammic storehouse has a greater portion of evil and unwholesome kammic energy, this mental energy will seek a rebirth in the appropriate existence such that the evil and unwholesome energies will actualize in that life, causing agony and suffering for the being. In this sense, you can consider that evil mental energies will seek out conditions that favour such existence.

Although genes play a great part in one's character, the mind if properly trained may be able to counter the bad effects of bad genes to a certain degree.


Barry said...

Several years ago a neuroscientist friend was at a conference with the Dalai Lama. One of the conference participants asked His Holiness the following question:

If we could develop a surgical technique that would terminate our tendency towards craving, thereby terminating suffering, would you support such a procedure?

My friend told me that the Dalai Lama didn't hesitate. "Yes," he said, absolutely.

There's nothing wonderful about suffering. If we truly care about terminating suffering, any genuine strategy is great.

Of course, there are lots of false strategies - such as intoxication - that might seem to alleviate suffering but actually make it worse.

Justin Choo said...


If we truly understand the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, then there won't be such hypothetical question.

A true Malaysian said...

Barry and Justin,

Human is such creature that continue with their journey to make their lives happy. Human invented car to help them to travel around with ease, so to avoid 'suffering' of waiting for inefficient public transport under hot sun. But, the car itself may not bring us happiness as we may stuck in traffic jam, may have accidents here and there which resulting in even more 'suffering'.

Some people may be unhappy because other is driving Mercedez, while he himself is driving an old junk like Volvo like Justin's friend. But I am sure, Justin is happy with his 'taxi' proton saga because he is contented with it.

At the end of the day, all things are actually fall back on 'relativity' and not in 'absolute' term.

This is how I realise how true 'CONTENTMENT' is after reading S. Dhammika's article on this subject.

Contentment is the key to ultimate happiness and less suffering. This is what I referred to as 'neutralization' of suffering.

Justin Choo said...

A true Malaysian,

Here we have to be a bit careful especially when communicating with young people.

Contentment per se, may be good for retired people like me. But if we misinterprete contentment as not endeavouring to improve things, then we will have problems.

The message is that in order to live the day with happiness, we should be contented with what we already have, but this does not prevent us from improving our status in life.

A true Malaysian said...


Sure, I understand your concern. This is why I mentioned 'relativity' in my comment. Different people may have different perspectives.

The word 'Contentment' itself may not be acceptable to all people. Again, nothing is 'absolute' but 'relativity' yes.

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