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Buddhist Questions & Answers On 2012

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Jan 1, 2012

Singapore -- Keep the calm and carry on, so says Shen Shi'an as we break into 2012.

Q: What are the world’s top scientists saying about 2012?
A: NASA’s (USA’s ‘National Aeronautics and Space Administration’) statements can be seen at http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html They represent many top scientists’ views.

Q: How about a brief summary?
A: In the words of NASA, which is one of the world’s leading authorities on scientific research, ‘Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.’

Q: What about what others are saying about impending disasters?
A: Are they more credible than NASA and such? Or are they pseudo-scientists and self-proclaimed ‘experts’ building upon myths, rumours and bad science? If they are credible, they should simply share their findings with leading scientific organisations, to leverage on their authority and widely publicise whatever is ‘valid’ through them. If for some reason they can’t, they have the responsibility to do their make their voices be heard more loudly and clearly, to convince everyone beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Q: What if there is a conspiracy theory by NASA and such to conceal the truth from us?
A: It is up to us to use the best of our wisdom to decide if this is possible and to respond accordingly. Leading scientific organisations have nothing to gain from concealing the truth while many hoaxsters have much to gain, in terms of gathering money and followers from spreading sensational non-truths. There are many sincere but misguided followers of these hoaxsters too. Unfortunately, some of these confused followers might in turn be leaders with many followers of their own. (Also, what are the chances that every single respected scientific and governmental authority is capable of hiding the truth from everyone?)

Q: However, there seems to be a variety of ‘doomsday’ and disaster prophecies?
A: Here is a concise video called ‘The Truth about 2012' by NASA for clarifying on them at http://vimeo.com/7463829 More can be read at http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist/intro/nibiru-and-doomsday-2012-questions-and-answers We need to remember too, the Y2K (year 2000) scare at the turn of the millennium, which spawned many ‘spiritual’ and technological ‘doomsday’ prophecies worldwide. None came true. There are also many ‘prophecies’ about 2012 because it is very ‘bankable’, especially after the entertainment industry’s popularising of the fictitious and very profitable movie ’2012' . Strangely, some believe the scenes in the movie to be exactly what is going to happen in 2012, while the director is currently planning another fictitious profit-making sequel called ’2013': http://www.slashfilm.com/roland-emmerich-developing-2012-sequel-2013-as-television-series! He also has another film release planned for the year 2013 – which is of course beyond the year 2012: http://collider.com/red-dawn-pixes-singularity-release-dates/128386! Obviously, the director does not believe in the 2012 phenomenon himself!

Q: Isn’t it safer to believe that something terrible is going to happen?
A: It is safer if something terrible is indeed going to happen, while terrible things can happen due to false alarms.

Q: What are some of these terrible things?
A: It can be physically dangerous as some might kill themselves, be it individually or by mass suicide due to overwhelming fear, depression, loss of hope… and some might give up so much of their material belongings, relationships and responsibilities that they become homeless and destitute, with nothing to survive on after the supposed ‘last day’ has come and passed. Such have often happened in the past due to false alarms. There can be riots from mass panic too. Please be mindful of these possible consequences from spreading ideas about 2012. In this age of the Internet, with the easy and rapid spread of erroneous ideas, the negative karmic repercussions from doing so are difficult to calculate.

Q: Is there a recent example of such false alarms?
A: The most recent widely publicised ‘doomsday’ that never transpired was the day 21 October 2011. You can read news on it at http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/10/harold-camping-doomsday-prophet-wrong-again Although the predictor had wrongly predicted ‘doomsday’ twelve times, many still believed him, leading to much loss.

Q: Were there more false alarms in the past?
A: You can see at least 146 past ‘doomsday’ predictions that failed to come true at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events

Q: Is there a quick way to assess if a ‘doomsday’ or disaster predictor is telling the truth or not?
A: This is not a guaranteed way to assess accurately, but most leaders who predicted or who are supposed to believe the coming of a day being ‘doomsday’ or disastrous do NOT give up all, or even most of their finances, personal and organisational properties to warn others of the ‘doomsday’ itself. This is probably because they do not believe it, or are unsure themselves. Why keep so much if the end of days is really coming? All their possessions should be cashed in to fund public warnings instead. As usual, when the day has come and passed with not much happening, they are likely to proclaim that it was a miscalculation, or that due to changes in the collective karma of the world, things have amazingly turned around. Either way, they continually get away with having caused needless fear, though many followers tend to leave them in disappointment and disgust. The predictors have the tendency to frequently update their ‘prophecies’ in a bid to retain their followers too. Because there tends to be several natural disasters each year, any one of them can be labelled to be the result of the mitigation of an otherwise more major disaster too. It should be noted that there are mass suicide ‘doomsday’ cults too, with leaders and followers truly giving up everything, by killing themselves together due to their twisted beliefs. An example can be seen at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven’s_Gate_(religious_group)

Q: Can such false alarms be spiritually dangerous too?
A: Yes, because life is unpredictable, death can strike anyone at any time before the predicted ‘doomsday’. Attachment to the belief that one will live right up to the predicted ‘doomsday’ can lead to procrastination of spiritual practice due to thinking there is still ample time. Every second, as we speak, there are people dying due to various causes around the world, many of whom did not expect death to come so soon. Of course, this does not mean we should just panic immediately, because spiritual practice requires mindful calmness and clarity. Of course, death can occur after the predicted day too. In fact, this is statistically much more probable for most of us.

Q: Is there a Buddhist perspective of 2012?
A: You can see some perspectives at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2009/11/a-buddhist-perspective-of-2012

Q: How about a brief summary?
A: A key excerpt says, ‘Though there is no Buddhist prophecy [in the sutras] of any special upcoming event in 2012, I can no longer hide a universally true prophecy. Here is it… Due to impending death and the uncertainty of when it arrives, we might die any time before 2012. We might even pass away today, for life is uncertain, while death is certain. Whether you believe something ill will happen in 2012 or not, it always makes sense to live life fully with the Dharma – NOW. Since Buddhists believe in the phenomenon of rebirth, of both sentient lives and entire world systems, the physical “end of the world” is to us, somewhat overhyped, while it is end of our spiritual life that is the most truly terrifying. As the Buddha exhorted in his last words, “Subject to change are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence!”‘

Q: Is there some direct advice by the Buddha?
A: Here is some timeless advice from the Buddha from Section 38 of ‘The Sutra in 42 Sections’: ’The Buddha asked a Shramana [monastic], “How long is the human life span?” He replied, “A few days.” The Buddha said, “You have not yet understood the way [to enlightenment].” He asked another Shramana, “How long is the human life span?” The reply was, “The space of a meal.” The Buddha said, “You have not yet understood the way.” He asked another Shramana, “How long is the human life span?” He replied, “The length of a single breath.” The Buddha said, “Excellent. You have understood the way.”‘

Q: What does that mean?
A: What it means is that life is only as long as each breath, that the next breath might not come after this very breath. This is the truest ‘prophecy’, because life is indeed uncertain from moment to moment. The exact ‘doomsday’, or rather, day of death for every person is different, unless some happen to die together. On the idea that the world will not end in 2012, but that there will be major disasters with some survivors, it is worth noting that many die in disasters every year. For each individual who perishes or suffers as a result, it is already a ‘doomsday’ or disaster day. We are thus already survivors of sorts. Although these disasters were not ‘the end of the world’ for us, the possibility of facing a deadly disaster is already present in every moment for everyone. There is no way to say for sure who will die when. Being attached to the idea that one will die or suffer only in 2012 can thus lead to dangerous spiritual complacency. As such, we should live each moment fully, with as much mindful compassion and wisdom as we can. That there are seemingly more deadly disasters recently is a good reminder to do so as they can be seen as a reflection of our collective negative karma.

Q: What if I still worry about dying suddenly some day, be it in 2012 or otherwise?
A: In the Buddhist perspective, the safest and best place to be reborn is Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha’s) Pure Land, as praised by all Buddhas in the Amitabha Sutra, where there is no suffering or natural disasters, where there is only conducive spiritual bliss. With the company of the enlightened there, it is the ideal school for training to be enlightened, so as to better guide others to enlightenment. You can learn more about the Pure Land teachings, to know how to practise to be born there through mindfulness of Amituofo and other related practices. For good Pure Land practitioners, as they are aware that death can occur at any time, they calmly and diligently practise mindfulness of Amituofo as much as they can in everyday life, so as to be readily mindful of Amituofo to reach his Pure Land when it is time to depart – whether the moment comes suddenly or not. Whether there is a ‘doomsday’ prophecy should not matter.

Q: Do you have any ‘final’ advice?
A: As Stonepeace put it,

‘Because everything* changes from moment to moment,
we should treasure everything in this moment.
Because everything changes from moment to moment,
we should not be attached to anything in this moment.’

[*Everything - that is worldly, unlike true spiritual attainments.]

This article does not claim that anyone or everyone will be alright in any particular year or day. What it says is that based on scientific and Buddhist perspectives, 2012 is not particularly special. Despite this, life is already and always unpredictable from moment to moment in every year – which is why we should live each moment well. No one can go wrong with such advice, while clinging only to a particular year or day being a potential ‘doomsday’ or a disaster day for one or many is to that extent unhealthy.

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