Thursday, February 23, 2012

佛道哲學

香港是中國的地方。佛教發源在印度,再在中國生根,所以香港民間風俗處處都和佛教有關。但我從小所接觸的都是佛教的宗教部份,印象中有滿天神佛,迷信之說處處都是。但佛教開始時是一個哲學思考結果,只是之後才被宗教的怪力亂神污染。反而在西方,研究佛道的學者可以專注在佛道的哲學解釋。西方學術研究有一優勢,就是可以不被宗教迷信影響,直接研究它的起源歷史和核心哲學思想。

幾年前我看過國家地理雜誌一篇文章,以人文地理角度介紹佛道和它在西方的發展。話說約二千五百多年前,有一個印度王子,他享盡榮華富貴,生活無憂。但有一天,他忽然覺得人民在受苦,心有不安,就離開皇宮出走。在現代社會,有不少人都有這種想法,醫學上叫抑鬱症。王子思前想後,覺得自己想通了因果,就是佛道的基本哲學四諦。

四諦即是四個原則,有因果關係。第一是苦諦:世間有情悉皆是苦。第二是集諦:苦的原因是貪瞋痴三毒。第三是滅諦:斷盡煩惱業,則得解脫。第四是道諦:走上解決煩惱之道。佛道修行,大都是在深入理解三毒和解脫方法。市面上有林林總總的佛教書籍;除了宗教儀式迷信的一類,其他很多就是在此鑽研。我在台中曾到訪中台禪寺,它是一個沒有香火禮拜的寺院,主要供人修行。它有一個網頁,上有各修行禪師的文章,大都是一些哲學思考的感受。

貪是貪婪,內心覺得不足;瞋是生氣,對事物不順心便不高興和動怒;痴是不知真相,不辨是非。很多禪語都是指出苦就是從此而來。解決的方法有佛家八正道,又再細分為三十七道,詳細說明修行方法。歸根結底,就是要正確辨認三毒然後放下。這套思考方式和現代的情緒商數 Emotional Quotient 和抗逆商數 Adversity Quotient 理論相似,都是說逆來順受,有包容和寬恕之心,以便日後再翻身。

有哲學評論指出佛道不足之處就在第一諦苦諦。它假設世事一切都是苦;就算是快樂都是短暫而都會以苦收場。心存抑鬱的人可能有此感覺,但不是人人皆是。心境健康的人是可以真正享受快樂的時刻,而知足的人更可以處處都找到快樂,更有人說一剎那的快樂已是永恆;而人類感情可以昇華,感官上的苦是不可掩蓋精神上的快樂。第二是三毒的定義太廣闊以致可以包括一個人的所有行為。如果要鑽牛角尖,所有人所做的每一件事都在其中。第三是佛道最受人非議的消極思想。EQ 和 AQ 的理論只是引導我們在逆境時要保持心理平衡,但當有對策有機會出現時就不要放過。佛道哲學有其用處,但要和其他思想結合,取長補短,才可以在適當的時侯有適當的應對。

相信有不少朋友對佛教有較深刻的認識。歡迎加入討論。

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Blaise Pascal

I know Blaise Pascal from the secondary school science class.  He wrote the famous Pascal Law of fluid pressure which is a hot topic in Physics examination.  He was also a famous scientist, mathematician and philosopher of the 17th century in France.  To my surprise, in a Christian gathering, I heard the pastor using Pascal as an example of faith.  The main points conveyed were that, despite being a famous and successful scientist, he suddenly converted to Christianity; donated all his fortune to the church; and devoted himself to writing for Christianity.

Pascal was well known for his philosophy, but not well known as a Catholic.  I therefore tried to research into the truth of the historical events leading to such presentation.


In France in the 17th century, all French would automatically be a Catholic.  Pascal's second conversion came in 1654 after the death of his father and the decision of his sister to enter the convent.  He went into a depression and fell seriously ill.  Then he suddenly claimed to have had an intense religious vision.  It was not sure if this was the result of a miracle or the illness.  But Pascal then decided to go into religion.


His fortune was inherited from his father.  Actually, the majority of the estate was given to his sister Jacqueline, with Blaise Pascal as the conservator for his sister.  When Jacqueline entered the convent, he had to give back the fortune by sending it to the church.


He seemed to be deeply troubled by the Christian doctrine and tried very hard to justify the faith and belief by logic.  The famous book Pensees was a collection of his thoughts.  There was one part on the god gamble where he used the logic similar to the game theory to prove that believing in god's existence was the logical choice.  This was later disputed by many philosophers. 
I also wrote such arguments in a blog article the God Gamble in 2008

With all these contributions, I wonder why he was not canonized by the Catholic church.  There are two main reasons.  First, Blaise Pascal and his sister Jacqueline belonged to the Jansen Church.  Jansenism was a branch of the Catholic Church which was in competition with the Jesuits.  The Jesuits had the upper hand and the favour of the French king.  In fact, King Louis VIV suppressed the Jansenist movement in 1661.  So Blaise Pascal was in the wrong church at that time.  He died in 1662.


The second fatal mistake he committed was the attempt to justify Christian belief by logic and reason.  The bible is full of contradictions and many deeds recorded are against the preached conduct.  The method used by the church all along was to ask the followers to believe whatsoever; and called it the virtue of faith.  It worked for many centuries until knowledge become widespread in the last few hundred years.  Since then, there were continuous debates on religious belief.  On the side of logic and reason, religion always fails.  The present tactic is not to enter into any intellectual debate, claiming religion and science are in separate paradigms.  However, the church has many learned persons.  They only know too well the defects of religious thoughts.  They could not help but contemplate the logical arguments in pain.  Blaise Pascal is a good example.  He wrote down his thoughts on a possible logical explanation of religious belief in secret.  The work was incomplete.  After his death, his writings were found in scrap notes which he hid away.  Such notes were later assembled and published as the Pensees.  You can imagine how the church reacts to such publication. Using Pascal as an example of faith is not a good choice.