math and buddhism

It turns out the central quote of my last diary entry had unknown origin in Buddhism as well, at least according to a recent app I downloaded that preaches daily buddhist wisdom. Given my inability to assimilate into Judeo-Christian philosophy, which is rightfully parallel to Confucianism, I thought I’d give Buddhism a try. After all it had a proven track record among Asians like me. Furthermore modern Buddhism seems unbound from carnal prohibitions or technological distractions. But what really captivated me is the opacity and insinuation of its scripture. The translation from Sanskrit to archaic Chinese was done with poetic elegance. Unlike King James’ bible, I found the Buddhist texts in Chinese more monumental, a true memorabilia. Perhaps I am just naive and only admire the ostentatiously graceful. Anyhow I find it boring to spend hours immersed in uninspiring condescending teaching and expect it to be useful at some point of time in the distant future. Maybe I will lavish such faculty in research, but in religion I expect to find more immediate rewards, which is not even something that caters to base desires, of which I have many.

So to connect back to math. I find myself cornered by my carnal feelings lately. While in the past I have tried the human-centric approach as offered by Christianity, I found its strength quite fleeting and the progress unpredictable. This is mostly again due to the inner boredom I experience while trying to come to term with the faith. Buddhism on the other hand emphasizes intelligent comprehension and internalization, or more melodramatically, inner echo. There is less of the universal acceptance that JC preaches, but more on the leveraging of individual talent. Thus not everyone is bound for the brightest next life. As a slight digression, I think the notion of a next life is more appealing than an eternal life in an unknown place called heaven that may not even have an iPad. But I am not even that long-sighted, so the more salient concern is intellectual challenge and satiability. Christianity seems to take the Machine Learning approach of addressing the most wide-spread issue within the target population. Thus it probably reaches the widest set of audience, rich or poor, regardless of race, education, and other divisive traits. It is true that Buddhism has reached up and down to all classes of Chinese society from ancient times up to now. But due to its lax codification and institutionalization, those lower in the social ladders are probably practicing simplified variant of the original true teaching, and thus there is hope of aspiring to more puritan form of the religion. Being of a math background dictates that I am of the constantly aspiring type. I get upset when my close family members lose the interest to fight an uphill battle. On the other hand I need a religious recourse in addition to academic or social venues to exercise my upward instinct. It is this constant fire of ambition that troubles most of my adult life. Of course at various intervals of time I had physical downturns that prevented me from fulfilling my Oedipal curse, but I was certainly not content in those stagnant states.
Now I truly hope this newly acquired spiritual project will pull me away from unproductive thoughts and behavior, and rekindle my intellectual curiosity in all spectrum of things. After things like Fermat’s last theorem or Poincare’s conjecture has always been on my wish list to occupy my post-graduate life.


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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