諸位早安。我和 Michael Nagler一樣，都不是經濟學家。我是學歷史的，是佛教徒，所以我從這個角度來討論。Kurt Vonnegut是我所喜愛的作家之一，在我開講前，我先提一下他在一次被採訪時說，我們生活在二十世紀末、二十一世紀初的人，所要探究的最重要的文學作品就是MaryShelley的法蘭肯史坦（Frankenstein）。我們都應該熟悉它，因為它確切是我們時代的寫照。如果你尚未讀過，就會發現它值得一讀。雖然它寫於150年前，但作者的先見之明，描述出當人類擁有科技力量（我想還要加上經濟力量），卻沒有智慧來控制它，仁愛地運用它時的情形。主人所製造的東西竟變成了一個魔鬼，反過來摧毀了其製造者和周圍的世界。這也許是今天的話題之中所意味著的一個方面：人們手中的力量與對其智慧、仁愛用運用之間的極度失調。以前雖然我們已經就科技進行過討論，或許經濟問題會引起更為熱烈的討論。
Leonard Joy談論到土地，及我們彼此之間因土地而產生的關係，使我想到托爾斯泰（Leo Tolstoy）發人深省的短篇小說。他的讀者常常誤以為他是個佛教徒，有人以為一些佛教故事是他寫的，他只好出來澄清，甚至還說：「我倒真希望這是我的作品。」有一篇精彩的小故事，名為「人需要多少地？」我大概介紹一下其中的情節。
Dr. Verhoeven: Good morning everyone. Like Michael Nagler, I too am not an economist. I am an historian by training; and a Buddhist. So I am going to speak from that perspective. Let me preface my remarks by relating an interview I just heard with one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut said that he felt the most important literary work to be explored by those of us living in the late-20th and early 21st centuries is the work that we should all be familiar with in that it defines our age. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. If you haven't read it, you might find it worthwhile. It is prescient in the sense that though it was penned over 150 years ago, it gives a portrayal of what happens when human beings harness the power of science and technology (within that I would include economic power), but lack the wisdom to control that power and use it humanely. The creature crafted by the protagonist turns into a monster that returns to destroy the creator and his world. This might be one of the metaphors for today's discussion: the extraordinary gap between power and its wise and humane use. Although our previous conferences have focused on science and technology, perhaps economics presents us with an even greater power to contend with.
Leonard Joy's discussion on land and our relationship to each other through land reminded me of one of Leo Tolstoy's remarkable short stories. It is interesting that Tolstoy was frequently mistaken for a Buddhist by those who read his shorter works; in fact he had to disclaim authorship for some Buddhist stories wrongly attributed to him, even though he said, "I wished I had written them and could claim credit!" This wonderful short story is called, "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" I will try to summarize briefly and baldly.
There is a peasant who is relatively happy and content with his life. He lives roughly but at least free from anxiety. He owns a small parcel of land, his family lives with him, his sons and daughters work with him, and though he might never grow rich, he is assured of always having enough to eat. But one day he gets this notion, this urge, that it is not quite enough and if only he had plenty of land he would be free of want and fear. And so begins a process where he moves from place to place in search of more and better land; making deals, finagling, exploiting, and shrewdly acquiring more land. But each purchase of new land leaves him wanting more (as Doug Powers just mentioned: "habituation" takes over). What one day is enough, next day becomes want. He feels his life is one of scarcity; not real, but imagined. And so he goes on in this fashion—acquiring, selling, buying more, wanting more, leaving behind him a trail of negative affinities. Each transaction ends up in quarreling, hurting people, creating ill-will, shadows of deception, threats and unfulfilled promises as he takes land that could be used by others, or land that had been used communally before. No matter how much land he grabs, he feels cramped and his heart is kindled with desire for more.
Finally, one day he hears about a tribe of far away indigenous people, the Bashkirs, who are as simple as sheep and who will give away vast tracts of land for almost nothing. After traveling for miles and offering these simple people trinkets and gifts, the Bashkirs agree to give him all the land he wants.
"What's the price," he asks the Chief. "Our price is always the same: one thousand rubles a day," replies the leader. "How weird," he thinks. But the Chief tells him that they do not know how to reckon it out, so they sell it by the day. "As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is yours." Well, the peasant is beside himself: "Wow, I could get around an immense parcel of land in a whole day!" His mind reels: he would stride a circuit of 35 miles, sell off the excess for profit, keep the best for himself, etc. There was only one condition to the tribe's offer: if he didn't return on the same day to the same spot from where he started, he would get nothing. Of course, all the villagers are laughing, but the peasant is clueless; he doesn't know why they are laughing at one about to become fabulously wealthy. He can barely sleep that night, so excited is he at his good fortune.
In the morning he sets out from where the Chief lays down his fur cap to serve as the starting and returning marker. All the land he goes round in a day's walk, from sunrise to sunset, will be his. Thus he starts out. His idea is to walk in one direction for a fixed time (one quarter of the daylight period), and then another, and so on until he encompasses a huge square. But each time he should turn to stay on schedule he sees just ahead of view, a lake, or a fertile meadow, or a shady hillock that is irresistible, and so he goes just a bit further. The further he goes, however, the better the land seems. And so he keeps pushing a little further until it's already noon, he's tired and still has not made his first turn.
But still he's thinking to himself: "An hour to suffer, a lifetime to live." (You are no doubt beginning to guess where this will all end up). As the sun falls toward the horizon, he is miles from his goal; he has Bodhi Field shed his shoes and clothes to lighten his load and quicken his step. But he is overheated, his bare feet cut and bruised, his legs failing, and the sun sinking lower and lower. He now fears he has grasped too much and will ruin the whole affair; this anxiety makes him even more frantic and breathless. The sun is on the rim, his heart beating like a hammer, his legs giving way beneath him, and he spurts to the finish, reaching it just seconds after the sun sets. As he grabs the Chief's hat, he utters a plaintive cry, and dies of exhaustion. The villagers click their tongues in pity; amazed at the folly of human greed and people's inability to curb their wild imaginations to know contentment. And the Chief bestows on him now all the land he needs: six feet long and six feet deep.
I retell this story because I think it captures some of the sentiment expressed in our discussion thus far. It also brings us to the heart of Buddhism: how much is enough; how much do we really need? And what is the difference between need and greed?
Let me begin by acknowledging the question a gentleman from the audience raised earlier about "shared values," or rather the absence of them, in an era when a kind of cynical opportunism seems to reign. I think this issue goes to the very "soul" or "loss of the soul" that has accompanied the West's impressive rise to power and wealth. The Biblical question: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his soul?" now seems a bit passé. We are currently facing a situation in which the Biblical caution is already a
fait accompli. The triumph of capitalism has brought us, consciously or unconsciously, into a Faustian pact where we have for all intents and purposes sold our soul for profits.
Recently, Oxford University published a collaborative work, bringing together a group of prominent thinkers to address the "desacralization"
of life, or the loss of the sacred in everyday life. Where
religion once provided the tacit framework within which all
of our public discourse was conducted, no longer. A sacred
core of shared values by which we steer our public debate
and decisions is diminishing, almost completely eroded.
Post-modernism has dealt it yet another severe blow. They
noted that, "the age of belief is over, and the
post-Enlightenment process of secularization is virtually
complete." So, they debated this key question: can morality
survive, as the belief systems, which once underpinned it,
wither away? This then addresses the key question of shared
values. As the earlier speakers suggested, at least
implicitly, we do have, and are increasingly moving into a
system of shared values: the ideology of market capitalism.
But is this a glue that will hold us together, or a value
system that will tear us apart? And to what extent are
market values wholesome, beneficial, and conducive to the
To be continued