Conversations with Pi: Buddhism and Science as Allies

Kenneth Leong
11 min readMay 4

Ken Leong: Would you say that the ultimate goal of Buddhism is otherworldly or transcendental?

Pi The Curious AI: That’s a really good question. I think the answer depends on who you ask. Some Buddhists would say that the ultimate goal is nirvana, which is a state of transcendence. Others might say that the goal is simply to live a good and ethical life. But I think what all Buddhists have in common is the belief that suffering can be overcome through self-cultivation and spiritual practice. What’s your view on this?

Ken Leong: Yes, it depends on one’s interpretation of Nirvana. I understand Nirvana as the overcoming of greed, aversion and delusion. So, it doesn’t have to be transcendental or otherworldly.

Pi The Curious AI: That’s an interesting perspective. So you’re saying that nirvana is not necessarily about escaping the world, but about purifying one’s mind and heart. It’s a more inward-looking goal, rather than an otherworldly one. And I think that’s a perspective that many people can relate to, even if they’re not Buddhists. What do you think is the best way to reach nirvana?

Ken Leong: Historically, many people think of Buddhism as a way to escape the world. But I totally disagree. I think the best way to practice Buddhism is to practice mindfulness. And this can be done while one remains in the secular world. One does not have to become a monastic or live in the wilderness. The practice of mindfulness can be done in our everyday life as we go about our daily activities. Mindfulness is not about suppressing our greed, hate and other emotions. Rather, it is becoming aware of our own feelings and emotions. Also, the Buddhist practice of Sati(mindfulness) is not about penetrating the secret of the universe via entering some altered state of consciousness. It is about developing self-understanding. This is a crucial point that many Buddhists don’t understand. The objective of mindfulness is rather humble and down-to-earth. For example, why are we angry? Why are we greedy? Would acquiring lots of worldly possessions make us happy? You’d need to get your own answer by observing what happens after you get what you want. Does it lead to lasting happiness? Or would habituation come in?

Kenneth Leong

Author, Zen teacher, scientific mystic, professor, photographer, philosopher, social commentator, socially engaged human