Buddhist Questions & Answers On 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 of their ‘truths’ beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Whether as Buddhists or otherwise, we should be mindful not to rely on others’ words based on blind faith, but to investigate in detail personally. Even if one simply believes what another says due to the person’s reputation, one is relying on a personality and not the truth itself. This is going against the Buddha’s teachings in a very fundamental way. To know if one is doing so, one should ask oneself if one will believe the same ideas if they are propagated by any other person instead.

Q: What if there is a conspiracy theory by NASA and such to conceal the truth from us?
A: What are the chances that every single respected scientific and governmental authority is capable of hiding the truth from everyone? 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.

Though NASA already openly reassures, as above, that nothing particularly terrible will happen in 2012, some ‘2012-doomsday-or-disaster’ propagators claim that their source of information was leaked from NASA, that NASA is concealing their findings due to fear of causing panic. If so, is their information officially from NASA or not? If official information of impending disaster did leak from NASA, it should be proved traceable to NASA by the propagators. If this is not proved by them, what ground is there to believe them? Also, if it is agreeable that panic should not be caused, why should the propagators do exactly that?

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 especially ‘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 himself does not believe in the 2012 phenomenon!

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. These things 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 a coming 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 day 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 entirely 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 from 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 best we can, with as much mindful compassion and wisdom as possible. 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 great collective negative karma.

Q: Could 2012 ideas be a skilful means?
A: Some think that propagating 2012 ideas might be a skilful means to urge everyone to buck up our spiritual practice. However, there are clearly much more skilful means to do so, such as using the Buddha’s teaching of immediacy above. Also, the spread of unfounded rumours will be proven unskilful in the long run when spiritual trust is lost, when the prophecised fail to come true. May fellow Buddhists and Dharma teachers be mindful of not causing the Dharma they share and themselves to lose credibility by sharing any unskilful ideas.

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 on any 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 this 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.

If you found this article useful, please share it with your friends. Thank you.

A briefer version of this article also appears on 01.01.12 at http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=8,10647,0,0,1,0 as a special feature, in issue 478 (Apr-Jun 2012) of Singapore Buddhist Federation’s ‘Nanyang Buddhist’ magazine and Jan 2012’s issue of Malaysia’s ‘Eastern Horizon’ magazine.  

Related Articles by Readers:

Beware of ‘Buddhist’ 2012 Hearsay
This Prophecy Could Save Your Life Today (Or Tomorrow)?
How To Advise Friends Affected By 2012 Hearsay?
The Buddha’s Warnings Against Demonic False Teachers

Don’t Tell Me You Saved The World


  • I would like to add on by providing some info and personal opinions with regards to 2012; on 31 Dec 2011, the ambassador of Mexico to Singapore wrote an article to the Straits Times Forum Page clarifying that the Dec 23 ( http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_750465.html ), 2012 is not the end of the world but the end of the 13th cycle of the Mayan calendar, and the beginning of a new cycle in which the cosmos would regenerate. Nowhere is it mentioned that major catastrophes would occur as well.

    I find this to be similar to our Chinese zodiac calendar whose cycle ends after 12 years. What happens after that? End of the world or major catastrophes? Another cycle just begins at the end of each previous cycle. I dun think there is a need for us to be alarmed at all.

    Another source of info being quoted is NASA, which has openly refuted this prediction on its website. Some may argue that NASA will not openly admit their findings, for fear of creating pandemonium. But aren’t that these very people who believe and propagate this prediction create exactly the same fear that they claimed should not be spreaded in the first place? How can these people substantiate their beliefs if NASA openly refuted the prediction? This is the ultimate contradiction.

    In conclusion, let us try to be more rational in our beliefs. We should not take any info superficially, more so when it is being sensationalised. More than that, we should avoid making any firm statements based on half truths, or hearsay from any teacher and end up having to eat our words later. We will lose our credibility doing so. May all beings have the wisdom to see the truth. May they be well and happy.

  • From http://www.kagyuoffice.org/#2012NewYearMessage :


    December 28, 2011

    Many people have expressed anxiety about disasters that might befall the world in the year 2012. In fact, we never know what any given year might hold. But if we are sincerely committed to following a path of compassion and wisdom, this uncertainty about the future need not cause us any concern. Whatever happens, we simply keep our focus directed steadily at what matters most—cultivating compassion and equanimity, and acting to benefit others. If we harbor this attitude in our hearts, we can make anything that occurs positive for ourselves and for others.

    The year 2011 itself brought many unanticipated challenges—to our natural environment and to many human communities. My heartfelt prayers go to all those who suffered in the turmoil of this year.

    I wish especially to offer my prayers to all those who connected with me in any way during this year, as well as to all who will connect in the future. May you find lasting happiness and true peace. May all of us who share this planet go forward together into the new year in harmony. May we live this year with mutual love and respect for one another and for the earth that is our common home.

  • From ‘The Straits Times’ on 31.12.11

    Mayans didn’t predict end of world, but the start of regeneration

    IN THURSDAY’S commentary (‘2012: Asia’s big moment at risk’ by Mr William Pesek), the writer wrongly attributed to the ancient Mayas of Mexico the prediction that the world would end in 2012.

    To make things more confusing, the illustration accompanying the article had a reproduction not of the Mayan calendar, but the so-called Aztec calendar, in reality the Aztec’s stone monument to the sun god.

    To set the record straight, according to authorised scholars on the subject, the ancient Mayans – great architects, mathematicians and astronomers – predicted in the 6th century AD not the end of the world on Dec 23, 2012, but the end of the 13th cycle ‘b’ak’tun’ of the Mayan calendar, and the beginning of a new cycle in which the cosmos would regenerate.

    Also, it may be mentioned that the Mayan calendar is not represented in a single image, but is a complex system consisting of around 15,000 hieroglyphic signs, known as Mayan glyphs, which look very different from the Aztec sun god stone.

    We are very happy to note the great interest in the Mayan prophecies around the world, and present day Mexicans and descendants of the Mayans in the Mexican state of Yucatan are preparing to receive during 2012 a large number of visitors interested to know more about the vast cultural and scientific legacy of the Mayans and the rich diversity and attractions Mexico has to offer our visitors from abroad.

    I take this opportunity to extend to readers my best wishes for a wonderful 2012 as well as a warm invitation to visit Mexico in 2012, and welcome the advent of a new and better cycle for humanity on Mayan territory.

    As chair of the Group of 20 nations, Mexico will be hosting in June a summit of leaders, in order to contribute to solving some of the urgent problems mentioned in the commentary.

    Antonio Villegas
    Ambassador of Mexico to Singapore

  • Thank you for the detailed Q&A and many relevant comments. I have some points to share too…

    Beware Of ‘Buddhist’ 2012 Hearsay

    As according to the Buddha’s teaching in the Kalama Sutta, we should have wise enquiry for the truth, and be wary of blindly subscribing to unfounded hearsay, both online or offline. As long as not yet fully enlightened, not everything said by well known persons, even teachers with wide followings, has 100% guarantee of being always correct.

    Below is a true case study, as carefully and accurately summarised and analysed. The actual sources of information are not shared here as their links might further mislead readers when spread without this commentary. This was written not to slander anyone, but to address an important matter rationally and factually, without fear or favour, to safeguard the Dharma and to protect fellow Buddhists and others who might be affected.

    A teacher on 22.12.2011 spoke online with grave and apparent ‘conclusive certainty’ that there will be 3 days of darkness from 21.12.2012 onwards, that the world will enter the ‘zero dimension’ before going into the ‘fourth dimension’, that there will be much destruction and death, that technology (including modes of transport like planes, ships and cars) might fail, that there might be no electricity and gas, returning us to olden times. He held some papers as he spoke, and says this information is from the most authoritative report, from NASA.

    11 days later, on 02.01.2012, he takes back ALL his words above in a vague manner in another video. He says there is lots of information (news) on disasters out there, that there is no need to bother, that they are not reliable, that whatever they are about, they are not important at all, that their origins are unknown, that there is no need to believe this and that, that to bother about such information is to practise Buddhism wrongly, that we should transform the environment with our minds instead, that if you want to, you can take a look at the information, that if you don’t want to, there is no need to at all.

    1 day later, on 03.01.2012, he says that he received information that NASA is denouncing many 2012 hoaxes, which have no scientific proof, that this implies asking us not to believe them. He says, ‘Is there reason? We hear this to be reasonable. Why? The environment changes with the mind. If we all do not think about it, this matter will not be there. If you go and think about it, it will come.’

    Here is a deeper analysis of problems with the above proclamations:

    1. NASA did not say the above, that he first claimed on 22.12.2011. What NASA says can be seen at http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html There goes his so-called most authoritative report, right down the drain. Also, what is this zero to fourth dimension darkness and end of technology prediction, that was not even explained scientifically, even as a plausible theory?

    2. He should openly apologise to his followers who became worried over his openly said words, and apologise for putting words in NASA’s mouth, even if he was merely parroting someone else’s blindly. The unnecessary panic and harm caused by his words is hard to measure indeed. Given his relatively high profile, can we imagine how many might lose faith in Buddhism and other Buddhist teachers generally as a result, when his hearsay is spread and sincerely believed in blindly? He should explain for his mistakes properly. There are some who might become depressed and contemplate drastic ‘measures’ like suicide too, to avoid experiencing an impending disaster.

    3. He had taught much over the last few years on impending 2012 problems. When he simply said recently, that there is no need to bother about such information, how do his followers know which past information not to bother about any more? Does this include what he said before, and now? Which is the baby to keep and which the bathwater to throw out? His erroneous videos’ links are also spreading in an uncontrolled manner.

    4. As he said that lots of information out there is unreliable and is unimportant in such a certain way, why did he rely on and spread such unreliable and unimportant information with ‘certainty’ in the first place? How do we know if future information from him on this (or other subjects) will be reliable or important, since he said there is no need to bother about ‘such information’ out there? Is he the only reliable source of information? If he is, he would not had said what is unreliable in the first place. He should simply unequivocally say what he said earlier about 2012 was unreliable, especially from the perspective of the truly reliable and authoritative source that he wrongly referenced from earlier – NASA!

    5. It is irresponsible to say there is no need to bother about all information (news). Without information, how do we become informed of community and worldwide problems, such as the climate crisis and the misfortune of other beings, so as to do what is needed? Without information, how can anyone who heard his seriously wrong claims have rectified information? It is also wrong to make a sweeping statement that all information out there is not reliable, not important, or with unknown origins. E.g. NASA is reasonably reliable on an international basis (which is why hoaxsters ride upon its namesake). In fact, isn’t this why he made statements with reference to NASA, albeit inaccurately? With timely and appropriate information on various matters in the world, many problems can be avoided too – such as allaying panic due to 2012 hoaxes.

    6. If all Buddhists should shut ourselves from all information, how do we become active Bodhisattvas in engaging the world with compassion and wisdom skilfully? There is a limit to how much we can transform the environment with our limited mind transformation. If it is so easy to do so, this world will be a Pure Land instantly for everyone already. Why would there be the need to warn of disasters like he did? If we should just shut ourselves from all information, why did he share the wrong information with others in the first place, over such a long time too, which he now takes back? Shouldn’t he had shut himself from the hoaxes in the first place?

    7. He often said he doesn’t read newspapers or watch the news because there is no need to. Yet he kept talking about ‘news’ of 2012 in a misguided manner recently. His 22.12.2011 announcement was especially ‘significant’ because he claimed it was officially (sic) from NASA, that it is of special concern. Yet, he says he doesn’t know where the information is really from 11 days later. Without more explanation, he just says that it, like other such information, is of no concern. How many might have heard of only his first or earlier announcements of an ‘impending disaster’ but not the second ‘corrective’ one? Out of compassion and wisdom, he should clarify more clearly and openly.

    8. Unfortunately, this is not the first time he made ambiguous and misleading statements about an ‘impending disaster’ that is proven not true. As mentioned, may all be careful when listening to anyone, including teachers. Again, not all teachers are always right. In fact, few teachers are always right, as few are totally enlightened. In this recent case, if the information was passed to him by deluded followers, and if he believed in them and shared the information wrongly, he should just admit so to clear the air. He could had ironically victimised himself and others he preach to by blocking proper objective channels of information in the first place, as in point 7 above. Teachers’ delusions are ironically often created and sustained by their deluded students, but they themselves as teachers are always responsible too, for trusting unsound sources without sound discernment. Worse still, is pride and delusion that prevents proper apologies and clarifications for one’s grave mistakes.

    9. On 03.01.2012, he still fails to apologise for his years of 2012 rumour-mongering despite now knowing NASA’s official stance. He simply says that there are many unscientific hoaxes, but does not say directly that what he has been saying on 2012 belongs to the same category, that he had been hoaxed into being a hoaxster too. He had been asking countless to believe conclusively in 2012 hoaxes, and now he simply says there is no need to believe them at all, that this is reasonable. That makes him unreasonable all along in rumour-mongering. He also sneaks around the issue by saying NASA implied that not thinking about a coming disaster is the way to avert it, as if the disaster is still a possibility. NASA has never said this, while giving this perspective is using NASA’s name to cover his mistakes. If this principle works 100%, he is totally guilty for making his followers keep thinking and worrying at length about a coming disaster in the recent years till today – that could have led to a real disaster. He should not have said anything about 2012 in the first place in any case then. Saying that simply not thinking about something will not make that thing come true is simplistic. For instance, we do not need to think of death but everyone unenlightened still dies some day, and just thinking about not dying does not make us immortal.

    It cannot be said once and for all, that this episode of the 2012 hoax fueled by the said teacher has come to an end for good, as he might flip his words incoherently again, as above? Although he is seen as a good teacher by some, he is also known for generating major contentious Dharma issues in the eyes of other respectable Buddhist teachers, such as the popularisation of a compiled (and thus heavily edited) so-called ‘sutra’ not approved by any Buddhist Patriarch in history, that continues to cause needless division in the Buddhist community. Such a text cannot be said to be actual words of the Buddha, even if somewhat (but not exactly) aligned in principle. In his 02.01.2012 talk, he again tells his followers not to doubt this so-called ‘sutra’, that it is the best, that if it is doubted, one might miss the opportunity to reach their spiritual goal in this life. This is untrue because it would mean that no one else reached their spiritual goals by relying on the orthodox version of the sutra, which the last great Patriarch used too.

    Despite respect for whatever good he has done, partially due to the above (and other issues not easy to detail here), it is now hard to respect his character, which seems to lack true contrition and repentance in speech and action for his mistakes. The only way he can regain respect from appalled fellow Buddhists is to realise and resolve his mistakes openly and clearly as soon as possible. (Some previous contentious issues have been politely sent to his organisations’ branches for clarifications years ago, but replies are still in want.)

  • There are so many doomsday prophesies which turned out to be false, and I guess this is another one of them. It is impossible to even predict one’s time of death, not to mention the end of the world.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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