Before Siddhartha Gautama became Gautama Buddha he was a prince who lavished in his family’s wealth and never left their palace. Preceding Gautama Buddha’s fateful trip outside (encountering a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic) his days were spent in a haze of sex, drugs, and rock n roll.
Ujetsun Milarepa studied sorcery and could summon hailstorms to demolish houses (killing people in the same act), and destroy crops before he received tutelage under Marpa. After his spiritual teachings under Marpa came to an end he became one of the most famous yogis and poets of Tibetan Buddhism.
The narrative is old, but it carries on till this day. People change their careers and paths in life. I recently had a job interview and it was brought up again, "Wow! Learning cybersecurity with an art background. That's a pretty big leap." Sometimes that gets followed up with, "Were you unable to find a job in the arts?" I usually have a small rebuttal to both since it’s a common conversation nowadays.
1. For many people unfamiliar with Contemporary Art artists do an intense amount of research to achieve a good reputation and be well-considered. If my artwork is about cell division I'm going to be a subject expert in cells, biology, DNA replication, and so forth. I might not possess a PHD in that field but I can "talk the talk" with the most relevant scholars. In my case, my artwork has largely been about American and Chinese cultures. I'm expected to know the history of China-United States relations; how the cultures perceive one another; how they influence one another through soft or hard power; and so forth. Therefore, switching subject matters and career fields is something an artist can fully achieve because an artists skills are not limited to making objects/images/experiences.
2. Yes and no. I couldn't find a job in the arts for a variety of reasons. But the primary reason I'm studying cybersecurity now is because I had gone as far as I could with the answers the current art world gives. I was left largely unsatisfied with art discourse, trends, and career mobility. I'm still an artist, but now my path is a different one and it includes cybersecurity.
Since entering cybersecurity one thing has been abundantly clear, most of the ways cybersecurity is discussed falls in the realm of authoritative (frameworks, policies, governance), entrepreneurial (profits, enterprises, business operations), and technical (training, deliverables, products and services). To me this encompasses a lot of conventions belonging to a highly Western-centric and postindustrial society. And that’s reasonable, most writings on cybersecurity come from governments, militaries, and businesses rooted in capitalism. There hasn’t (to my current awareness, forgive the ignorance) been any engagement with how cybersecurity connects with the humanities and natural world.
As I enter my second year at my university’s cybersecurity program a large portion of my focus is going to be on how to make cybersecurity applicable to the traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices of Buddhism. So why Buddhism as an approach to cybersecurity?
One reason is that Buddhism already provides various teachings, practices, and methods that integrate very beautifully with many aspects we already experience within the impermanence of cyberspace. Additionally, Buddhism as a teaching and practice is flexible and can be implemented in various fields allowing it to be easily adaptable to a broad range of subjects and concepts. Finally, no matter our mastery of technology; our data analysis and findings; or how refined our policies may become it is the human aspect that is at the root of conflicts in cyberspace. We often forget that while cyberspace is a man-made domain driven by technology, mankind is a part of nature thus cyberspace is also a part of the natural world.
In the following months, I hope to share some of my findings and attempts at approaching cybersecurity through a Buddhist approach.