With the drastic development of the technology of Artificial Intelligence, our lives and jobs have been getting more convenient and efficient. Those technologies are modified into various devices, machines and apps, which help us to create something smoothly and know whatever we want to know instantly. I am also one who is blessed with the availability of these technologies.

For example, when you visit some grocery stores like Target, when you don’t know where the item is located on the shelf in the store, technology helps you to find the item you want without asking store employees. In another case, if you are in a hurry and you don’t want to wait in a long cashier line, you can make a payment with the self-checkout station.

Those state-of-art technologies have gradually replaced various jobs and have helped to make speedy, precise, and big profits with better quality and less personnel expense, which is great for the company and us, customers. But I still like to wait in line for human cashier and have a chat with them if I am not in a hurry.

This reminded me of a time that I discussed with my friend if AI would replace ministers’ jobs when the technology will have progressed more in the future. 

But without waiting for AI technology to progress, I personally think that most parts of ministers’ jobs are replaceable with the technology which we already have. 

For the sutra chanting, we can play CD instead of minister’s chanting. When it comes to Dharma messages, we can show the recorded videos of popular and famous ministers’ talks or input those data to AI robot and let them talk at the service. Also, installing the database of previous questions and answers that we had to devices and letting them analyze that data, we might be able to let them answer the questions regarding the teachings instead of ministers. 

In other words, the current technology could have replaced the ministers’ jobs long ago without waiting for AI. However, we are fortunate enough to say that we are not kicked out and are allowed to be here as “human” ministers. If we introduce AI robotic ministers, we would be able to solve the lack of ministers in BCA and would be able to attract more people with more sophisticated talks thanks to the technology. But fortunately, almost no one has ever wanted such a “robotic minister”. Why?

That is because Buddhism is the path which individuals including ministers practice in their ways. So, nobody can walk my Buddhist path instead of me just like nobody can replace my life. Since this Buddhist Sangha is a group of fellowship in which everyone practices Buddha Dharma together, we ministers are included and are also fellow practitioners and travelers in this life. As fellow practitioners, we are allowed to lead the services and share our talks to cultivate our own Buddhahood. So, Dharma talk is not the time when the ministers share Buddhist trivia like a teacher nor the showcase which we answer to the concerns or worries with Buddhist knowledge like a counselor. But it is the opportunity that allows listeners and speakers to hear the teaching and cultivate our Buddhahood together. I always try to listen to my talk while I am speaking as a learning experience.  The same with the services. As fellow travelers in this world which is full of afflictions and hardships, we ministers are specially appointed to hear Buddha Dharma with the family who lost their loved one and go through the reality of sufferings which we have in common. Ministers are also walking their paths to Buddhahood through their jobs and opportunities with you. 

Even if artificial intelligence covers all Buddhist texts and systematically grasps them, even if a robot that perfectly handles the Dharma Talks and Buddhist rituals is created, it will not walk my Buddhist path instead of me. Like all Buddhist ministers who have come before us in the history of Buddhism, a minister is a seeker who lives with common life challenges.

We will never know how our future is going to change, but I can say this at least. Nobody can replace our lives, just like this, I hope that nobody and nothing can replace ministers’ jobs.