This blog ran from May 2011 to March 2014. Over 100 posts were published and over 6,000 comments written. Many of the comments are substantive essays in their own right.
If you are at all interested in the critical project called non-buddhism, this site offers you a wealth of material. The sites linked to the right will also be useful.
This phase of the project is over Yet furies remain aflight. As long as they do, I will post news and updates concerning the non-buddhist project.
Please let me know if you discover any interesting bits to share. You can do so by leaving a comment. (Comments are closed to public view, but I see them.)
If you want to be involved in current discussions on non-buddhist critical practices, here’s where to do so:
Non-X Discussion Forum
The Faithful Buddhist
Der Unbuddhist (German and English)
non + x (e-journal)
Dharma i okolice (Polish and English)
Peace and thanks.
For now, here’s what’s happening (most recent first; newest updates are in red):
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July 10, 2014 I’d like to bring your attention to a few important texts and discussions.
In “One For The Road: Buddhism and the Recovery Industry,” at The Faithful Buddhist, Tom Pepper writes:
I feel somehow compelled to take one last shot at making a point I’ve tried to make many times over the last three years—here, on Speculative Non-buddhism, and in Non+X, as well as in any number of online discussions. I’m going to end this blog with yet another mention of this issue because it is very important to me personally, and is something that has been, and will continue to be, seriously harmful and even fatal to many millions of people here in the U.S., and no doubt in the rest of the world as well.
To help make his case, Pepper discusses Noah Levine’s new book Refuge Recovery.
Levine offers the same old model of addiction and the subject we have inherited from centuries of Western and Christian attempts to solve the problem, with exotic-sounding terms and lots of references to The Buddha to make it seem novel. His book is even structured like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, with steps to follow and a section of personal recovery stories for inspiration.
As you can expect from Tom Pepper, it’s razor sharp, no-nonsense writing and discussion.
At The Non-Buddhist, Patrick Jennings has written a piece called “Force of Creation; The non-Aesthetic.” It is a fascinating piece using some of Laruelle’s ideas to explicate paintings of the artist Phillip Guston. From the text:
When philosophy presents us with the dilemma – an essence transcendent of matter, biology, and the social, or a reduction to matter, biology, the social – this dilemma and its solution (on either count) just is the absolutizing move which Laruelle critiques as the mixture of the epistemological and the philosophical, of empirical investigation and philosophical generalizations. When science is left to itself, however, it produces open ensembles of knowledges, in which the findings of the sciences interact while remaining distinct – to lie alongside each other rather than being gathered up by philosophy as its raw material.
Laruelle sees his work as most alive when placed next to local knowledges, particularly the arts. Jennings’s piece is an excellent example. Hopefully, it will generate discussion and further similar efforts.
At Smiling Buddha Cabaret, NellaLou has written two thoughtful posts that might be productively read alongside of Pepper’s: “A Review of The Promise of Happiness,” by Sara Ahmed, and “Further Comments on Happiness.” From the always insightful NellaLou:
Happiness, as it is often framed, or as it is often dangled before us as some kind of tempting goal, is also a highly coercive concept and one that has often been used to disguise it’s use as a potentially oppressive means to reinforce and maintain the status quo.
At The Non-x Reader, John presents Jay Garfield’s essay “Taking Conventional Truth Seriously.” John writes:
Despite its under-representation in modern Buddhist discourse, there is a strong tradition of rejecting transcendence and establishing the importance of the conventional in Madhyamaka. As Jay Garfield notes, “conventional truth is all the truth there is” and “Despite the importance of the apprehension of ultimate truth, even after Buddhahood, omniscience and compassion require the apprehension of the conventional.”
Garfield’s essay, “Taking Conventional Truth Seriously: Authority Regarding Deceptive Reality,” examines the two truths in the works of Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, and Tsong khapa, explaining an often mystified topic with lucidity. This approach to the two truths illuminates a Buddhist path that isn’t mystical or obscurantist and opens the door to The Great Feast of Knowledge.
In case you missed it, Tomek Idzik wrote an insightful and intelligent piece at his blog Dharma i okolice: “Buddha’s Mind or Neoliberal Self?“
[I]t is not so easy to dump the whole responsibility for the failures of neoliberal transformations on the shoulders of various barefoot gurus. On the contrary, as evidenced by the proliferation of self-help discourses in Post-Soviet block for the past 30 years, one can much easier draw a straightforward conclusion that what in fact those “enlightened” gurus offer is the very panacea for a whole range of evils to which this neoliberal transformation has apparently contributed.
July 7, 2014 One of our more thoughtful commentators, Alan, just launched a blog, Tapp’s Last Crepe. Good luck, Alan! From his description:
“…there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.” –Samuel Beckett
Beckett famously said this of the painter Pierre Tal-Coat, but surely it applies to Beckett himself. It is in the spirit of “nothing to express” that I begin this blog. I may have some desire to express, but if I do, I don’t know why. I may have some sense of obligation to express, but to whom or for what reason I do not know. Regarding what it is that I wish to express, I don’t know that either.
So, a word about obligation to express and what to express.
July 4, 2014. A If anyone wants to help some people understand the non-buddhism project(s), chime at the Buddhism StackExchange. They’re stumbling over the usual confusions, I’m afraid. The old tedious anti-intellectualism is coursing through their comments, too. “Tommy” has a funny answer where he uses a logic analogy and inadvertently (I can only assume) state both A and not-A.
July 1, 2014 new blog dedicated to the non-buddhist critique! Non-x Reader: sapping the X-vallation. Here’s the description:
This will be a place for material related to the non-Buddhist project. At the moment, I’m planning on posting old pieces from the various blogs and articles from thinkers who have inspired them, and it may branch out to interviews, art, and original content. Contributions are welcome.
Think about contributing, will you? The most we can offer at this point in time is text–analyses of x-buddhist materials, reviews of books, theoretical tools and weapons. Someday, x-buddhist teachers will have to reckon with our productions. Given the old hippies and young Googleplexicrats who now control the x-buddhist discourse, my statement may sound quixotic. And yet, change is inevitable–though not necessarily for the better. So why not put lay down some raw materials for some future edifice?
June 12, 2014 Two thought-provoking new texts: First, Tomek Idzik’s, “Buddha’s Mind or Neoliberal Self?” From the essay:
it is not so easy to dump the whole responsibility for the failures of neoliberal transformations on the shoulders of various barefoot gurus. On the contrary, as evidenced by the proliferation of self-help discourses in Post-Soviet block for the past 30 years, one can much easier draw a straightforward conclusion that what in fact those “enlightened” gurus offer is the very panacea for a whole range of evils to which this neoliberal transformation has apparently contributed.
Nonetheless, I think that if one wants to understand to a certain degree the phenomenon of disrupted democracy in Europe today – especially if one happen to be an active participant of such self-help discourses – one cannot simply omit the apolitical overtones of messages spread by gurus like Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Also, at the Non-Buddhist, “The Affective Aspect of Decision.” This piece is the kind of “evidence-based” critique that anyone who desires to wreak havoc on the shameful transcendental-thaumaturgical pretensions of x-buddhist teachers will welcome. More work like this! Be sure to watch the video about the Danish teacher Ole Nydahl (if you can bear it). Again, the authors subject hard evidence gathered from the x-buddhist marketplace to a non-buddhist critical-theoretical claim. A German version, titled “Der affektive Aspekt der Entscheidung am Beispiel des x-buddhistischen Heiligen Ole Nydahl,” is available at Der Unbuddhist.
June 10, 2014 Tom Pepper has published a collection of his essays from The Faithful Buddhist. It’s available as a Nook Book for only $1.25 at Barnes and Noble. You can read what Tom has to say about it at his still-breathing blog. Relish once more such bonne bouches of wisdom from the Pepperspray Bodhisattva such as:
Being a Faithful Buddhist does NOT mean being a smiling, docile lamb, able to accept everything as it is and live in blissful comfort unbothered by the horrors in the world. Any individual who can live like this, anyone who isn’t made rude and angry by the World we live in, is part of the problem, with no exceptions.
And remember that stupidity is not a private characteristic of the soul, but the effect of the practices an individual has been interpellated into: don’t be afraid to call a moron a moron!
Here’s the overview of the book:
This is a collection of essays written over the course of three years, and previously published one blogs or in an online journal. The essays are part of an attempt to reconsider Buddhism as it begins to grow in the western world. The title of the book is the title of Tom Pepper’s blog, and refers to the attempt to be “faithful” to what he considers the core truths of Buddhist thought.
Although these essays are mostly available on the internet, this collection was put together to make them more easily available in a convenient format, and without the expense and waste of printing the more than 250 pages of texts collected here.
It is the authors hope that those who have been interested in the projects that generated these essays will find in them some inspiration to continue and expand the critical exploration of Buddhist thought that is barely begun here.
June 6, 2014 A discussion is cracklin’ on Reddit about non-buddhism. One of the more interesting questions that came up there– “It’s one of those ‘the map is not the terrain’ kind of thing, isn’t it?”–is being carried on at the non-x Discussion Forum.
June 4, 2014 Patrick Jennings and Matthias Steingass have written a very clear and insightful short introduction to non-buddhism. As he says, there may be more to come. (I hope so.) His texts serve as an entrance to non-buddhist thought. I don’t know what it will take to get our current shapers and explicators of x-buddhism in the West to inject their thinking with some fresh ideas, but maybe they can start with Steingass and Jennings’s piece.
This post is a short introduction to non-buddhism. It covers the basics for anyone who is not familiar with non-buddhism and is meant to introduce the main points and act as a encouragement to further reading and research. We hope to write further short texts on particular points including decision, minimal transcendence, non-buddhism and meditation, the historical Buddha, ideological interpellation, and the connection between non-buddhism and critique off capitalism. These texts will be available to the newcomer as a separate category accessible from the top bar. You can find a German version of this text on Der Unbuddhist.
May 20, 2014. If you’re in New York City on May 30th, you might want to check out this panel: “Buddhism, Radical Critique and Revolutionary Praxis.” That discussion is just one panel in the “Left Forum” conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York (540 West 59 Street [59th and 10th Ave] NYC. The conference title is, “Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World with Transformative Justice.”
Once again, Left Forum is happening May 30th through June 1st in NYC…A unique phenomenon in the U.S. and the world, Left Forum convenes the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public. (Read full description here.)
Other talks that should interest readers of this blog include: “Hey Activists, Read This!: Why Progressives Should Read More Fiction;” “Music, Social Movements and Revolution;” and “Marx and the Alternative to Capitalism;”
I am very curious about the Buddhism panel. Unfortunately, I will be out of town then. If anyone does go, maybe you’ll write up a report for us, either here or at The Non-Buddhist. Let me know. (Thanks to Fionnchú and Matthias Steingass for the information.)
May 20, 2014. I posted the following query over at the non-x Discussion Forum. If you have any suggestions, please comment over there. Thanks.
I’m thinking that I still need to flesh out the idea of non-buddhist first names or first terms. I plan begin this summer. I offered a course last semester where people critiqued their own beloved ideologies (Beckett, Zen, My Family, Thoreau, MBSR, Poetry, Acupuncture, and so on). The one thing the students had trouble with was creating first names from the decimated babble emanating from their ruins. And these “students” are all mature adults with M.A.s and Ph.Ds. So, something is not clear about this crucial critical move. I also think that cloning x-buddhist concepts is the most constructive feature of non-buddhism.
I started to experiment with cloning on page 145 of CT|SP under “Coda: A Thought Experiment: Recalculating X-Buddhist Terms as Non-Buddhist First Names.” That title should give you a good idea of what I’m after. This, too:
“First name” or “first term” is a Laruellen concept. Laruelle defines first terms as:
Fundamental terms which symbolize the Real and its modes according to its radical immanence or its identity. They are deprived of their philosophical sense and become, via axiomatized abstraction, the terms—axioms and theorems —of non-philosophy. (Future Christ xxvi)
The basic question driving the project is this: What might foundational x-buddhist terms offer us once they are divested of their specifically x-buddhist ideological force and shorn of their decisional transcendence? Might they contribute collectively to a non-buddhist organon of what Laruelle refers to above as “the identity of the real”?
I am asking you to identify what you think are aristocratic x-buddhist terms. I have my own ideas, of course; but I’d like to hear yours. In the book, I treated the following:
Nibbida (revulsion, aversion, disgust) → Disenchantment. The truth of requisite disappointment.
Sati (present-moment awareness; mindfulness) → Ancestral anamnesis. The truth of the non-correlational memorial sacrifice.
Anicca (impermanence) → Vanishing. The truth of dissolution.
Anattā (no-self, insubstantiability) → social-symbolic identity. The truth of communal selfhood.
Suññatā/śūnyatā(emptiness) → nihility. The truth of void.
Papañca (conceptual proliferation, cognitive elaboration, diffuseness) → thinking. The truth of thought’s inevitability.
Paticcasamuppāda (dependent origination, conditioned genesis) → Absolute contingency. The truth of chance over law.
Sabba (the all) → The Universe. The truth of intransitivity.
Paññā (understanding, wisdom) → Perspicuity. The truth of immanental transparency.
Nibbāna/nirvāṇa (extinguishment, blowing out) → Extinction. The truth of annihilation.
Bodhi (awakening, enlightenment) → Flesh and blood humanity. The truth of human sufficiency.
So, what else? Thanks!
May 13, 2014. Tom Pepper and Patricia Comitini have launched a very exciting new e-journal, Imaginary Relations: A Journal for the Critique of Aesthetic Objects. The e-journal is intended for teachers, students, scholars, and theorists. The editors are currently inviting submissions. Here’s more:
Imaginary Relations seeks to return ideological critique and analysis to the study of literature and film. As the title indicates, we begin from the concept of ideology Althusser introduced in his well known essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation.” Recognizing that ideology is not an illusion or false consciousness, but a positive social practice which reproduces social formations, we seek to investigate how certain kinds of aesthetic objects function ideologically. Though Imaginary Relations suggests an Althusserian legacy, the journal recognizes a complex materialist history of ideology that predates and surpasses Althusser. As Fredric Jameson has remarked, “the ambiguity and the semantic slippages in a term like ‘ideology’ are as productive as they are intolerable; the dialectical use of such a term specifies it in a local textual situation, but mobilizes the presence of competing meanings … as a means of problematizing the issues themselves and making their complexity less avoidable” (Valences of the Dialectic, 317). This journal seeks to examine the competing meanings that ideologies generate; how ideologies are produced and reproduced in single cultural productions: poetry, fiction, drama, film, and television; how ideologies function to produce material practices, such as reading, and how those reading practices can work to reproduce and transform ideologies. The journal, therefore, focuses on the complex valences of ideology as positive and productive forces in culture that do, and can, transform subjectivities and social relations.
May 13, 2014. A hard-hitting and thoughtful post by Tomek Idzik at The Non-Buddhist called “Humophobia.” Join the stimulating discussion.
Reading texts such as Ajahn Chah’s Our Real Home, it’s relatively easy to see the way in which one of those realized types – an enlightened mutant called the arahant–is still, in the twenty first century, used to exploit human fears–Mun in this particular case fear of deterioration and death – in order to subjugate the flesh and blood of any potential reader. This particular case is an extreme one. It could easily shock the contemporary enthusiast of mindfulness, who very often know next to nothing about the bleak and terrifying side of a tradition from which her mindful practice (sati), supposedly, derives. Yet I think that this glaring example of x-buddhist parasitism allows us to portray what constitutes a common denominator for modern propagators of the mindfulness industry. In the general x-buddhist discourse, this denominator functions to strengthen the belief in the existence of variously defined defects supposedly inherent in man’s nature (very often called an “ego” in modern x-buddhist circles)–allegedly manifesting as lust, deception, hostility, ignorance, etc.
May 13, 2014. Good shit poppin’ over at the non + x discussion forum. Have a look at the “Buddhism is insidious” thread, for instance.
May 1, 2014, 2014. Is the emerging western x-buddhism just a (barely) refashioned version of “relaxationism”? Have a look at Tomek Idzik’s thoughtful essay “Zinn Industries’ Relaxationism” at Dharma i okolice (in English).
May 1, 2014, 2014. I asked Tom Pepper a couple of questions about art and ideology. Hopefully, you will join the conversation, and ask him some follow-up questions, or respond to his views.
April 24, 2014, 2014. A very interesting and potentially fruitful new direction at The Non-Buddhist: “A Reorientation,” by Patrick Jennings.
It seems a good time to reformulate our aim, given recent developments. Things have moved on. For my part, I think the project has passed the point where engaging with x-buddhists per se is of real interest. As I have said before, I would like to broaden it by exploring the concept buddhistically uninterpretable and what that might mean for discourse and personal/collective practice.
This requires an experimental space where we can produce texts without having to defend their rightness against some preordained version of the truth; a space free from the imposition of an arbitrary political, ideological or philosophical authority, for ourselves, our texts, or anyone commenting or posting here.
Which does not exclude sometimes forceful expression of a point of view, or critique of someone else view, or a legitimate sense that one should struggle for what one perceives as the most creative, practical or knowledgeable perspective. It means that we conduct engagement on the basis of equality and freedom from harassment.
April 6, 2014, 2014. Join the discussion on x-buddhist circularity at The Non Buddhist. Original post by Matthias Mauderer.
April 4, 2014, 2014. Alain Badiou talk in Athens, Greece: “True Communism Is the Foreignness of Tomorrow.” The relevance of many of the ideas communicated in this talk to non-buddhist thought is, I hope, not too difficult to see. (Thanks to NellaLou for the link.)
Thirty years ago there was an ideological wall, a political iron curtain. Today there is a wall that separates the jouissance of the rich from the desire of the poor.
Everything works as if sharp separations have to be drawn among living bodies according to their provenance and resources, in order for the single world of monetary signs and objects to exist. Today, I repeat, there is no world. That is, because the cost of the unified world of capital is the brutal, violent division of human existence into two regions separated by walls, police dogs, bureaucratic controls, naval patrols, barbed wire and deportations.
Why is it that so-called immigration has become a fundamentally important political question across the entire world? Because all the human beings who come, trying to live and work in different countries, are the proof that the democratic unity of the world is entirely false.
If it were true, we would have to welcome these foreigners as people from the same world as ourselves. We would have to love them like you would someone on a journey who comes to a halt just outside your house. But that is not at all the case. The great mass of us think that these people come from another world. This is the problem.
March 31, 2014.. I just posted an interview with Ulrich Baer at Lines of Flight. We discuss poetry, photography, how art might inspire change in the world, and more.
March 29, 2014. Two very interesting and relevant essays and discussions at The Non-Buddhist blog: “‘Money is not our God’: Selling Spirituality,” by Fionnchu; and “Cruelties of Thought,” by Patrick Jennings. Be sure to check out the comments as well.
March 29, 2014. “How the Self-Help Industry Hustles America,” an article from AlterNet, is relevant to anyone looking critically at x-buddhism. At least, it is if you think there is merit in my contention that contemporary western x-buddhism is basically nothing more than a buddhisized version of the age-old American self-help oversell. Here’s a quote from the articl:
The self-help industry is the modern secular version of our grounding myth. It’s a $10 billion annual business that sells its services by claiming that there is almost no problem–from weight loss to financial struggles–that can’t be overcome with grit, determination, and willpower.”
March 19, 2014. “The Final Turn,” by Matthias Steingass at The Non-Buddhist. In this post, Matthias announces his abandonment of the raft. Lesson: x-buddhism, which admonishes you to abandon the raft! incapacitates your ability to abandon the raft. Engagement with non-buddhism, by contrast, facilitates the process.
Matthias refers the reader to Craig Hickman’s essay at noir realism “Global Resistence and the Collapse of Civilization: Berardi, Deleuze, and others, in which he asks (!) “When will we ever come to an end of questions and begin to build a new sense of purpose and meaning?” This question may be what’s driving the people who have created the Non-x Discussion Forum and the Non-x Wiki (see below). Hickman offers some words that can serve as both encouragement and caution to those sifting through the rubble of their collapsed x-buddhism for materials with which to create new constructions.
Again and again, networked social movements around the world have called for a new form of democracy, not necessarily identifying its procedures but exploring its principles in the practice of the movement. … These networked social movements are new forms of democratic movements, movements that are reconstructing the public sphere in the space of autonomy built around the interaction between local places and Internet networks, movements that are experimenting with assembly-based decision-making and reconstructing trust as a foundation for human interaction. …The legacy of networked social movements will have been to raise the possibility of re-learning how to live together. In real democracy. (Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. Wiley. Kindle Edition, p. 245)
March 18, 2014. A conference on “Buddhism and Social Justice” should produce interesting materials for the non-buddhist critic-constructor. What can we expect? Just x-buddhist business as usual: hawking the fantasy of dharmic plenitude? Or might x-buddhist models of social justice offer real-world solutions for us, here and now? Who is interested in thinking through a non-buddhist theory of social justice?
These papers look promising:
“Buddhist notions of justice and modern concepts of Human Dignity” (Claudio Cicuzza)
“On the ‘gentle violence’ of a stable social order” (Steve Collins)
“Buddhism as Colonialism: Mining and Social Exploitation on the Commodity Frontier” (Johan Elverskog)
“Political Revolution and the Commoners’ Cause in the Transmission of the Cakrasaṃvaratantra” (Chris Wilkinson)
Paper abstracts and further information can be found at the Buddhist and Social Justice site. Here’s the conference description.
Moving away from a common perception of Buddhism as intrinsically a tradition of peace and justice, our project—based at Leiden University—seeks to explore the various ways in which historically Buddhist societies have shaped, transmitted, and adapted Buddhist ideas and ideals about equality, fairness, and freedom. We are further interested in how (if at all) such societies have instantiated these ideas and ideals.
The intent of the conference “Buddhism and Social Justice” is to gather scholars to discuss Classical and modern Buddhist notions of justice and their real world reflexes. We will be most centrally concerned with Buddhist visions—implicit or explicit—of ideal (just) societies and the role of human action, as these appear, for instance, in the realms of freedom and its constraints, social hierarchy and mobility, economic opportunity, and power and self-determination.
March 18, 2014. An interesting conversation about a lengthy Facebook discussion in which Master Tutteji was labeled a “troll” and banned is taking place at Tutteji’s site. This blasphemous “Dogen” quote sparked over 100 comments on the Soto Zen Buddhism FB page.
March 17, 2014. Two posts worth a look by Master Tutteji. My Argument with Soto Zen, or How I Learned to Fear the X, and a follow-up to that one, Update. Join the discussion.
March 16, 2014. Non-X Discussion Forum just launched. Here is the forum description:
This is a place for people who are inspired or intrigued by the work at Speculative Non-Buddhism, The Faithful Buddhist, The Non-Buddhist, Tutteji Wachtmeister, Der Unbuddhist or similar sites. The aim of the forum is to facilitate collective effort at understanding and wielding these ideas and exploring unmarked territory.
There are no rules as-yet; just keep in mind the things that gave life to SNB.
One project I will start in a few weeks is a group book discussion, starting with Alain Badiou’s Ethics. It’s a fairly accessible work that helps illuminate what Tom was up to at The Faithful Buddhist and gives direction to what we could be doing here.
I also think this could also be a place to facilitate in-person meetups, and if anyone has good ideas on how to make that happen, let me know. The current thought is just to add an area where people can list their cities and see if anyone else is around. It would be neat to get that working with a google map, though.
Apart from all that, make this place what you will. Let me know about any ideas you have for the site (changes of format, discussion sections to add) or if you have a project I can help with in some way (even not-Buddhist projects related to critical theory, marxist critique, queering capitalism, social satire, you-tell-me.)
March 13, 2014. John L. Murphy’s review of Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice at The Journal of Buddhist Ethics. It’s an intelligent, well-informed treatment of the book. Let it serve as a point-of-entry into the text.
March 12, 2014. Scott A. Mitchell posted a thoughtful essay on criticism.
Image: Xuequo Yang, “Long-past Civilization.” (Thanks, Ronan.)