Speculative Non-Buddhism

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Mineful Response and the Rise of Corporatist Spirituality

Posted by Glenn Wallis on February 17, 2014

This video clip is a dazzling and devastating testimony to the complete moral bankruptcy of the American mindfulness movement. Think of it as a microcosmic display of the Mindfulness macrocosm. The stage is the world. The protestors are agents of change. The people on the couch are mindfulness/x-buddhist practitioners. What happens is something right out of a brilliant Tutteji Wachtmeister send-up. (Links below.)

We are at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco, just now, February 14-17, 2014. The New York Times describes it like this: “Founders from Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Zynga and PayPal, and executives and managers from companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco … in conversations with experts in yoga and mindfulness.”

Speaker 1: “Every year, Google brings us some new exploration, and today it is: “Three Steps to Build Corporate Mindfulness”…pause…”the Google Way.”

Pan to our three mindful experts sitting so contentedly, smiling at ease…Oh, shit. What’s this?! Here come strange, uninvited, people. They’re making some sort of protest statement. Nervous laughter. Slick, hipsterish dudes come out like the cops and, like the cops, show whose side they’re really on. For some reason, they try to steal the protestors’ sign. It reads: “Evicition Free San Francisco.”

A protester shouts: “Wisdom means stop displacement! Wisdom means stop surveillance! San Francisco’s not for sale!” Below is a link to what the Heart of the City Collective is protesting, and the role that mineful Google plays in that. (“Mineful” is Richard Payne’s term.)

The Mindful-One on the couch says something with a chuckle. I can only make out the first and last parts: “maybe we should…so they don’t rush the stage.” It gets a big, nervous laugh. Then, he gets serious. So should you.

“This is sort of an important moment,” he proclaims. Is he about to tell us that “Corporations have historically had a giant footprint on public infrastructure, communities and the environment without paying for it, and Google is no different. They’ll avoid paying for privatizing our bus stops like they avoid paying $11 billion in federal taxes. When a company’s chairman publicly says, “We’re proudly capitalistic. I’m not confused about this,” you know Don’t Be Evil was just a sick joke of the Googlezillionaires.” (Link below.)

No, he isn’t about to tell us that. Of course not.

““This is sort of an important moment. We can sort of leave this moment as something we didn’t expect to have happen, and it happened, and it’s wrong. Or we can actually use this as a moment of practice.” More laughter and applause. An unslick, unhipsterish rent-a-cop repeats earlier slick cop’s attempt to steal the sign, and similarly fails.

Mindfulness master continues. “Check in with your body, and see what’s happening, what it’s like to be around conflict with people with heartfelt ideas that may be different than what we’re thinking. So, let’s just take a second and see what’s it’s like.”

All quiet. Solemn sitting with eyes closed, presumably tapping into the wisdom of the body, beyond all thought, beyond all such irritating and disruptive “heartful ideas.” Ahhhh. Pan to audience of middle-aged white people. Some are nervously looking around, like the newcomers to Sunday Mass. Some are initiated into the Way, and lower their heads in prayer mindfulness.

In under three minutes, the clip validates Slavoj Žižek’s claims that western x-buddhism, of which mindfulness has become a dominant variety, is the perfect partner for or “supplement” to our hyper-consumerist techno-capitalist corporations. Perfect for two reasons. First, it smears an ostensibly humanizing veneer on top of the unashamedly dehumanizing sprawling complex of entities known as American corporations, entities proudly devoted to greed, plunder, and inequality. Second, and more damning, because the Mindfulness Industry is engaged in the creation of the type of people who have no interest in actively changing the social conditions that drive them to mindfulness practice in the first place. The Mindfulness Industry creates a person who, as Žižek argues:

should rather renounce the very endeavor to retain control over what goes on, rejecting it as the expression of the modern logic of domination. One should, instead, “let oneself go,” drift along, while retaining an inner distance and indifference toward the mad dance of accelerated process, a distance based on the insight that all this social and technological upheaval is ultimately just a non-substantial proliferation of semblances that do not really concern the innermost kernel of our being.

Žižek concludes that, “The ‘Western Buddhist’ meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way for us to fully participate in capitalist dynamics while retaining the appearance of mental sanity.” (Link below.)

The question is whether the Mindfulness Industry is a deluded partner–a stooge, a chump, a patsy to its corporate master–or a hypocritical opportuni$t ready and willing to drop all pretense to being the beacon of substantive change.

X-buddhism has reached (descended to?) a new stage. To borrow Richard Payne’s term, this is the era of “Corporatist Spirituality.”1 No, the corporations are not finding God. They are finding mindfulness. Hallelujah! We’re all gonna be saved now! It should not be surprising that Google is grabbing hold of mindfulness. The Mindfulness Industry has spent the last few decades making itself attractive to Corporate America. The Mindfulness Industry itself enables Google to “incorporate it as a self-appropriated [secularized] strategy for productivity and for being useful to one’s employer, who has no commitment to you.” (Richard Payne, private message.)

How often I find myself thinking or saying the same thing about x-buddhism: what a wasted opportunity. Those three mindfulistas could have really made a powerful point about the nature of the “wisdom” touted in Wisdom 2.0′s press statement:

Wisdom 2.0 addresses the great challenge of our age: to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.

Through our series of conferences, meet-ups, and workshops, Wisdom 2.0 strives to bring this conversation to the world in an accessible, innovative, and inclusive way. (Bold in the original.)

Instead of any sort of engagement along these line, we get the same old response. The same, tired, rehearsed, straight-from-the-book, borrowed buddhemic bullshit. (See ventriloquism: the mindful dude on the couch is moving his lips, but it’s tradition that’s doing the talking.) Nothing new or interesting whatsoever. Shouldn’t we expect something different? After all, it is a conference hosting x-buddhist luminaries like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, Roshi Joan Halifax, Dan Siegel, and dozens of other bright-faced “inner explorers.” Shouldn’t we expect a more loving, or at least genuinely connected, response?

Not if we’re paying attention to the Mindfulness Industry, we shouldn’t.


Thanks to Richard Payne for sending me this clip.

1 “I would describe (not define, as that has a tendency to kill thinking) corporatist spirituality as the use of spirituality for corporate ends. (As a concept spirituality is also deserving of a hermeneutics of suspicion, but it is used here to identify the strain of thought being employed in the social dynamics of corporatist spirituality—a disembodying of the subject which becomes embraced by the subject.) In a very real sense, once churches or temples or store-front meditation centers or Buddhist seminaries become more focused on maintaining and growing institutionally, and employ spirituality toward the ends of institutional preservation and growth, they are also instances of corporate spirituality.” (Richard Payne, at Reflections)

Tutteji Wachtmeister

Open Letter to the Community from the Heart of the City Collective

Slavoj Žižek, “From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism

About Wisdom 2.0

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99 Responses to “Mineful Response and the Rise of Corporatist Spirituality”

  1. Karen May seriously talking to Eckhard Tolle for example… The brightest people (in a sense) in the most powerful technological positions + all we know about the merging of their businesses with the NSA-complex (and their equivalents elsewhere on the globe) + plus the submissive stupidity of the mindfulness canaille = the dominion of a subtle dispersed networking power integrated into every individual, forming it into a sheepish smiling apple shiner – who, on the same token, is ready to kill via instant social annihilation every kind of alterity. Welcome to the fascism of the 21st century.

  2. banburyzen said

    NEWSFLASH: CORPORATE-SPONSORED CORPORATE MINDFULNESS ADVOCATES LESS THAN 100% CO-OPERATIVE WITH ANTI-CORPORATE PROTEST DISRUPTION OF THEIR CORPORATE MINDFULNESS EVENT SHOCKER! PARTICIPANTS LOOK MINDFUL, YET TENSE. ZIZEK, MARX PROVEN RIGHT!

    This is neither remotely surprising nor does it show anything except that people don’t like having events they’ve organised being hijacked by protesters. It’s fucking rude. Would you have them feign acquiescence? Isn’t that the kind of ‘Right Action’ self-repression you claim to despise? Or, at most, it might demonstrate that corporate advocates and partners are not in agreement with anti-corporate campaigners. I wouldn’t expect them to co-operate with Neo-Nazi protests either. So what?

    It has nothing to do with mindfulness as a set of methods, which is used clinically (with good success) outside of the corporate environment eg. the UK National Health Service.

  3. Artashata said

    This piece has all the skull shattering rhetorical violence of an Onion article. Glad somebody protested those hacks. What a bunch of tripe!! “What its like to be around conflict and people with heartfelt ideas.” I’d like these fucks to go to Gaza and teach the people mindfulness. I’m sure it would do wonders as it would allow the people to mindfully understand and accept the fact that they are under siege by a country that hates them. That would solve their problems, right??

  4. rkpayne said

    Glenn is very kind to acknowledge my email to him, but I would like to avoid appearing to claim any credit for discovering the clip. I was deep in my dogmatic slumbers this morning when it was sent to me by Dr. Ann Gleig, University of Central Florida. To whom I express my thanks.
    As for Banburyzen’s comment, mindfulness, even or perhaps particularly as a set of decontextualized and medicalized methods, is not value-neutral. It has not simply been “freed from the merely cultural constraints of Buddhist heritage” to exist freely and accessible to all (Bbzen doesn’t say that specifically, but it it is the kind of decontextualizing rhetoric one frequently encounters in this kind of discourse)—within the framework of global capitalism. That is, it has been displaced from one context to another. In other words, the point is not about “mindfulness per se” since no such thing exists. Indeed the parenthetical—”used clinically (with good success)”—implicates that new context, which includes the definitions of success. Though I don’t know what the clinical definitions of success Banburyzen believes validate mindfulness as a therapeutic technique are (and which perhaps it needs to be said are not at question here), it seems likely that the definition of success implicit in “Mindfulness 2.0″ are greater productivity on the job, and in the service of greater corporate profits. Perhaps being happier in that function, and less disturbed by the economic and environmental damage that corporations are wreaking, is one measure of success, but not one that I would want to see accepted without vicious critique.
    And now back to my dogmatic slumbers—see you in my dreams.
    Richard

  5. banburyzen said

    Richard,

    “…mindfulness, even or perhaps particularly as a set of decontextualized and medicalized methods, is not value-neutral. It has not simply been “freed from the merely cultural constraints of Buddhist heritage” to exist freely and accessible to all (Bbzen doesn’t say that specifically, but it it is the kind of decontextualizing rhetoric one frequently encounters in this kind of discourse)—within the framework of global capitalism. That is, it has been displaced from one context to another.”

    Well, nothing at all is value-neutral. Not therapeutic mindfulness, not your view of it, not Glenn’s commentary on it, not my response.

    Is there anything about Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction as offered by the NHS, that would justify distinguishing it from other therapies and medical alternatives as ‘loaded with capitalist ideology’ or ‘serving corporate interests’? No, not really. That it may sometimes be ‘sold’ to corporations as a mutual benefit employees and employers is besides the point.

    It is the Marx-Zizek ideological lenses that the SNBs wear that cause them to object to it. One application is reducing stress for employees, with claimed benefits for employers (employee happiness if not productivity); most companies – big American ones at least – are bad, therefore mindfulness is bad. And all applications of mindfulness are tarnished with one brush.

    “In other words, the point is not about “mindfulness per se” since no such thing exists. Indeed the parenthetical—”used clinically (with good success)”—implicates that new context, which includes the definitions of success. Though I don’t know what the clinical definitions of success Banburyzen believes validate mindfulness as a therapeutic technique are (and which perhaps it needs to be said are not at question here) it seems likely that the definition of success implicit in “Mindfulness 2.0″ are…”

    Success for a mental health patient (with this “non-existent” method), being for example remission of crushing chronic depression (with a better rate of success than SSRIs and being given the tools for long term self-treatment), this “implicates” mindfulness does it? In what? Toadying to Capitalism? Give me strength!

    Mindfulness 2.0 is just one application of therapeutic mindfulness. And it is no more guilty of supporting corporate power than any other employee benefit or other factor in creating an appealing environment for people to work in.

    “…it seems likely that the definition of success implicit in “Mindfulness 2.0″ are greater productivity on the job, and in the service of greater corporate profits. Perhaps being happier in that function, and less disturbed by the economic and environmental damage that corporations are wreaking, is one measure of success, but not one that I would want to see accepted without vicious critique.”

    Yes, because those corporate employees at Google etc are otherwise constantly up in arms, protesting against their employer for enviromental and economic damage aren’t they? Quick! Call the national guard! No, wait! Call Jon Kabat Zinn! (rubs hands together). Those are your (and the SNBs) definitions of success, your assumptions about the ‘corporate agenda’ and that Mindfulness 2.0 is intended as one more tool for the pacification of the middle classes. Projection. I’d like to see some evidence that mindfulness – Mindfulness 2.0 even – increases apathy about environmental or economic issues.

  6. Perhaps we can see it like this. The human brain – especially the one these people manifest – is already deeply integrated into digital technology. Mindfulness is the technique to provide a seamless functioning of this brain.

  7. Patrick jennings said

    Ah what a lovely sight to see someone take such action against google. What smug, self-satisfied stupidity the panel displays, and how horribly embarrassing for anyone who might still be trying to hold on to a last tattered remnant of faith in ‘mindfulness’.

    Zizek is right . The secularized buddhism being embraced by the corporate sector perfectly fulfills the needs of a new form of corporate imperialism. It keeps its own managerial army docile and eager to serve, while its other army goes about the work of drone assassination, war, plunder of natural resources, massive surveillance, and the annihilation of any opposition whatsoever. I think we should not be shy (and I hope that the young American opponents taking action here will follow the late 60′s early 70′s example) and name it for what it is —the emergence of a restructured American global empire, a military/industrial/corporate complex that believes itself to be a new form of the thousand year reich minus the naive honesty and unabashed racist elitism of their true forebears. Instead, we sink under the saccharine sweet platitudes of corporate mouthpieces vetriloquizing a form of x-buddhist discourse that has finally sunk to the level of public relations industry drivel.

    What to do? More of what we see on this video, hopefully. And more of what we do here and on the other blog’s. This marriage of critique and act is the perfect match.

    Matthias Steingass, on the last page of Cruel theory/Sublime practice, puts our situation like this :

    The lament about the commodification of everything under the sun is turned into an asset. Do we have to resign? What kind of critique is left to us?And what does Buddhism have to do with it? Certainly we can put aside the kitsch of neo-buddhism. But is there something left in Buddhism that we could use to get out of this catch 22?

    One way of finding out is by a radical practice that puts buddhism to the test. As Glenn points out two faces of corporate capitalism are here on stage. The second is rather embarrassed to show its teeth, hence the softly softly approach of the minders of the ‘mineful.’

    As Chris rightly says: “In the case of Google’s in-house lama, the instrument of the corporate mind-fuck is Buddhism itself.”

  8. banburyzen (#2, 5).

    [1] It’s fucking rude. Would you have them feign acquiescence? Isn’t that the kind of ‘Right Action’ self-repression you claim to despise? Or, at most, it might demonstrate that corporate advocates and partners are not in agreement with anti-corporate campaigners. I wouldn’t expect them to co-operate with Neo-Nazi protests either. So what?

    [2] It has nothing to do with mindfulness as a set of methods, which is used clinically (with good success) outside of the corporate environment eg. the UK National Health Service.

    1 is just a response from inside the x-buddhist value system; so, it adds no new perspective and no new knowledge. in other words, it’s is a wholly predictable response. I already knew it before you said it.

    2 misses the point. The Boy Scouts may offer enriching life experiences to young boys. But as an organization it’s complicit in a particular American value system, one that advances, either through action or inaction, homophobia, racism, misogyny, and class division. Sure, mindfulness practices, like many other simplistic mental exercises, can help some people in some ways. So can a lobotomy.

  9. […] Wallis has commented on the YouTube clip that Ann Gleig sent me this (Monday, 17 Feb.) morning. I would like to thank […]

  10. wtpepper said

    While this video is not exactly an unexpected response, I remain puzzled by the protest. How could someone think that San Francisco is not for sale? Of course it is. Everything, and every place, in the world today is for sale to the highest bidder. And if you don’t want to sell, your property can always be taken away by “eminent domain,” and handed over to a corporation that needs it to increase their profits (yes, this has been done here in CT, and elsewhere–”public use” not legally includes the right of corporations to increase profits, which takes precedence over the individual’s property rights). The protestors seem a bit naive to me–but maybe they are moving in the right direction; one can only hope the impossibility of their goals will eventually lead them to protest capitalism and private property itself.

    As for mindfulness: The response is always going to be, of course, that mindfulness is “value neutral” and critiquing it is “ideological.” This gets it exactly backwards. To give an example: I remember reading about slave owners in the early 1800s being advised to keep among their slaves a good fiddle player, and to allow their slaves to smoke, and have occasional holidays when drinking would be tacitly permitted. This, it was said, made the slaves more content, and more productive. Now, of course, this did seem to work much of the time, and therefore it is an ideological practice–one that facilitates the reproduction of the relations of production (in this case, a slave mode of production). Critiquing this is NOT an ideological act, because the critique itself serves no ideological purpose–it does not reproduce any particular relations of production, but merely points out how the existing one is kept running. Similarly, to point out that mindfulness is a practice that keeps corporate wage-slaves more content and more productive is not itself ideological–it merely points out how an ideology is at work. To say that this leads to an increase of human suffering in the world is also not ideological–it is simply pointing out the effect of this ideological practice.

    On the other hand, to point out that mindfulness requires the intentional delusion of people (they need to convince themselves they are doing something they in fact are not, and cannot, do), and that it requires that people use this delusion to help them tolerate a life of alienation, in which they give up their right to agency and to use of their intellectual capacities, may be moving toward a kind of ideological position. Such a statement assumes certain values, that are not “neutral” and are completely humanly constructed: to wit, that suffering should be reduced, that being deluded is bad, and that overall it is better to have agency and use one’s intellectual capacities. These, of course, are ideological values, and are values completely at odds with the values of neoliberal capitalism.

    As for how well “mindfulness’ works, well, I’ve looked at the supposedly “empirical data,” and we don’t really need to worry about it working. It has no lasting or meaningful effects at all, and all the “evidence” is in personal anecdotal accounts from people claiming it changed their lives. Overall, the effect it has is negligible, except as an rhetorical tool to help blame people for their own unhappiness (you’re just not being mindful enough!). In the area of addiction treatment, however, it has shown a demonstrable effect–a dramatic increase in the number of suicides and overdoses among those receiving treatment, and a decrease in the already dismal recovery rates–so, once again, it serves it overall ideological end, putting the blame on the sufferers and effectively eliminating a number of “bad subjects” who would otherwise be a burden on the health care and legal systems.

  11. Tommi Siivola said

    What he actually says at the “this is an important moment” part is:
    “This is sort of an important moment. We can sort of leave this moment as something we didn’t expect to have happen, and it happened and it’s wrong. …Or we can actually use this as a moment of practice. ”

    So he’s saying something like: we can just accept our first impression that this is wrong or we can stop for a while and reflect on it.

  12. Tom (#10),
    I don’t doubt your findings, but could you please give references to the studies on which you base your verdict. (I am particularly interested in what you say about mindfulness and addiction treatment.) I am also curious if your conclusions match those of the studies you’ve looked at, or if you noticed a discrepancy between actual findings and (exaggerated, unsupported) claims regarding the efficacy of mindfulness.

  13. banburyzen said

    1 is just a response from inside the x-buddhist value system; so, it adds no new perspective and no new knowledge. in other words, it’s is a wholly predictable response. I already knew it before you said it.

    Irrelevant. (I would also say, defensive). Neither the source nor your personal familiarity with the content of what I said nor whether you can predict it or not are relevant or valid in terms of dismissing what I said. Frankly, most of your responses are pretty predictable as expressions of your Marx-Zizek-based ideology. Equally irrelevant.

    Also, I’m not “inside the x-buddhist value system”. I am neither a Buddhist nor am I interested in cultures surrounding mindfulness practice as a source of a value system. (Your predictable response would be to claim that in fact I am inside the x-buddhist value system, I just don’t know it, due to my ideological blindness ie. to claim privileged access to the truth about someone you’ve never met and barely encountered even online.)

    2 misses the point. The Boy Scouts may offer enriching life experiences to young boys. But as an organization it’s complicit in a particular American value system, one that advances, either through action or inaction, homophobia, racism, misogyny, and class division. Sure, mindfulness practices, like many other simplistic mental exercises, can help some people in some ways. So can a lobotomy.”

    False analogy. The Boy Scouts are a unified organisation with (at least some) responsibility for the behaviour of scout leaders lying with the leaders of the organisation. Mindfulness is not an organisation it is a set of techniques. If some mindfulness teachers choose to work with big corporations that is up to them. Is that the extent of their crimes against humanity? I’m unaware of any code of professional ethics for any profession that criticises or prohibits working in partnership with (eg.) Google. So why are these mindfulness teachers being criticised for it? If they are to be condemned for collaborating with Capitalism, then you’ll also have to condemn 99.9% of the population of developed world and most of the developing world too.

    And I don’t doubt for a moment that you and your SNB pals are beneficiaries (and supporters) of capitalism too, whether you are employees, students, or are on welfare.

    And yes, mindfulness can help some people in some ways (sometimes very substantial ways) and some people choose to help themselves by practicing it. On what basis can you criticise someone for seeking effective treatment for stress or depression or for someone offering that service (offered free at the point use in the UK for example)?

  14. banburyzen said

    The efficacy of mindfulness based therapy should not be overstated – and sometimes there just isn’t enough evidence to make any strong statement about it. It doesn’t suit everyone and it isn’t a cure-all. But the evidence is pretty strong on stress, anxiety and especially chronic depression:

    http://beta.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk/mindfulness–and-acceptance-based-interventions-for-anxiety-disorders-a-systematic-review-and-meta-analysis/r/a1CG0000000GcAIMA0
    http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/crdweb/ShowRecord.asp?LinkFrom=OAI&ID=12012038910#.UwPfq2J_ut0
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/o/cochrane/clcentral/articles/041/CN-00852041/frame.html

    Those are just a handful. You can search for more here: http://www.evidence.nhs.uk/

  15. I wonder if somebody could hint me to some information about what kinds of people are attending such shows. Social background, education, employer, income, political orientation, hobbies etc. I guess it is (only) a subset of the Silicon Valley intelligencia. I guess these people must all be pretty smart in their occupations. But I very much wonder how such people come to embrace somebody like Echkard Tolle, Shinzen Young or Sharon Salzberg and the like. Tolle for example is the epitome of stupid esoteric mumbo jumbo.

    I found Eckhart Tolle's talk a standout at Wisdom 2.0 this past weekend. Enjoy! http://t.co/rbAVQihA1r #wisdom2conf— Steve Dewart (@stevedewart) 18. Februar 2014

    ….

    Also look at this summary of the talk between Meng Tan (Google’s Jolly Good Fellow) and Shinzen Young for specularity. I find it interesting that an engineer like Meng doesn’t see the circularity. If he would look at an algorithm like this he would certainly see that this is a closed system. Google wouldn’t appreciate this… But as for the employed of course this should be the goal: to be enclosed in a self referential self feeding closed loop system with no outside input.

  16. wtpepper said

    RE 12: To be honest, Tutte, I’m not willing to spend any more of my time arguing with the pseudo-science produced by the psychology industry–if you want to look into it, the studies are easy to find. Just look at the list of studies used in the meta-analysis Banburyzen cites, and you’ll see easily enough that there is no evidence at all that mindfulness does anything–that’s why the psychologists obsess over meta-analyses, because the studies never do more than show that the treatment has a success rate that is about the same as that of “treatment as usual”–nobody is ever “cured” of a disorder by any of the pseudo-scientific popular treatments like EMDR, MBSR, CBT, etc. So, they sum up the results of different studies to find an “effect size” for the treatment, and psychologists, who don’t know what “effect size” means, think that proves the treatment is effectIVE. I did this research on mindfulness treatment for depression relapse and for addiction, for my graduate classes in psychology–it absolutely never works. The response I got was predictable: well, I was told, the benefits just aren’t easily measurable empirically (but, of course, these treatments are “empirically validated” and it is forbidden to use one that it not–psychologists cannot see the contradiction there: of course therapy can’t be measured, that’s why there are no successful studies, but we must only do therapies that are “empirically validated” by succesful studies, so we’ll just call the unsuccessful ones successful, and…)

    There is no science in the “methodolatry” of psychology–it is not empiricism (I’ve only ever met one Ph.D. in psychology who actually knew what the term empiricism really meant, and yes, I’m a that annoying jerk who asks this of every psychologist I talk to), it is just purely subjective, ideologically loaded, descriptions of reality, buried in questionnaires and likert scales and operational definitions; one could just as easily develop a self-report likert-scale questionnaire to statistically “prove” that psychic readings are accurate. Don’t waste your time with this–arguing with someone stupid enough to take psychology seriously is, I have found, as pointless as trying to dissuade someone from their belief in Tarot readings.

    As for the fatality of treatment for addiction, there is some evidence for this, but nobody wants it pursued. You can probably find it easily enough with just a google search–it seems that after inpatient rehab the addict is statistically more likely to be dead than sober a year later, and rehab actually increases the rate of death compared to untreated addicts. Statistically speaking, addicts are lucky that insurance companies are reluctant to pay for rehab (surprisingly, the insurance companies have not yet jumped on this data as a justification, but no doubt they will eventually).

    My interest now is more on the question of what the social practice of “mindfulness” does as an ideology–how is it used to produce subjects who increasingly convince themselves they have a core “true self” that can “accept” the world by being more pliable, that their misery is really their own fault and they should avoid thinking and working for change. I’m glad that most people give up quickly on “mindfulness,” because I take it as a sign that it is harder than one might expect to produce good postmodern subjects. However, the money invested in this ideological practice makes it difficult to encourage the production of alternatives.

  17. Banburyzen (#12,13).

    You have to read up on our theoretical work if you want to continue commenting here. Otherwise, engaging with you sets us back. It’s just too boring and tedious to keep going around in circles with people. There’s a ton of shit to read. For instance, if you understood the function of the x in x-buddhism, you’d know better than to argue that mindfulness is too varied to be caught in a single net of critique.

    So, if you want to keep talking, do some homework first.

    By the way, those links be some lame-ass shit, yo.

  18. EsPossible said

    Glad to see the protests. It disrupts a self-congratulating “we’re saving the world” attitude that this type of conference generates.
    But this blog post’s polarized portrayal of the goodie hero rebels sticking their middle finger to the Evil Corporate Empire disrespects the complexity of a systemic problem. So mindfulness is capitalism’s savior. Without this tranquilizing drug the exploited masses, stressed-out to breaking point, would be revolting and destroying the system, removing the real enemy – the baddie dominators and creating an equitable world.
    Bring on the Mindfulness-less revolution!
    Really?

  19. EsPossible (#18).

    The argument is not that mindfulness is capitalism’s savior. Mindfulness is much too anemic to be any sort of savior. So, that’s not the point at all. If you want to discuss further, I encourage you to read and think about the Zizek piece more carefully. Same for the comments here. One thing you might want to give thought to is this business of participation and identity. A more technical way of saying that is subject formation. What type of person is the Mindfulness Industry (all the mindfulness-oriented training guides, texts, teacher manuals, organizations, workshops, etc.) forming? It is not at all difficult to make that out. The dude in the video exemplifies a mindfulness type, for instance. An implicit subject is on display clear as day in the mindfulness literature, from Jon Kabat-Zinn on down. An interesting thought experiment might be for you to extrapolate this subject out to the real-world political arena. Again, I would predict that someone like our couch mindfulnista would take shape. It’s that kind of work that we’re up to here.

  20. wtpepper said

    Seriously EsPossible? You think somebody is suggesting the exploited masses are doing mindfulness meditation? Who does this shit? It’s the wealthy worried well, getting their stupid on. How else could we explain the folks with enough intelligence to do computer science yet unable to see the absolute stupidity of Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle? Have you been doing mindfulness meditation yourself? I can’t see how else anyone could arrive at the astoundingly idiotic conclusions you do.

    I do think there is an oppressive function to the mindfulness industry, but not because the poor and the mentally ill are doing it. Instead, it functions as an easy “out” for the health care industry. If you’re addicted, stressed, depressed, etc., practice mindfulness!! Of course, nobody who has ever done a day of manual labor in their life, and certainly nobody who is depressed or addicted, is going to buy into that crap, but then it’s easy enough to say it’s their own fault, and there’s no need to find real solutions, to really help anybody.

  21. Wtpepper (20) I would guess that most people commenting at SNB have had a meditation practice at some point. I imagine they were all, ” getting their stupid on”.
    The reason intelligent people get taken in by the likes of Deep Pockets Chopra is because wisdom and intelligence are not synonymous.
    Your modern,” Noble Savage Theory that, “….nobody who has ever done a day of manual labor in their life…Is going to buy into that crap ” could only be written by an academic. I know now you’ll tell me about your short, unhappy career as a summer laborer (between semesters at college) qualifies you as the working man’s hero but honestly, until you’ve spent years as a working class, wage slave , it’s just words and working people don’t speak your language.
    The “health care industry” is made up of people. Most people I’ve come in contact with in health care have been intelligent and compassionate, maybe you’ve had a different experience.
    When you set up straw men and engage in black and white thinking, your argument becomes less persuasive.
    I agree with the poet when he says, “The worst are filled with passionate intensity.” The intensity is fueled, in part, by certainty and single mindedness in the pursuit of a goal which is always tantalizingly close, yet just out of reach.

  22. Tom Pepper said

    Swimoutfree; when you base your argument on fictional lives you’ve invented for people you know nothing about, you are just wasting everyone’s time. If you have not real argument to make, and nothing to say other than that you don’t find me persuasive because of you imagined story of my life, why are you bothering to read or comment here? This kind of crap is why I’ve mostly stopped writing on SNB–too many idiots make real discussion impossible.

  23. […] ² Glenn Wallis on the SNB-blog […]

  24. wtpepper said

    The response here from the defenders of the great asleepening is, perhaps not interesting, but typical. Critiquing the health care industry is “setting up a straw man,” while making up fictional lives for people and dismissing them is real argument. As always, those fictional lives are used to avoid dealing with anything anyone ever says–you have a criticism of the health care industry? It must be motivated by a personal bad experience, so I don’t have to address it. You have a criticism of wealth and power? Well, in my imagined version of your life, you’ve never worked for wages, so I don’t have to consider it. Then, the flip side: I personally know some nice people in the health care industry, so it must be good. And if I assume anyone who has ever meditated has practiced “mindfulness”. then I can assert that all your criticism applies to you as well. This level of argument, this complete incapacity to think, is why mindfulness is so popular. This is the kind of logic one gets from people in the field of psychology all the time–this is even what passes for academic thought in their articles in professional journals. Of course, if one thinks that “wisdom” is something different from intelligence, then this is where on winds up–the common sense of the dominant ideology passes for wisdom and thought becomes impossible. This idea, though, that wisdom is some different domain than intelligent thought, is perhaps one explanation for why idiotic platitudes like Tolle and Chopra offer pass for enlightenment in our culture.

  25. swimoutfree (#21).

    Once you’ve gained a better understanding of the type of critique we’re up to here, I’ll post your comments. Otherwise, it’s just too…etc., etc., etc.

    That dont mean “agree wif,” by the way.

    Good luck!

  26. Glenn(25) My point was Wtp (20) reifying things like the mindfulness industry and the health care industry just weakens an argument. Also saying( I’m paraphrasing ) that no working person will buy into mindfulness training is just a false assertion.
    If that’s the type of weak-assed argument you be lookin for dat be cool.
    Good luck my ass.

  27. Swinoutfree (#26).

    I mean good luck making your way through the non-buddhist material. It’s a real slog by now.

    reifying things like the mindfulness industry and the health care industry just weakens an argument.

    The theory of x argues otherwise. Do you understand that argument?

    To repeat something very general about this blog: I want to make this blog a very narrow, limited venue–-really, a workshop or arsenal-–for creating tools for a contemporary critique of western buddhisms. I don’t expect our current crop of x-buddhist figures to participate. They are too beholden to the status quo. They also just happen to be, with barely an exception, uniformly well-behaved, even milquetoasty. So, I don’t expect anything from them, from the inside. But some of us are observing and thinking about x-buddhism in intelligent ways. We can create texts and other materials that some future x-buddhist figures, fed up with it all, may find useful. So, I am really trying to turn to this long-range view.

    AND:

    The main response I have is to emphasize again that I am hoping to catalyze serious and sustained critique of x-buddhism. A blog, in my experience, is well suited as a catalyst, as a vehicle of instigation, but not much beyond. So, I think that the points you are making have gotten about as far as they can in an online discussion. I would encourage you to take the next step, and write up a sustained account of what you see happening in some area of x-buddhism, if that social formation interests you enough. Or you could write up a critique of non-buddhism. Before you do that, though, I hope you’ll read Cruel Theory|Sublime Practice. “Cruelty,” for instance, is a technical term adapted from Artaud. So, yes, I (we?) am employing a rhetoric of violence, but it is nuanced in crucial ways because of this association with Artaud. The same with “sublime.” In our book, it has none of the flavor that spiritualized thinking brings to it, but is rather derived from Kant.

    About devaluing the outsider. I think the insider/outsider distinction here is not between believers and non-believers of non-buddhist claims and propositions. The distinction is between those who, having picked up some non-buddhist tools, have discovered some compelling lines of thought, and those who have not yet picked up the tools. We are not dealing in a system of thought, much less belief, here. I will continue to say it as long as I have to: we are offering tools for excavation and exploration. As such, a central feature of the non-buddhism project will and should, I think, inevitably be incommensurability. A really good example of what happens when forces of thought collide can be found in Tomek Idzik’s essay “Is Speculative Non-Buddhism a form of spiritual Xanax?.”

    I want explosions. Explosions create chaos. I am not interested in order, or in reasoned arguments, anymore. Like I’ve said before, that’s fruitless because x-buddhists, like all blind ideologues, play with loaded dice. As you can see, I also don’t mind name-calling. In fact, I see a certain honesty in it.

  28. I suggest to analyze Wisdom 2.0 also in context of the USA-visit the Dalai Lama is currently undertaking. As usual there will be a photo opportunity with Obama today in the White House. Yesterday the Dalai Lama took part in a meeting with the American Enterprise Institute.

    His Holiness responded to panelists’ comments by acknowledging that he has greater respect for capitalism than ever before.

    Also taking part in the meeting was the Mind & Life Institute. It seems like the institute feels the necessity to justify its participation and therefore explains its decision in a statement titled True Dialogue.

    Add the recent appearance of Hollywood celebs and the notorious Matthieu Ricard (good friend of Dalai Lama) at the World Economic Forum and we surely get the bigger picture.

    Let me add a thought. Buddhist meditation as I understand it has always had two aspects: Concentration (samadhi) & Learning (prajna). In a way when we teach our children to sit quietly for extended periods of time we teach them concentration – which is one prerequisite for learning. To become knowledgable in any field isn’t possible without samadhi. Modern-, neo- or x-buddhism is extracting samadhi and uses it for its own purpose. Bodily pleasure for example – which quite possibly can develop out of certain kinds of samadhi. Learning in a buddhist sense would be the becoming knowledgable about the ideological framework in which we live, a kind of meta-knowledge. Of course this kind of prajna has been totally discarded. This is the first step of x-buddhist co-option into capitalism. My point is that there is a second step in this co-option. Samadhi as such is used to cope with all kinds of circumstances. I think the video Glenn put in the above text shows this well.

    The original very specific instruction how to learn to concentrate is reformulated as a general rule for every aspect of life.

    The point is, the human is hereby reduced (again) to its naked body. That is why I call this fascism. 500 people sitting in the Wisdom 2.0 conference are reduced per command from center stage to their naked bodies and are commanded to feel – instead to use their faculties for learning. It is a perversion in which the Dalai Lama in his role as an exponent is taking part.

    Perhaps this is it what Zizek means by saying:

    The liberal answer to domination is recognition.

    There has been a protest. It is recognized. And samadhi as such (its by-effect to fade every thought) is used to forget it.

    The liberal answer to domination is samadhi. The perversion of x-buddhism is to dissociate samadhi from prajna.

  29. Matthias said

    In comment #16, Tom Pepper says the following: “Don’t waste your time with this–arguing with someone stupid enough to take psychology seriously is, I have found, as pointless as trying to dissuade someone from their belief in Tarot readings”. I am anything but a specialist when it comes to the field of psychology, rather the opposite, but I’d like to know more about what folks around here think about this statement. Shall we draw the curtain over the whole field of psychology? I’d also like to know more about why psychology is not empiricism. Don’t we gain any knowledge at all by applying psychological methods?

  30. wtpepper said

    RE 29: To clarify, I would not suggest that we should “draw the curtain over the field of psychology.” I would say it should be critiqued, but that the critique cannot be done by arguing with the psychologists. This is what I meant by the reference to psychics–one cannot critique the psychic from within his assumptions, and he cannot see outside of them. The psychologist cannot think, she is trained never to think, to avoid logic and philosophy and scientific thought, and it is impossible to point out her errors from within her frame of reference. You just get the same poor thinking we see here–it is a standard response in psychology to say that one cannot critique a social formation because there are no “social formations” only individuals, and then to claim that if an individual “means well” then what he is doing is good and should not be critiqued. It is also standard response in psychology to ignore critique by asserting that the person doing the critique has some “personal” motivation for doing it, so her arguments and evidence need not be addressed–this from a discipline that regularly works for drug companies and insurance companies and yet claims its findings are “objective” and not motivated by grant money. The inability to think is part of the discipline, and it’s pointless to argue with them–but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t critique them. We can critique the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world without expecting a logical or intelligent response, right? We don’t expect to convince him of his error.

    As for not being “empirical,” there has been quite a bit written on this. I would suggest beginning with Kurt Danziger’s book Constructing the Subject, particularly the chapter “From Quantification to Methodolatry.” There is also interesting discussion of this in Bhaskar’s The Possibility of Naturalism and in Andrew Collier’s introduction to Critical Realism. Psychology as a discipline is not, and has never been, a science. It does not produce knowledge about the world, but ideology. It is what a Foucaultian might call a “technology of the self,” meant to produce properly functioning subjects, or at least to justify punishing bad subjects, but it never has produced any actual scientific knowledge about anything at all. This is why, unlike physics or chemistry, it doesn’t advance by building on previous knowledge, but by jumping to new “approaches.” This was clear from the founding of the discipline–William James felt that Darwin and Marx and Freud and Nietzsche where undermining the Protestant Christian capitalist ideological project at Harvard, so he started an new department intended to produce an ideology of the subject that was Christian and capitalist. If you are seriously interested in why we don’t gain any knowledge at all from “applying psychological methods,” read Danziger’s book. He was a psychologist, and became an expert in the history of the discipline–his argument is that psychology could produce real knowledge if it would drop its pseudo-scientific method and its reliance on corporate funding, but as it is, and always has been, there is no real knowledge in the field.

  31. Len said

    You folks are way over my head. But I do appreciate the discourse, having subjected myself to the “mindfulness movement” for a while. I had a deep awakening all right. Would it be out of place to comment that Jack Kornfield and his acolytes are deluded, phony and fraudulent? That may seem contradictory somehow, I suppose. Keep up the good work Glenn.

  32. Daniel said

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful posts(and for the idiotic comments as well). I have enjoyed my ‘slog‘ through the SNB world. As Len(#31) wrote, much of this shizit is “over my head” as well, but with quite a bit of concentrated reading I am able to keep up… for the most part. In fact, so much so that a bigger picture of what’s unfolding here in the SNB blogosphere has begun to emerge for me, and well…it’s messy as hell. Of course, what I’m getting from all these SNB writings is filtered through my own blind spots, cognitive bias’, limited knowledge etc. I don’t really see a set of tools per se(in the sense of syllogistic tools) that can be used to determine wether x-buddhist postulates are valid. There is a theme of deductive ‘top-down’ reasoning but it’s mixed in with your run-of-the-mill human-ape stupidity(opinion,cognitive bias, contradictions, ape-posturing, inductive reasoning, logical fallacy). There are no set of tools in the formal-logic sense, where arguments are placed into propositional formulas to check the validity(that really takes a lot of discipline and work, and is not how people naturally communicate).

    The way I see it, to one degree or another, we are all full of shizit. No one is posting anything that excludes fallacy. No one is formulating proofs that can be truly tested using semantic-syllogistic rules. That’s the humorous irrelevancy and meaningless part of the equation that allows me not to take any of this stuff too seriously. And so I find it funny when this blog(and other blogs) devolve at times into a serious intellectual chest-thumping male-posturing sausage-fest or just the cliche name-calling and straw-man shizit. I guess that’s part of what it means to be this funny-monkey man-creature. For the most part, there are persuasive points being posted backed up with various sources that can either be assumed or rejected, along with the sources cited. In this sense,and as my mom says, this rhetoric is more akin to persuasive arguments I’ve undertaken in communication classes or debate exercises.

    With that said, I’ve found valuable directions of thought that one can head in, heuristics or areas of investigation/exploration. There are certainly many great points and assertions being made that are very thought provoking, and that I can relate to with my own experience of x-buddhism. For me the writings of particular value have been the stuff on x-buddhist decision with it’s circularity and totalistic assumptions, x-buddhist hallucination, the posts on x-buddhist merging with corporatism and capitalism, the implications from x-buddhist practice ie. what type of x-buddhist subject is formed from such practices. But by far the most enlightening(for lack of a better word)has been Tutteji’s sublime satire. For me, Tutteji and my Tutteji copy-cat experiment(glutenshin), has provided me the most valuable ‘cruel’ heuristic from which to view the extent of x-buddhist circularity and idiocy. Oh what a revealing mirror the Unsurpassable Dai Osho provides!

    So what I’m left with(after all the SNB good, bad, and ugly) is sort of like having a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces, some pieces fit together, most don’t. The pieces that do go together seem to form the beginnings of an image, yet it never forms completely. Perhaps this is the ‘explosion’ and ‘incommensurability’ that was intended from the start. I’m not sure. Another way I look at it, is to picture SNB meeting x-buddhism at this supposed summit of knowledge, SNB engages x-buddhism, grabs hold then thrusts itself and x-buddhism off the summit. What’s left after the fall? Personally, I have no clear picture, it’s all in pieces. However I think that’s the point and value of all this, at least for me. When you take any ideology and destroy it’s mirror, it’s nice-and-tidy totalistic assumptions and circularity, what do you end up with? More questions? Fragments? Uncertainty? Messy life? Lost-ness? Personally, I end up with all that plus the sharpened thinking mind that destroyed that x-buddhist shizit to begin with. More importantly, I end up with whatever I fuckin’ choose? There is no choice(or space for anything truly artistic, creative, or new) when operating within a totalistic system. So, I am now free to pick up some of those x-buddhist fragments(ex meditation) or not. But that “what’s left?” question after x-buddhism is shattered is the most important point for me. Again in her universally revered article, my mom states in the journal Truth, Vol 8, p33, “that intellectual space acts as a heuristic for the expression of art and creativity”. It’s not about any particular answer or certainty that gets arrived at. This just eventually leads to something else being set up and formed into another naive idealism ex: Marxism or really, to one degree or another, any system, ideology, theology. In this deconstructionist sense, ironically the SNB shizit is more Zen than Zen. For me it’s more like what I’ve read of pre-institutional Zen, when all those hermit-monks in China were flipping the finger to the religious ‘Man’; and going about figuring out life, art, and truth for themselves somewhere on the side of mountain(more idealism?)Or maybe that’s just my left over x-buddhist decisional conditioning that sees SNB that way? Anyway, thanks SNB posse. Blog blog blog… whatevs… and onward ho!

  33. Len said

    Well having, foolishly, involved myself in the vipassana tradition my awakening came when I thought to go to the roots. An actual retreat amongst Theravadan Thai Buddhist monks in a Thai temple. Now unlike our American teachers these fellows (only) have been at it since youth. And??? What a coterie of misogynists! What supestitious nonsense they believe. Compassionate meat-eaters (not out of necessity)? Which led me to question the Western teachers and their phony presentation of Buddhism in general. Where is the wisdom? Where is the compassion?

    Buddhism equals “I don’t give a damn” is all that I can see. Always has been an easy way out. Not for Me!

  34. poepsa said

    Tom,
    I know you are tired of dealing with this subject, but I’d really like to track down the research you are speaking of in order to have some “ammunition” when speaking with those who see “mindfulness” as some kind of panacea, but with every google search I’ve done I keep finding myself directed to links that give positive results for everything from lessening relapse in addicts to lessened suicidal thoughts, etc.

    Can you suggest a search I can do? I’m particularly interested in tracking down the research that shows, as you wrote above:

    “In the area of addiction treatment, however, it has shown a demonstrable effect–a dramatic increase in the number of suicides and overdoses among those receiving treatment, and a decrease in the already dismal recovery rates…”

    Thanks!

  35. […] short but precise analysis of “Corporatist Spirituality“, and Glenn Wallis’s, on Speculative Non-Buddhism, which is appropriately sharp, noting that the whole event could have been a Tutteji spoof. […]

  36. wtpepper said

    RE 34: Poepsa: I really think you’re wasting your time if you want to argue against those who believe mindfulness is a panacea. They will not consider any evidence or argument convincing, and their standard line is that if it doesn’t work that is because the individual didn’t “really believe” in it, or some such thing–one must be a fully convinced supporter of the idea for it to have an effect, just like the psychics who say their predictions are only accurate if the subject doesn’t “cloud” the results with “negative thoughts” and doubt. And, it works, to the degree that it does, for exactly the same reason–on purely subjective measures (only self-reports seem to show any effect) it works only in those who believe it will work. There is nothing you could show to a true believer that would convince them of their absurd error–they cannot even be convinced, by logic or even neurological evidence, that “mindfulness’ as Kabat-Zinn defines it is not possible.

    I’ve tried this, and it is too time consuming an exasperating, and I feel sure, now, that there is now use trying to stem this tide. It doesn’t work, and so it will fade in a decade or so when the bubble bursts, just like Rogerian or Gestalt therapy or EST or CBT–if any of these really worked, why would be need mindfulness now, right?

    But, if you really want to spend the time, I would suggest two things: first, you cannot pay any attention to the popular presentation of the study in the press, but go to the study itself; then, ignore the statements about how successful it was, and look at the actual data–look at the operational definition for the outcome, for instance, and the actual number of participants, and whether there was a control group, and whether any of the participants were actually cured of the disorder they were treated for (usually, if there is a control group, it is listed as “treatment as usual” with no further explanation, and the percentage of those successfully “cured” is the same in both groups–this is taken as evidence that mindfulness “works” and that the control treatment, which had an identical success rate, does not). So, examine what it really does–does it produce no real difference from any other intervention? If so, the investigators will always cite that as proof that it is “effective.” If there is not control group, or if nobody actually gets better, then they will cite slight changes in the outcome measure as proof of an “effect,” and then deftly change “effect” to “effective” in their conclusions, to give the impression that the treatment really cures our ills. In short, most people surf the studies for the sentence about whether the treatment works or not, but if you investigate what is really done, you will always, with absolutely no exception, find that it does nothing at all–for years I have asked psychologists to show me one study that meets the APA methodological guidelines for “empirical validation” which shows that any treatment at all has ever succeeded in getting substance abusers to the point where they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria, and nobody has ever been able to produce one. Nobody has ever been able to produce a single such study that demonstrates that CBT can cure people of depression, either, but that is also an “empirically validated” treatment, and you’ll never convince a psychologist it doesn’t work.

    As for the mortality rates, there is nothing on this in the U.S. that I know of–rehabs here are very careful NOT to do outcome research on their clients. But there is some analysis of the date in British countries, demonstrating a markedly elevated suicide and overdose risk following treatment for substance abuse, particularly in the first few months after treatment.

    So, if you want to find these studies and do the tedious work of analyzing their errors, logical flaws, and plain old obfuscation, be forewarned that nobody in the field will listen to you, or be able to understand you–in the words of Upton Sinclair, it is hard to explain something to someone when his paycheck depends on not understanding it. You’ll have to give up on Google, though, and do a database search in psychinfo, and access the studies in the academic journals. You’ll have thousand and thousands of hits to sort through, so that alone will take a while–just search “mindfulness” and any application it is used for. As for the increased danger of death, you’ll have to search “mortality rates” and “substance abuse,” and that also can take a while, to sort those few studies that deal with post-treatment death.

    I still think, at this point, the best thing to do is to keep pointing out how philosophically and scientifically naive the idea of “mindfulness” is, and leave it at that–take a lesson from the history of science: for a century, phrenology remained popular, even among academics and psychiatrists, long after its thirty-year-long height of popularity, and despite enormous evidence that it was completely unfounded. The same will not doubt be the fate of “mindfulness.”

  37. Banburyzen.

    I’ve read around 6-10 of your articles here, including your introductory explanation of “x-buddhism”. I just re-read it to make sure I hadn’t missed or forgotten anything. [GW. Note to reader: this statement is followed by a lengthy attempt to criticize speculative non-buddhism.]

    Dude, when you say you’ll take my advice and “do your homework” before commenting again, I don’t expect to see you a week later! For fuck’s sake, homes, I don’t even expect to see you a year later. Take a few years to read the growing non-buddhist opus along with the texts of thinkers who have inspired non-buddhist thought and practice. It goes way beyond me at this point.

    Even more to the point, do the work. The purpose of this critical practice is practice. Apply its methods. Brandish its heuristic while listening to precious guru’s dharma talk. Like the Pepperspray Bodhisattva, create a hyper-translation of your fav sutra. Construct a scathing satire, ahem, a pristine mirror, like Master Tutteji. Put a non-buddhist-inspired question to wise Roshi during dokusan. Please, let us know how it goes!

    Has no one mentioned to you our battle cry? It is: kick out the jams, motherfucker!. That means: plug in your ax, crank up your amp, and let it wail! In other words, We’re not trying to convince you of anything. We only want to hear the sound of your own creation after using critical methods against x-buddhist. Think of Schönberg in relation to, say, the Romantics. Think of his dodecaphonic method of composing. Remember he said things like, “my music is not lovely,” and “my music is not modern, it is merely badly played.” Get it?

    Dude, you can’t even spell my name right. And you want me to believe that you have made the careful and painstaking effort that it takes to offer truly helpful criticism? Nah.

  38. Daniel (#32), Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you found my project inspiring. I guess it could be seen as some kind of sugar coating on the bitter medicine of SNB. It’s probably a bit too sugary, as I keep getting messages from x-buddhists and integralistas telling me how much they enjoy it. I need to crank up that amp!

    Tom (#36), Thanks for your long reply to Poepsa; It was the kind of response I hoped for with my question #12.

  39. Paul B said

    Glenn (no. 37)

    Hi Glenn, I just came across this site and wanted simply to respond to this one post of yours, and in particular to your reply here (#37).

    You have told this person, Banburyzen, quite literally to come back in “a few years” before commenting again. I guess the ideas you are pushing must be really, really, really, really, and then again really profound! But what I’m wondering is: do you say this to everyone? Do you say it to anyone who agrees with you in any way, shape, or form? I don’t see that here, but perhaps you do so in other comment threads. Maybe there’s a page I missed somewhere that requests of everyone that they first spend several years studying (necessarily agreeing with?) the texts of the movement.

    I have my own critiques of Western buddhism, my own catalogue of phenomena that have disturbed me. I haven’t practiced within a sangha for close to ten years. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, my encounters with power structures within buddhism have caused a lot of damage, deep damage, that I have not been able to remedy. So, I’m hardly any kind of shill for buddhism.

    However, my thoughts about what I’ve seen of your site – if you have any respect for them – would focus on two things you have brought together. First, the punk aesthetic you revel in here; to wit: Schönberg generally inspires me about as much as desiccated food. Indeed it’s not lovely (but music certainly doesn’t have to be), and it may or may not be modern (which is neither here nor there); it’s siply that it’s intellection gone mad, out of balance. I’m a musician as it happens, and can “appreciate” Schönberg. I just happen to feel (and Romanticism is certainly not my most beloved period of music) that all kinds of things written during that period have more “real life” in them than anything that has come out of tone-row intellection. But, of course, it’s the entire point of punk as an aesthetic to, as you remind us, “kick out the jams, motherfucker” – in other words, to destroy and undo and subvert for their own sake.

    Leading to the second point: provisionally (and isn’t it almost always all provisional anyway?) I see you guys as perpetuating the single worst feature of the power structures of Western buddhism: an us-them, enemy-friend mentality, grounded in concept. In the case here, the concepts are hyper-abstract, untouchable, and also endlessly evasive precepts drawn from folks like old Slavoj, who quite honestly is one of the last people whose thoughts I’d want swarming around in my mind as I leave this life…

    Mainly I’m just intrigued that you tell people things like “You have to read up on our theoretical work if you want to continue commenting here. Otherwise, engaging with you sets us back. It’s just too boring and tedious to keep going around in circles with people… There’s a ton of shit to read.” Honestly, that sounds more like Lenin than anything even vaguely dharmic. But, “dude,” like, whatever.

  40. Paul B (#39).

    You have told this person, Banburyzen, quite literally to come back in “a few years” before commenting again. I guess the ideas you are pushing must be really, really, really, really, and then again really profound! But what I’m wondering is: do you say this to everyone? Do you say it to anyone who agrees with you in any way, shape, or form?

    “In a few years” is hyperbole to counter hypobole. Think of Heidegger’s Learning/thinking is the race of the slow. The reason I recommend slowing down and digging in is not so much because the ideas are profound, but because the heuristics are effective. By now, these heuristics are spread over several blogs, an e-journal, published articles, and a book. No, I don’t say this to everybody. Just to people, like Mr. Banburyzen who offer woefully uninformed criticism. I think this in one issue I can speak for our entire motley crew on and declare: we are way past that point. Again, the thing is not to agree or disagree. The point is to apply the critical methods and see what you get. That’s something you can do right away. Other people could then evaluate your findings as revealing or not. But a supposed comprehensive critical appraisal of the non-buddhism project would take a lot of prep work.

    Other than that you don’t care for Schönberg, I don’t know what your first point is.

    To your second point, see my comment to Banburyzen. If you want to get in the game of x-buddhist analysis, you have a tremendous amount of work in front of you.

    To your last para–you are easily intrigued, I guess. “Honestly, that sounds more like Lenin than anything even vaguely dharmic.” Unless you have a cartoon version of Lenin in mind, one of the ones generated by the Soviet and American propaganda machines, then thanks!

  41. Paul B said

    Glenn (#40):

    “Dude, when you say you’ll take my advice and “do your homework” before commenting again, I don’t expect to see you a week later! For fuck’s sake, homes, I don’t even expect to see you a year later. Take a few years to read the growing non-buddhist opus along with the texts of thinkers who have inspired non-buddhist thought and practice.”

    Hi Glenn, well, that doesn’t sound like merely a figure of speech to me, but whatever.

    The point about Schönberg was that holding him up as an inspiring, revolutionary example was revealing to me, that’s all. Schönberg was the guy who threw out the baby with the bathwater in the name of hyperrationality. He was the guy who essentially proclaimed that humans can’t trust themselves to make music anymore, that math needed to be brought in to do the “job.” (Serial music also is the very essence of elitism within music, one might say.)

    The parallel is to the state of critical theory today, which I see as having gone down a rabbit hole of abstraction within abstraction. Critique of buddhist institutions and praxis is utterly essential – I am with you there. But the balance seems to have been quite lost.

    Again, at our deaths I truly don’t believe (trying to) remember Slavoj’s (most recent, since they endlessly change and contradict one another and never allow themselves to be pinned down) latest pronouncement is going to help us – at all. A couple of pith instructions on awareness and the nature of mind, on compassion and fearlessness: that’s what I hope I can remember. You might reply that you are only trying to clear away the garbage that has gotten in the way of our own liberation or whatever. Well, that’s where the second point comes in: the manichean quality.

    In any event, your stated preference for Lenin over dharma clarifies matters, and I will leave you to your project. All best.

  42. Paul B (#41)

    Yes, let’s let this be our final round of mutual air-hacking, agreed.

    that doesn’t sound like merely a figure of speech to me, but whatever.

    I didn’t say it was a figure of speech. I specifically called it hyperbole. It shouldn’t really take that long.

    The parallel is to the state of critical theory today, which I see as having gone down a rabbit hole of abstraction within abstraction. Critique of buddhist institutions and praxis is utterly essential – I am with you there. But the balance seems to have been quite lost.

    You’re speaking from ignorance again.

    I see your email name is Dai Ginjo. I assume you are either a feudal Japanese daimyo or a modern western Zen practitioner. Rather than rail at a critical approach to x-buddhism that you don’t understand, why don’t you inform yourself about the theory, and take it to Roshi for a spin? What do you have to lose?

    Or do you just like sake?

  43. Liam said

    It seems that Glenn (intelligent though he is) imagines himself and his collaborators immune to the sort of enchantment with ideological abstractions that he (accurately) identifies in Western Buddhism.

    It’s a shame because he has valuable things to say.

  44. Liam (#43).

    No, we precisely do not imagine that. If you would bother to inform yourself of our various thinking on the way ideology functions, you’d quickly discover the motto: ideology is inescapable; therefore, choose a better one! In other words, we are wearing our ideologies on our sleeves, not hiding them behind some mask of transcendence. Do you understand the difference?

    Why not do some interesting critical work of your own? We provide a basic starter kit, if you’re interested.

  45. Liam said

    It’s an interesting strategy, and I certainly agree with the first clause and with being honest about it (and like you I find seeing others hide behind a ‘mask of transcendence’ to be distasteful – like any sort of self-deception or pretense). It doesn’t follow though that there are not degrees of such ensnarement or that it’s impossible to reduce it. And surely you agree with that, otherwise your project is futile? And surely liberating oneself from some mental/emotional traps (a direction not a destination) can be a valuable thing, both for reducing bias and being generally a bit less of an asshole? Isn’t it at least as important (if harder) to turn that ‘critical’ beam on oneself?

    I know the purpose of this blog is to wage a war of sorts on Western Buddhism rather than answer dumb-sounding questions from ‘newbies’. Be kind to us, we’re not all academics who can spend our lives reading about such things. Asking questions helps us understand. Here is a question (feel free to point me to a previous post …or ignore it altogether): is anything left when you strip away the guff? I think there is. You seem to imply that you think there is (you meditate). What is it?

  46. Paul B said

    Glenn (#42)

    I just like sake.

    But you know, disagreement and “ignorance” aren’t the same thing. An enormous number of people, inside academia as well as without, would agree with the thought which, it seems, has earned me the latter assessment – ie that critical theory today has gone hyperabstract, has lost its balance, its ground (space). What’s so hard about acknowledging this as a possible perspective? You might not agree, but it ain’t coming out of “ignorance.”

    As it happens, you have absolutely no idea how much critical theory I’ve read. But that’s quite beside the point, as Liam above rightly notes also.

    “Rather than rail at a critical approach to x-buddhism that you don’t understand, why don’t you inform yourself about the theory, and take it to Roshi for a spin?” Ditto. Plus, as clearly stated above, I have no Roshi. And in fact have never had a guru, Zen-wise or otherwise. Stay open dude.

  47. wtpepper said

    RE 46: No, Paul, nobody here has any idea how much critical theory you’ve read, because you haven’t demonstrated it. You haven’t given any instance of the failure of “critical theory today,” but simply asserted that it is not worth bothering with. It may not be worth bothering with, but unless you can offer a concrete reason, a specific analysis, then you are wasting everyone’s time with your empty assertions. If you have such an analysis, offer it. otherwise shut the hell up. You sound like a lazy ignoramus who is using the anti-intellectual cliches common today to avoid mental effort–if this isn’t the case, you’ll have to prove it. The texts here offer real critiques of concrete examples of Western Buddhism, and discussion of what is of use in specific texts in Western philosophy. Maybe try reading some of them, and if you have something to say other than the standard “thinking is bad,” maybe somebody will listen. Otherwise, you just look like an idiot–on my blog, I would have already deleted your useless comments–you aren’t giving any real argument, just empty assertions.

    RE 45: No, Liam, we cannot “reduce” our ideology, nor should we want to. You seem to have the idea that ideology=error, but this is not what we mean by the term when we use it here. Take the time to find out what it means, and then this project may make some more sense to you. Reducing error will not eliminate the need for ideology–what is at issue is avoiding mistaking ideology for an eternal truth, because this is the fundamental error most of us begin from. You asked about a text to read, why not start with Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice? I spend some time there explaining what is meant by ideology and why we are foolish to think we can do without it. If you think you are becoming free of your ideology, you are simply becoming increasingly deluded, because you are mistaking your ideology for a transcendent truth. This is, for me, the core truth of Buddhism that is worth recovering: the understanding of the reality (and necessity) of what in Buddhist thought is called conventional reality. In a metaphor I have often used, borrowed from Kant, to think we can be free of ideology is to be like a bird who thinks it could fly much more easily without the resistance of air.

  48. Liam (#45), Paul (#46).

    I appreciate that you guys are coming here, but.

    I am being kind to you. I’m saying that we have already gone over the points you’re both bringing up, often several times. The kindness is in doing the work and in pointing that out to you. But the rest is up to you. For instance:

    is anything left when you strip away the guff?

    Only you can determine that for yourself. You can also read our various conclusions on it. Both options require work. Regarding your interest in ideology, have a look at this essay.

    What’s so hard about acknowledging this as a possible perspective? You might not agree, but it ain’t coming out of “ignorance.”

    Yes, it is. Your objections are demonstrations of not having done your homework. It’s really simple and obvious.

    One more time. This blog has a very narrow focus: to create a swell of x-buddhist critical thought. That goal requires the creation of concepts, methods, theories, and more. So, engagement in the comment section requires your application of critical thought to x-buddhist materials. It’s a working blog, in other words. Do you have a sphere of dharma where you could start digging around?

  49. Liam said

    Glenn,

    Thanks. There’s an error in that link, though.

    Wtpepper,

    I’m talking about attachment to and delusion about ideology. I can’t currently be sure that we mean the same by ideology, but I mean values, preferences and associated forms and tendencies of thought. I agree that mistaking one’s ideology for a transcendent truth (rather than just your personal values, preferences etc) is a very common delusion. I think this lies behind every form of ideological and religious extremism and the violence often associated with them. Your views about attachment to ideology differ from mine and my personal experiences, but, given the purpose of the blog, let’s just leave it at that. If I find sufficient value in your blogs I’ll consider buying the book.

  50. Liam (#49).

    Here’s that corrected link to “Conventional reality and Social Construction” at The Faithful Buddhist. Check these essays tagged with “ideology” at The Non Buddhist. A bunch of essays right here are tagged with ideology, too.

  51. wtpepper said

    Well, Liam, there’s not much more to say–your response is, essentially, that you don’t know what my position is, won’t make the effort to find out, but you’re sure it must be wrong so you’ll just “leave it at that.” That’s fine with me, but if you never intended to learn anything that might challenge what you know from your “personal experience,” why bother commenting here? Why should anybody give a damn that you are happy in your blissful ignorance and hope never to have to think? Why do you need us to know that about you? We really don’t care–most people are like this, and they don’t bother commenting here–they usually stick to Tricycle.

  52. Liam said

    Mr Pepper,

    You misunderstood me. And you certainly have a prickly manner, but I’ve just read your essay ‘Conventional Reality and Social Construction’ and I found it lucid, insightful and interesting. I agreed with nearly all of it. I enjoyed it. Almost anything that makes intelligent reference to the MMK usually goes down well with me.

  53. Paul B said

    Wtpepper (#47)

    No, Wtpepper, it is you who didn’t bother reading my posts. If you think my conclusion is “thinking is bad,” then this says little for your critical theoretical abilities, I’m afraid.

    As someone disillusioned and even profoundly damaged by institutional buddhism, I would’ve thought you see me as part of your target audience, as it were. My intervention here was to make merely a couple of very particular points which struck me as quite important. It’s highly possible to respond to them without arrogance or insult. I assume (hope) you wish to help make the world a better place; at any rate, clearly you guys think you have more to offer others than the entire Western buddhist tradition. Well, by their fruits shall ye know them, in the end.

    I could make a hundred comments from a critical theoretical perspective, but it would be intellectual masturbation, and precisely beside the point. That’s what I think you guys don’t get. You no longer allow – because, it seems, you no longer see – any possible critique of what you’re doing, from beyond your own frame of reference that is.

    Part of that is: I’m not sure you realize how totally manichean you have become, but it’s truly startling. It’s all us/them, friend/enemy, just amazing. You mention all these evil buddhists over and over on this site. Many of them I haven’t had personal experience with, but Sharon Salzberg I have. She’s the real thing – a wise, compassionate human being who is helping others to wake up. What do you have to offer? “On my blog, I would have already deleted your useless comments”: well, for that very reason, I would never visit your blog, since it makes clear your inability to take in alternative perspectives, your power trip, and your lack of basic respect for others.

    Okay, that’s all I have to say. You can go back to filling the world with cruelty again (the other post). Of course, I realize you don’t mean cruelty cruelty, you actually mean vast compassion… (In the same way, presumably, as old Slavoj talks about the need for “cleansing violence” and so on.) Compassion way beyond what any buddhist has to offer. Right. I’ll leave you to it then. I wish you well.

  54. Daniel said

    To reiterate what has been stated dozens of times: Before critiquing the critique(SNB) it might possibly be a good idea to actually try it out first. As many have suggested, go ahead and implement some of the SNB heuristics. A list of them can be found [here] (http://jsri.ro/ojs/index.php/jsri/article/view/710/593 “Title”). Download the pdf, they’re discussed in Glenn’s paper.

    There have been many objections to the rhetorical violence and ‘cruelty’, but what possible use could this type of rhetoric have? This probably has been discussed in detail elsewhere, but here are just a few thoughts/observations on the utility of such nasty non-right speech:

    1.The right speech meme tends to create good little catholic/buddhist boys and girls that don’t ‘rock the boat’. In other words, people become sheeple under it’s spell or in extreme cases: the dreaded obsequious Roshi crack-licker, if you will. Forceful rhetoric profoundly changes this.

    2.The reflexive response that comes up when right speech advocates encounter some nasty-nasty is actually a good thing. Personally, I was surprised at how angry I was the first time I read this blog. Such a strong reaction allowed me to see that I was still harboring some rhetorical preconceived notions related to x-buddhist right speech. When I took a closer look, I realized my thinking-language was still largely operating within that restrictive x-buddhist right speech bubble.

    3.In regard to The Principle of Sufficient Buddhism, by staying within it’s own sufficient realm(totalism), x-buddhism gives itself a nice and cozy safe-haven, it’s own insular self-referential circularity. Violent rhetoric acts as a battering ram against that insular wall.

    4.Similarly, the SNB rhetoric knocks the x-buddhist off of their specular authoritative throne, allowing for an even-playing field. Without this equality there is no point in undertaking a dialogue.

    5.Comparing the SNB rhetorical violence with some of the truly insane physical and emotional devastation that x-buddhism right-speechists have caused. Do they even compare? Seriously give me a break, behind that veneer of x-buddhist smiles and limp-dick language is some realviolence.

    Perhaps instead of all the player-hatin’( rather than hatin’ the critique-er) throw some hate on the x-buddhist game-the oppression. Seriously, it’s not hate-speech or unethical rhetoric when it’s being direct towards forces of oppression and subjugation. Ya know the actual thing that caused someone to be “disillusioned and even profoundly damaged”.

  55. John said

    Paul (#53),

    I’m a lurker here with few crit-theory creds, but I’ve read a bit of the material here, and I’ve read a lot of the comments. Every other thread at least, someone comes along and says something close to what you’ve said; the number of people who have critiqued what’s going on here before they actually understood it must number in the hundreds. And almost every time, they are invited to do their homework and respond to what’s actually going on here. And I’ve never seen anyone take it up.

    Regarding the us/them dichotomy you intuit here, I wonder if you would critique environmentalists for calling out polluters along the same lines. What if you’ve seen that x-Buddhism is a form of pollution (see affective decision)? Do you have a problem with critique itself, or does something here go too far?

    And so what if critical theory is hyper-abstract? Are the documents here hyper-abstract? More importantly, are they effective?

  56. Paul B said

    Daniel (#54)

    Thanks for your post Daniel.

    “Go ahead and implement some of the SNB’s heuristics.”

    Well, I’ve read a number of posts here, and responded to one (this one). My feeling is: if the posts are defensible as stated, then they shouldn’t require someone having to spend “a few years” (whatever that amounts to when the “hyperbole” is taken off) before being allowed to respond to them. The posts I read make a number of claims, and do so in rhetoric that is almost continuously condemnatory towards a broad swath of people. It is precisely this which I am pointing to. Does that make sense? It truly seems reasonable to me, but perhaps I am mistaken.

    In any case, if it is unacceptable to make that criticism, then I’m not sure what the point is, since the articles here accuse more-or-less all contemporary buddhists of that fault (of suppressing criticism). And indeed, in the piece entitled “What is non-Buddhism,” Glenn builds up to the following flourish: “Am I full of paradox and contradiction? Of course I am!” Well, okay, but that admission suggests a playful, open-handed, and good faith approach, which I struggle to see here.

    As to your five points, I’m just not sure I can agree with any of them. Again mainly because, to my mind, they each stem from a totalizing view which I don’t recognize. Sorry if I’m an idiot – as Wtpepper graciously suggests – but here is what I would say:

    1) “The right speech meme tends to create good little catholic/buddhist boys and girls that don’t ‘rock the boat.’” Well, in every spiritual tradition, most people prefer religiosity. That has been the way forever, it seems, though buddhists have less excuse than others since the historical buddha enjoined fearless questioning. (For that matter, I can’t say that hard-core questioning of buddhist doctrine in my experience has ever been met with suppression at the hands of teachers – with one prominent sangha as the exception). But in any event, and this is my point, what does the notion of “right speech” have to do with this?

    “Right speech” simply points to communication that is helpful rather than harmful, clarifying rather than confusing, respectful toward the other rather than slanderous, diminishing, aggressive, and so on. The basis for it stems from a few core recognitions, eg: a) Deep, fearless intellectual honesty, when practiced, reveals that self-delusion is quite hard to completely eradicate, so that care is in order when condemning others right and left while holding oneself up as a possessor of rare integrity; b) The world isn’t exactly an Eden of peace, and pretty much never has been. Careful analysis, in all kinds of spheres, reveals the utterly central role speech plays in solidifying misunderstanding and hostility, and escalating these into hatred, including violence.

    2) You’re making an assumption that the response is “reflexive” (perhaps because, as you say, it was for you?). You’re also making an assumption of what that reaction is for most/all so-called “x-buddhists.” A sweeping generalization that I don’t see.

    3) Well again, a generalization. I’ve hung around a number of different sanghas in each of the major traditions and known a great many buddhists. Some of them have “totalizing” perspectives, some don’t. Likewise, a fair number of people approaching the subject from that of critical theory seem to have a totalizing perspective also.

    4) “SNB rhetoric knocks the x-buddhist off their specular authoritative throne, allowing for an even playing-field. Without this equality there is no point in undertaking a dialogue.” You’re kidding, right? I haven’t yet seen an article on this site which acknowledges the worth, or even the validity, of anything any buddhist teacher would say in such a dialogue. Maybe it exists, but I haven’t found it yet. The piece on “sufficient buddhism” is an excellent example of this: a genuine dialogue might not even be possible if at least a few areas of common ground aren’t established, but I’m not sure such ground exists, because the site seems to have disallowed everything not inside its own frame of reference.

    5) “Comparing the SNB rhetorical violence with some of the truly insane physical and emotional devastation that x-buddhism right-speechists have caused. Do they even compare?” Ah, this is important. In my experience, it’s precisely wrong speech that is being practiced when that devastation comes about. That’s the whole point. And yes, agreed, some (too many) buddhists in positions of power have abused that power. Through reflecting upon all of these questions for about 15 years, every day (literally), one of the principal things it has taught me is that the antidote to this is – again, sorry for my lack of punk/macho hip-hop cred but (!) – straightforward, untricky, genuine, ordinary kindness. We don’t have too much of that in the world, we really don’t! Not even close, I would say.

    Them’s my thoughts, for what they’re worth.

  57. Paul, #53

    Your rhetorical move in this post is impressing: 1) You describe yourself as someone disillusioned and even profoundly damaged by institutional buddhism; 2) Then you say you guys no longer allow any possible critique of what you’re doing; 3) Sharon Salzberg is the real thing.

    So in the end ‘we’ are still the damaging bad guys while the an x-buddhist is still the good guy?

    There’s a lot in this move which is telling. It smacks pretty much of projection. All the more because there is this strange ‘you’ (plural) you address. Let me make one point about this: Who is this group of people you address?

    If you take a bit of time to investigate what is going on here, you will discover that ‘we’ are a pretty diverse bunch of people. And that’s the difference: There’s no forced normalization of opinion here! The latter is exactly what you get with any x-buddhist sangha. Critical theory (or negative dialectics) would be exactly the tool to make visible the inherent contradictions in any given seemingly coherent social-symbolic system. What is resulting from such an opening is a bit more freedom you can fill with whatever your creativity comes up with. So if you like, try to see our contradictions and use them. But do the work, look, and don’t tell we are a homogenous bunch of people how sing along in unison like your average x-buddhist crop of parrots.

    Daniel, #54

    Good points. So called right speech has a long time ago been identified as Repressive Tolerance in a likewise named essay by Herbert Marcuse. He writes in the first paragraph:

    The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to politics, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.

    Since Marcuse wrote this  the situation has deteriorated strongly – in a way nobody then would have been able to fully anticipate. We are now in a situation in which suppression is totally incorporated into the individual in a positively connotated way.

    The video above is a snipped of evidence of this situation – although not enough for, for example, people like Paul who have been fucked by x-buddhism as a co-opted co-bugger of our society of control.

    I suggest again, as it has been done hundreds of times, as John in #55 does too, as Glenn has been doing again and again: just read the stuff ‘we’ provide, get in contact – real contact – and first and foremost play around with the stuff! That’s the point about Glenn’s heuristics.

    You are allowed to play. Even with yourself. And when this is like intellectual masturbation, why not? What is wrong with masturbation? Go ask Sharon Salzberg if she ever does to herself if she feels like it.

  58. I forget one point:

    Re society of control and positively connotated suppression – suppression which actually feels like wow, isn’t this marvelous – take a look at this post at noir realism. It fits nicely into the topic discussed in this thread.

    I content, though, for those new to this topic it seems like ‘we’ are fantasizing/projecting the worst possible things into our Brave New World. But than, take your time and try it out – via Glenn’s heuristics – with your brand of Buddhism and lo and behold you will see what ‘we’ mean.

  59. Paul B said

    Hi John, with regard to your points:

    1) Well, just speaking for myself, I don’t think it would be fair to characterize me as “not having done my homework.” I’ve not only read a number of articles on this site carefully and pondered them – in addition to the various “about” and mission statements. I’ve also been coming at the question of “where and how do things go wrong within buddhism” from various angles for about 15 years. Likewise, I’ve been pondering the place of “critical theory” in the scheme of things for many years too. So I have some long-considered perspectives on all of this.

    2) Re: environmentalists. Certain individual environmentalists indeed have an us/them attitude. Others don’t. Us/them can be found anywhere. It’s just that in certain groups / projects it becomes so prominent as to be seriously distorting and self-defeating.

    3) I certainly don’t have a problem with critique and engage in it myself all the time. What I mean by critical theory being hyperabstract is simply that it has a strong tendency to hide within layers of abstraction, never … quite … touching the ground. Whole books go by – and I’ve had to slog through many – promising … something, some direct statement about something concrete, but one gets to the final page only to find one can’t even quite summarize a single chapter. In fact, the reason I was attracted to buddhism in the first place was due to its empirical and directly experiential method. The core notion of interdependence can be very immediately investigated and experienced everywhere, in every moment and every activity. Suffering or dissatisfaction, likewise, can be looked at square in the face. For me, buddhist practice is always touching the ground, always engaged in real life.

    Critical theory on the other hand, well, one could give literally a thousand examples – here’s not one of the best necessarily, but it was the first article to pop up and it’ll do, being representative of an endless, endless number: “In Butler’s work, intelligibility provides a horizon of recognition for subjectivity itself, within which all subjects are either recognizable or unrecognizable as subjects.”

    Sounds straightforward, right? Relatively short sentence, even. But then you start to piece it together. “Intelligibility,” okay, I know what that means. And it’s “providing a horizon,” “a horizon of recognition.” Okay, “providing a horizon” is kind of clunky, but I get the picture. “For subjectivity itself”: okay, so, let’s see what we’ve got so far. Subjectivity is able to “recognize” itself, because “intelligibility” is “providing a horizon of recognition” for it. Well, that’s awfully kind of intelligibility. Bravo, intelligibility! But wait, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s because something is “intelligible” that subjectivity can recognize itself? What does that even mean? Is it suggesting a real possibility that lack of intelligibility, rather, might be the thing which enables subjectivity to recognize itself? Let’s go further; perhaps the remainder of the sentence will illuminate this.

    “…within which all subjects are either recognizable or unrecognizable as subjects.” O-kay… So now, first of all, we have a problem of reference, as the folks in discourse analysis would say. What precisely are “all subjects” “within” – subjectivity, or that “horizon of recognition”? Impossible to say for sure, but in any event we’re at least two levels of abstraction in at this point, so who the hell knows? But wait, the sentence is saying that subjectivity itself can recognize itself – thanks to intelligibility – and as a result of this, subjects can recognize themselves as subjects. No, but some don’t, the sentence is saying. Some subjects don’t recognize themselves, even though subjectivity itself recognizes itself. But then… And on and on, because that’s only a single sentence! Whole paragraphs go by like that – whole chapters – whole books! And you get to the end of them and realize that the entire exercise has taken place inside the text, going around, ultimately, in circles. That’s what I mean by never touching the ground, or real, lived life.

    And it gets worse than that. When you look at someone like old Slavoj, just when you think you get what he’s saying, he says the precise opposite in order to attack someone else and be untouchable himself. And then what you also realize eventually is that half the time the main strategy in any event of this kind of writing is to find some one term that can be redefined in a new, personal, splashy way – ideally something provocative and shocking (but not too shocking; important to stay just inside the line of political correctness). At least one per month is recommended – I think Slavoj outdoes everyone else there, though.

    So the flavor of the month here, on this site, seems to be “cruelty.” Let’s take this term, a universally negative one, indeed supremely negative one, and say that what it really means is something good, great even! Let’s all be cruel! Let the whole world be cruel! Who cares if only 0.001% of those who would hear such an injunction would understand it and have their perception and behavior improved by it – it still sounds so cool and daring – tip of the hat to Artaud. That’ll show those wussy buddhists with their talk of kindness and compassion. No, it’s cruelty the world lacks, cruelty the world desperately needs. Take that, you unmanly, phony buddhists. Not only are you not living up to your ideals (unlike us?), but it just shows that the words themselves are the problem.

    So, let’s go: “Rigor of thought is itself cruelty.” Okay. Well, personally, I thought rigor of thought was just … rigor of thought, but whatever. Next sentence. When you put rigor of thought together with “creative thought,” according to Glenn, you get “a kind of ass-fuck” [Deleuze]. Well, nothing abstract about the image at least, but … where are we going with this? Well, the progeny of this “ass-fuck” is a monster. Okay, whatever. But the monster is a human. Um, okay, carry on. And “x-buddhists despise the human.” Wait, “x-buddhists despise the human”? What the hell does that even mean? “In its place they seek to enthrone some ideal type.” Hmm, I have absolutely no idea what that means. Is he talking about the aim of being fully awake to one’s life, to the nature of reality? But there’s nothing unhuman about that. No so-called “x-buddhist” that I know of teaches that the historical buddha was anything other than a human being. But that’s all the evidence that’s going to be offered for why “x-buddhists” evidently “despise the human.” Oh well.

    Then we get a plug for a new journal, whose “every syllable echoes cruelty.” Great! Let’s see what they have to say for themselves. It’s “a journal of negation.” Well, okay. “It emerges devoid of ethics, lacking any sense of democracy, and without a care for pre-figuring anything.” Hmm. Well, then you’ve destroyed dialogue, so what’s the point? “Hostis is an exercise in partisanship – speaking in a tongue made only for those that it wants to listen.” Oh, I get it now – only for those that it wants to listen! It’s an elitist little club, existing purely for its own enjoyment in itself. Have fun guys.

    Okay, so now where are we going: “Everything that acts is a cruelty.” This from Artaud. He is saying something that must be profound. Let me try and understand it: Cruelty is an “appetite for life.” Okay, if you say so. It’s also a “cosmic rigor” and an “implacable necessity.” Why, how, huh? What does that mean, on earth? Well, here come two more clauses which each begin “in the sense of,” so they will surely clarify. First we have “in the gnostic sense of a living whirlwind that devours the darkness.” A living whirlwind that devours the darkness… Another metaphor, oh well. And one which … I don’t even quite get. Do whirlwinds “devour darkness”? What’s a living – as opposed to a dead? – whirlwind? It was supposed to explain “cosmic rigor.” Never mind. Let’s go to the next one: “in the sense of that pain apart from whose ineluctable necessity life could not continue.” So “cruelty” is being used in the way we might think of “pain,” the pain which enables life to continue. Well, now here there is a flicker of comprehension, because I acknowledge the ineluctability of pain. So Artaud is calling that “cruelty.” No, he’s saying that “everything that acts is a cruelty,” presumably because every action is an action of life, of which pain is an “ineluctable necessity.” Well, okay. I kind of get it. But I think it’s … pretty dumb, sorry. Self-evidently a great many actions work to ameliorate pain, and others can even help us recognize its insubstantial nature. So I’m sorry, but I can’t acknowledge that “everything that acts is a cruelty.”

    Anyway, continuing: here’s the payoff – a view of contemporary buddhism which “brutally refuses” to “abet liberation.” So the idea is that buddhism is bankrupt today because genuinely liberatory teachings are not available, or at least are not being taught. Everybody teaching buddhism today and everybody studying and practicing it (more or less) is doing so in order to go to sleep, to feel good about themselves, say the non-buddhists. They’re all totally complacent, unlike us cruel folk, who really want to help others, who really burn passionately with the desire to free everybody. But everybody else? Corrupt phonies who have sold their souls to the devil of capitalism. So we gotta be cruel, cruel, cruel to be kind. Or maybe not even to be kind (I certainly haven’t come across that word on this site). Cruel to be cool, perhaps? To be punk. So we can call everyone bitches and motherfuckers, yo. Who knows? What I would guess, however, is that no radical critique of itself has been listened to and absorbed on this site. If such were made, it would either get deleted or – Slavoj-style – defused through contradictory wordplay. Either or both of which I now confidently expect will be applied to this very post…

  60. wtpepper said

    RE 52: Liam,

    Prickly? Well, most people would leave off the “ly” when describing me.

    I’m not interested in right speech or being “nice,” because it avoids real thought, and prevents any hope of removing delusions. This is why I react strongly to anything that sounds even remotely like “we’ll have to agree to disagree.” Bullshit. If you can’t defend your position, admit it’s wrong. I react the same way to anyone who says anything like “overthinking” (usually, in the sexually repressed x-buddhist crowd, thinking is compared to masturbation, which is supposed to prove it is evil, I suppose–”if it seems like fun but I can’t do it, it must be bad”). Or the old elitism claim: “I don’t have the time or inclination to read difficult texts, so your being exclusive and elitist.” Well, if you don’t have the time or inclination to study biology you don’t get to be a doctor, and if you don’t have the time or inclination to think long and hard, you don’t get to be enlightened. Your choice. I’m so tired of these, and a list of similar whiny complaints, that I’d just rather be rude and abrupt and either chase people off or startle them into thought. Like Rinzai, I assume that if you are so easily put off, you aren’t ready yet for this kind of text, and need a few more years in retreat centers.

    Glad you liked the essay, but that’s not important. I want to motivate thought–so don’t bother telling me you agree with “almost all of it,” I don’t care about that–if you won’t say what you disagree with and why, and make a good argument, you wasted your time reading it.

  61. Daniel said

    PaulB(#56)

    Good job on your critique of my post, I want to read more of your thoughts(and I will later) but just aim that critical-thinking beam a little towards the x-buddhist oppressive and subjugating forces/aspects and see what happens. What have you got to lose? Or you can continue to critique me some more, go for it. I mean that sincerely. But just a quick suggestion, I would prefer a little more rhetorical violence if you are going to come at me…please and thank you, kindly with sugar on top. Come on man, let loose a little…or not I guess.

    Ad hominem-ly yours,
    Daniel

  62. Liam said

    Prickly? Well, most people would leave off the “ly” when describing me.

    I pretty much did initially (“asshole” if you want specifics), but Glenn didn’t approve the comment.

    Oh, and stop telling me what to do, prick(ly). Whether you imagine yourself to be Rinzai or not.

    Paul B,

    Can I buy you a beer?


    [From GW: Liam, just to be clear, I didn’t refrain from posting the comment you refer to because of “asshole”–that’s nothing!–but because you said you were off to read Tom Pepper on ideology. I was doing your thinking for you, and so assumed you’d want that comment stricken once you read TP’s piece. Was I right? Or should I post it?)

  63. Paul B said

    M. Steingass (#57)

    By “we” I was simply referring to each of the posts I’d read (including the introductory/mission statements) and pretty much all the comments I’d come across. The rare disagreements I found – eg Liam, me – tended to be met with the likes of Dr. Pepper calling one an idiot, deserving not even to be posted etc.

    I don’t quite see the point you’re making regarding rhetoric. As far as “damaging bad guys,” well, it’s almost never either/or in life, is it?!… And likewise – in reverse – my comment on Sharon Salzberg.

    Daniel (#61)

    Hey Daniel, thanks. Believe it or not, I have aimed the beam at buddhists. For at least three years I regularly contributed to another site in which I did nothing but that. And long before that I always tended to find myself a kind of dissident within buddhist communities.

    I think one of the core problems getting in the way for me here is just this notion of “x-buddhist.” It’s a homogenizing concept which I don’t see. Maybe I will some day, but for now, I can’t really use the term myself.

    As far as “rhetorical violence” goes: just not my style. It would have to come out of the moment. I do see a great deal of value in being basically, as they say, “a nice guy.” Not letting the facelessness of the internet allow one to forget that we’re still always and only relating to other living, dying humans, each ultimately inseparable from us within a vale of tears. People continually communicate online in ways they would never dream of doing in real life, and I don’t find it healthy. So … sometimes I briefly adopt such a style, but rarely. Perhaps post 59 would be an example for you? I’d say that’s ironic rather than “violent” though.

    Wtpepper (#60)

    “I’m not interested in right speech or being ‘nice,’ because it avoids real thought, and prevents any hope of removing delusions.”

    Does that mean I should wish you a long, long period of time in which people are continuously verbally unpleasant, unfair, and abrasive towards you, in every conversation you engage in, so that you will reach a veritable samadhi of “real thought”? Then, with all your delusions quickly removed, you can descend back to this land of madness and not-create a new non-school of non-non-buddhism, whose innovative secret non-technique is the continuous practice of “wrong speech”? May you enlighten multitudes!

    “Well, if you don’t have the time or inclination to study biology you don’t get to be a doctor, and if you don’t have the time or inclination to think long and hard, you don’t get to be enlightened. Your choice. I’m so tired of these, and a list of similar whiny complaints, that I’d just rather be rude and abrupt and either chase people off or startle them into thought.”

    I truly don’t think getting enlightened has all that much to do with “thinking long and hard,” but I’m certainly no expert!

    Liam (#62)

    Anytime mate.

  64. John said

    Paul, (59)

    You appear to have done some homework, but you demonstrate that you don’t understand the referents to Glenn’s words. These articles are not self-contained; they are building off of understanding that has been built over several years.

    And “x-buddhists despise the human.” Wait, “x-buddhists despise the human”? What the hell does that even mean? “In its place they seek to enthrone some ideal type.” Hmm, I have absolutely no idea what that means. Is he talking about the aim of being fully awake to one’s life, to the nature of reality? But there’s nothing unhuman about that.

    If you’re not sure why someone on this blog would say something like that or nod along, ‘yes, yes’, then you really haven’t done your non-buddhist homework. Your issue with abstract language, at least in reference to this site, seems rather to be an issue with technical language that you haven’t initiated yourself into.

    You also seem to be unwilling to inhabit expansive or suggestive metaphors, and this seems to me more of a fault with the reader than with the author. To “Everything that acts is a cruelty” you retort that “Self-evidently a great many actions work to ameliorate pain”. Do you take Artaud to be speaking simply about ‘actions’ like taking a sip of water?

  65. Paul, #63

    Fine. How about putting on the table something specific? You say you have been profoundly damaged by institutional Buddhism. You say, I have aimed the beam at buddhists. For at least three years I regularly contributed to another site in which I did nothing but that.

    Why not tell the audience here about that? That could be productive.

  66. Paul B said

    John (#64)

    John,

    All I did with the “cruelty” article was practice what used to be known as “close reading” (I just call it reading, but whatever.) The two statements Glenn made which you refer to are as follows: “x-buddhists despise the human” and “everything that acts is a cruelty.” I was querying them based on how they were used quite specifically in the article. Are you saying that on this site they are doctrinal in nature, as it were, referred to so often, developed so extensively, that anyone coming across them should know a) they have a highly precise and specific meaning here; and b) that these meanings, yes, aren’t necessarily intuitive? Well if so, okay, but … where are those meaning? Taking the two statements you referenced one at a time:

    1) “X-buddhists despise the human.” If the meaning intended here is substantially different than that which is stated in the article on “cruelty,” which I quoted from (ie, “in its place they seek to enthrone some ideal type”), then one would expect to see some reference to this in the introductory documents, right? There are eight of these – the tabs across the top: “About,” “Warning!,” “Before you read,” “Before you comment,” “What is non-buddhism?,” “Why speculative?,” “Why x-buddhism?,” and “Authors.” Unfortunately, there isn’t so much as a single line indicating “technical language” I “haven’t initiated [myself] into.” This is all very easy to check given that old keystroke which brings up a search box into which one can type (in this case) the word “human”! Here were the results:

    a) “About”: Just one reference: “I still believe in the possibility of human liberation.” No help.
    b) “Warning!”: Just one reference: “…virtually every single human being who hangs his/her shingle as “Buddhist teacher” would like you to believe that Buddhism is itself the goal.” No help. (Also, and by the bye, this is precisely the opposite of my experience: not a single one of the teachers I have heard – probably a couple of dozen over the years – would affirm this.)
    c) “Before you read”: 0 references to “human”
    d) “Before you comment”: 0 references to “human”
    e) “What is non-buddhism?”: 0 references to “human”
    f) “Why speculative?”: Two references: 1) “Both versions [ie "hard" and "soft" Buddhism] flourish by virtue of an ageless curative fantasy of human beings: to emerge from life – and death – unscathed.” No help. (Plus, I disagree, but be that as it may…); 2) “…a mere sop to modern fears and human vanity?” No help.
    g) “Why x-buddhism?”: One reference. Buddhism is a type of system which claims “grand authority concerning humanknowledge.” No help.
    h) “Authors”: 0 references to “human”

    So I fail to see where this “technical language” I haven’t received the initiation for understanding is located. It would seem clear that the statement “x-buddhists despise the human” is in fact one of those sweeping, “punk” rhetorical flourishes so beloved by theory folk who seemingly never have to truly justify anything they say. Again, there was precisely one sentence in the article in its defense – “in its place they seek to enthrone some ideal type.” Fine, that’s what I was querying. I happen to think my query was very much a valid one.

    2) “Everything that acts is a cruelty.” Ditto. I thought my analysis of the Artaud passage was fair. Like much of contemporary theory, it sounds “cool” but doesn’t actually hold together. If you can explain to me what a “dead whirlwind” is as opposed to a “live” one, how whirlwinds “devour darkness” (“in a gnostic sense”), and what any of this has to do with “cosmic rigor,” please do. I have English and linguistics degrees and have been writing and editing all my life, so every day I am thinking closely about language in all kinds of ways. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with metaphors, metaphors are great! They just have to be well chosen, to clarify what is being asserted.

  67. Daniel said

    Paul (#37) > “I have my own critiques of Western buddhism, my own catalogue of phenomena that have disturbed me. I haven’t practiced within a sangha for close to ten years. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, my encounters with power structures within buddhism have caused a lot of damage, deep damage, that I have not been able to remedy. So, I’m hardly any kind of shill for buddhism.” <

    Where did you go Paul? As Matthias(#65) suggested, let’s see your critiques….Oh lordy Paul, don’t you have any comments, experiences, thoughts, observations about the subjugating/oppressive aspects of x-buddhism that led to “ a lot of damage, deep damage, that I have not been able to remedy”?(very sad, but true for many ex-buddhists). As I alluded to earlier, lying behind x-buddhism’s talking(smiling)heads, with their facade of right speech, is a cold hard bitch with a 12 inch strap-on. For me, SNB ‘cruelly’ returns the favor with some of it’s own precious dana, as Glenn via Deleuze put it, with “‘a kind of ass-fuck’ of x-buddhism”. Let x= the institutional buddhist power structure that “deeply damaged” your ass.

    People are calling you out because:
    1.)Your critique is the perfect example of the right-speech reflexive response. That’s what got you posting in the first place, remember (#39) reacting to Glenn’s hyperbolic statement and SNB’s ‘cruel’ ways.
    2.) Then you go on to criticize critical theory, another reflexive response coming out of the ubiquitous x-buddhist distaste for anything intellectual(the meme of anti-intellectualism)
    3.) Then, after being called an idiot, you DO embrace critique(#56 &59)yet unfortunately, it’s aimed in the wrong direction(at the critique-ers going after the very bitch who damaged you).
    4.)When considering what you’ve stated about the x-buddhist “deep damage” inflicted to you, your rhetoric is rendered just plain ignorant.

    However, there is a possible explanation in that the reflexive rhetoric simply runs on auto-pilot as a preconceived framework, a conditioned response to a certain stimulus. As my mom, Lydia Goehr states, “Critique exposes the authority that concepts have over us”. In this case, the conceptual authority of the ‘right speech’ meme has ‘reared it’s ugly head’ with the stimulus of non-right ‘cruel’ speech. IME, similar encounters have revealed reflexive auto-pilot tendencies towards projection, repression, defensiveness, passive-aggressiveness, and hypersensitive behaviors. This ties right into the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism, it’s “voiding of thought”, it’s avoidance and red herrings techniques to protect the “aristocracy of thought”. Or maybe protecting the aristocracy of the thaumaturgical refuge. Of course, there are exceptions and degrees to this, but man o man, each time I enter or read a conversation with x-buddhists or sympathizers it still seems to be variations of the same old song and dance reminiscent of when I was a Zen practitioner. BTW, I am not interested in kicking a man while he is down(damaged). I’m ok with personal attacks to-and-fro, but really what I’m aiming at here in this post is that bitch(power structure) and the cognitive virus’ she transmits to x-buddhist practitioners. Cognitive virus’ like the right speech meme which are so hard to remedy once infected.

    Thanks Matthias for the Repressive Tolerance reference and the link to that crazy google Big Other stuff… truly scary!

    Paul,
    Can I buy you another beer ?

  68. Patrick jennings said

    Daniel,
    Re 66#
    Great piece of analysis. Could you generalize away from a response to Paul in particular, put some more meat on the bones, and submit it as a post for the non-buddhist?
    Paul:
    Same goes. Your comment at 59# seems to indicate you have a lot of interesting things to say. But its all over the place. Why not write up a coherent report on what exactly the word cruelty might mean for you in reference to your experience with Buddhism. I mean an account that speaks from personal experience against the horizon of Glenn’s reading of Artaud, or Artaud’s work. Seems to me you are missing a lot in both and a careful reading would be enough to convince you of that. And by the way, this is not an invitation to agree with the non-buddhist critique, but to use some of the tools here to retrieve something from the ruins, something useful not only for you but for everyone else too.

  69. PaulB (#66).

    So I fail to see where this “technical language” I haven’t received the initiation for understanding is located.

    Here.

    You may make out better with Matthias Steingass’s and Tom Pepper’s more direct style of communication than you have with mine.

    I hesitated to publish your comment because it doesn’t add any insight or knowledge. That’s not true. It teaches us that you read and think like a proud initiate of the Vienna Circle. Obviously, I don’t subscribe to even their basic premises (about meaning, language, need for verification, positivism, empiricism, communication, etc.). So, your comment is just so much more tedium. You say, “I have English and linguistics degrees and have been writing and editing all my life, so every day I am thinking closely about language in all kinds of ways.” Maybe that explains the consistent school-marmish feature of your comments. There is hope for you, though. May I suggest playing with Deleuze’s bring something incomprehensible into the world? You’ll need at least two years’ effort. If that doesn’t work, there’s always acid.

    More to the point: why don’t you follow Matthias’s advice in #65? Or, if you don’t want to follow that advice, can you at least tell us why not? As a contrast to simply indicating your stylistic preferences, as you’ve done here, that would be some kind of contribution.

  70. (#66)More critique of the SNB critique, really?(shaking my head) Still holding on to the hope of the thaumaturgical refuge, Celebrity Buddha Sharon Salzberg still gonna save you? I hear for the cost of a college education one can formally maintain a lay practice with her year round. In addition, minus the small costs of loss of independence, time with family and friends, and having fun, one can be lucky enough to sit for countless hours on end in a dimly lit room with eyes half open….because that is true insight. Sign me up.

    I swear every time I encounter another x-buddhist wounded vet, it makes me want to go all Nick Diaz on those fake aikido Roshi homies. All y’all pasty cracker-ass noodle sucka mc Roshis it’s time to fold up shop and head for the Shady Hills… nursing home that is! This Roshi Way shizit is goin down! Glu ten-Shin’s gonna wit dat, fo’ sure!

    “I be goin’ dumb, I be goin’ retard” -2 chainz
    (white boy pc translation: He is saying that he is acting a fool wildly and going crazy in a fun way).

  71. Daniel said

    Thanks for the compliment and invite Patrick(#68). Although honestly, I’m a lightweight in your guys’ heavyweight division, but what the hell, I’ll give it a try anyway. And yes good idea to generalize away from Paul(whom I believe has some skills to offer fo’ sure)

  72. PaulB (#65). On further thought, I see how you could make a valuable contribution to this project with your particular skills. You could offer a rhetorical criticism. But it would have to avoid the Vienna Circle-ish elements that you’ve exhibited so far. That approach misses the point. As I’m sure you already know, in a rhetorical analyses, the point can’t be missed. Rather, it–the point–has to be seen via the rhetoric, and vice versa. How does each serve the other?

    I think many of us would really appreciate that contribution.

  73. Paul B said

    M. Steingass, #65 (shorter replies to Patrick, Glenn, Daniel, and non-pasty cracker ass noodle dude in next post…)

    Matthias, my critique of institutional buddhism is distinct from what I’ve read here. I’m not sure you would find a great deal of overlap. I’m happy to say some things, for what they’re worth, but my thoughts are not original or flashy. My writing online in the past related to one particular sangha with its particular history and setup. Then, over time, I made certain generalizations as seemed warranted. I can say a few words about this, then talk about where I differ from what I see being said here.

    I’ve been mostly troubled by certain dynamics within Western Tibetan buddhism in particular, ie the importation of an authoritarian system from central Asia, medieval in origin, to the postmodern West. Although I feel strongly connected to that particular View, the “guru system” that has been inseparable from it clearly is prone to various kinds of corruption.

    Many years ago I was encouraged to fully join it, ie to take samaya with a lama, and nearly did, but something instinctively prevented me. Not long after that I began seeing instances of psychological manipulation and damage emerging out of the system, and more and more over time, myself included. And then, a number of years later, I found myself being put through it all again, even more destructively. So I’ve had to try and understand various things all over again.

    Most fundamentally, I’ve come to see why the damage which can be experienced within spiritual communities is so profound and intractable. Certain spiritual traditions (along with all “cults”) install themselves at the very core of one’s consciousness, like a new operating system. The trouble is that they don’t allow you to uninstall… And they might carry a virus or two…

    On top of this, for many people spiritual community represents the deepest experience of family – even very extended family – and broad acceptance they’ve ever had (a fact which the more cult-like in particular manipulate). So the problem then becomes: how do you learn to trust yourself again if your sense of “you” has been completely taken over? Especially when combined with what can be the most devastating experience of rejection and even ostracism.

    In the Tibetan system, of course, that takeover is as absolute as can be. The guru becomes a fourth “Jewel” and is said to be the most important of all of these, and the deeper your devotion, the more fully you identify with him/her and the less with yourself, the better. But along with that come the warnings too… the demons, vajra hell. The first long retreat I did, a fellow participant, a relative newcomer to practice, freaked out and had to leave within a week or two: he was having nightmares of demons all the time. In my own case, the overall effect (in part) has been a crushing of self-confidence and self-worth on a very deep level, including a radical inability to trust my own judgment and a propensity to condemn myself for virtually everything I do.

    The main point is: this series of experiences has made me look closely at the nature and dynamics of power in religion and community. I take some lessons from the Tibetan experience out a little further – though the further away, the weaker I would make the charge. So for example, I can well imagine how certain Zen teachers might abuse power too (I’m not talking about sex scandals, which I don’t pay much attention to, but that pure level of psychological manipulation which at its worst can even become sadism). I think there is less danger involved overall in systems which do not contain an equivalent of samaya, but certainly the role of the teacher in Zen becomes quite prominent at a certain point and creates a power dynamic which can turn unhealthy.

    However, this is a critique of a system. I still recognize enormous value in what individual teachers are doing, which is where I seem to differ pretty radically from the program of this site. For example, recently I read the 17th Karmapa’s book The Heart Is Noble, which made for a very pleasant surprise. He strikes me as maybe the first true 21st-century lama, completely engaged with the social/political, even going so far as to discuss the emptiness of gender (something I’ve never seen a Tibetan lama really address) and effectively putting in a good word for restorative justice, and so on. I think Dzigar Kongtrul’s paintings are quite amazing and a more effective teaching than any number of talks I’ve heard in my life. And I respect and appreciate what Tulku Urgyen’s sons are doing. (I simply doubt I could ever trust a teacher again at a close interpersonal level). Likewise, you’ve included Thich Nhat Hanh in your wholesale attack here, but what I see him doing primarily is trying to communicate the experience of interdependence (interbeing as he calls it), and quite honestly I wouldn’t be able to come up with any other single thing with as much potential as that to help the world – on any level I could think of.

    When I watched the above post, I simply had a different reaction to others here. I found myself asking questions, primarily. Here are a few of them:

    1) Who were the people seated on stage? I’ve never seen them before. I realize the article is only using them as examples of a larger perceived phenomenon, but still: to me they’re just … individual people. I gather that one of the critiques on this site has to do with an objection to practices and ideas being lifted from the buddhist tradition and applied to what are considered to be systems of oppression, the better to cement the hold of that oppression. But in our time there’s not a damn thing you can do about someone setting up shop, saying: “hey, I’ve discovered this ancient practice called ‘mindfulness,’ and your execs can use it to become better execs; I’ve adapted it and can teach it to you.” Etc etc. On account of those interwebs, anyone can claim to be an expert in anything and hawk their wares all round the world. Right? So then:

    2) I understand you’re accusing established teachers for collaborating in this process. Well, I don’t know the details, but what do you do if you’re a teacher and a corporation comes to you and asks you some questions about what you practice, and if you would come and give a talk about it? Are you gonna refuse because … they’re a Corporation? I see this site as focused on one very particular aspect of all this and ignoring other aspects. We can never even come close to predicting the overall effects of most activity in the world. Sometimes we get fixated on some one positive thing and ignore all kinds of latent dangers. But then other times it’s the other way round. An exec starts practicing meditation and … it changes her in unexpected ways over time.

    3) Returning to the people on stage, I still don’t know the whole story even of what happened there. There was a full – and fully damning – interpretation made in the article. I agree: the remark the guy in the middle made about tuning into our bodies to see how the protest made us feel was cheesy and a little cringe-making (to me, anyway). But it’s rather easy to be an observer of something and pronounce upon what one would have done or said in someone else’s shoes. The protest of course was fully valid and worthy and important, but when and where and for how long one allows one to take place depends on a host of factors I don’t feel I necessarily know about from that tiny clip of under three minutes. If a protest interrupted your wedding, say, how long would you allow it to go on – however important it was? All day, if the protesters wanted it to? We don’t even know what the people on stage thought of the protest; maybe one of them talked to a protester afterward. We also have no idea what effect it had on the audience. I realize (or at least am guessing) that you are probably rolling your eyes at my poor, unsophisticated naiveté … but, sorry, that was my reaction to this. I truly didn’t see it as some kind of sinister portent, not in itself.

    I realize that only scrapes the surface of what a full response to your question would look like, but this has already become a long, long post, so I’ll leave it there – cheers.

  74. Paul B said

    Patrick Jennings, #68
    “Why not write up a coherent report on what exactly the word cruelty might mean for you in reference to your experience with Buddhism.”

    Well, “cruelty” for me means something like: the intentional infliction of serious hurt or harm upon another – with enjoyment, I guess. That’s it, that’s my report! Not sexy, I realize.

    There’s a point here, which is that personally I wouldn’t find value in twisting that word to make something positive out of it. That’s where I differ from what I see as one of the practices of theory today – as I’ve said, it seems to rely a good deal on the rhetorical redeployment of (usually potent) terms. But when this is done, it effectively shields one from critical discussion. A new sub-language is created every book or two. Anyone else coming along is then required to use the new private language. If they don’t, then it’s just two discourses crossing in the night, and the latter end up having their “square” old use of words manipulated out of existence. Does that make some sense, even if you don’t agree with it?

    Glenn, #69

    We’re back up to “two years’ effort” again? Man, I got through Candrakirti in less time than that (sorta). You dudes must write the deepest shit out there!

    Also, I did my share of all those psycho-daleks back when. They did all their sneaky little catalyzing numbers on me, then I moved on. Can barely handle the heartbreaking beauty of sake these days…

    Glenn, #72

    Cheers! See post 73, for what it’s worth. (Also, I’ve actually never read any of those “Vienna Circle” guys, believe it or not…)

    Daniel, #67

    I’m not sure I fully grasped your last post to me, but I will just briefly respond to your numbered points in the middle. 1 and 2: I assure you that I never write “reflexively.” God, the time I could save… Likewise, your implication that I am “anti-intellectual” is so … so … (so…) far off the mark it’s beyond comment! 3 and 4: Your assumption here is that you guys are simply the pure freedom fighters, endowed with every good quality those nasty, evil, utterly corrupt buddhists lack? Or something like that? I’m only allowed to say critical things about one group and prostrate to the other? Sorry… (You can still buy me a beer though. I’m beginning to like this; my social life is picking up…)

    non-pasty cracker-ass noodle sucka mc dude, #70

    So, does this mean you don’t like buddhism? …

  75. Daniel said

    Paul(#74)

    “non-pasty cracker-ass noodle sucka mc dude” <

    You poopy mouth, I don’t appreciate such ‘cruel’ non-right unkind unethical racist hate speech(JK). I just so happen to be a cracker-ass-cracker myself….isn’t that pretty much a given in the the western buddhasphere.

    “So, does this mean you don’t like buddhism? …” <

    If you’re interested see (#32) comment on this thread.

    I appreciated reading your insightful(#73) critique, great stuff. It especially rings true because I know you’ve experienced first-hand (unlike much of the SNB heuristics), directly and immanently observed from within that power structure, and have critically thought a lot about what your writing on.

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Einstein

    So can different versions(ex:your thich nath hans, sharon salzbergs, etc, etc, ad nauseam,) of the same thing ( guru-esque power paradigm) truly produce a different result? Until that authoritative power structure you so succinctly analyzed is done away with, I say no to any such version “X” of buddhism. cheers mate

  76. Paul B said

    Daniel (#75)

    Cheers back.

    The cracker comment was a quote from #70 (ie, not your post), and my comment was just meant as a wee bit of humour based on the roshi-skewering of that post.

    With regard to your last question, well, my experience of the people you specifically name (very limited) is that they’re not involved in that power structure. (I’ve never met Thich Nhat Hanh as it happens – only seen videos and read books – so I don’t know what life in Plum Village is like etc.) That’s where I would differ from the far larger critique here.

  77. Paul B said

    Daniel (#75)

    PS – ah, so you be Mr. Ten-Shin also (just read your coment #32). Got it! Well done by the way.

  78. Paul B, #73

    Thanks a lot for your response. I think there is more overlap in your critique (or experience) and the critique made here than you would think.

    For example regarding the question how Guru devotion works and how the samaya system might contribute to it. See for this the entry “thaumaturgical refuge” p. 141 in Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice and The Thaumaturge in the same book p. 177 ff. You might also see my text Biografie of an X-Buddhist Thaumaturge here (pdf). These texts are about physiological predispositions and phylogentical heritages that might interact in certain ways with the socio-symbolic field in which we actually live. They probably won’t help to get over the problems you portray but they give a very different look what might go on in such interactions – and that very well might provide help with postulate deflation of concepts like samaya.

    The mentioned texts might also contribute some hints to a different understanding in regard to the fact that “for many people spiritual community represents the deepest experience of family“. In short the mechanisms of the charismatic congregation are at full play here. X-buddhism is guilty of suppressing these and other fields of knowledge about such topics (in sociology for example), in favour of upholding traditional sclerotized patterns of human interaction.

    And furthermore even in Tibetan traditions – as in other Buddhist traditions – there have been attempts of thought to transcend or ‘deconstruct’ these tendencies. As you mention some Dzgochen people you surely know Longchenpa. In one of his most famous surviving works, and in one which is regarded so high in the Nyngma traditions that they say, only to keep the text might enlighten you, we find the following words in plain visibility for everybody who might want to think about them:

    In the nature of mind, the luminous mind, there is no view or meditation and no disciplinary training, no goal to achieve, no stages or paths to travers, no mandala to create, no recitation of mantra, no fulfillment stage, no empowerment to receive and no samaya to protect. (as in Keith Dowman’s translation of the Chos dbyings mdzod)

    So if you say, “the trouble is that they don’t allow you to uninstall,” we must ask: Is this so? The irony is that Buddhism itself provides the terms on which to uninstall. And in view of the material of SNB, I don’t now about the affective/psychological part of decision, but the cognitive part of subscription to x-buddhism can be uninstalled relative easily I think. The heuristik is about this procedure. Although the affective part might prevent most people who are interested in SNB to get the full dose of the elixir. For those who have been hooked, it might be in many cases very difficult to get clear of the shoals they got lost in. But then all the more that calls for a strong critique of contemporary Buddhism. Regarding Tibetan Buddhism I know that there are some who see the contradictions of their business. Dzongsar Khyentse, for example, is one of them. But if he, or others, begin to talk about these problems they only go half way and they flinch when it really gets interesting – i.e. potentially de(con)structive (like with the Longchenpa citation). In the end they get stuck in the conflict of preserving a tradition on the one side (which might be necessary to some extent for ethnic Tibetan, Butanes or other peoples) and being challenged by a postmodern extremely relativistic worldview on the other side. In this conflict all these super enlightened people break down (both Karmapas for example, the Dalai Lama etc. pp., all are fucked up in this dilemma and they have nothing to say!).

    With this comes also the question about criticizing a system vs. an individual teacher. Spare the teachers? I don’t think so. Without them there wouldn’t be the system of x-buddhism. Just look at the recent visit of the Dalai Lama in the US. Is it acceptable that he walks around shaking hands with politicians, neocons, and celebs smilingly while talking cheap stuff? Is this acceptable when we have on the other side a profound critique whereto x-buddhism is heading (wellness for the well off, stress reduction for the wealthy, mental enhancement for the well-to-do to do better)? People like those you mention have to see this, otherwise they should stay home and look for their communities – like the so called Karmapas – and they should not give advice to us. Gender is empty, indeed! But to say this means to look at a lot more empty stuff the guys won’t touch at all (I mean in Tibetan Buddhism… personal reincarnation, personal karmic retribution, the total misinterpretation of the nature of mind, teachers in abundance who lie, cheat, write bad books (the worst crime of all), the whole tulku system…).

    I content to one point, though: The episode and its whole surroundings which is the plug for this post (wisdom 2.0 and its participants and their involvement) could be scrutinized more thoroughly to become more knowledgeable of the “larger perceived phenomenon” as you say. This could be really interesting. We would perhaps come to the point to see vanishing a 150 year history of positively connoted reception of Buddhism into full co-option with capitalism – with nothing remaining but shiny smiling surfaces.

    Thanks again for your long response. Their is more in it to respond to but I have to leave it here.

  79. Paul B said

    M. Steingass, #78

    Hi Matthias,

    Thanks for your post. When I get out from under my current immediate reading load I will read your paper, which I’ve downloaded. Just a few thoughts in response for now.

    Re: the Longchenpa quotation. Indeed. And of course even in the Heart Sutra, recited every day in every sangha I know of, it’s all there: “no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment…”

    With regard to teachers: Firstly, yes, Dzongsar Khyentse does play with his role. You mention for example the tulku system, about which he says this (in the film Tulku): “If the Tibetans are not careful this tulku system is going to ruin buddhism. And at the end of the day buddhism is more important than the tulku system. Who cares about tulkus, what happens to them?” I remember also the first interview I read with him, where he spoke about how corrupting Western life has been for him (I think he used the example from the fairy-tale where the princess can feel the presence of a pea under her mattress, or something to that effect). And in general he is always radically downplaying himself, saying he has “no devotion” and “no wisdom” and so on.

    As far as teachers remaining teachers, teachers as teachers: I’m not entirely sure what you’re proposing there. In the case of Tibetans of course, these are people typically raised in monasteries from a young age. Being a teacher is their vocation, what they have been trained specifically to do for a great many years, what they’re expected to do, and in presumably most cases what they wish to do. You would like for them to cease being teachers (for Westerners) because … buddhism has – like everything else – inevitably become part of our current sociocultural-economic setup? You say that if they don’t agree with the “profound critique,” “they should stay home and … not give advice to us.”

    Likewise: “… they only go halfway and they flinch when it really gets interesting – i.e. potentially de(con)structive (like with the Longchenpa citation). In the end they get stuck in the conflict of preserving a tradition on the one hand (which might be necessary to some extent for ethnic Tibetan, Butanes or other peoples) and being challenged by a postmodern extremely relativistic worldview on the other side.”

    Is it, instead, that you have less problem with them being teachers, more with them being lamas, with all that goes with that? Well, I think many of them – as you hint at too – do wrestle with this interesting situation of being old-school Asian gurus in a postmodern relativist West. It’s not so easy, I think, because as you know the tantric tradition has always involved the guru, who is considered indispensable. If that were ever to change, I think it’s unrealistic to expect it to happen overnight.

    Again, just to stick with Dzongar Khyentse: if you’ve seen the film Words of My Perfect Teacher you’ll remember the scenes with him hanging out in his Vancouver apartment with students, watching football, contrasted with the way the Bhutanese relate to him later on in Bhutan, and his thoughts about that – he talks about how great a distance there is between teacher and student in traditional cultures, and the challenges of that situation. Likewise, you probably know that Mingyur Rinpoche just disappeared one day on foot a year or two ago, taking no money, and is living a mendicant life in the Himalayas. Nobody even knows where he is. And more generally I think that the various scandals which have been publicized in recent decades have in fact caused a lot of thinking about these questions amongst teachers.

    Also, you mention the Dalai Lama’s recent visit and say: “Is it acceptable that he walks around shaking hands with politicians, neocons, and celebs smilingly while talking cheap stuff?” I don’t quite know how to respond to this. Are you saying he should refuse to meet with all politicians, celebs etc who wish to meet with him? Why? Because politicians and celebs are bad, bad boys and girls who need to stand in the corner and be hit with rulers?! He should meet only with the “good guys,” ie “us”? The Dalai Lama basically meets with everybody. And the “cheap stuff” he says, at least from what I’ve seen in videos, more often than not tends to be variations on “practice kindness.” Jeez, if only we all did. You seem to want him to be a revolutionary Marxist or something but … he’s not, because buddhism isn’t revolutionary Marxism.

    Apologies if I have misunderstood you here, and double apologies if I’ve done so severely!

    My own personal solution – necessity – has been to take no part in sanghas anymore. I haven’t even been able to do meditation practice at home for a great many years.

  80. Paul,  #79

    I don’t want to go too deeply into this Tibetan stuff. I think the general problem with all examples we have here is the tension between traditional religious patterns and the poster modern society these patterns have been exposed to. Tibet has been something resemblant to a mediaeval Western society and it has been with no time at all pushed into the capitalist world of the 20th century. As far as I am informed (I may be updated if necessary) I see no Guru, Lama or other teacher from this culture who is able to address this problem field. The Dalai Lama is a great case study in this regard. Maybe the main problem lies in what you say about teachers:

    Being a teacher is their vocation, what they have been trained specifically to do for a great many years, what they’re expected to do, and in presumably most cases what they wish to do.

    They wish to? Maybe they are trained to wish to…. I think here we have the circularity of decision before us: They think about themselves from very early on as teachers, or better: as explicators. What happens in the most stupid cases one can see in the so called reincarnation of Kalu Rinpoche. Young men we would regard as dazed and confused about their role in society and how to cope with all its offerings (pun intended) who are forced to teach equally confused Westerners. I think the Dalai Lama is not that stark exception. I did some research about him and I think he is not that bright guy he would like to be. In the book The Universe in an Atom there are some examples showing sometimes exceptional confusion about scientific thinking and a shamanistic world view. One can see this too in his embracement of what he thinks science is and his ultra conservative insistence on the already broken tulku system and on personal/individual reincarnation.

    I think the heart of the problem lies at what you say about how the are made teachers: Its a great way to preserve a tradition in the most conservative way when children are brain washed from early on to teach this tradition.

    We can cut this short. I don’t know of any Tibetan ‘teacher’ who would address the problem field sketched above. If you know one tell me. The mentioned people nowhere go near the problem.

    … well, we have to remember Gendün Chopel. The next time I drink I will raise my glass to his honors.

    What interest me more, though, is how you want to come out of your problem zone. What you write sounds in part quite sad. You must be very frustrated about your experiences – yet a the same time you still replicate the vibrato of the nature of mind (in your comment here). Do you really think the solution lies with what Sharon Salzberg has to teach? Why are you still defending a system which hurt you? I am asking rhetorically. Asking a junky why he likes junk isn’t going very far. The answer is always clear. The stuff is making one feel good. And that is true. That’s not the point. The real question is more like: What interests you in this project here? What makes one get away from the addiction? Certainly not a substitute like Theravada for Vajrayana or Methadon for Heroin. In answering this question I would go look for curiosity and arousal one feels when one begins to really think about something. I think, that’s where the nature of mind lies.

  81. Paul B said

    Matthias, #80

    I have some agreement about the younger generation of tulkus in particular. Certainly fewer of them are sticking with the years of monastic discipline than in the past. I suspect the system may well be breaking down in Tibetan culture as it enters more and more the 21st-century world. I don’t view that as an unmixed blessing at all though. Certain things are being lost.

    I also agree about the Dalai Lama’s embrace of “science,” which strikes me as too uncritical. I liked the Karmapa’s few words on the subject in The Heart Is Noble.

    With regard to your last paragraph, yes, my comment on the “Why Buddhism?” article is a fair summary of my thoughts on buddhism as a whole. I don’t understand the reference to “addiction.” As my last lines noted, I haven’t had any connection to a sangha in about eight years. But as the rest of the comment pointed out, I see supreme value in the buddhist View, as well as the basic practices which work to stabilize it. The View is my own: I can come up with no arguments against emptiness/interdependence. I can’t see that any exist.

    You ask: “Why are you still defending a system that hurt you?” I’m not defending that system, not in the slightest! I simply draw lines in different places from you. You draw it in a far more global, sweeping way: everything has to go, it seems. For me, the fundamental question has to do with preserving the transmission of wisdom teachings (whether in buddhism or anywhere else) while preventing the abuse of power. I have no doubt various buddhist communities achieve that. Why I personally have nothing to do with any of those relates to what I went through and how thoroughly it has affected me. It’s a question of trust: ie, I seemingly have none anymore with regard to teachers. But I’m still capable of recognizing that other people have other experiences.

    Thanks for the reference to Gendün Chöphel, by the way. I’d only vaguely heard of him before – will have to become better acquainted. Cheers.

  82. Paul, #81

    A lot of material about or from the older generation exists in English. Biographies especially (e.g. the one by Urgyen). One could profit greatly from this material to get a better picture how the first generation of Tibetans coming into full contact with the West has been. It depends on the view, though, one takes at the material, if one gets something out of it. Furthermore we have a rich scholary tibetological literature which developed over the last thirty or fourty years. I would prefer these categories to any ‘moderne’ literature written by Lamas nowadays. In most cases they have nothing to say. Taking such a view would provide us with rich picture about what Tibet was and if there really is still something worth unearthing which could help the modern human by cloning it.

    Re “addiction”. I wanted to make a comparison of physical  addiction and psychological addiction – which might not be very different. You where saying that Sharon Salzberg “is the real thing”, therefore I thought you where just changing from Varayana to Salzberg. But let’s leave this here.

    The lines I or ‘we’ draw here have to do with decision in the Laruelleian sense. That is what makes it possible to draw such “sweeping” lines. I see that this must at first sight seem pretty much like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That this is not so will become clearer when one looks closer at SNB.

    My remark that you still defend a system that hurt you was perhaps a bit too general. I meant this point you made in your comment:

    … the basic practices of shamatha/vipashyana, upon which all other practices ultimately are built, create spaciousness within consciousness (“mixing mind with space”), without which, again, everything goes wrong

    Some of us have some consensus here that such practices lead to certain results but that they in themselves aren’t in any way sufficient to learn anything. (take a look at here if you are interested, its still a raw discussion…) X-Buddhism uses these practices as means in themselves – and that is exactly the point where this thread develops from: Events like the Wisdom 2.0 conference do just that.

    Another misunderstood point re SNB you made in the other thread is this one:

    I struggle with the desirability of radically dismantling spiritual tradition because I see it as a necessary container for View and practice.

    This reminds me of the famous heart sutra: You don’t get the container/form without emptiness/malleability: The tradition is always already biased and distorted in being received in a new environment (in a sense this process happens always and in this sense any tradition is an illusion. That is the point with the Longchenpa citation above). In the case of Wisdom 2.0 or the Buddhist Geeks etc. not understanding such processes the reception of Buddhism taking place leads to nothing but a renovation of a protestant ethos – work as a substitute for religion with mindfulness as substitute for outright prayer. What SNB looks for is cloning and not the illusory dismantling of elements of a certain tradition from its container. But that is an entirely different story.

  83. Patrick jennings said

    Hi Paul

    Re 74#

    When you quoted me you left out the most important bit here:

    I mean an account that speaks from personal experience against the horizon of Glenn’s reading of Artaud, or Artaud’s work

    .

    An account of your experiences would be interesting of course. But even more interesting would be an account that tried to delve a little deeper, using another text as a sort of tool to excavate with. Of course if you can’t be bothered well thats that. But I wonder, then ,why you bother to comment at such length and in such detail.
    Really, I think you are very disingenuous. You obviously know that Artuad’s work has more to it than you admit. Your dismissal is plain silly. For example you insist on a use of the word cruelty at complete odds with the way Artuad used it to introduce a sublime element into his conception of the theater.

    Artaud dealt with the objections to the word cruelty and made his meaning very clear. Here’s just one example (at the risk of confusing you with another quote awash with metaphor)

    I should have specified the very particular use I make of this word, and said that I employ it not in an episodic, accessory sense, out of a taste for sadism and perversion of mind, out of love of sensationalism and unhealthy attitudes, hence not at all in a circumstantial sense; it is not at all a matter of vicious cruelty, cruelty bursting with perverse appetites and expressing itself in bloody gestures, sickly excrescences upon an already contaminated flesh, but on the contrary, a pure and detached feeling, a veritable movement of the mind based on the gestures of life itself; the idea being that life, metaphysically speaking, because it admits extension, thickness, heaviness, and matter, admits, as a direct consequence, evil and all that is inherent in evil, space, extension and matter. All this culminates in consciousness and torment, and in consciousness in torment. Life cannot help exercising some blind rigor that carries with it all its conditions, otherwise it would not be life; but this rigor, this life that exceeds all bounds and is exercised in the torture and trampling down of everything, this pure implacable feeling is what cruelty is.
    I have therefore said “cruelty” as I might have said “life” or “necessity,” because I want to indicate especially that for me the theater is act and perpetual emanation, that there is nothing congealed about it, that I turn it into a true act, hence living, hence magical.

    What is experience (cruel, funny, sad, confused, joyous,) in relation to such a vision of life as a sort of a-moral organic exuberance…a compulsive addiction to repetitive habitual appetite?

    “Everything, brethren, is on fire. How, brethren, is everything on fire? The eye, brethren, is on fire, visible objects are on fire, the faculty of the eye is on fire, the sense of the eye is on fire, and also the sensation, whether pleasant or unpleasant or both, which arises from the sense of sight, is on fire. With what is it on fire? With the fire of passion, of hate, of illusion is it.”

    We don’t take the Buddha literally , of course, and offer a dictionary definition of fire. Or stupidly reduce his words to this sort of travesty and call it a critique:

    “Everything, brethren, is on fire. This from the Buddha. He is saying something that must be profound. Let me try and understand it: How, brethren, is everything on fire?.The eye, brethren, is on fire, Okay, if you say so. Visible objects are on fire. Why, how, huh? What does that mean, on earth? The faculty of the eye is on fire, the sense of the eye is on fire, and also the sensation, whether pleasant or unpleasant or both, which arises from the sense of sight, is on fire. Well, here come two more clauses which each begin “with what” so they will surely clarify. With what is it on fire? ”With the fire of passion, of hate, of illusion is it. Another metaphor, oh well. And one which … I don’t even quite get.

    Give us all a break Paul.
    As for your comment about the way language can be used to exclude and marginalize opposition I agree. Strange though that you choose to apply it to the non-buddhist project (barely in its infancy ) We are very much aware of the dangers you allude to. What you ignore is the potential for using the new terms to critique x-buddhism, a form of thought blind to its own circularity and its capacity to use its own terms to exclude and marginalize, and a multi billion dollar co-opted spiritual industry at that, with a record of abuse, corruption, and stupidity as long as my arm. Again your dismissal of non-buddhist texts is just plain embarrassing.

  84. Paul B said

    Patrick Jennings, #83

    Oh honestly Patrick. So all metaphors are equally well-chosen, lucid, and useful? Is that what you’re saying? Yikes!

    More or less everyone understands and has used the notions of warmth, heat, conflagration in expressing how the passions affect us. This goes all the way back to the Greeks for heaven’s sake! And, as we see, to ancient India. (I’m guessing the Bible too, though I can’t be bothered to crack open its pages just at the moment…) In fact, as it happens, that metaphor is so fundamental it has been used as the metaphor in psycholinguistic studies which test the processing of metaphors!

    Why don’t you go out into the world and ask 100 random people which of the two makes sense to them? Ask them if they recognize the idea that “heat” or “fire” might be used to express the experience and progression of passion and anger. I strongly suspect 99-100 of those people will understand. Every single day people say things like “That burns me up” or “he/she is so hot” or “cool down” or “so-and-so (sports person on a roll) is on fire.”

    Then ask them about “cruelty” meaning “an appetite for life.” … You will get many, many blank stares. Elucidate. Tell them what you mean is: “a cosmic rigor, an ineluctable necessity.” The stares will only deepen. Then say: “no, it’s very clear – I’m referring to ‘the gnostic sense of a living whirlwind,’ you know, the notion that ‘everything that acts is a cruelty.’” Being quite realistic here, maybe a few people out of a hundred will follow you. Of couse, you could go further and say: “listen carefully – I’m referring to ‘a pure and detached feeling, a veritable movement of the mind based on the gestures of life itself; the idea being that life, metaphysically speaking, because it admits extension, thickness, heaviness, and matter, admits, as a direct consequence, evil and all that is inherent in evil’ …”

    “Give us all a break” indeed!

    One of the reasons people are drawn to buddhist teachings is that they communicate directly to life experience. If you want to reach such people and give them a different perspective you’re going to have to use language in a way that can be equally well understood. So this point is important.

  85. PaulB (#84).

    Why don’t you go out into the world and ask 100 random people which of the two makes sense to them? Ask them if they recognize the idea that “heat” or “fire” might be used to express the experience and progression of passion and anger. I strongly suspect 99-100 of those people will understand. Every single day people say things like “That burns me up” or “he/she is so hot” or “cool down” or “so-and-so (sports person on a roll) is on fire.”

    Then ask them about “cruelty” meaning “an appetite for life.” … You will get many, many blank stares. Elucidate. Tell them what you mean is: “a cosmic rigor, an ineluctable necessity.” The stares will only deepen.

    That’s the point, dipshit! Man, you are one literal-minded Rocky Mountain canary. You are officially fired from commenting. Get it?!

  86. Paul B said

    Matthias, #82

    Hi Matthias,

    Your post #82 made two core assertions: 1) contemporary buddhism uses shamatha/vipashyana as an end in itself (you typed “means” but I think you meant “end”?), whereas the project here thinks such practices don’t and can’t get us anywhere, ultimately. Not in themselves. And 2) “the tradition is always already biased and distorted in being received in a new environment” (this was in response to my comment on the “Why buddhism?” article regarding tradition being “a necessary container for View and practice”).

    I don’t really have anything to add to these beyond what I’ve said already. I think we’re either seeing the big picture somewhat differently and/or defining words differently. Personally I would say that the mastery of shamatha/vipashyana indeed gets us somewhere, as it were – in and of itself. Firstly, it can tame the wildness of conceptualization, putting that capacity into balance; then, it can train us in how to work with our thoughts, feelings, and each other more sanely; and then ultimately it can cut through the delusions of substantiality and duality, leading to a recognition and finally greater stabilization in the nature of mind itself. I don’t know what more one could ask for…

    As for the second one: I suppose so. But my point was really quite simple and basic: “tradition” means continuity. Something thus needs to be preserved, and therefore a container of some kind is needed in order to pass along this particular View and set of practices. Granted that there will be all sorts of questions surrounding this, and adjustments and changes made over time. Again, as I said way above somewhere, I think perhaps the most fundamental distinction between us may be that I just don’t see this homogenous category of “x-buddhist.” Or rather, to the extent I do, it is not at all coterminous with “Western buddhism” for me.

  87. Paul B said

    Ah, censorship, the true colors! I knew that would come eventually, if people continued to carry on a conversation. What are you afraid of Glenn? How would you feel – and what would you say – if an “x-buddhist” said that to you on their website? I think I can guess…

  88. PaulB (#87).

    See what I mean: as froward as a neddy-headed moke.

  89. Paul B said

    Glenn Wallis, #85

    “That’s the point, dipshit!” You’re … agreeing with me? Because, obviously, my point was – in response to Patrick – that his two examples had basically nothing in common, so that therefore his criticism made no sense.

  90. Paul B (#89).

    No, I’m not agreeing with you. I am saying that blank stares are a sign of progress. I am saying that using non-conventional metaphors and non-obvious language has rhetorical force in and of itself. It does something to the reader/hearer. And that something that it does is something that the writer/speaker wants done.

    If I have to explain this point to you, it just a waste of my time. Can we just agree that you prefer straight and I, slant?

  91. Patrick jennings said

    Paul
    Re 84#
    Perhaps when the Buddha figure used the word fire it was a useful term. Now fire and burning (in relation to passion) is clichéd. Artaud’s use of the word cruelty is an imaginative attempt to shake people out of their habitual laziness of mind. Hasn’t worked on you , though.

  92. […] such as Richard Payne’s “Corporatist Spirituality,” Glenn Wallis’s “Mineful Response and the Rise of Corporatist Spirituality,” Sean Fiet’s”Mindfulness the Google Way: Well intentioned saffron […]

  93. Paul B said

    Patrick Jennings, #91

    Alternatively, people can have different views without either person necessarily being “lazy,” yes? Attacking others in that way rarely says much for a person’s argument.

  94. Paul B said

    Glenn Wallis, #90

    I don’t necessarily prefer straight to slant. My view is simply that pushing the notion of “cruelty” as a positive quality will not do what you’d like it to do in the world. By all means, if you really think people will get it, that it is useful, then please continue explicating it. I wouldn’t want anyone to do other than just that – ie, go with their judgment. I was simply giving you my reasons for a dissenting view. Beyond that I was saying that I myself didn’t follow the cogency or usefulness of the message in that article (and I do “get metaphor”). Clearly, there is far more on the subject in your book. I was responding to your post, as it appeared here.

    And this brings up an even more important point. Dissent in a forum or community is good, of course; it’s a sign of health. Even when – and sometimes especially when – someone appears to be not “getting it.” Because sometimes it’s actually the case that they do get it, and their dissent comes precisely out of that understanding. And if not, then their very questions – and the responses they receive – might help someone else to understand better. And if there isn’t enough time to answer everyone, then … there isn’t enough time. Someone else might come along later and do so.

    The single worst thing I have experienced within a buddhist community – worse even than abusiveness itself – has been being silenced (repeatedly, in different forms) when I tried to speak up about those other experiences. That has been the single most scarring, searing, humiliating, dehumanizing thing.

    One of the things this reinforced in me was the conviction that, in any kind of forum or community, without free expression we’ve got pretty much nothing. Only the workings – and abuse – of power. I’d always felt that, but this helped me understand in a profound way the fact that in many respects the worst thing you can do to someone is to deny that they’re even there. That’s the ultimate expression of power, in a sense: holding the keys to expression – who gets to speak, who doesn’t, who’s acknowledged, who isn’t. Do you see that? So I am quite sensitive to how all that works out in the world.

  95. Paul, #86

    the mastery of shamatha/vipashyana indeed gets us somewhere, as it were – in and of itself. Firstly, it can tame the wildness of conceptualization, putting that capacity into balance; then, it can train us in how to work with our thoughts, feelings, and each other more sanely; and then ultimately it can cut through the delusions of substantiality and duality, leading to a recognition and finally greater stabilization in the nature of mind itself.

    “In and of itself” it gets you nowhere.

    Look Paul. I do not talk to people like you who come here or to other blogs discussing the SNB project to get the 100’000-and-first phenotypical variation of exactly that one meditation-genotype…. in and of itself.

    Let me put it like this and then stop it: You come here because obviously some interest in this site and its topics attracted you. So you are given plenty of sources where you can get an impression what SNB is about. If you don’t like to work yourself into some familiarity with the relevant material then its fine. But do not think that you have anything relevant to add. Your opinion about shamatha/vipashyana is the classical circular one every other x-buddhist keeps at heart. I wish you good luck with it.

  96. Paul B said

    M. Steingass, #95

    I see nothing “x-buddhist” about what you quoted from me above. Not unless you’re tracing “x-buddhism” back many centuries.

    Basically, you dislike buddhism, and I don’t. I never pretended otherwise. I also never, not from my very first comment, pretended to agree with your approach here.

    “Look Paul. I do not talk to people like you who come here or to other blogs discussing the SNB project to get the 100’000-and-first phenotypical variation of exactly that one meditation-genotype … in and of itself.” Whatever Matthias. Clearly there’s a lot of people you “do not talk to.” Good luck with that.

  97. Patrick jennings said

    Daniel my friend,
    Re 32#
    I am looking to read essays by Lydia Goehr on the philosophy of art (preferably free download pdf). Perhaps you can provide a link. She don’t seem to be very generous regarding us plebs and free access. I cant’ find the ones I’m interested in. You can contact me via email (hover over my gravatar) or at the Non-buddhist. Your comment has loads of good ideas deserving of elaboration. You thinking about my offer regarding a post at the non-.buddhist?
    Thanks

  98. I think that having arguments with Buddhists who do not call out the Cult of Thought Control which is Tibetan “Buddhism” (really a HIndu Tantric cult of abuse , particularly to women , a ‘religion’ that still burns book in India they don’t like), and who are mostly aligned with perpetuating the goals of the Dalai Lama, who think the Dalai Lama is ‘wonderful’ and that believe he is promoting the goals of all of Buddhism, which all Buddhists secretly want a Buddhocracy in the future, which if they bothered to read history anymore, they would realize that every time the ‘Church of Buddhism” and the State align it is disaterous, and the Buddhist movement in the U.S is being led by one of a long line of slave holders of a patriachal theocratic dictatorship, and still other Buddhists go ‘DUH? That is how long they must have been doing ‘stupid shamatha’.

    These other Buddhists groups aligning with the Dalai Lama movement , e, Zen Buddhists, Theravadin Buddhists, Bon Buddhists now even teach together with theses misogynistic, narcissitic clerics on thrones,believing that these Lamas are even buddhist’ who have people prostrating to them and worshipping them as living Gods,

    it shows that ALL of Buddhism in this country is warped. That other Buddhist groups are not even curious when you tell them that you have escaped a MIND CONTROL CULT that you were in and almost no western Tibetan Buddhist ever escapes because they don’t know they are in a cult, and the larger society for perfidious reasons is ‘supporting and enabling the cult of Tibetan Buddhism, they are not even curious, their minds have been dumbed down into what even the Lamas called ‘stupid shamatha’ which is what the Dalai Lama is promoting, in the workplace, the military, the corporations , and now in the Senate, as that evil dictator give the prayer dedication in the Senate to the stupidest groups of completely ‘dumbed down’ politician that is the most popular form and growing of Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism that was admired by Himmler, and still these Buddhists aren’t even curious that a 1000 cult of thought reform that kept their own people in slavery and debt prison and are now aligning with Corporatism which we witnessed in Silicone Vally, but still these other Buddhist groups aren’t interest.

    STOP having arguments with the worst enablers, other Buddhist groups and their members, who are enabling and allowing this cult of Tibetan Lamaism to continue, and believe the Dalai Lama is really peaceful and Tibet was really peaceful. Buddhists in general are part of the enabling of our future Fascism with Buddhism as the underlying religion, Every nation that has Buddhism as its State religion is tyrannical, NO EXCEPTIONS. Tibet however, brought it to a level unthinkable when the primitive Buddhism they were practicing converged with ‘Hindu Vajrayana Tantra’ and the priestly clerics of Tibet.

    http://www.extibetanbuddhist.com

  99. Glenn Wallis, since my comment is still awaiting moderation , could you please use this comment instead, my proof reading was atrocious in the other one.

    I think that having arguments with Buddhists who do not call out the Cult of Thought Control which is Tibetan “Buddhism” (really a HIndu Tantric cult of abuse , particularly to women , a ‘religion’ that still burns book in India they don’t like), and who are mostly aligned with perpetuating the goals of the Dalai Lama, who think the Dalai Lama is ‘wonderful’ and that believe he is promoting the goals of all of Buddhism, which all Buddhists secretly want a Buddhocracy in the future, which if they bothered to read history anymore, they would realize that every time the ‘Church of Buddhism” and the State align it is disaterous, and the Buddhist movement in the U.S is being led by one of a long line of slave holders of a patriachal theocratic dictatorship, and still other Buddhists go ‘DUH? That is how long they must have been doing ‘stupid shamatha’.

    These other Buddhists groups aligning with the Dalai Lama movement , e, Zen Buddhists, Theravadin Buddhists, Bon Buddhists now even teach together with theses misogynistic, narcissitic clerics on thrones,believing that these Lamas are even buddhist’ who have people prostrating to them and worshipping them as living Gods,

    it shows that ALL of Buddhism in this country is warped. That other Buddhist groups are not even curious when you tell them that you have escaped a MIND CONTROL CULT that you were in and almost no western Tibetan Buddhist ever escapes because they don’t know they are in a cult, and the larger society for perfidious reasons is ‘supporting and enabling the cult of Tibetan Buddhism, they are not even curious, their minds have been dumbed down into what even the Lamas called ‘stupid shamatha’ which is what the Dalai Lama is promoting, in the workplace, the military, the corporations , and now in the Senate, as that evil dictator give the prayer dedication in the Senate to the stupidest groups of completely ‘dumbed down’ politician that is the most popular form and growing of Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism that was admired by Himmler, and still these Buddhists aren’t even curious that a 1000 cult of thought reform that kept their own people in slavery and debt prison and are now aligning with Corporatism which we witnessed in Silicone Vally, but still these other Buddhist groups aren’t interest.

    STOP having arguments with the worst enablers, other Buddhist groups and their members, who are enabling and allowing this cult of Tibetan Lamaism to continue, and believe the Dalai Lama is really peaceful and Tibet was really peaceful. Buddhists in general are part of the enabling of our future Fascism with Buddhism as the underlying religion, Every nation that has Buddhism as its State religion is tyrannical, NO EXCEPTIONS. Tibet however, brought it to a level unthinkable when the primitive Buddhism they were practicing converged with ‘Hindu Vajrayana Tantra’ and the priestly clerics of Tibet.

    http://www.extibetanbuddhist.com

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