Speculative Non-Buddhism

an arsenal for thought

Behold the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism

Posted by Glenn Wallis on February 22, 2014

subgeniusThis post is intended for readers who are, or would like to try, applying non-buddhist methods to actual x-buddhist materials (texts, dharma talks, rituals, etc.). I am providing user instructions for a particular weapon in the arsenal of the critique: the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism.1 I will offer a concrete example of this principle as it was employed by triratna-buddhist blogger Jayarava in a recent exchange with Tomek Idzik. This exchange took place at Jayarava’s Raves. (Link below.)

My contention is this. In his refusal to engage Idzik’s counter-argument to a point he must establish to advance his claims, Jayarava employs the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism. (You’ll see the Principle invoked, obliquely, throughout all of Jayarava’s writings, but directly, albeit in his own terms, in the final paragraph.) The point of this exercise is not to chastise Jayarava for being the poor and unfair interlocutor that he is here. I want to make a much bigger point:

The Principle of Sufficient Buddhism is the worm at the heart of x-buddhist dialogue. In fact, it is even more insidious than that: it is the primary determinant in how x-buddhists think– or “think,” since it is a debilitating force, a force that voids thought. Where thought is absent, genuine dialogue is impossible.

The wide application of the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism in x-buddhist writing and speech is tantamount to an admission by x-buddhists to the bankruptcy of x-buddhism–but let me be quick to add: in their hands.

If there were no Principle of Sufficient Buddhism, no such conceptual and dialogical operator, it is doubtful whether x-buddhism would exist at all. Why? Because uncoupled from the Principle, x-buddhists would not be able to hold x-buddhist ideas and practices together. X-buddhism would not cohere. Ideally, thus dissipated, x-buddhist postulates, all vitality lost, would slouch, one by one, over to The Great Feast of Knowledge.2 What would happen to them there? Would they be revitalized? Would they invigorate thought? Would they enhance local knowledges and thereby gain respect?

We cannot know what might happen because x-buddhists, as x-buddhists, refuse our invitation. They detest the democratic ways of the mob. They must at all costs protect x-buddhism’s aristocratic regency.

Try it. I predict that if you insist on laying the Principle to the side, your x-buddhist conversation partner with not be able to cope. S/he will attempt various maneuvers. An early maneuver will be to rattle off copious details–citations from the Buddha, from the sutras, from Buddhist history, from roshi, Eido, Joan and Jon. To every one of your objections, s/he will either recite yet more details or say that you are creating a strawman argument. Another maneuver will be to remind you that examples from the western history of ideas are irrelevant, they just don’t apply to timeless eastern wisdom (even though their dharmic claims are, so they say, universal). Your views will be characterized as being “incomprehensible.” A late maneuver, probably the final one, will be to accuse you of being angry, of lacking compassion and insight, of being wholly ignorant of the virtues of right-speech. In fact, your insistence on laying aside the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism will be given as a living example of why we need right speech.

Don’t take my word for it. Give it a shot. Start a conversation with an x-buddhist figure of your choice. A couple of things to keep in mind.

Non-buddhism, remember, is an immanent critique. It aims to show that and how x-buddhism, in the hands of x-buddhists, contradicts, restricts, and outright violates its very own postulates. In other words, non-buddhism is not arguing that x-buddhism is wrong. It is, rather, arguing that x-buddhism, as x-buddhists present it, does not cohere in the way that it must in order to be what it says it is:  specular knowledge, or “wisdom” concerning matters of ultimate importance to human being. In other words, x-buddhists understand themselves to be in possession of a comprehensive, phenomenologically verifiable organon from on high of “how things are.” On their own account, x-buddhism functions not as religion or philosophy do, but as science does. They claim for it the same kind of knowledge that science generates. Whether their object of investigation is human consciousness, perception, matter, time, or the cosmos, x-buddhists present the insights of x-buddhism as being as clear, precise, unambiguous, testable, empirical, and pragmatic as those of a science.

Is any given x-buddhism what its acolytes say it is? Or might it be, when all is said and done, just another variety of generic visionary knowledge, hardly distinguishable from Integralism, Quantum Mysticism, or Roman Catholicism? In the 21st century West, numerous x-buddhisms offer utopian refuge from the brutal barrage of techno-consumerist capitalism. These recent varieties show a striking family resemblance to the American self-improvement and self-actualization movements beginning in the 1890s, and the human potential movement of the 1960s.

The question for the critic is: what happens when we subject x-buddhist postulates to robust investigation? Does the x-buddhist account satisfy us? What happens when we invite our x-buddhist conversation partner to join us at The Great Feast of Knowledge? Is the invitation viewed as a threat. a hostile challenge? Does the conversation then mutate into a defensive slug fest? Does the x-buddhist change the subject? These are the kinds of things a critic has an eye out for..

And now, to our main attraction.

Tomek Idzik: Jayarava, thanks for this interesting piece. I agree with you, that MBT is not explicitly touted as an alternative or competitor to Buddhism. But I think that this emerging “folk religion”, as McMahan says, is not just a set of stress reduction techniques helping people with chronic pain. It is also another manifestation of this romantic reaction against scientific disenchantment of the world. In short, it is a cult of a fetishized “Present Moment”. What it tries to sell is the “Now.” The same “Now,” of which Metzinger says in his BNO as follows: “Although we subjectively experience ourselves as in direct and immediate contact with the <>, all empirical data tell us that, strictly speaking, all conscious experience is a form of memory.”

I would also add that this cult of the “Now” is a bastardized version of the twentieth century phenomenologists effort to, as in The Making … says McMahan, “reclaim things from their merely instrumental value (…) to reestablish the primordial intimacy between persons and objects in their everyday interactions. (p. 220)

So all in all, on the first sight it might really look that it is not “an alternative or competitor to Buddhism” but at a closer inspection it seems to provide a much more suited myth of a this worldly liberation than a transcendental Buddhists version of it which is unimaginable for a lay person today.

Jayarava: Hi Tomek

Thanks for your comment. Anyone who quotes Metzinger is always welcome :-)

I’d just say that for a “folk religion” mindfulness has a shit load of scientific papers backing it up. Nearly 6000 on PlosOne! So to me “folk religion” is a kind of bitchy diminutive designed to plaster over an inconvenient truth.

I’m not sure where you get all this “cult of now” stuff from. I know quite a few mindfulness teachers and that’s not what they’re on about as far as I can tell. I don’t know anyone who fetishises “now”. Most of the Mindfulness people are plugged into Metzinger or at least Damasio who popularised the idea on the basis of his research. They know these models of consciousness. But remember that Metzinger is arguing against phenomenology most of the time: he says we are naive realists and that how things seem is not how they are. This is interesting, but most of the time we only have access to how things seem and even with close attention we don’t see through the walls of the ego tunnel. Indeed Metzinger says this is impossible – he only knows more from studying the way that the sense of self breaks down. By carefully cross referencing all the errors of the self-model he can define it’s dimensions and functions, but he still cannot see beyond it in his own first-person experience. Whatever consciousness is in fact, we only know how we experience it. And this was the Buddha’s point in the first place. Especially in my root text the Kaccānagotta Sutta.

The approach of examining experience is very much older than the 20th century. McMahan is in danger of sounding like a man whose only tool is a hammer: everything starts to look like a nail. Examining experience is the technique par excellence of Buddhism. Such a phenomenological approach is central to all of early Buddhism and is epitomised by the Abhidharmikas. To say this is just a modern trend is to be ignorant of Buddhist history. There is Buddhism in Buddhist Modernism.

My preceptor and chief mentor in the Triratna Order now teaches mindfulness for a living. He and his wife cannot run enough classes in their area. And in each class there is one person who finds all this ‘watching your experience’ stuff really fascinating and wants to go deeper. So they have a little sangha building up of people fascinated by experience instead of bogged down in all the supernatural bullshit and top heavy doctrine that comes with Buddhism. My sense is that this is the future of Buddhism (which probably contradicts what I said above, but such is life).

Mindfulness as taught by Buddhist MBT practitioners may well be to 21st century Western Buddhism what Zen was to Japanese Buddhism in the 13th century.

Tomek Idzik: Jayarava, if you are really interested to know where I get the whole idea of this “cult of now” have a look at this paper (link below) and compare the ubiquitous element of the so called “present moment” in the rhetorics of mindfulness movement to what one of the main figures of this text – W. Sellars – dubbed “the myth of the given.” I claim that those “present moment” or “here and now” memes are just a vulgarized versions of the “myth of the given” or better “unexplained explainer” which was a symptom of a reaction against naturalism and science that came out from the camp of XX century phenomenologists/idealists like Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and others. In the paper Brassier writes that “the myth of the given [is] the idealist attempt to ground ‘originary’ intentionality in transcendental consciousness. Consciousness construed as originary condition of givenness becomes an unexplained explainer. This brand of transcendental idealism is inimical to naturalism, since if consciousness is the originary condition of objectivation, of which science is one instance, it follows that science cannot investigate consciousness.” (p. 9) This transcendental consciousness and its folk versions like “present moment” or “here and now,” etc., become contemporary fetishes – weak versions of the soul – that provide their worshipers a safe haven from the potentially depressing conclusions of contemporary science. Hence the crypto-religious flavor of the “cult of now”.

[GW. Link edited: Ray Brassier, "The View from Nowhere: Sellars, Habermas, Metzinger"]

Jayarava:
Tomek

Of course one can read it that way. Or one can take a Buddhist perspective. Not being educated in Western philosophy I don’t see the parallels from that sphere. I don’t even see them as particularly important as the influence on Eastern thinking begins to be syncretised by those very thinkers and it confuses the issues. But I certainly do see people teaching Buddhist ideas.

I think we’ll just have to agree to differ on this.


Original post and comments at Jayarava Raves.

1Principle of sufficient Buddhism. Parallel to Laruelle’s “Principle of Sufficient Philosophy,” which states that everything is philosophizable. X-buddhistic decision is similarly a pretension of that mechanism’s creators (i.e., x-buddhists) that all things under the sun are matters for x-buddhism’s oracular pronouncements, and that the totality of pronouncements (the network of postulation) constitutes an adequate account—a unitary vision—of reality. “Buddhism” thus names, for “Buddhists,” a sufficiency. As postulate deflation reveals, however, this view of sufficiency is maintained only insofar as x-buddhism successfully avoids conversing with the sciences and humanities at The Great Feast of Knowledge. This avoidance amounts to a myopia whereby Buddhism only appears sufficient. This appearance, given the blighted field of reality that it entails, amounts to buddhistic hallucination, whereby “the x-buddhist view of Y” is confused with—seen in place of—“Y.” (Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice, 138)

2 The Great Feast of Knowledge. X-buddhistic decision is a specular court of justice that rules from above. Its representatives include, for instance, Enlightenment, Compassion, Suffering, Delusion, Mindfulness. Consideration of any of these representatives devoid of the royal warrant provided by decision reveals these representatives to be, as buddhistically presented, unfit, unusable, unreliable, and even suspect, characters. For, deflation acts to make manifest the representatives’ display of self-importance, necessity, obviousness, assumed desirability, pretense to natural truthfulness, etc. Speculative non-buddhism escorts x-buddhism’s representatives to the Great Feast of Knowledge. Seated at the table there, the representatives must hold their own alongside of local knowledges such as art, philosophy, literature, biology, psychology, physics, and so on. From a speculative non-buddhist estimation, the x-buddhist representatives, devoid of their dharmic body guards (the network of postulation), lose all status in such an exchange. That status, founded on the specularity given in decision, is thereby deflated. Sitting at the Great Feast of Knowledge radically alters the contribution of x-buddhism’s representatives. (I hear art and evolutionary biology, for instance, holding forth passionately on the absolute necessity and glorious fruits of one of x-buddhism’s foremost undesirables, “delusion,” to take but a single instance). (Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice, 135-136)

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31 Responses to “Behold the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism”

  1. Hmm. I think you’ve missed the mark here.

    I agree strongly with your critique of the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism, and that Buddhism should be dragged kicking and screaming to the Feast of Knowledge.

    However, I think Jayarava is a poor choice of target—although you may have had reasons for choosing him, so I don’t want to argue that too strongly. In any case, I do think this particular interchange fails to illustrate your point. There’s a general issue about that I want to make (which will be the main value of this comment, if any).

    First, re Jayarava, he is mainly far more skeptical about Buddhist claims than 99% of Buddhists, and seems entirely happy to jettison most of them. He has partaken of the Feast of Knowledge—many different Western disciplines—and brought them to bear in dispelling assorted dogmatic Buddhist idiocy, in a no-holds-barred way. The post in whose comments this dialog occurred actually rails at length against the Sufficient Buddhism principle, which makes it seem a particularly bizarre choice for you.

    Neither he, or anyone, is immune from slipping into dysfunctional patterns of thinking sometimes, of course. Maybe he is a good example because he’s less prone to Sufficient Buddhism thinking than nearly all other Buddhists, and you want to make the point that it’s hard to avoid? If so, it would be helpful to say that.

    Second, I don’t see that this exchange is a good example of the pattern you describe. It does not, as far as I can see, turn into a defensive slug fest, nor does Jayarava change the subject.

    Third, I don’t think he’s even applying Sufficient Buddhism in this dialog. If he’s being dogmatic about anything, it is in insisting that there is such a thing as experience. That is not a Buddhist principle; it’s universal common sense. It may be totally wrong (and I think Robert Sharf’s critique of meditation along those lines has great merit). But it’s not a dogmatic Buddhist claim.

    Now as to the substance of discussion. This is not my main point, and I don’t want to argue about it (for reasons that will become clear when I get to the main point). However, as groundwork for the main point, I need first to say that I partly agree and partly disagree with Tomek here. I agree with him (and, better, Sharf and McMahan) that “mindfulness” involves Romantic distortions. (I suspect Jayarava would also agree with this; he’s as wary of Romanticism as any of us, and this very post of his explicitly criticizes romantic distortions in Buddhism.) On the other hand, I think Sellars’ point about originary intentionality is irrelevant, and Tomek probably misunderstands it. And also Metzinger is an idiot with dire transcendence problems of his own.

    I don’t want to argue that because explaining philosophy to random people on the internet is not my job. You may recall that I and Tom Pepper spent a lot of effort trying to explain to Tomek why Metzinger is wrong, and didn’t get very far. And that brings me to my actual point.

    Jayarava is trying to figure out what, if anything, is worth salvaging from Buddhism once it has been subjected to skeptical analysis in the light of the Feast of Knowledge. (Like me, and like probably everyone else reading or writing a blog called “Speculative Non-Buddhism.”) All of us in that enterprise have limited resources: limited time, patience, and knowledge. We cannot be expected to deal with every random person who wants to argue, nor can be we be expected to address arguments that draw from every field of knowledge.

    If anything is to be salvaged from Buddhism, it does need to withstand criticism from every strong corner—but no single person is competent to defend it against every claim. Jarayava said—quite politely, which is not always his way—that he’s not conversant with Western philosophy and can’t argue with it. I don’t see how he can be faulted for that.

    If everyone involved in Buddhist salvage work refused to engage Western philosophy, there would be grounds for complaint. But that is not the case.

    What’s more, it is unreasonable to require researchers in any field to spend much time countering attacks made on the basis of ideas that are contentious even within the fields they come from. Saying “your argument is no good because Sellars” to Jayarava is no more serious than saying that to my brother-in-law (who happens to be a neuroscientist). He would say “WTF ‘Sellars’ go away,” and rightly so. If neuroscience entirely refused to engage philosophy of mind, that would be a problem, but for individual neuroscientists to refuse to argue about theories that are debatable, dubious, or dated within philosophy of mind—that is not a problem.

  2. In spite of being very familiar with your heuristic and the expanded text in Cruel theory, and therefore well aware of why Buddhists tend towards certain types of defensiveness, I am still always amazed how consistent the counter arguments are to any direct critique of Buddhism. This line in particular never ceases to amaze me:

    “…they (what you have to say) just don’t apply to timeless eastern wisdom”

    It’s a sort of zombie phrase that cancels out any possibility of real engagement and is so unimaginative.
    Anyway, I saw Tutte mentioning this straw man argument too and as I haven’t been following much in the comments sections here I was curious to know what the particular straw man argument is is in the context of your general critique?

  3. David (#1).

    Really, I wish you’d just take the example for what it’s worth–a little at least, right?–and go off and do your own analysis. It would be fascinating, for instance, to hear your results of sifting through your own material for signs of the Principle. Anyway, since you raise some points that help me to clarify my own, I’ll respond. I think the crux of your comment can be boiled down to:

    [1] I think Jayarava is a poor choice of target—although you may have had reasons for choosing him…I do think this particular interchange fails to illustrate your point..First, re Jayarava, he is mainly far more skeptical about Buddhist claims than 99% of Buddhists.

    [2] Second, I don’t see that this exchange is a good example of the pattern you describe. It does not, as far as I can see, turn into a defensive slug fest, nor does Jayarava change the subject.

    [3] Third, I don’t think he’s even applying Sufficient Buddhism in this dialog.

    [4] What’s more, it is unreasonable to require researchers in any field to spend much time countering attacks made on the basis of ideas that are contentious even within the fields they come from. Saying “your argument is no good because Sellars” to Jayarava is no more serious than saying that to my brother-in-law (who happens to be a neuroscientist).

    1. That’s what makes Jayarava a particularly interesting case. I should say “Jayarava.” That means “Jayarava as implicit author, not empirical person.” I know nothing about the latter. But I know more about the former than “he” knows about himself. I know, for instance, that he is on the verge of complete abandonment of the vallation. I know the remaining ties are tenuous. I know that the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism is the last rope left for him to grasp. I know all of this not because it is psychologically provable but because it is rhetorically demonstrable.
    2. It is a good example. Citing examples of the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism in contemporary x-buddhist materials (textual, spoken, visual, ritual) would be like citing references to God’s Will and Grace in Christian materials. This instance struck me for two reasons. Tomek’s argument and Brassier’s article completely obliterate the ground of Jayarava’s position. Being the optimist full of hope and good will that I so naively am, I thought it would have a decisive effect, that Jayarava would admit his error and alter his position. I myself have done that in dialogue with others, most notably with Tomek. It was after an exchange with Tomek that I changed my take on Stephen Batchelor and withdrew my involvement from several secular-buddhist organizations. As with Jayarava, Tomek had pointed out a serious contradiction in my argument. I was excited to see how Jayarava’s change in position would unfold. Instead, he invokes the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism and bails. Also, I am not saying that the exchange is an example of the general pattern, from exemplification to cancellation. You misunderstood that point.

    3. His final statement couldn’t be a clearer instance of the Principle. Maybe you don’t really understand it

    4. Jayarava, like his countless fellow x-buddhist pontificators, positions himself as Grand Explicator of the Dharmic Magistrate. You really don’t mean to give him/them such a license for laziness, do you? Anyway, your point in [3] contradicts what you say earlier: Jayarava “has partaken of the Feast of Knowledge—many different Western disciplines—and brought them to bear in dispelling assorted dogmatic Buddhist idiocy, in a no-holds-barred way.”

    But I don’t want to nit-pick. What I would like to do is to dispel this sophomoric idea–ubiquitous in x-buddhist discourse–that there is some sort of significant division between eastern/Buddhist and western/philosophical thought. It’s all just “thinking” and ideas, etc. Making this fact clear is one reason we need The Great Feast of Knowledge. The first victim sacrificed at the feast is the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism.

  4. Matthew (#2).

    I hope David (#1) will see your comment, since it is relevant to his defense of Jayarava.

    Yes, I agree, x-buddhist counter-arguments are relentless and consistent, albeit in a religious-y kind of way. Seeing that for myself, I decided to change my working metaphor for this project from that of a “workshop” with its tools and instruments, etc., to that of an “arsenal” stocked with weapons. I see this protectiveness toward x-buddhism, this defensiveness that frantically shores up fixed versions of meaning and value against the pounding onslaught of alternatives, as nothing less than a violence. Just for starters, it’s violence against the human as sufficient in him/herself. But it so, too, in many more ways.

    The accusation “straw man argument!” is just one of the ways x-buddhist preserve the sufficiency of x-buddhism. Your discussion is going along nicely, it’s getting heated, though, and spirited. You’re making headway in pointing out an aporia. All of a sudden, your x-buddhist interlocutor cries, “no! straw man!” That tack can always be made to work because of the extraordinarily splintered nature of Buddhism. I try to stabilize that incessant wobbliness some by adding an x. But even that doesn’t work. I had a conversation with two devout Asian x-buddhist ministers the other day. We were discussing their doctrine of “original nature.” That doctrine is the starting premise of their entire religious edifice. As I was throwing the coherency of the belief in an original human nature in doubt, one of the ministers said that the other one, whose take I was countering, had presented it incorrectly. He was saying, in so many words, that we had drifted into straw man territory. But that’s the thing: no two x-buddhists ever really agree on what they believe to be true. It’s a complete fucking mess. Any given x slips all over the place, much less the “Buddhism” mother lode. And that even though it is presented as a phenomenologically accurate, empirical quasi-science.

  5. If someone is in denial of objective reality, which is very common and universal in cult followers, logical argumentation, no matter how clear and incisive, can never prevail. Banging ones head against the wall in incredulity and frustration. Perhaps you should target potential x-buddhists before the nasty seed is planted.

  6. Glenn, thanks for your reply, which is significantly clarifying.

    Let me address point 3 first, because I see that my original comment failed to address what in retrospect was your main point.

    So, what is going on in Jayarava’s last paragraph? We can’t know his intent (I haven’t discussed it with him) and the text is seriously unclear.

    You read “one can take a Buddhist perspective” as saying “Buddhism is a world sufficient unto itself and so I will ignore what you are saying”; and “I don’t even see them as particularly important” as saying “Western philosophy is irrelevant because Buddhism has the whole truth.” This is an easy reading, and it might be right. But I think that the balance of evidence is that, in the context of the discussion, it is not where his rhetoric is pointing.

    I’d summarize the interchange as follows:

    Tomek: MBT is bogus because its concept of experiencing “the now” comes from Romanticism, and “consciousness” has been debunked by Metzinger.

    Jayarava: No, MBT has extensive scientific evidence for its efficacy, and it does not in fact teach “experiencing the now”. Also, as a matter of historical fact, its concept of experience comes from Buddhism, not Romanticism. Where do you get the idea that MBT is about “the now”?

    Tomek: I got it from this paper that debunks transcendental consciousness using Western philosophy [and has nothing in it about Buddhism or MBT].

    Jayarava: So what? That is irrelevant to whether MBT fetishizes “now,” whether it works, or whether its concept of experience comes from Buddhism.

    Now, Jayarava might be wrong in any or all of his fact claims, but that’s not what’s at issue here. The question is: what is he doing in his last paragraph?

    I think his understanding was that Tomek has a made a series of non-sequiturs. (After several careful readings, I think I understand what Tomek was trying to say, and it is not in fact a series of non-sequiturs; but he didn’t say it clearly, and it is easy to miss the flow of his logic. Tomek was basically thinking out loud, which is what one does in blog comments for the most part, so he can’t be blamed for that—nor can Jayarava be blamed for his unclear final reply.)

    Jayarava’s final paragraph amounts to: “This is disjointed and off-topic. My post is about the relationship of Buddhism and MBT, and what you are saying appears to be irrelevant to that. However, I can’t evaluate it in detail because I don’t know enough Western philosophy.”

    If that’s right, then “one can take a Buddhist perspective” meant “one can ask about the relationship between Buddhism and MBT from within Western discipline of skeptical historical study of Buddhism” (which is what Jayarava’s post did).

    What I would like to do is to dispel this sophomoric idea–ubiquitous in x-buddhist discourse–that there is some sort of significant division between eastern/Buddhist and western/philosophical thought. It’s all just “thinking” and ideas, etc.

    I certainly agree with that. On the other hand, I don’t think you can demand that all Buddhist bloggers have a comprehensive understanding of Western philosophy (e.g. to evaluate the relevance of Sellars and Brassier, who are pretty minor figures even within that discipline).

    It’s incumbent on advocates of the “no transcendent consciousness, so meditation is nonsense” argument to explain that in a way that it can be understood by reasonably intelligent and reasonably well-read non-philosophers. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of Buddhists would then ignore and/or reject it without serious consideration, and then you can make fun of them. Some might be persuaded, and some might mount a coherent counter-attack.

    Until then, though, I don’t think it’s reasonable to criticize them for ignoring and/or rejecting a claim that radically defies common sense, that is stated in highly technical language from an alien discipline, that has not yet been set out completely and concisely in any single place (that I know of), and that has no apparent relevance.

    Maybe I’m picking nits here. Maybe there’s a larger point, which is our on-going disagreement about strategy. I believe that if your critique (which is accurate and potentially valuable) would be more effective if you wrote down to a Buddhist audience. Doing that is tiresome and hard work, so I can understand why you don’t want to bother. I often don’t know why I bother. On the other hand, I’m not sure why you bother talking to the handful of people who can understand you, either!

    On the other points:

    (Why Jayarava?) OK, that makes sense.
    (Is it a good example?) You suggest it’s a good example because Jayarava nearly saw that he was wrong, and then invoked Sufficent Buddhism to avoid that. But Tomek presented his argument in a way Jayarava couldn’t understand, and I don’t think he came close to a conversion. I believe the argument is interesting and possibly right, but it would take far more unpacking to get it across. And, it is mainly irrelevant to Jayrava’s post, so in addition to being unclearly stated, and highly elliptical, it was out of context.
    (Grand Explicator of the Dharmic Magistrate.) Overall, I don’t understand why Jayarava does what he does. He finds value in close analysis of texts that I find repellent and silly. He doesn’t claim those texts have any transcendent authority; he specifically rejects claims that they represent “the word of the historical Buddha,” and he insists that they were written by other people who were often self-interested, stupid, sloppy, or whatever. So he may position himself as a Grand Explicator, but it is not of The Holy Dharma, it is of the meanings of texts that he often explicitly disagrees with.

  7. David (#6). Thanks.

    Jayarava’s final paragraph amounts to: “This is disjointed and off-topic. My post is about the relationship of Buddhism and MBT, and what you are saying appears to be irrelevant to that. However, I can’t evaluate it in detail because I don’t know enough Western philosophy.”

    How could Jayarava view Tomek’s comments on MBT as off-topic? Or is the kicker the second sentence: his “post is about the relationship of Buddhism and MBTs”? If that’s the case, you’ve just pointed out another veiled instance of Jayarava’s invoking the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism. Why, outside of the kind of controlled, dogmatic discourse that we get with pious religionists, would you want to restrict thought in this way? It reminds me of a colleague I had at Brown. If he assigned the students to read pages 21-54, and a student asked a question either not covered in the readings or that comes on page 72, he wouldn’t answer. I’d try to convince him that that practice was smothering discussion and providing students with a terrible model for learning and dialogue in general. Alas, he didn’t give a shit. He was a Bush Republican. He was a Princeton Ph.D. He knew best. And he wanted his rules to be followed, period. I see x-buddhist discourse as being similarly rule-bound and conservative. The instance you bring up is just another file in that folder.

    I don’t think you can demand that all Buddhist bloggers have a comprehensive understanding of Western philosophy

    Again, it’s not “western philosophy.” It’s thinking, learning, educating yourself, expanding your knowledge base, growing. I’m not adequately trained in western philosophy. But I have noticed–who hasn’t?!–that whenever I get to thinking about something, I discover others who are far ahead of me. I don’t say, this dude has figured a bunch of good shit out, but he’s a PHILOSOPHER, so I can’t read him. I have met many x-buddhist who read only x-buddhist books. I even know some who check the indexes of non-x-buddhist books before they buy them to see if they refer to x-buddhist teachers. If not, they don’t buy it. This really goes on. It’s like Fox News watchers getting their data on global warming from people like Megan Whateverhernameis. It’s x-buddhist myopia. Or what Tom Pepper calls x-buddhist Asleepening.

    It’s incumbent on advocates of the “no transcendent consciousness, so meditation is nonsense” argument to explain that in a way that it can be understood by reasonably intelligent and reasonably well-read non-philosophers.

    Do you think the two are necessarily exclusive? I don’t. I don’t subscribe to any notion of a transcendent consciousness, but I meditate. I think Tomek does, too.

    I believe that if your critique (which is accurate and potentially valuable) would be more effective if you wrote down to a Buddhist audience…On the other hand, I’m not sure why you bother talking to the handful of people who can understand you, either!

    I am not trying to convince x-buddhists of anything. That would be impossible. A person identifies as an x-buddhist because s/he is caught in the decisional machinery. “X-buddhist” describes a particular variety of hyper-reflexivity. It also names a quite specific species of stupidity. So, that’s not what I am up to.

    I am fostering a critique of x-buddhism. I am planting mines. I am causing explosions. I am setting fires. I am creating texts, concepts, language, practices, possibilities. I am tracing trajectories. I am planting rhizomes. I am encouraging others to do the same.

    Do you see that these are two completely different projects? Do you further see that my effort would be wasted talking to people like____________?

  8. Zoidberg said

    Hello! I found this blog through Tom Pepper’s blog, which I found through /r/Buddhism. I am somewhere in between what you call x-Buddhism and… something else. I came to it through MBSR, and then a reading group using Bodhi’s translation of the Palin Canon. I suppose I am what David calls a “reasonably intelligent, reasonably well-read non-philosopher”. I am not sure I belong in this comment thread, but mostly that’s just an extension of a general feeling of not-belonging to any “Buddhist” discussion. It seems to me you’re either happy slowly eating a raison in a room full of strangers, or you have a Ph.D. and know the comment code for superscripts like you know how to tie your shoes. Is there nowhere in this world for we middling thinkers!

    Anyway, I mostly just wanted to say hello and that I enjoy this sort of discussion of Buddhism in the West. As my friend (one of the Ph.D. types) says, Christianity came to America and had its Jar Jar Binks moment. From my experience, Buddhism is having its own Jar Jar Binks moment during the last decade.

    Having done MBSR in a group and read about MBCT on my own, I tend to agree with Tomek that it is growing into a sort of folk religion. For many of us who seek MBT, our level of hope that we might find some relief is very high. This is fertile ground for a folk religion to grow. Ultimately there isn’t much to the technique– you focus your mind away from the pain and are able to achieve a comfortable sort of depersonalization that allows you to act kindly towards that part of yourself that is in pain.

    Once you leave the workshop, you’d better develop some actual life skills, because nothing is solved by constantly eating raisons except perhaps higher fiber intake. This is where I “lost my faith”, as it were. I followed MBSR to my local Vispassanna group (a Spirit Rock sprout) and saw people, like myself, who were in significant amounts of mental or physical pain. There are only so many times that you can hear a Mary Oliver poem in response to real suffering before you feel betrayed in some way.

    I think MBT and the whole x-Buddhist (as you guys call it) movement has basically decent people running the show. I think maybe everybody is in some pain, and nobody wants to challenge the great myths because their absence seems terrifying. It certainly feels nice to imagine heaven at the end of a long struggle, and that same myth-making power entrances many of us who seek Buddhism through the available channels.

    The fMRI images and cortisol readings are all well and good, but they could just as easily measure people who believe in a Looney Tune version of heaven with angels and harps. Their brains and cortisol levels will look different too.

    I say that with respect for the actual pain of people who pursue Buddhism or Christianity or whatever religion in the hopes of alleviating that pain. The pain is very real, and it is a shame that people do not find more significant, lasting relief where they place their hopes.

    If anybody on this blog wants to test these ideas on an untrained, moderately intelligent x-Buddhism type who is interested in non-Buddhism, I volunteer myself for tribute! I’m glad such ideas are germinating around the web and I’m happy to do my part in helping others understand them.

  9. How could Jayarava view Tomek’s comments on MBT as off-topic? … Or is [it] the second sentence: his “post is about the relationship of Buddhism and MBTs”? .. Why would you want to restrict thought in this way?

    Jayarava’s post defends MBT from two specific criticisms that originate within modern Buddhism. It’s not trying to be a general defense of, or advocacy for, MBT. His point was that these particular criticisms are dumb (and I agree).

    Maybe Jayarava ought to have been open to discussing other, unrelated criticisms of MBT… but he didn’t understand Tomek’s point, and I don’t think he had a responsibility to devote limited resources to trying to figure out what it was about. Nor might he even want to defend MBT in general—I don’t know.

    I have met many x-buddhist who read only x-buddhist books.

    Yes, most Buddhists are idiots. In fact Buddhism is now positioned as a religion for stupid people. That was not true thirty years ago; saying you were a Buddhist signaled intellectual sophistication. Now it signals that you are a mindless dupe. If there is anything worth salvaging from Buddhism, this is a big problem. Maybe there isn’t, and we should go do something more interesting…

    Do you see that these are two completely different projects?

    Yeah, I guess so. Thanks.

  10. Zoidberg (#8)

    I found your comment thoughtful and intelligent. I am an Ex x-buddhist and comment here only occasionally. I do not read much about x-buddhism these days. The one thing I have recently learned about is the generally psychotoxic nature of mindfulness meditation. Long term meditators suffer at the least depersonalization, and many enter into mental illness. Many earlier era x-buddhist teachers were willing to tell us that early mindfulness practice can be quite troublesome as we begin to see our mental “garbage”. But not Kabat Zinn. I myself am horrified as to what Kabat Zinn (and like minded proponents of mindfulness) is doing to large numbers of people who go to him for relief. He lies about the efficacy of mindfulness, indeed I have seen him discuss false research findings. He, more than anyone is trying to push the snake oil of mindfulness on American in his mindful society cult movement. Kabat Zinn has cause more suffering then his narcissistic brain could ever begin to comprehend. I strongly appreciate Glenn’s efforts to unmask this harmful hypnotic charade perpetrated on a society that barely functions anymore; a society run by a professional and political class that spews hurt and harm everywhere.

  11. Zoidberg (#8).

    That’s some really good material you’ve got there, some really funny shit. Like:

    It seems to me you’re either happy slowly eating a raisin in a room full of strangers, or you have a Ph.D. and know the comment code for superscripts like you know how to tie your shoes. Is there nowhere in this world for we middling thinkers!

    David Chapman (#9)–whose blog I think you’d find stimulating–made a related point. I find his point very astute and important.

    Yes, most Buddhists are idiots. In fact Buddhism is now positioned as a religion for stupid people. That was not true thirty years ago; saying you were a Buddhist signaled intellectual sophistication. Now it signals that you are a mindless dupe. If there is anything worth salvaging from Buddhism, this is a big problem. Maybe there isn’t, and we should go do something more interesting.

    In fact, this comment makes me think that I am partly motivated in my quixotic pursuits here by a certain nostalgia for those days when the typical x-buddhist was, or seemed to me to be, interested in Freud and Kierkegaard along with Dogen. Maybe I am romanticizing a bit. I do also remember the dimwits who insisted that the arrival of Dogen to our shores meant that you no longer need to read Freud and Kierkegaard. I am referring to the mid-1970s. Anyway, the question is whether x-buddhism has anything to offer us today. (I still think it does.) Or whether we should just get on with other matters.

    I don’t see anything wrong with people using x-buddhist-inspired techniques to find comfort. I am not addressing those people. I am not even addressing the sad-sack middle managers who constitute the vast bulk of contemporary western x-buddhism. You’ve seen their books, websites, blogs, and Facilebook pages, I imagine, so I won’t mention names. But I will if you want me to. Names should be mentioned because “contemporary western x-buddhism” says: this is what these people are making out of this raw material. These anemic thinkers are giving specific form to x-buddhism. They are making choices. They replicate, for instance, their anemic DNA through appointing “sangha” leaders and successors. They write certain kinds of books–unchallenging, unintelligent ones that the x-buddhist publishers are willing to place on the market. They try to push silly, re-packaged milquetoast versions of meditation and minefulness (see, for instance, Buddhify and Buddhist Geeks). But, I am not talking to those people. I am addressing the potential hackers and heretics.

  12. David, #6

    Overall, I don’t understand why Jayarava does what he does. He finds value in close analysis of texts that I find repellent and silly. He doesn’tclaim those texts have any transcendent authority; he specifically rejects claims that they represent “the word of the historical Buddha,” and he insists that they were written by other people who were often self-interested, stupid, sloppy, or whatever.

    Astonishing comment. So he should stop doing what he is doing because, for example, “those texts have [no] transcendent authority”?

    What Jayarava does and what the value of his work is, is that he is putting the texts he is working on to the ferment of historicization – what, I claim, is a kind of making visible paticcasamuppada. That exactly is what the x-buddhist fears most: coming to see that his spiritus sancti is a product of chance and necessity.

  13. Tomek said

    By carefully cross referencing all the errors of the self-model he can define it’s dimensions and functions, but he [Metzinger] still cannot see beyond it in his own first-person experience. Whatever consciousness is in fact, we only know how we experience it. And this was the Buddha’s point in the first place. Especially in my root text the Kaccānagotta Sutta.

    Looking back at this short exchange I had with Jayarava, I think that it is not so much “his final statement” which is most telling (or final) to me, but in fact it’s the above fragment – especially the sentence “Whatever consciousness is in fact, we only know how we experience it.” – that probably most accurately defines his implicit epistemological position, which right after, immediately manifests as, or rather, is being rhetorically amplified by his evocation of “Buddha’s point,” what, ultimately and unsurprisingly, is being converted back to the form of his “root text Kaccānagotta Sutta.”

    It is curious to me that a person that is seemingly so fond of the work of Metzinger, and hence as one should suppose, his firm naturalistic embrace of the importance of subpersonal mechanisms generating human “proto-self” (Damasio’s term), structuring our phenomenological knowledge – tacitly implies that human first-person (phenomenal) experience has an absolute epistemic authority. To me the uniqueness of the human consciousness lies precisely in the fact that transparent (Metzinger’s term) phenomenal experience/content, appears coupled with an opaque epistemic content; in other words, as in his article Brassier repeats after Metzinger, “phenomenal knowledge is not identical to conceptual or propositional knowledge.” (p. 16) I mention this crucial distinction between transparent/opaque content or reality/appearance, because I think that this remarkable feature of human consciousness as a whole – appearance-reality distinction being attentionally as well as cognitively available – is too readily elided in x-buddhistic discourse. The result of it, I guess, is that the importance of the opaque elements of human consciousness – conceptual and propositional knowledge – is, for whatever reason, tacitly pushed aside what further results in inflating the importance of phenomenological experience, but more crucially, it prevents x-Buddhists to serious engage into the one and only tool to free themselves from the thaumaturgical refuge of the entrancing direct contact with the reality. If this distinction would be seriously acknowledged x-Buddhists would be much closer to the realization that it is not “our first person experience” that can yield any knowledge what “consciousness is in fact,” but a conceptual or propositional knowledge developed through a collective effort. Only this enables us to “see beyond it.”

  14. Patrick jennings said

    In fact, this comment makes me think that I am partly motivated in my quixotic pursuits here by a certain nostalgia for those days when the typical x-buddhist was, or seemed to me to be, interested in Freud and Kierkegaard along with Dogen. Maybe I am romanticizing a bit. I do also remember the dimwits who insisted that the arrival of Dogen to our shores meant that you no longer need to read Freud and Kierkegaard. I am referring to the mid-1970s

    Freud, Kierkegaard, Dogen? Yes.

    But don’t forget Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Luxembourg, Gramsci, Adorno, Althusser, Brecht, Marcuse, Kropotkin, Godwin, Mills, Proudhon, Bakunin, Guevara……… Not as the historically sanctioned purveyors of a species of truth but as levelers who left in their wake debris from which to recover heuristics, tools , weapons, strategies, ways of thinking, ways of seeing, modes of being, methodologies of destruction and reconstruction.

    Without this social revolutionary emphasis what in the end is non-buddhist critique worth? Where can it go? Onto the shelf as just another interesting experiment in post post– modern thought? The aim should be a form of self liquidation into the swirl of counter thought, a resurgence of the forms of creative chaos in politics, art, literature, philosophy, social practice, that unfortunately fizzled out at the end of the seventies of the last century.

    All else is the practice of compromise. I love those old levelers of the Cromwellian period and their machine wrecker Luddite great grand children. Why ? Because destruction is a necessary creative act . Witness Kiev (not that what unfolded there in the last few months was a purely revolutionary affair) But one thing is for certain. When the people involve themselves in what is ordinarily the business of their betters— the organization or reorganization of the structures and modes of social power—something comes unstuck and a glorious potential is unleashed that is only frightening from a distance.

    Barricades. I love them.

  15. Patrick jennings said

    Hi Tomek:

    Whatever consciousness is in fact, we only know how we experience it. And this was the Buddha’s point in the first place.

    This , for me too , is the point where the principle of sufficient buddhism is invoked, since while it is true that during introspection ‘we only know how we experience it’ (consiousness) it is just this fact that necessitates that we take into account the additional knowledge provided by scientific investigation and the inferences that can be drawn from its results. What you call:

    a conceptual or propositional knowledge developed through a collective effort.

    I have no doubt Jayarava knows this, and yet he (by reflex?) tries to sustain a faith in the sufficiency of the Buddha’s teaching. I can’t see how his words can be read in any other way.

    <

    blockquote>This brand of transcendental idealism is inimical to naturalism, since if consciousness is the originary condition of objectivation, of which science is one instance, it follows that science cannot investigate consciousness.” (p. 9) This transcendental consciousness and its folk versions like “present moment” or “here and now,” etc., become contemporary fetishes – weak versions of the soul – that provide their worshipers a safe haven from the potentially depressing conclusions of contemporary science. Hence the crypto-religious flavor of the “cult of now”.

    You don’t have to be very well educated in western philosophy to understand the point being made here. I can’t see how Jayarava would not be able to understand it. He may have been just not bothered to do so, which is fine; but why bother in that case to trot out the old tired attempt to absolve the Buddha for not knowing what he obviously could not know? (theories about brain function inferred from evidence delivered by science) Why not just say—-well yes , the Buddha’s knowledge is obviously seriously limited by his pre-scientific world view.

    Which is why I think Glenn’s post was justified and your intervention a good days work to be sure!

  16. Tomek said

    What Jayarava does and what the value of his work is, is that he is putting the texts he is working on to the ferment of historicization (…) That exactly is what the x-buddhist fears most …”

    Matthias (#12), I fully agree in this. I remember well this long exchange at Sujato’s …

  17. wtpepper said

    It does seem to me that what Tomek identifies is the key point at which the principle of sufficient Buddhism is invoked: this was the teaching revealed by the true Buddha, so it must be correct! I doubt Jayarava will see this, though, anymore than I would expect Metzinger (or Tomek or Matthias) to ever see the core contradiction in Metzinger–not seeing these errors is essential to maintaining a certain kind of atomistic capitalist ideology, and so they will remain “invisible” no matter what strategy is used to put them in high relief. It doesn’t take great knowledge of philosophy to see Metzinger’s error–it can be, and has been, pointed out over and over–but one cannot see it if one has a structuring belief in a transcendent core self (Hume, it seems, did not, and was thrown into “despair” by discovering this very same error in Lockean empiricism and in his own early thought–most people, however, do cling to this subtle atman in some form, and it is the most difficult error to overcome).

    There is another contradiction, though, that puzzles me. If I understand correctly, Jayarava’s major defense of MBTs rests on the assertion that they are NOT some kind of “folk religion,” and that they are not even Buddhist, but are a simple and secular technique to reduce certain kinds of suffering. For this reason, he says, all the Buddhists who critique MBT can be ignored, because they are just defensive about their territory, but MBT is not at all encroaching on its territory. However, he then asserts that “Mindfulness as taught by Buddhist MBT practitioners may well be to 21st century Western Buddhism what Zen was to Japanese Buddhism in the 13th century,” and that it is “the future of Buddhism.” He even recognizes that he has contradicted himself, but just shrugs it off. Well, it can hardly be both, right? This kind of bizarre willingness to contradict oneself, and expect both statements to stand, is the reasoning of the true moron, and reminiscent of someone like Sam Harris. (This occurs again, by the way, when after making an assertion about Western Romantic thought in the text, Jayarava can just dismiss any interrogation from withing Western thought as an irrelevant “syncretic” influence, and outside his domain–if you make pronouncements about Western thought–Romanticism or Metzinger–you need to be willing to engage the critics). Perhaps the motivation for this blindspot has something to do with the source of income of his “mentor”? Again, it is hard to explain something to someone when his income depends upon his failing to understand it.

  18. Tomek said

    I have no doubt Jayarava knows this, and yet he (by reflex?) tries to sustain a faith in the sufficiency of the Buddha’s teaching.

    Patrick (#15), that’s the thing. I deliberately wrote earlier that he tacitly implies that human first-person (phenomenal) experience has an absolute epistemic authority. But this is I suppose a quite common, implicit sentiment among people flirting with x-Buddhism thought – this seemingly hopeful assumption about a primacy of consciousness. Take a look for example at Thomson here (5:33) – one of the most vocal proponents of enactivism today – who at first out of honesty doesn’t grant any special status for consciousness, but later – out of “mutual respect for different perspective”, that is when pushed to the x-buddhistic wall, he starts to spill out this correlationist obscurantist sentiment about the “subtler states of consciousness, that are …, that are … you know, more difficult to understand.”

  19. Zoidberg said

    Hello Gerald (#10) –

    Thank you for the kind words. I have seen first hand how damaging these techniques can be when recommended carelessly. A woman I know who suffers from severe neuropathic pain tried to follow the “lean into the pain” technique that others kept urging her to do. As a result she came very close to suicide due to much more pain in addition to painful frustration; she had to be talked down from the ledge by myself and some friends. I was so mad at the “leaners” who kept telling her she wasn’t REALLY accepting her pain. It was like an adolescent in-group ostracizing the unfashionable outsider despite her best efforts, all under the aegis of “compassion”. My blood boils just recollecting the foolishness of that episode.

    I would love to see any evidence of falsified or invented research by Kabat Zinn. If nothing else, I love to see an Emperor or Empress exposed as naked.

    Hi **Glenn (#11) –

    Glad to add the funny when I can! I think it’s sort of doubly funny that I misspelled raisin as “raison” as in “raison d’etre”. In a sick way, it sort of fits. (Thanks for correcting it in the quotation, btw.) Also humorous, though not my mistake but my tablet’s– later on I say “Palin Canon” instead of Pali Canon.

    Anyway. Thank you also for the link to David’s blog. I’ll check it out! I’m already a fan since I see he also has a novel called “Buddhism for Vampires”. Buffy The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide is one of my most guilty pleasures of spiritual writing. I can’t remember if it’s at all useful, but surely more enjoyable than most of the x-buddhist books I bought.

    Buddhist Geeks really has gone downhill. There used to be some interesting guests who would bring Buddhism to the table at the Feast of Knowledge (I do like these terms). Also some mediocre guests. The last two times I’ve tuned in, the episodes were two separate lengthy advertisements for meditation apps. Maybe just bad luck on my part, but enough to make me wary. Plus, Vincent Horn suggests $5.00 / month as a recurring donation. I pay almost that much for Netflix! Outrageous. If he reads this blog… Vincent, please!

    I like to think that Buddhism can be made available to the brainy and the brawny. I myself love Kierkegaard (especially his ribbing of Hegel), so the more of that the better!

    For some, though, there just isn’t the training or the mental horsepower or the mental energy to digest primary source philosophy texts. We all have our limits. I don’t know how to bring better material to a wider swath of eyes and ears, but I think critical dissection of the known material is a good way to start. Gotta know the nature of the beast to defeat it.

    Hi Tomek (#13) –

    Wow.

    The result of it, I guess, is that the importance of the opaque elements of human consciousness – conceptual and propositional knowledge – is, for whatever reason, tacitly pushed aside what further results in inflating the importance of phenomenological experience, but more crucially, it prevents x-Buddhists to serious engage into the one and only tool to free themselves from the thaumaturgical refuge of the entrancing direct contact with the reality.

    Thanks for helping to teach me a new word (thaumaturgical). I have always been confused as to this point: isn’t the radical finding of the Buddha that all phenomena are known conceptually, and are therefore unreal (in the way we would think they would be “real”)? That knowing a snake as a thing on the ground and knowing a snake as a dangerous creature are both forms of conceptual knowledge fabricated via aggregation through different senses? That we co-fabricate everything down to the smallest piece of knowledge, and that the taxonomy of knowledge only appears to have Phyla of “personal” or “social” while all actually being different species of the same genus?

    With that radical idea in mind, I always found the idea of “direct” knowledge to be weird. What is not directly known, or for that matter, indirectly?

    Apologies if I’m way off here. I’ve just always found that distinction to be strange in the context of Buddhism. I am only a novice student of philosophical terminology, so if I’m confused on the terms please feel free to correct me.

  20. Matthias, yes, sorry what I said there was unclear.

    I too think Jayarava’s work in subjecting Buddhism to historical scrutiny is hugely valuable. I do the same thing, for the same reason, in an amateurish way, so I particularly admire his rigor. He’s a proper scholar and I am not.

    I said that overall I do not understand his project. I think he’s engaged in a salvage operation, but I don’t fully understand his aim or methods. I’m missing the big picture view on his work. Maybe I’ve missed it, or misunderstood it, or he hasn’t stated it, or he follows his interests without a overall program.

    What I said was in reply to Glenn suggesting that Jayarava was speaking as “Grand Explicator of the Dharmic Magistrate.” I argued that he doesn’t do that, in general (and I don’t think he was doing that here, either). But I can’t say what, in general, he does do. That’s all!

  21. Patrick jennings said

    Tomek,

    Re 18#

    Yeah, I waded through a heap of enactivist shit and found myself seriously poisoned by the x—buddhist fumes— ‘subtle states, preconceptual bodily knowings, enacted and extended mind—most of it turned out to be just so much half assed idealist thinking . One of the things I have come to recognize is that all of these tendencies try to reconcile the subject with its estranged objects by an unmediated dissolution of the opposites—- try in one way or another to flatten out the meaning of what it is to think; as if the gap between mind and body , individual and collective, thought and its object, subject and world, necessity and freedom, could be wiped away as easily as a smear of paint, leaving only a plane of pristine purity in which all contradictions are resolved by dissolution into an innately unified ground. The gaze inward delivers no such unmediated reconciliation. Its a long slog, by way of history, to heaven on earth. Period.

  22. David, Jayarava is a good source of information when it comes to history and language. In this way he contributes to the “bigger picture”. In regard of this article, I don’t find it very good, but – I have to say this – he is talking about “commodification” and with this he is way ahead of you and your fellow Buddhist Geeks (although I would say it is not the case that Buddhism has been commodified always in history, that is an anachronism. But that is a different story).

  23. Matthias (#12, 22).

    Two quick points of clarification.

    First, I completely agree that the historical work Jayarava does is valuable. He’s very good at it, too. I also think he doesn’t take it far enough. Farther reaching–more destructive–conclusions about the identity and status of x-buddhism could be drawn from his very own data. In this regard, I see Jayarava as perpetuating a larger contemporary pattern. I trace the contours of this pattern in the old post “Fanged Dialogue.” In short, I think that the pattern is woven around the need to somehow still have x-buddhism remain intact at the end of the myth-busting, deflationary historical analysis. To my thinking, this is history in the service of reform. The whole non-buddhist spirit is to do the work unbeholden to any desired outcome for preservation. There is a world of difference between the two. You know that better than all of us, since your contribution to Cruel Theory is the prime (and, so far, only?) example of what can happen if you really let it fly.

    Second, my post on Jayarava wasn’t about his entire post. It was about this single passing moment in dialog. Because the moment was so passing, I can certainly forgive someone’s thinking that my comments on it are trivial. And I could have chosen a million more obvious instances of the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism. But I chose this slight moment in an exchange between Jayarava and Tomek Idzik precisely because it gives us a window onto just how subtly, unknowingly, and reflexively the Principle operates in x-buddhist discourse. I’ll just repeat that I think Tomek’s comments together with the Brassier article demand that Jayarava reverse his view, a view that is in itself far-reaching.

    Thanks!

  24. Tom Pepper said

    re #20: I think Jayarava here makes it clear enough what his “project” ultimately is: Mindfulness-Based Treatments are the “future of Buddhism.” It may remain unclear how exactly textual analysis serves as a justifaction for minfulness practice, but perhaps we will find out in time.

  25. Tomek said

    Patrick (#21),

    I waded through a heap of enactivist shit and found myself seriously poisoned by the x—buddhist fumes…

    Well, how to put it, you seem to have changed your mind regarding “enactivism.” Take a look here, for example. Down in the same old thread I posted excerpt from one of Brassier’s interviews where he was presenting his position towards “enactivism.” No one seemed to notice it back then, but now it again seems to be relevant, especially, considering that you evidently changed your preferences

  26. Patrick jennings said

    Tomek,
    Re# 21

    No need to be coy Tomek. Ha!

    All I can say is I spewed quite a load of shite in those days! In my defense this from the same thread:

    “On the overall question I am not very sure about my grasp on any of this and so I totally identify with your parting sentence”

    Re Brassier: I waded out the enactivist shit hole stinking of x–buddhism and thinking exactly this: “A metaphysics of embodied affect is a retreat rather than an advance from the impasses of subject-object dualism. Its what I tried to say above but put more succinctly.”

    There are, though, certain questions raised by by enactiism that I would like to ask. More later.

  27. Glenn, #23.

    I see your point. Jayarava’s reaction is strange. I just reacted to David’s point – which I find equally strange if one takes into account that he is affiliate of the Aroter Sangha (if this is still so) and that he finds somebody elses interest in scrutinizing buddhist texts “repellent and silly”.

    Jayarava seems to be one more “master explicator”. Such people go into Buddhism or any other religion because of some narcissistic problem (affective decision). One has to look what they can provide (if at all) and leave the rest as it is.

  28. he finds somebody elses interest in scrutinizing buddhist texts “repellent and silly”

    I wrote “texts that I find repellent and silly.” It’s the scriptures I don’t like, not the process of examining them!

  29. […] reckon this resists reduction to a Principle of Sufficient Buddhism. This feels our primal plight, our existential yearning, hard-wired despite our denials, as […]

  30. […] We could call this the “Be the Change [Only]” proposition. Or, as Glenn Wallis calls it, “The Principle of Sufficient Buddhism”, which answers every critique of Buddhist philosophy by defaulting, more or less, to faith. […]

  31. […] We could call this the “Be the Change [Only]” proposition. Or, as Glenn Wallis calls it, “The Principle of Sufficient Buddhism”, which answers every critique of Buddhist philosophy by defaulting, more or less, to faith. […]

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