Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

The Faithful Buddhist

Posted by Glenn Wallis on March 7, 2014

TFBBelow is a repost of a piece by Tom Pepper. He recently published it on his blog, The Faithful Buddhist. I asked him if I could repost it here because I thought that the larger non-buddhist readership would be interested in what he is saying. Comments are open. Be sure to see the comments on his blog, too.

From the beginning, I have viewed Speculative Non-Buddhism as a means to ignite a robust critique of x-buddhsm. The x-buddhist image of thought is so closed off to genuinely creative innovation, and its practitioners so complacently tradition bound, that nothing short of an explosion could force open a critique. As most readers of non-buddhist blogs understand, we believe that critique is a necessary companion to constructive change.

Tom Pepper played a vital role in this initial blast. I’m not going to eulogize him, though, because he’s not finished working with x-buddhist materials.


Taking a Lesson from Santideva

In his Siksa Samuccaya, Santideva warns against the dangers we will meet on the bodhisattva path, collecting a compendium of advice from Buddhist texts to help avoid the pitfalls of pursuing awakening. I’ve been thinking over his suggestions lately, and have decided I can’t do better than to follow them. So after this post I’m discontinuing this blog for the foreseeable future.

Santideva devotes about a third of his text to advice on protecting the self. This may seem contradictory at first, if Buddhism is understood to be devoted to the teaching of non-self; however, what Santideva has in mind here is not the purification or protection of some kind of atman. Instead, his interest is in preserving the collective enlightened mind, the mind of awakening, which is conventionally constructed in human practices, and so always faces the danger of being destroyed. It is imperative to avoid this, because of the difficulty of producing such a collective mind to begin with, and the rarity of another such mind occurring.

His advice includes avoiding bad companions of many kinds, from those who gamble and handle money, to those who engage in useless talk, to those who drink alcohol or engage in sports. It is important to “avoid showing any courtesy to” anyone who “lives by luxury,” and to avoid endless debate not seeking to uncover the truth.

He also warns us, quoting from the Upayakausalya Sutra, that we must never “impart the doctrine of emptiness to those whose minds are not prepared.” This, it seems to me, is one of the great dangers of the internet, where it is almost inevitable that those who respond to a blog will be mostly those who are not prepared to understand emptiness, and respond from fear and ignorance. In this case, trying to teach emptiness becomes like trying to teach a heliocentric model of the solar system to someone who has not yet begun to consider things like physics or mathematics. What you say seems so obviously untrue, is so clearly contradicted by one’s ordinary experience, that the response will only be that all of this abstract reasoning and excessive thinking is clearly wrong, a waste of time, over-intellectualizing, “clinging to views,” or “prapanca.” The response—that they are simply too ignorant, and too stupidly attached to their comforting beliefs, to be ready for this truth—can only be what the mainstream of Western Buddhism would denounce as “wrong speech.”

One who is prepared, of course, would not be offended by what might otherwise seem harsh or obnoxious speech—if what you say is stupid, if your argument is moronic, you would want to be told so in no uncertain terms, but only if you are ready to think clearly about the truth. Nobody prepared to handle the truth needs to be treated like a child making her first attempt at reading, and anyone at this beginning level is nowhere near ready to comprehend the truth of sunyata.

In recent months I have, almost daily, been called a variety of things, in emails, in comments I’ve rejected, and on other internet sites: asshole definitely leads the pack; second is probably prick or dick; among the mindfulness crowd, for some reason, fag and cocksucker seem to be popular with the followers of Think Not Hanh; the Theravadans prefer cunt or pussy; and, of course, the number of “mental masturbation” accusations from every crowd have gone beyond my ability to count. These, of course, are all comments from self-proclaimed x-buddhists, usually angry because I have criticized their teacher or school, and usually also including a statement that my criticism of accomplished teachers, or my liberal use of the terms moron and idiot, are not “right speech.” In defense of Think Not Hanh, a man claiming to have been a long-term resident of Plum Village emailed me that if he could find out where I lived he would come and burn my house down and murder my children; a follower of Thannissaro Bhikkhu, more restrained, only promised to “kick my ass” if he ever met me. I will pass over the irony of this kind of response, and even set aside the consideration of why so many x-buddhists find reference to bodily functions (either scatological or sexual) to be equaled as insults only by accusations of being homosexual or female. Instead, what I want to suggest is that the sheer number of these has convinced me that a blog like this cannot be of much use. I am not much bothered by these kinds of insults, but neither do I see them as useful speech, and they seem to be the most common form of speech my internet activities have generated. Santideva is right, I think, that what is “anartha,” useless or without purpose or value, unproductive, should be avoided.

There are of course many other kinds of arguments advanced, but most of them are the arguments of the moron, in the sense that Zizek uses that term in the introduction to Less Than Nothing: “the stupidity of those who fully identify with common sense.” To these, the only response can be: you are being a moron! The rest is up to them. But if one is not yet ready to encounter the delusive inadequacy of the Big Other, such a response is just as anartha as calling him a prick, asshole, etc.

What the Western Buddhist wants from Buddhism is not something I am interested in supporting; what I want to do with Buddhism, I have come to believe, cannot be done on the internet.

What does the Western Buddhist want? Well, from responses I’ve gotten here and as Speculative Non-Buddhism, as well as from what I’ve read on other websites, in Tricycle and popular books on Buddhism and what I’ve experienced in the sangha I participated in, I would say a fairly clear picture has emerged:

1) To believe that anything she already thinks is right. Everything is just a matter of opinion, and any arguing for one position over another is a sign of personal arrogance—so whatever you already think is okay, because, anyway, the real ultimate truth is beyond language.

2) To believe that anything he wants to do is okay. Because Buddhism has no rules we must follow (except that everyone is always right about everything and arguing is wrong speech, see #1). Do you make weapons of mass destruction for a living? No problem, just do it mindfully. Do you have stock in a company that employs children in sweatshops? Don’t worry, they will accumulate merit from their suffering. Do you make money by deluding people with fake psychological treatments that prey on their desperation and suffering? Don’t think too much about it, as long as you have good intentions. Remember, our eternal “true self” is unaffected by anything we do in this world, and we will go to eternal bliss when we die as long as we don’t think too much, don’t try to take political action, and have good intentions.

3) To believe she has an immortal soul that will reach eternal bliss regardless of what actions she takes in this (samsaric) world. This soul is, of course, not an “atman,” because…well, it just isn’t, that’s all.

4) To belong to a larger collective that assures him that anyone who tries to use critical thought or political action to change the world is childish, egotistical, arrogant, and is going to be reborn in this world instead of going to eternal bliss with the good Buddhists.

5) Most importantly, to get a little buzz, a kind of drug-like high, that makes it easier to avoid noticing the contradictions in the dominant ideology, and go on with the meaningless and alienated life of a subject of capitalism. So sitting with “pure awareness” of the body/breath/present moment is proclaimed as an “ideology-free” or “universal” or “non-dogmatic” practice, and the ideology of the subject it reproduces remains invisible—it becomes nothing more than a (slightly) safer alternative to robotripping.

What I’ve described should be familiar to anyone as the prevalent “postmodern” ideology of late capitalism. What Buddhism adds, for most people, is nothing more than a little additional exotic flavor, and the assurance that this is not at all a recent capitalist ideology but “ancient Eastern wisdom,” so it must be true.

What do I want from Buddhism? Well, I came to Buddhism in the naïve hope of finding a group of individuals with whom to create a collective awakening mind. I thought it would be possible to find others who were prepared to think about emptiness and conventional truth, and who would hold out no “untouchable” concept as transcendent and beyond consideration. However, for most of those I’ve encountered, the eternal truth that must never be considered is capitalism; for many others it is the existence of an eternal consciousness; for almost everyone, though, what must not be changed is the daily practice of our everyday lives within global capitalism—the study of the conventional nature of our minds must never be allowed to go so far as to change what we actually do on a daily basis, and things like meeting on a regular basis, and reading texts instead of watching baseball in the evening, are beyond the realm of the possible. Most who will accept that their minds are constructed by social practices remain unwilling to then try to change their minds by engaging in new social practices.

When I started this blog, I was hoping to mitigate some of these concerns by means of a warning and censored comments. So far, this hasn’t done much good—there has been little discussion of my posts here, and the same kind of moronic discussion of them just takes place on other sites. Also, when I began, I was hoping to get some contribution from others—I really don’t want to be a leader or teacher, but a part of a collective. Although many have mentioned writing something, to date nothing has appeared, from which I can only conclude my project is not of much real interest to others.

Given what most people want from Buddhism today, I’m not surprised. And yet, Santideva also warns us that one of the great temptations of Mara is the temptation to retreat from the world, and to seek contentment individually, in isolation. He quotes the Gandavyuha Sutra on the need to increase and improve the collective mind of awakening:

You must be earnest for the expansion of the City of the Mind by the diffusion of boundless benevolence throughout the world. You must be earnest for the defense of the City of the Mind by aspiration for the wide shelter of the dharma and for hostility to every principle of evil. You must be earnest to throw open the gates of the City of the Mind by putting the whole world in the possession of the reality of things.

I don’t plan, then, to give up on all practice and retreat into my personal contentment. I will likely spend some of the time I have spent studying and practicing Buddhism in attempting to “open the gates” to the collective mind of enlightenment in other ways, however small and futile. I plan to finish writing a novel that will no doubt never be published, and to write a play that will no doubt never be produced. But beyond these mostly self-indulgent pursuits, I will try to start a Buddhist group that can meet in person; instead of trying to engage the Western Buddhist community and its postmodern ideological practice, perhaps there will be one or two other people, eventually, here in Connecticut, interested in collectively exploring ways to remain faithful to the Truth of the Buddhist Event.

In the meantime, I’m planning to leave this blog up, as it is, until the end of the subscription term I paid for. And if anyone’s in CT and is interested in starting a madhyamaka study group, send me an email. We can’t meet at may house, unfortunately: the Plum Village avenger might find out where I live!

Namandabu

Tom Pepper

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12 Responses to “The Faithful Buddhist”

  1. Paul B said

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve read your post a couple of times now, thinking through your points. It covers a lot of ground. I feel inspired to respond to a couple of things in the hope it might possibly (probably not but who knows?) be of some minimal use.

    I sympathize with your thoughts about internet communication. I engage in online conversation intermittently, not regularly, and it always seems to land on sites where I am going up against a large majority on whatever topic it is. Sometimes I’ve been quite nastily attacked from all sides. I’ve also intervened simply to defend another person who is being unfairly attacked, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. As has been said a lot also, the “virtuality” of internet communication encourages many people to be a lot less decent and respectful than they would be if actually sitting opposite the person they are exchanging posts with.

    So, like you, I also am not entirely sure how useful it has all been. I have considered disengaging completely.

    Now to the substance. And first, a thought experiment. I’m going to say something in a couple of sentences and I’d like you to try and capture your first reaction to it. See how it makes you feel, how it makes you want to respond, and so on. Okay? Here goes: you’re an idiot. All your thoughts come out of plain intellectual laziness and stupidity. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re simply a moron.

    Now, very honestly, how does that feel? How does it make you want to react?

    One of the things I’ve noticed in observing real-life discussions is that being called stupid etc. seems to be just about the least tolerable insult. There are lots of things you can call someone that they might not like so well – attacking their taste, sense of style, specific views on something – but, blanket-fashion, call them an “idiot” or a “moron” and just observe the reaction.

    So this is the main thing I wanted to say. Your point seems to be that if someone is, in your eyes, a moron, then it’s right to call them one. I would say there are some problems with that view. Let me focus only on one, a simple practicality.

    The notion of “right speech,” in the context of a larger attack on buddhist conformity and complacency, has been frequently attacked here. Yet when buddhists turn around and counter words like “idiot” and “moron” with words like “asshole” etc, you find this unacceptable too. Likewise, how is “mental masturbation” any worse than “moron”? The former means something like: conceptualization that has become unbalanced, self-indulgent, missing the point. The latter means: defective in mental capacity – seriously, deeply so. If anything, I would say the latter word is more fully damning and “offensive.”

    However, the main point here is not about “offensiveness.” It’s about what is helpful. When someone is called a moron it effectively ends dialogue. One person has pronounced the other unworthy of conversation: the end. If I may offer merely one example: “Think Not Hanh.” Of course, you’re allowed to call that person anything you like, but that particular epithet simply shuts down communication. You’ve reduced him to a more or less worthless non-entity. Anyone who finds value in his teachings or example or presence also then partakes of that same “stupid/idiot/moron” vibe. So where does that leave us? The other person can try to explain what they find valuable about him, but – as evidenced on this site – it’s going to be trashed pretty instantaneously. So again, there can be no dialogue.

    But going further, what does it mean to reduce someone like Thich Nhat Hanh to that purely dismissive label? Martin Luther King, Jr. (no buddhist, “x” or otherwise), in his letter nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, said: “You will find in this single human being an awesome range of abilities and interests. He is a holy man, for he is humble and devout. He is a scholar of immense intellectual capacity. The author of ten published volumes, he is also a poet of superb clarity and human compassion. His academic discipline is the Philosophy of Religion, of which he is Professor at Van Hanh … He directs the Institute for Social Studies at this University … is editor of Thien My, an influential Buddhist weekly publication … Director of Youth for Social Service, a Vietnamese institution which trains young people for the peaceable rehabilitation of their country … Thich Nhat Hanh offers a way out of this nightmare … His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”

    On another note, I truly don’t recognize your portrait of the “x-buddhist” in those five points. Or rather, while I have known people who strike me as falling into one or more of them, I’ve known many others in the buddhist world who fall into none. And there is also such a thing as “engaged buddhism” out there, seeking to radically transform society. But if your experience is very different, then your words are understandable there.

    In any event, this is the main thing I’d want to say in response: I think that without some kind of ground of good faith, internet communication (or anything, for that matter) is bound to be pretty unfruitful when not positively negative. Hopefully you will take that as the genuine, long-observed, and heartfelt observation it is, and not reflexively trash it as stupid or “tedious.” But if you do, you do.

    You mention your plan to start up a Madhyamaka study group. That’s awesome. If I lived in CT I might even join you. But one more (no doubt “tedious”) thought: I’d only say that people are at all different levels. There are those less far along than you. They might only know that they need to do something to make their life more manageable. They feel confused, suffering, maybe in a huge amount of mental turmoil or anguish. Discovering shamatha, say, may be the first lifeline they’ve had in ages. Likewise, there are people who are further along than you too. Maybe for them further establishing of the View – as it is called – is unnecessary, because it’s already established. So their focus is on stabilizing it, on working with all the materials and situations in their life moment to moment, devoting that life to the betterment of others – on all kinds of levels – perhaps inspired by the same Shantideva you began with: “Through my merit may all those in any of the directions suffering distress in body or mind find oceans of happiness and delight.”

  2. Ruthann said

    Best to you with your in-person group. Let us know how you do.

  3. Is it just me, or doesn’t this come across as whiny and attention seeking?

    So what has Tom learned from the experiment, that is new information following the experience of being part of the SNB blog?
    The internet is full of people willing to say mean things? People don’t like to be called morons? Buddhists can be hypocritical? Engaging in meaningful intellectual debate on the internet is difficult?

    I look at Tom’s posts and I see a pretty healthy following, comments wise. Some often 30-40 comments, some as much as 70 comments. This wasn’t enough? This is “little discussion” of his posts? This shows that there is no “real interest”? (especially given the 90-9-1 rule). Yes, it is naive to think that people have the time and inclination to write meaningful content on other people’s blogs . The people who have the time, intellectual capacity and inclination to write, write on their own blogs, or write their own books, or papers, or whatever.

    So, poor Tom, the lonely intellectual, leading the vanguard against global capitalism via the internet, who tried to find a group of individuals who shared the same set of assumptions as him, to be part of a new collective awakening mind, yet failed in his quest, that he started, oh, about 6 months ago according to the blog archives? Oh such a disappointment is the human race to him. Still, you do what you can.

  4. wtpepper said

    Sue: it’s not just you. Most readers on the internet are morons, just like you, and would be unable to get my point. They tend to think, like you, that what I want is attention and a following, because like you they can only imagine wanting that.

    As I said in the post, the problem isn’t the insults, the morons, etc. The problem is that it became clear to me that I was getting a following (regular, almost daily readers from 26 countries and 30 states in the US), and this is exactly what I do NOT want. I do not want to be some kind of guru with a following, I want to be a member of a collective, and a blog seems to be not the way to do this. Nobody was going to participate in this format, so I’m trying a different approach.

    The human race is hardly a disappointment to me, but it is clear that most people (not everyone, but most) who participate on blogs are, like you, morons unwilling to attempt real thought. It is a shame you feel so threatened by what I say you need to make pathetic ad hominem attacks hidden behind a pseudonym, but it is exactly this kind of cowardly and moronic behavior I do NOT want to enable and encourage, and is exactly what my blog has produced in abundance on several x-buddhist discussion sites. I’d rather not encourage the production of the kind of subject who is a true moron in Zizek’s sense of the term, and a cowardly, petty, small-minded nasty jerk to boot. So…it is in sympathy for those, like you, not yet ready to think and trying to use blog comments to bolster their defense against Truth that I am withdrawing from the blogosphere. As Santideva says, it is important not to try to teach emptiness to those not yet ready to understand it.

  5. Tom,

    To my (moronic) mind, posting on the internet about how you are quitting the internet is attention seeking behaviour. And complaining about people being jerks on the internet doesn’t really makes sense, given the time and energy you have spent over the years being a jerk to people on the internet. Being able to use the adjective “cowardly” against anonymous jerks only gets you so far up on the moral high ground, and you aren’t going to much of the sympathy vote.

    I hope you can see why I was getting confused. You already were/are part of what can be reasonably described as a collective, with its own journal. But this wasn’t enough, so you decided you wanted to start your own personal blog, and within the space of 6 months created a considerable volume of worthwhile content, a thriving community of readers and commenters (with almost daily readers from 26 countries, no less!), but then, you complain about lack of interest and discussion, and then complain about not wanting a following (i.e. people reading your work). It just came across as strange, in exactly what did you expect to happen on a personal blog, and within 6 months? And is it not insulting to all those readers and commenters? Is that community not collective enough for you? Have you been let down by all those empty promises to contribute to your blog? Do you see many of your readers and commenters as morons, incapable of real thought? Not worth the effort? Just loyal devotees of the cult of the PepperSpray, and not your equal?

    And if you don’t like reading moronic comments about your work on x-buddhist discussion sites, then why read them? If you are worried about encouraging the wrong kind of people reading your work, thinking about it incorrectly, and commenting on it, then that book sounds like a sensible idea. These days, anyone can get onto the internet, and so at least with books, you might encourage a more discriminating reader. But then again, that book could still fall into the wrong hands, which is why I can understand going down the route of the face-to-face approach. Quality over quantity. You might not be able to reach as many people in that epic quest of collective awakening, but at least you can have more thorough control in making sure that the right kind of people engage with the ideas in the right way. And perhaps a tour for the 20 or so states that you didn’t find readers in?

    Boy

    p.s.
    Sorry for being a jerk. You are disappointed with us. We are/I am disappointed with you. Maybe I should just have gone and left a fawning comment on your blog about how much of a shame it is that you are leaving us, yet I understand your reasons etc…You know, the kind of comment that shows engagement with real thinking, instead of this moronic threatened “T”ruth avoiding small-minded jerky criticising Tom kind of non-thinking.

  6. Sonny said

    It looks like you Tom is trying to be a guru in the common sense.

    As I read Tom, he knows the hidden/secret/forgotten/misunderstood path to liberation. By the following, Tom implies he is actually trying to teach us emptiness.

    He [Santideva] also warns us, quoting from the Upayakausalya Sutra, that we must never “impart the doctrine of emptiness to those whose minds are not prepared.” This, it seems to me, is one of the great dangers of the internet, where it is almost inevitable that those who respond to a blog will be mostly those who are not prepared to understand emptiness, and respond from fear and ignorance. In this case, trying to teach emptiness becomes like trying to teach a heliocentric model of the solar system to someone who has not yet begun to consider things like physics or mathematics.

    Tom, like Santideva, sees a problem with transmitting the doctrine of emptiness to those not ready. Tom is trying to impart the doctrine of emptiness, but fails, and takes an advice from Santideva and dismisses people because they are not ready. How else should I interpret it? Tom knows the way, but be does not want to give it openly to everyone (what could be more open then a blog?), because he regards the vast majority as stupid. He rather retreat, and he does it with noble sympathy for us – the morons.

    So…it is in sympathy for those, like you, not yet ready to think and trying to use blog comments to bolster their defense against Truth that I am withdrawing from the blogosphere. As Santideva says, it is important not to try to teach emptiness to those not yet ready to understand it.

    Tom also implies he knows who is or isn´t ready to hear the truth. How can he otherwise, if he can not discern the one ready from the unready, heed the advice of Santideva to avoid to “impart the doctrine of emptiness to those whose minds are not prepared.” Tom, for sure, must know who is ready and who is not. Tom decides. Unfortunately, Tom has decided we are not ready:

    What do I want from Buddhism? Well, I came to Buddhism in the naïve hope of finding a group of individuals with whom to create a collective awakening mind. I thought it would be possible to find others who were prepared to think about emptiness and conventional truth, and who would hold out no “untouchable” concept as transcendent and beyond consideration.

    We are not ready, and we also get to know what qualifies us as ready. The acceptance of harsh speech and being told when the argument is moronic, are hallmarks of being qualified:

    One who is prepared, of course, would not be offended by what might otherwise seem harsh or obnoxious speech—if what you say is stupid, if your argument is moronic, you would want to be told so in no uncertain terms, but only if you are ready to think clearly about the truth. Nobody prepared to handle the truth needs to be treated like a child making her first attempt at reading, and anyone at this beginning level is nowhere near ready to comprehend the truth of sunyata.

    Of course, in communication, Tom decides what input is stupid and moronic (did you forget Tom is the one imparting the doctrine of emptiness, and decides who is ready?). He claims he “do not want to be some kind of guru”, but he acts like one. If we do not accept the harsh speech, and agree Tom is right, then Tom decides we are not “ready to think clearly about the truth.”

    Reminds me of tendencies found in x-buddhism, and in destructive cults.

    I rather be respected for my own ability and attempt to think for myself, and not have someone else trying “impart” thoughts and to decide for me when I am thinking clearly.

    Isn’t the faithful buddhist another X? How can it be analyzed?

  7. wtpepper said

    You may be right, Sue. I thought of my post as just being polite, giving an explanation for not continuing the blog instead of just dropping it with no explanation. But that might be rationalization, and maybe it was attention-seeking in some way. I thought that not writing anymore, not wanting to be the sole author and build an increasing following was a way to avoid being controlling and attention-seeking, but then, as a Freudian might say, I didn’t have to write that last post…so…maybe you have a point. I am good at rationalizing.

    You still don’t seem to grasp that I don’t care about the moronic discussions and insults and whatever. If that were going on, but others were writing posts for Faithful Buddhist so that it was producing a collective mind, not “Tom’s thoughts on Buddhism,” then I would certainly have continued to participate. The point is, that if the blog cannot produce a collective awakening mind, AND it enables the collective moron mind, then it isn’t useful. I’m not going to go into the history of SNB and the journal (which also stagnated because of a lack of contributions), or the reasons I expected that FB would NOT be just a personal blog (before I started some people had said they would contribute posts that never got written, etc.). The point isn’t that there are jerks on the internet, but that the internet seems to not be useful for anything BUT producing stupidity.

    No doubt it seems “controlling” to want to exclude certain people, but that’s just the way things work. If you want to have a discussion of the application of Lacanian theory to the treatment of addiction, for instance, you can’t include those who are still shouting “Freud just said everything is about sex, and we all know everything his said has been disproven”; that would make any real useful work impossible. So, yes, I do hope to be controlling. Even beginners, who have never yet heard of Lacan, need to be in a beginning class, not in the advanced workshop, and mixing them will be useless for everyone. I’m not “let down” by anything, just tried this, and it doesn’t seem I can make it work.

    I wonder, though, Sue, if you know why you feel such a strong need to insult me personally, and avoid dealing with any of the substance of my work? For many x-buddhists, this is the practice: insulting those that make them uncomfortable, followed by “with metta.” A good day of vicious, snide remarks disguised as innocent comments then passes for good Buddhist practice. This doesn’t seem to be your motivation, though. Do you know why you feel the need to denounce my attempt to step out of “center stage” as attention-seeking, and my wish to be a part of collective instead of a leader as being controlling? Maybe some kind of projection or transference at work?

    It seems you also need to have the last word, to always make one more personal insult, so after this I won’t respond to you again. I’m not “disappointed’ in anyone, and if you are disappointed in me, that is a good indication that you are still stuck in attachment to personalities and not getting the point of anatman at all yet. I just don’t think this format is turning out to be productive, and I think it is important to combat the collective mind of the x-buddhists who are so effectively producing postmodern capitalist ideology, so it is important to me not to waste any more time on a futile effort and try another approach.

  8. wtpepper said

    Exactly the response I keep hearing, Sonny. Because I refuse to do all the things you list (I won’t tell people what to think, I don’t want to be the only voice speaking, etc) that is your evidence that I am doing exactly the things I won’t do. My blog is a cult, and my discontinuing the blog is proof that it is a cult. I want followers who will listen to whatever I say, and my seeking only others who can argue with me as equals is your proof that I want only followers that will never argue with me. I have no secret truth and reject esoteric mysticism, and this is proof that I am insisting that the truth is some secret I am withholding from you. This kind of puerile nonsense is what I hoped to avoid in FB, and is why I am now getting out of the blogosphere completely. Sonny, you are no exception, your response is the party-line of the morons. One could only wonder why you are so obsessed with me that feel I have such power, that I can control you mind with my texts? This, I suppose, is one danger of the internet. Cult leaders prey on weak minds, on those who are psychologically troubled; now, with responses like this, I become increasingly aware of danger of such individuals reading my texts, something I could control in person but not so easily on the internet.

  9. Sonny said

    Tom. I Never wrote your blog is a cult. I have to lead you here. I concluded that your exclamations, when put together, as I showed, reminds me of tendencies of x-buddhists and destructive cults. Your answer does not do much to clarify why these tendencies aren’t in fact signaling x-buddhist/cult-thinking. I let it be up to the readers to decide for themselves. Based on your later writings and comments I can not separate you from the typical gurus, and doubt is reasonable.

    seeking only others who can argue with me as equals

    How do you judge who is suitable the title “equal to Tom”, and thereby rightfully can discuss with you? You have to do the judgement if you say you want to find equals. You will of course not answer this simple question. How do you judge who is your equal? And then how do you judge who is ready to have the truth imparted? Your response is probably that you are withdrawing and I am a moron.

    Because I refuse to do all the things you list (I won’t tell people what to think, I don’t want to be the only voice speaking, etc)

    You proclaim yourself to be the person who wants everyone to speak up and think for themselves, but in action you apply a suppressive structure of harsh speech, moron-declaring, and asymmetric power meaning you are the one judging who is ready or not for the truth (obviously I am not ready for your truth). Have you ever considered you yourself might not at all be ready for The Truth? We – the rest of the morons – have equally sound basis for making such a claim about another.

    Your discontinuing your blog, in preference for an face to face group, could of course be a sign of seriousness, or a move to try to find a better medium on which to apply the suppressive structure, or both. You would of course view it in another way. You view it in the way that you are the one applying control in some manner for the benefit of people.

    Cult leaders prey on weak minds, on those who are psychologically troubled; now, with responses like this, I become increasingly aware of danger of such individuals reading my texts, something I could control in person but not so easily on the internet.

    Are your texts powerful and dangerous in the hands of others, because others will think for themselves and write something you did not think of? Is it the reason you need to “control in person” who is reading your texts? Or do you view your texts as powerful in regard to the flowing effects you assume:

    Sonny, you are no exception, your response is the party-line of the morons. One could only wonder why you are so obsessed with me that feel I have such power, that I can control you mind with my texts? This, I suppose, is one danger of the internet.

    In the above quote you are glorifying yourself in assuming I am obsessed with you and believing myself to be affected by a power of yours. I do not know if you are ironic, but hey! I doubt your texts are that powerful.

    To continue: I think there is more real danger in face to face groups, and the internet is really safe. We do not need any advice from Santideva to avoid this or that. We can rely upon known facts about how small spiritual guru-groups works, and intelligently avoid the tendencies found in for example cults. The internet is the perfect medium for exchange of thoughts. We can easily strip out the tendencies spoken about – they do not gain ground. In fact, at this very moment, anyone is free to speak up against or with anyone.

    If you create a face to face group, there is a danger of developing the “we against the world”-view, typical for cults. Consider that you call the rest of the world morons, and you imply you have the ability to judge who is ready, and you are the one “attempting to ‘open the gates’ to the collective mind of enlightenment.” Your group will be the safe heaven, the collective mind of enlightenment, and it will be separated and secured from the world of the morons and capitalism (safe – you pick those who are ready). Given the things written, I find reasons to doubt, but take your chance to actually address the concerns of others. Continuing calling people morons is not going to do it.

  10. jonckher said

    I didn’t want to post, but I couldn’t resist. I count 29 occurrences of the word moron in this page. I wanted to come in at 30. Just because. Anyway, I concur! Real life is best even if people sometimes smell bad. Also, thanks Tom. It was fun.

  11. wtpepper said

    Sonny, you’re too much. It’s reasonable to assume everyone’s a cult leader, without evidence to the contrary? Okay. My saying that I have not secret knowledge to impart and all my knowledge comes from others must mean that I have secrete knowledge and am being a cult leader by not revealing it? Okay. And I’m somehow oppressing people by choosing who I am interested in having discussions with? Weill, this might be true only if I had some kind of power over others. How does it oppress people, or make them part of my cult, if I refuse to engage with them? Do you understand what the words guru and cult mean? Have you met Jonckher? He is a cult leader of the most powerful kind, and all his knowledge is esoteric–try critiquing him.

    I suppose you might be mentally ill, and not just stupid, Sonny, but either way your reasoning is not much different from much of the criticism I get–somehow, people seem to think I have no right to refuse to listen to people I find tedious and stupid, or even downright evil. This could only be the case if I had some enormous power over others, or some great and wonderful secret only I could impart. I assure you, neither of these is true. If it is, as I suspect, a matter of mental illness, I’m sorry to aggravate your condition, and I hope you get help. I won’t respond to you further, so you can rail away until you run out of steam.

  12. Ok, thanks Tom (#7) for the clarification. I suppose I could have asked you without the medium of personal insult, but there you go. I guess I was trying to hold you to the same standards which you hold to others (e.g. x-buddhist leaders) but undoubtedly other factors were at play. For what its worth: sorry for being a moron (31).

    One thing that perplexed me is what makes the internet substantially different from any form of text – as a writer, a blog is a way of self-publishing your work, and making it freely and widely available. And so giving up on the blog feels like giving up on writing. From your answer, I am finally getting the point that you have a specific goal, and that medium gives you a form of feedback that showed that the goal was not being met in the way you wanted. Still, in terms of a broader perspective it felt like that efforts were productive and not at all futile.

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