Non-buddhism is instrumental. It’s a whetstone for chisels, a forge for hammers. Its tools are meant, as Glenn recently put it, to
deflate, flatten, and simplify the object of the application: x-buddhism. Then, you can place x-buddhism’s raw material next to mute reality. You can also democratize totalitarian x-buddhist material by putting it in dialogue with local knowledges. It is in enabling such acts of decommissioning that non-buddhism is a radical practice, “radical” meaning rendering some x-material minimally transcendental.
The aim is to “decommission” some religious material, to uncook a bit what’s been cooked up, and give us a peek at the x-meat when it’s still raw. This rawness becomes visible to the degree that the material has been rendered “minimally transcendental.” Such uncooking, Glenn suggests, can be accomplished just by bringing religious material into unprotected dialogue with other kinds of local knowledge.
Take the idea of “enlightenment.”
One straightforward way to render the notion of “enlightenment” minimally transcendental would be to assume the (not unlikely) hypothesis that “enlightenment” is, medically speaking, a pathology, a sickness, a defect, an accidental side effect of a bug in the human system.
If enlightenment is a kind of weird, local, peripheral pathology of my already strained humanity rather than the summum bonum toward which all reality bends, then . . . what?
That’s the non-buddhist question: then . . . what?
In her book, My Stroke of Insight, Harvard-trained neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor describes what it was like, from the inside out, to suffer a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain.
It turns out that, on Taylor’s own account, this kind of massive physiological trauma looks like “enlightenment.” Read the rest of this entry »