As an attempt at “doing something with non-buddhism,” I want to consider an email I received the other day from The Buddhist Peace Fellowship—a post in Turning Wheel Media entitled “Changing Positions: An Exchange on Buddhist Practice and Psychological Decolonization” (links at bottom). Since the Buddhist Peace Fellowship is dedicated to “engaged Buddhism,” and particularly, recently, to a consideration of what is wrong with the system of capitalism (“However we define ‘The System,’ we are it and it is us — there is no separation”), I was momentarily hopeful about this post. Of course, one participant in the exchange is Josh Korda, a publicity hound who spouts popular catch-phrases from discourses he doesn’t understand, and resorts to childish tantrums and name-calling immediately when questioned; but the other participant is Joshua Stephens, an anarchist anti-capitalist who, although he can’t list as many celebrity teachers he’s “studied with” as Korda can, is much better read and a more critical thinker. Applying non-buddhism to this “discussion,” what do we find?
Unfortunately, exactly the same x-buddhist decisional structure we might find in Alan Wallace or Pema Chodron or any other of the reactionary x-buddhist celebrities. Stephens tries to introduce the concept of decolonization, and the thought of Jacques Ranciere and Audre Lorde, and what is Korda’s response? The principle of sufficient Buddhism: although he admits he knows nothing of Ranciere, Korda is confident that it is the same as “The Buddha’s instructions for ‘Metta/Goodwill’ practice;” and Lorde’s “concept of the ‘erotic’ is very similar to the Buddha’s teaching on the bliss and joy experienced in spiritual practice.”
Although he is quick to offer some absurd pseudo-scientific claims about the amygdala and the evolutionary determination of greed and competition, combined with some silly postmodern nonsense about absolute relativism and the impossibility of ever having correct knowledge, these reactionary discourses are immediately overwhelmed by the most reactionary discourse of all: the x-buddhist decision I call the atman-that-is-not-one. We have no self, so we don’t need to do anything in the world, but we have a “true” and undetermined consciousness, and Buddhist practice is designed to free it from the stains of the fallen world: Buddhism is absolute Cartesian dualism, and the privileging of inaction over action: inactivity, passivity, comfort is the positive pole in this binary, and action in the world, effort, living, is the negative pole.
The “decisional structure” at work here is sadly predictable. Read the rest of this entry »