Speculative non-buddhism is way of thinking and seeing that takes as its raw material x-buddhism. It is a thought-experiment that poses the question: shorn of its transcendental representations, what might x-buddhism offer us?
Matthias Steingass’s last essay on the prospects of a reconfigured “meditation” (or, perhaps, non-meditation?), exemplifies both the spirit and method of this theoretical aim. His subject, “meditation,” is, moreover, one of the three central, and recurring, recipients of speculative non-buddhist analysis.
Tom Pepper, in the current essay, “Naturalizing Buddhism Without Being Reductive,” continues a discussion on the second recurring concern of non-buddhist analysis: ideology. In short, he asks: if, as it seems, we are ideological creatures by nature, might we still be creatures that are capable of gaining conscious awareness of our ideologies? And if that is the case, might certain reconfigured forms of x-buddhism offer us methods with which we can do so?
It may be that such reconfigured x-buddhist postulates are unrecognizable to traditional practitioners. But, if this small act of destruction enables us to produce more effective ideologies and—who knows—a better world, surely no one will object, will they?
Please note Tom’s questions at the end of the essay: “Is this coherent? Where are the obscurities, aporias, and just plain conceptual blunders? Does there seem any possibility of such a practice ever existing?” (Glenn Wallis)
Naturalizing Buddhism Without Being Reductive
a radical, and ridiculously arrogant, reinvention of Buddhist thought
It’s almost a commonplace in academic thought that it is impossible to accept all of the core teachings of Buddhism without accepting contradiction. We cannot, it is assumed, take seriously both the teaching of non-self, and belief in rebirth; either one, taken to its logical conclusion, would necessarily preclude the other. What I am going to present here is a redefinition of the core terms of Buddhism which allows all of them to be accepted without requiring any contradiction, without the need to choose which concepts to accept and which to reject, and without any hidden acceptance of a world-transcendent atman.
I am writing this to ask for criticism, to ask for any response that can point out errors or blind spots. That said, I am going to insist on a few provisos. First, I am not willing to engage with disagreements which depend on the insistence that there is in fact an atman, soul, or world-transcendent consciousness; I will offer, here, no argument against such beliefs and do not expect to persuade anyone out of these beliefs with this essay. Second, I am not willing to engage the debate the I use too many hard words or ask to much mental effort of my audience; I intend, in this essay, to be fairly accessible and clear, but if you don’t know the meanings of the terms I use go look them up. Finally, I am especially not interested, for reasons that I hope I will be able to make clear, in any citations from specific sutras which contradict my reconstrual of terms; my interest is not in the academic attempt to determine how exactly a term was used, or what exactly a concept meant, to a particular school of Buddhism at a particular time. I think this is an incredibly valuable kind of work to do, but it is not what I am doing here; instead, I am trying to construct a possible construal of Buddhist concepts which would allow them all to cohere, and allow them to be of use for us today. Read the rest of this entry »