Speculative Non-Buddhism

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Review of Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism

Posted by Glenn Wallis on May 24, 2016


Nothing2Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism
. By Marcus Boon, Eric Cazdyn, and Timothy Morton. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.

By James M. Cochran, Baylor University*

Marcus Boon, Eric Cazdyn, and Timothy Morton open Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism claiming that their book is nothing: “So much nothing, so little time. This is a book made of nothings: with a smile and a quizzical frown, let us talk about nothing” (1). Yet, their book is also about something—a lot of “somethings,” often competing and in tension with each other’s something. Boon’s essay, “To Live in a Glass House is a Revolutionary Virtue Par Excellence: Marxism, Buddhism, and the Politics of Nonalignment,” begins the collection, looking at the ideologies and political dimensions of Buddhism. Next, in “Enlightenment, Revolution, Cure: The Problem of Praxis and the Radical Nothingness of the Future,” Cazdyn argues for a reclamation project to save the radical force of Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis. Finally, Morton concludes the collection with “Buddhaphobia: Nothingness and the Fear of Things, an essay examining modernity’s cultural anxiety surrounding Buddhism. While these essays cover three distinct topics, taken together, they represent a serious and significant engagement with critical theory and Buddhism.

Nothing attempts to fill a gap in critical theory, which, in Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton’s accounts, has largely disregarded or ill-treated Buddhism. According to the three authors, contemporary philosophy and theory have witnessed a “Christian turn,” but there has been no equal “Buddhist turns.” Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton admit that they have cannot completely explain the absence of Buddhism in Western critical theory, but they point to two main reasons—at least within the works of Badiou, Žižek, and Agamben. First, Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton claim that “there is a lack of engagement born from the sheer compulsion inherent in Western traditions that makes it difficult for any scholar to realize how entangled in them she is” (12). Second, many contemporary philosophers draw from Hegel’s texts on Buddhism, drawing from “rather sketchy Jesuit reports from Tibet” (12). Recognizing these limitations, the authors attempt to illuminate both the gaps and connections between Buddhism and theory.

Boon’s essay “To Live in a Glass House is a Revolutionary Virtue Par Excellence: Marxism, Buddhism, and the Politics of Nonalignment,” explores the political dimensions or the ideologies of Buddhism. Boon frames his essay by considering the common misperception that Buddhism and Marxism (or critical theory, broadly) are radically opposed: “the world-negating spirituality of the Buddha as ideological obfuscation versus the concrete struggle over material conditions of the Marxist militant on the one hand” (25). Boon recognizes that this binary—of Buddhism as an ideology-free system and Marxism as a radically ideological system—holds true at times, but, as the historically complex uses of Buddhism demonstrates, this binary is far too simplistic.

Boon opens with a consideration of the French theoretical thinker Georges Bataille, who had significant influence on Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy, Achille Mbembe, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, and many others, and, in particular, Boon focuses on Bataille’s relation to Buddhism. Bataille was introduced to yoga and meditation in the late 1930s, and his interest in Buddhism (and other Eastern religions) influenced his notion of “sovereignty,” a concept grounded in nothingness, unknowing, and self-annihilation. Boon reveals how Bataille bases “sovereignty” in Buddhism, believing that monasticism is the “perfect solution” that is “pure expenditure” and “renunciation of expenditure” (Bataille, qtd. in Boon 46). Boon also argues for a reconsideration of the political dimensions of “inner experience” in Buddhism, one that offers a “potential connection between nonalignment and nonviolence in the politics of sovereignty” (57).

To further explore and develop the connection between nonalignment and nonviolence, Boon next turns to the 1945-80 Cold War period of decolonization in India, China, and other places, and he argues that Buddhism, during this period, was starkly partisan. On one hand, Buddhism represented the “residual force of tradition, often transfigured by and adapted to European colonial regimes;” on the other hand, Buddhism was central to the development of anticolonial forces (57). Yet, following World War II, these attempt to develop a Buddhist politics failed because of “military takeovers,” communist attempts to disassemble the feudal or colonial political-economic basis of existing Buddhist societies, and the “fading away of the politics of ‘nonalignment’ as Asian nations integrated themselves into the “global capitalist economy” (60).

Although a Buddhist politics of nonalignment failed to fully emerge, Boon, by reading the works of Gendun Chopel, Gary Snyder, Thomas Merton, and others, imagines the possibility of such a politics of nonalignment. That is, Boon imagines a system that “rejects the alienation of both capitalist and communist materialisms” (73). For Boon, this political system would involve “gift economy, interdependence, the inconceivable,” elements that are, as Boon argues, central to both a Bataillean general economy and the “Buddhist description of the human condition” (74). Thus, Boon situates a Buddhist politics as an alternative vision within the polarized politics of the Cold War.

Boon closes his essay by turning to a discussion of speculative non-Buddhism and the works of Glenn Wallis, Tom Pepper and Matthias Steingass. Boon offers a brief summary of what are, in his view, the two main arguments of speculative non-Buddhism: first, they critique the appropriation of Buddhist techniques and ideologies to resonate with and reinforce “global corporate capitalism,” and, second, they develop speculative non-Buddhism as a model to “think about and practice Buddhism” in contrast to any of the X-Buddhist communities that rely on “irrational obedience to the authority of tradition” (83, 84). Boon critiques Wallis et al. for their lack of “subtlety and…compassion” and for oversimplifying the divide between X- and non-Buddhism (85).

However, Boon admits that the value of speculative non-Buddhism is that it signals the “emerging relationship between Buddhism and the emerging paradigm of cognitive capitalism” (86). In part, the relation between Buddhism and politics is founded in interiority or cognitive activity.

Boon concludes, wondering “What will cause human beings to act differently?” (90). While Boon wrestles with this question throughout his essay, he has no clear solution, but he imagines the possibility of collective Buddhist practice spurring this change and bringing about compassion. Boon advises readers to practice: “But basically what I’m saying is meditate. Do it. Right now” (91). Beyond this advice, Boon suggests we have no simple solutions.

Next comes Cazdyn’s investigation of praxis in Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis in “Enlightenment, Revolution, Cure: The Problem of Praxis and the Radical Nothingness of the Future.” In this essay, Cazdyn compares Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis in an attempt to understand the negotiation of thought and action:

This is also an effort to understand Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis as problematics—as modes of engagement that prioritize the inextricable relation between their distinct forms of thought and action (and non-thought and non- action) on the one hand and the historical situation in which they are situated and generate new problems on the other hand. (113)

By first considering and re-theorizing praxis, defined as the “problem of the relation between theory and practice,” Cazdyn hopes to re-emphasize the radical dimensions of enlightenment, revolution, and cure (106). Specifically, concerning Buddhism, the essay attempts to answer, or at least approach, the question of how one attains enlightenment without desiring it.

After establishing his goals and frameworks, Cazdyn traces the original problem of praxis in the histories and development of Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis. I do not find it necessary to regurgitate Cazdyn’s historical surveys here: it is sufficient to recognize that, first, Cazdyn sees Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis as originating at initial problems of praxis within specific historical situations. Second, Cazdyn argues that the “recentering of the problem of praxis…is always accompanied by a return (sometimes reactionary, sometimes radical) to the original production of praxis in each discourse” (117). Third, drawing from his first two points, Cazdyn asserts that some of the most radical contemporary engagements with Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis are occurring outside of these fields in forms that might not seem to resemble Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis; yet these contemporary engagements are still connected to enlightenment, revolution, and cure.

Toward the end of his essay, Cazdyn turns toward the concept of nothing. In particular Cazdyn is interested in the work of Arata Isozaki because his negotiation of the problem of nothing speaks to the contradiction of “how to think and act for a radical break with our current situation (as individuals and as collectives) without reproducing global capitalism’s dominant ideological assumptions that there is no alternative, only more of the same” (164). According to Cazdyn, Isozaki’s negotiation of this problem is especially significant because it attempts to unite theory and practice.

For Cazdyn, Isozaki’s music hall “Ark Nova,” an impermanent, human heart-like structure that inflates right on top of the rubble of the past, always ready to be relocated and placed on top of the rubble of the future,” demonstrates the negotiation of the problem of nothing (170). “Arc Nova” makes no attempt to stop or withstand future disasters; instead, it imagines the possibility of a future different than our present. According to Cazdyn, “Ark Nova” bespeaks Isozaki’s interest in ma, or space-time. Isozaki’s use of Ma, Cazdyn continues, represents the “repressed on the return—the future that cannot be contained or managed, and always arrives as something that exceeds our present possibilities” (168). As such, ma is a central component of enlightenment, revolution, and cure.

In the first essay, Boon seems to conclude that meditation is—at least—one answer; in the second essay, Cazdyn concludes, “There is no answer. There is praxis” (173). That is, Cazdyn has no answer to the impossible question: “How does one still hold on to the desire for enlightenment, revolution, and cure without this desire turning into a self-satisfied retreat from the world, a sad militancy, a naïve optimism, or a nonsystematic critique of local transgressions and individual symptoms?” (171). “Ark Nova” represents one answer to the problem of praxis but it does not completely revolve it. Ultimately, praxis remains, and, potentially, the paradoxes that praxis reveals reinvigorate the radical component of Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis.

Morton closes the collection with his essay, “Buddhaphobia: Nothingness and the Fear of Things.” Morton’s work on Buddhaphobia clearly grows out of his previous theoretical writings, especially his work on dark ecology, strange strangers, and object-oriented ontology. Anyone familiar with Morton’s previous works will instantly recognize his intricate mesh of philosophical inquiry and clever prose: for example, at the close of his essay, Morton writes, “Or was American wing mirrors say: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. Buddhaphobia is nothing but a fear of subjectivity as such” (252).

Morton’s essay investigates a fear of Buddhism or Buddhaphobia, a modern anxiety concerned with nothingness. For Morton, this nothingness is theoretically complex and would require a few pages of summary, and, or the sake of space, Morton’s nothingness is meontic nothingness, which has a “certain physicality, a physicality whose phenomena I cannot predictably demarcate from its reality in advance” (203). Meontic nothingness is queer and uncanny, speaking to the gap between thing and phenomenon.

Like Boon, Morton also addresses non-Buddhism, a framework that Morton sees as affected by Buddhaphobia. According to Morton, one weakness of non-Buddhism is that it is intellectually dismissive of devotion, or “nonconceptual intimacy of mind with itself,” which is central to many x-Buddhist schools (188). In addition, non-Buddhism rejects mindfulness as “relaxationism,” but Morton disagrees with this argument because “Buddhisms” never claim “calm attention” as a goal; instead, the emphasis is “what one is aware of…impermanence, suffering, emptiness” (188-89). Moreover, many Buddhist texts critique mindfulness so, in this manner, to critique mindfulness is to find oneself deeper within the Buddhist tradition.

The majority of Morton’s essay centers on Western modernity’s fear of Buddhism, consisting of and connected to a “fear of consumerism, fear of narcissism, fear of passivity, fear of loops, [and] fear of things” (213). This phobia is, at its core, a fear of intimacy with the self because what is within one is more than just oneself: “There is an entity in me that is not me…this idea compresses a central tenet of Mahayana Buddhism concerning Buddha nature—it is an entity in me that is more than me” (189).

Morton also attempts to counter Žižek’s (and others’) argument that Buddhism is narcissistic, and Morton does so, precisely by defending narcissism. Critics of Buddhism suggest that it is a religion of the self, concerned only with self-soothing. Yet, Morton responds that this critique is itself narcissistic: “The trouble with trying to step outside of narcissism is the same as the trouble with trying to step outside of language” (223). Morton continues, explaining that the critique of Buddhist as narcissistic stems from a “narcissistic woundedness so painful that it seems better to paint the whole world with its raw colors than examine itself in all its halting lameness” (223). For Morton, narcissism is necessary to relate to others and oneself.

By considering the cultural anxieties around Buddhism and nothingness, Morton suggests that we can recognize the weird encounters between Buddhism and critical theory that have been happening since the mid-eighteenth-century Jesuit accounts of Tibet that informed Hegel. An engagement with Buddhism also means a “meaningful encounter with commodities and consumerism, and thus with those unloved things we call objects” (251). To survive in the postmodern age, Morton concludes, people need a less fearful encounter with nothing and Buddhism.

Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism represents a helpful starting point for spurring critical investigations of theory and Buddhism; yet, in my view, the collection is not without weaknesses. At times, the collected essays seem to meander, as Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton wrestle with the intersections between Buddhism and critical theory. This meandering is likely intentional as the three authors, moving through an array of theoretical and Buddhist works, attempt to answer their research questions, but it is meandering nonetheless and fails to retain a clear development of the argument. Additionally, because one of the work’s central concerns is theory, the work is obviously theory-heavy. The discussion of and dissection of theory is, of course, expected and reasonable, but some more explicit definitions and development of the authors’ theoretical concepts and texts could help keep readers more grounded in Nothing.

Beyond the essays themselves, Nothing includes a brief and helpful glossary of Buddhist terms, prepared by Claire Villareal. Certainly the glossary is not essential to Nothing, but it seems to serve as a significant part of Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton’s mission—that is, to spark a serious engagement with critical theory and Buddhism. The glossary offers a means for those in the philosophy and theory fields to fully digest Nothing as well as grasp basic terms that they can then incorporate into their own critical contemplations. Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton decide not to include a critical theory glossary, “assuming that most readers of this text will already have some familiarity with the critical theory lexicon” (19). As I have mentioned, a critical theory glossary to coincide with Villareal’s glossary might improve Nothing.

Still, as a work that attempt to jump start conversation about Buddhist and critical theory, Nothing succeeds. Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton neither attempt to synthesize their separate arguments nor do they pretend that they have said all there is to say about the intersection of Buddhism and theory. Nothing is certainly not a comprehensive treatment of Buddhism and theory; indeed, Boon, Cazdyn, and Morton announce, “This conversation is not intended to end, but rather to begin the investigation” (20). The three essays succeed through the ways in which the essays, while containing distinct arguments, speak to and interact with each other, especially in approaching the concept of nothing and the relationship between practice and thought. Despite its limitations, Nothing is a worthy attempt to prompt the Buddhist turn” in critical theory.

_______________

 James M. Cochran is a doctoral student in the Religion and Literature Ph.D. program in Baylor’s English department. He teaches in the first-year writing program at Baylor, and his research centers broadly on twentieth-century and contemporary American literature, religion, and culture. He can be found online at Academia.edu or on Twitter.

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Spectral Discourse

Posted by Glenn Wallis on April 18, 2016

spectral discourseWhat follows is a chapter in search of a book. I originally wrote it for an edited volume on meditation and health. I thought that the editor’s idea for the book was very promising. A conference was held in which a group of Buddhist studies scholars, Buddhist practitioners, and a combination of the two, scholar-practicitioners, gave papers offering various perspectives on meditation and health. The idea for the book was to take papers that addressed the same theme but from different perspectives and put them in conversation with one another. Dialogue was central to the project. The title of the book might have been something like Dialogues on Meditation and Health.

The editor was rightfully concerned that such a book would be too strange a hybrid for a publisher. After all, it combined untheorized dogmatic discourse with theoretically sophisticated discourse. How could a book like this, one that addressed at least two seemingly incommensurable audiences, be made to work? My contribution was meant to help in that regard.

It is not surprising that a book like this would fail to come to fruition. It was a long-shot to begin with. The reasons for the failure in this case were complex, having to do with the usual university politics, funder requirements, and professional and personal needs of the participants. But, being a disciple of Freud, I suspect that it failed for other reasons, reasons having to do with the issues I address in my text.

The examples I give stem from the specific nature of the conference. Some of them might seem strange to some readers. It should not be difficult, however, to exchange out these examples with countless other x-buddhist instances.

 

Spectral Discourse

by Glenn Wallis

1. The articles in this volume create a spectrum. A spectrum, recall, is a perceptual field of some sort that is constituted by a shared component, but within which specific values can vary infinitely. Think of the color spectrum. It spans hues from dark, melancholic violets and cool, deep indigos to hot, bright yellows and fiery reds. Notice the plurals. A spectrum is characterized by its gradations of values. But notice, too, the singularity of theme: the common phenomenon we call color. This allows us to speak more figuratively of a spectrum of, say, political views or of the autism spectrum. So, I think spectrum is an apt metaphor for making explicit the fact that the papers in this volume are (1) addressing a single theme, Buddhism, but (2) doing so in a way that reveals different values—sometimes subtly and sometimes quite profoundly different values. A reader of this volume could thus be excused for questioning whether it coheres in any meaningful way. To return to our metaphor, if that reader said that these papers were not on the same wavelength, would he or she be wrong? Read the rest of this entry »

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Notes Towards a Coming Backlash

Posted by Glenn Wallis on March 4, 2016

perdrougge3

Notes Towards a Coming Backlash: Mindfulne$$ as an opiate of the middle classes

By Per Drougge*

The “Western Buddhist” stance is arguably the most effective way for us to fully participate in capitalist dynamics while retaining the appearance of mental sanity. –Slavoj Žižek 2001: 13

This is what we are obliged to posit here: the historical tendency of late capitalism—what we have called the reduction to the gift and the reduction to the body—is in any case unrealizable. Human beings cannot revert to the immediacy of the animal kingdom (assuming indeed the animals enjoy themselves such phenomenological immediacy). –Fredric Jameson 2003: 717

Introduction

An earlier version of this article appeared in a Swedish anthology, Mindfulness: Tradition, tolkning och tillämpning (“Mindfulness: Tradition, Interpretation, and Application”), back in 2014. As it is a kind of “nethnography,” or at least cites numerous online sources, I’d been thinking of posting a hyperlinked version of it on my own website; the web is really a much better medium for this kind of text than a printed book. I never got around to it, however, so I was very pleased when Glenn Wallis suggested I post an English translation on this blog. A man of many talents (and languages), Glenn also made a preliminary translation, to which I’ve added some  corrections and updates.

Just like in the US and many other places, mindfulness has become part of the therapeutic, self-improvement, and management mainstream in Sweden during the past decade. Critical voices have been few and far apart, and my main purpose with these notes was simply to introduce a few critical perspectives to a Swedish audience with the hope of challenging some of the uncritical media hype and hoopla contributing to the mindfulness craze.

For several years, I’ve also been fascinated by how websites, blogs, and discussion boards have opened up for critical discussions, not only of mindfulness but of x-buddhism as a whole. The speculative non-buddhism blogs have probably been the liveliest and most radical ones, but there are many others, most of them operating from within the world of x-buddhism, which have challenged the conspiracies of silence and stultifying dharmic correctness contributing to horrid abuse and an almost phobic aversion to critical thought and self-reflection. I therefore made a point of using mainly texts from blogs and online publications when compiling these “notes towards a backlash.” Most of the material will be familiar to readers of this blog, but hopefully the text can function as a compendium for anyone interested in critiques of the mindfulness cult.

As for the predicted backlash, I guess it’s still too early to decide if it has arrived. Given the faddish nature of the arenas where mindfulness has been most successful, and the incessant demand for new products and services, I suppose that the popularity of mindfulness has reached its peak, however. Around the time this article was first published, the word “backlash” itself suddenly also started to appear in many discussions of mindfulness (For a few examples, see here, here, or here). The important question, of course, is what will come next, how people will respond to whatever fad will replace mindfulness, and to what extent the tools used for a critique of mindfulness will still be applicable.

* * *

I am a social anthropologist with a special interest in the global spread of Buddhist idea(l)s and practices and the formation of so-called Western Buddhism. My forthcoming dissertation deals with something I call the monastic ideal, permeating most lay-oriented, modernist (or x-) Buddhisms, but for the past few years I’ve also had reason to concern myself with secular/therapeutic mindfulness and the rise of a global mindfulness industry. This makes sense; it has been argued that “mindfulness” is the most visible form of Buddhism outside Asia, and one could also see it as an extreme form of modernist Buddhism.

Whether secular/therapeutic mindfulness should be understood as a form of (crypto) Buddhism or something else, is a complex question which has been the subject of some controversy. Many (but far from all) mindfulness practitioners are quick to point out that Read the rest of this entry »

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An Attempt at Something Novelistic

Posted by Glenn Wallis on February 6, 2016

In a new post at Lines of FlightFeatured Image -- 2835, Tom Pepper shares a creative work “that tries to engage the world critically, and to encourage its readers to do so.” It should be clear to most readers of this blog that such an attempt resonates in several regards to the non-buddhism project. Just recall certain ideas that have circulated here: discourses with consequences; the event; the faithful subject; radical immanence; thinking from the One; the stranger subject; the site of struggle; the void of exclusion. See for yourself. And please offer Tom your feedback.

From the opening of the novel:
The Event: Gabe 1
Thursday’s I would meet Sam at the Golden Monkey and we would drink tea and talk about her delusions. No, not that kind of delusions, not the psychotic kind. I mean it in the Buddhist way. Sam had almost no delusions left, which is a scary way to be; much worse than having lots of them; almost as bad as having none at all. I’ll start with that last Thursday meeting, the one that led to all the trouble.

[With Pepper and tea-drinking, you know there’s trouble ahead!
And toward the end:]

You will assume that anyone calling himself a Buddhist is just a kind of new-age dim-bulb at best, a crazy nihilist at worst, and of little interest to you. Most of the time, you’d be right. But I hope you’ll read on…I hope you’ll have fun reading on. I hope you’ll have more fun in life for having read on.

Lines of Flight

Things have slowed down a bit here.  Only three or four visits a day, almost no comments.  So what better time to attempt a somewhat more self-indulgent post?

I’m posting the first section of a draft of a novel I’m working on.  Or, have just about finished and am trying to revise. Or something.  I had asked if anyone wanted to critique my creative work in the way I try to interrogate that of others, but there were no eager volunteers.  Maybe reading it first will raise some questions?

My hope is to offer an example of something that just might do what I have repeatedly asked for examples of. That is, a kind of creative work that tries to engage the world critically, and to encourage its readers to do so.  I have doubts that this is possible. Even more doubts that this particular example can succeed.  But any…

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Tutteji is Back and the Future Looks Bright

Posted by Glenn Wallis on January 31, 2016

TuttejiIs there hope after all? If you are as excited as I am about Tutteji’s re-emergence from his dark night of transintegral metemschizoidseelewanderung in the cosmic markets (or wherever the hell he’s been), then please remember to donate to the Tutteji Gratitude Fund. I hope you’ll all join me in a hearty long live the Wachmeister, master of brainwaves and market fluctuations! God and Ken Wilber know we need him!

tuttejiorg

Over the past couple of years there has been a tremendous outpouring of compassion, concern and curiosity from the Transintegral™ community regarding its founder and main teacher, Tutteji Wachtmeister. As we all know, Tutteji entered a solitary, personal retreat in early 2014, and for the past couple of years the beloved guide, considered by many as “the smartest guru alive” and “the thinking man’s Ken Wilber”, has not given any public teachings.

Until now.

We are incredibly excited to announce that Tutteji Dai Osho is back and has resumed leadership of the Transintegral Zen™ Sangha and the entire Transintegral community. At his side is an extremely talented, vibrant community of newly transmitted Dharma teachers and we can expect a virtual avalanche of updated, fun and profitable teachings right from the frothy frontlines of cutting-edge spiritual evolution.

trixie During a private sesshin in Las Vegas, I decided to give Dharma transmission to…

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Book Review: Realizing Awakened Consciousness: Interviews with Buddhist teachers and a new perspective on the mind

Posted by Glenn Wallis on January 18, 2016

Book cover 1By Matthew Joseph O’Connell

Realizing Awakened Consciousness: Interviews with Buddhist teachers and a new perspective on the mind. By Richard P. Boyle. Columbia University Press, 2015.

In Realizing Awakened Consciousness (RAC), Richard P. Boyle, a retired sociology professor involved with western Buddhism for several decades, interviews 11 western Buddhist teachers and attempts to develop a theory of awakening with a straightforward model for understanding its core characteristics that leaves Buddhist terminology behind. Divided into 17 chapters with the first 11 dedicated to individual interviews with teachers, Boyle draws on his own sociology background and the work of a range of popular academics. The second section, by far the more interesting, develops a theoretical model of awakening, heavily informed by sociological theory, a first as far as I am aware, along with insight and theoretical support from a number of prominent academics including; the neurologist Antonio Damasio, psychologists Alison Gopnik and Daniel Kahneman, the linguist Derek Bickerton, and sociologists Peter Burger, Thomas Luckmann and Anthony Giddens. The book ends with Boyle making suggestions for further research and an acknowledgement of the limitations of his model. What makes Boyle’s work stand out from the usual x-Buddhist fare is his understanding and elaboration of social reality and the social self, which moves discussion away from an overtly individualised model of the self and the usual droll discourse of the ego as the source of all evil. In this regard, there is a potential link to the work of Mr Tom Pepper at Speculative Non-Buddhism (SNB) and his own site The Faithful Buddhist, whose ongoing and laboured critique of ideology and ideological blindness amongst Buddhists (and pretty much everybody else) has proven so enlightening. Secondly, Boyle eschews a model of awakening based on the superman and constructs his model in alignment with theories proposed by the academics above. Will it be yet another celebration of the sufficiency of Buddhism? Will it talk of the ineffable, perfect goal of perfect awakening? Let’s find out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Book and podcast reviews?

Posted by Glenn Wallis on October 31, 2015

HalloweenIs anyone interested in writing book reviews for this site? The new publications below have come to my attention recently. Maybe you have other suggestions? If you are interested, either email me at gw@glennwallis.com or leave a comment in the usual spot. Here are the books and podcast I have in mind, including their press descriptions and my two cents (links are at the very end):

  • Marcus Boon, Eric Cazdyn, and Timothy Morton, Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2105).

Though contemporary European philosophy and critical theory have long had a robust engagement with Christianity, there has been no similar engagement with Buddhism—a surprising lack, given Buddhism’s global reach and obvious affinities with much of Continental philosophy. This volume fills that gap, focusing on “nothing”—essential to Buddhism, of course, but also a key concept in critical theory from Hegel and Marx through deconstruction, queer theory, and contemporary speculative philosophy. Through an elaboration of emptiness in both critical and Buddhist traditions; an examination of the problem of praxis in Buddhism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis; and an explication of a “Buddhaphobia” that is rooted in modern anxieties about nothingness, Nothing opens up new spaces in which the radical cores of Buddhism and critical theory are renewed and revealed.

This book includes some discussion of the speculative non-buddhism project, both favorably and critically. In bringing “contemporary European philosophy and critical theory” into the discussion, it also attempts something like a feast of knowledge. One interesting point of difference between Boon, et al. and what they term “Wallis et al.” is that the term Buddhaphobia appears in contrast to our (or maybe just my) very early term buddhaphilia. The former is Timothy Morton’s invention. It “overlap[s] with those [coordinates] of homophobia: a fear of intimacy, a fear of ambiguity, a fear of inwardness and introversion, a fear of theory rather than praxis” (187). The latter refers to westerners celebratory Romantic embrace of all things buddhist, particularly of those very “coordinates” that Morton sees as pointing to Buddhaphobia! Read the rest of this entry »

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Lines of Flight 2

Posted by Glenn Wallis on September 18, 2015

mod-st8Just a quick message to let subscribers know that Tom Pepper and I are going to relaunch Lines of Flight. Readers of Speculative Non-Buddhism will recognize many of the themes there, although they are in wrapped in quite different garb.

Stay tuned for a fuller description at the blog. In the meantime, maybe you’ll want to check out the new piece with Curt Dilger.

–Glenn Wallis

 

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Archived

Posted by Glenn Wallis on November 29, 2014

EndlicherI am archiving this blog.

Thanks for your interest in our project.

Glenn Wallis


Image: Michael Endlicher.

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Organizational Notes #34

Posted by Glenn Wallis on November 24, 2014

fatigueWho can still doubt that the logic of contemporary western x-buddhism is a redoubling of the logic of western neoliberal capitalism? On one hand, this should not be surprising. For, everywhere it goes, x-buddhism conforms to the dominant ideology of its host. On the other hand, it should be outright revolting. For, everywhere it goes, x-buddhism carries with it seeds for the destruction of that dominant ideology. Which way it pivots depends on the organizations that are built to house it. These organizations conceive of the subject and fashion the person who then replicates their values. The organizations of western x-buddhism, so far, have opted for the conservative status quo role. In doing so, they function as enablers of the social-economic turmoil, the effects of which their conformist practices are, so they tell us, designed to cancel out.

To claim that the current x-buddhist situation is simply “what it is,” and that nothing can be done about it, would, of course, just be adopting a cynical neoliberal position. Repudiating this stance, we can ask questions like: under what conditions might a militant thought-practice develop? Asked another way: given the intimate group nature of x-buddhist practice–people gathered in snug settings, even private living rooms–for practice and edification; given concepts such as radical interdependency,  social-symbolic selfhood, and void; given the roots of the teachings in an urgent and outspoken disavowal of a repressive social formation, why are western x-buddhists such politically harmless creatures? Maybe it’s the organic food. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Constructivists | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

 
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