Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

On Saying “Fuck” Occasionally

Posted by Glenn Wallis on June 1, 2011

Camelia Elias

My project at this blog is to encourage creative criticism of Buddhist material. One assumption of mine, of course, is that to engage in truly creative criticism, it is necessary to form a relationship with Buddhist material such that it is no longer “Buddhist material:” it is simply yet another colorless bulk in the heap of human possibilities. It is thus as mere bulk that “Buddhism” gains admittance to the history of ideas. That is to say, it gains admittance as a commoner, as a mere sop of us hoi polloi, akin to drinking beer or planting pansies in the summertime. It precisely does not gain admittance–as it and its custodians would have it–as a high and mighty ens sacra. Now, to deny a sacred entity its precious status is, of course, the very definition of blasphemy. So, apparently, creative criticism is a form of blasphemy, whereby certain acts–conceptual and affective in nature–are performed that are unthinkable to the devout. In the pages (upper bar), posts, and comments of this blog , I articulate some of the acts that I feel are necessary in order to commence the kind of creative reordering that I imagine.

At a minimum, I think that what I call aporetic inquiry is necessary. Let’s say that you are interested in engaging in aporetic inquiry. How might that work? The process goes something like this. Contentedly ensconced within Buddhism’s thaumaturgical refuge, you find yourself soothed by tradition’s self-proclaimed “compassionate” charism. A sufficient apprenticeship with an attitude of appreciative acceptance is a necessary precondition for the work I have in mind. But, for whatever reasons, at some point you discover within yourself a dissonant ring. On examination, you hear this ring as the resonance of a complex of disturbing emotions and thoughts: perplexity, puzzlement, confusion, disappointment, and loss. You discover, to your surprise, that Buddhism leaves much to be desired. It postures as the giver of solutions, as the harbinger of peace. It may answer many questions, but, you are beginning to realize, it all too often does so in a facile and hasty manner. It even encourages superstitious belief and new forms of neurotic attachment. And in the meantime, it is creating many questions which it seems impotent to answer. What will you do? Having found yourself incidentally and unexpectedly exiled from the pure dispensation, you may, of course, abandon the project altogether and wander on your way. Another possibility: you engage the bewildering aporias that have opened before your unsuspecting mind.

As both an example of, and spur to, creative criticism, in this post I present an interview with Camelia Elias. Elias is, among other things (links at the end of the post), the founder of EyeCorner Press, “an independent publisher devoted to printing a host of difficult-to-classify writings, including creative academic writing, and poetic fragments and aphorisms,” as the interviewer states in the Biblioklept article. Elias’s comments illuminate openings toward new horizons in writing about Buddhism today. She inspires the clearing of new ground. Elias says, for instance, that EyeCorner Press “came into being as an act of anarchism, if you like, a form of resistance against the idea that academic work must be measured not only against its own standard, but also against the standard that idiotic governments sets for measuring, and hence controlling, intelligence, creativity, and freedom.”

Who sets the standard for writing about Buddhism today? I would say that there are three culprits: academic institutions; mass market publishers, such as Wisdom Publications, Parallax Press, Snow Lion Publications, Shambhala Publications,  and Windhorse; and the big three glossy magazines, Buddhadharma, Tricycle, and Shambhala Sun. I will present a thorough critique of these standard bearers/gate keepers in the future. For now, I will just offer the view that the writing performed under their aegis is, by turns, myopic and irrelevant (academic); derivative and conformist (the publishers); and anemic and Pollyannish (the magazines). My main criticism, though, is that Buddhist writing of all varieties is just so damn boring. It borders on cant. The same lame tropes over and over again, the same vacuous idioms, the endless platitudes, the be-happy! bullshit at every turn of the page.

Do you want to help change this situation? Yes? I know of no better advice for kicking out the jams than this from Camelia Elias: “then make sure that you won’t be afraid to say ‘fuck’  a few times, provoke the establishment, or show what an idiotic idea the idea that the democratization of writing means adopting a non-offensive stance is.”

A delectable excerpt before you go to the original post at Biblioklept.

So, perhaps, if we should watch over anything, then, it should be over how to keep the road clear of ‘purity.’ We need to make sure that the erroneous way to knowledge will not be blocked, for it has great potential for the ways in which we think of creative strategies as alternative approaches to all things high and mighty. Shouting Eureka in the ditch of error can often prove to be more valuable than when it is done on top of the mountain of truth. Its value resides in the idea of approach over and above the idea of solution. I find the idea of providing solutions to all things, life and love alike, as thoroughly tedious. What we promote at EyeCorner Press is going through the sewage and seeing sublime light at the end of it. Our intellectual integrity is defined along the philosophy of play, a ludic form of anarchism and fearlessness. We learn more when we don’t issue ultimate and final injunctions against ourselves, sabotaging the very creative spark in the process. Hence, we don’t take ourselves seriously, we don’t presume to change the world, and we are not impressed. The only thing that impresses us is a creative approach, not a solution. The premise for this statement is based on the words of the Ecclesiastes: “this too shall pass.”

Pretty fucking Buddhist, huh?

To read on, please visit my new favorite site Biblioklept.

Camelia Elias’s blog, FRAG/MENTS
EyeCorner Press

19 Responses to “On Saying “Fuck” Occasionally”

  1. Thanks Glenn,

    I too think we need more frank conversations about the tradition. The pop psychology in the magazines feels a bit vacuous, a generator for those needing to make a living running self-help Dharma workshops. The academic world is often dry, but then we have someone like Gregory Schopen stirring things up.

    Looking for these diamonds in the rough is enjoyable for me, as it was to find your site. Let’s keep asking questions, and re-defining the Buddhist experience. More later….

  2. Here’s my take:

    Buddhism in the West now has a foothold. Initially it wasn’t able to withstand a lot of questioning from the faithful, because the first job was to rally around and carve out a place for it in our culture. We are past that stage and I believe we are heading into an era of intense scrutiny. As secularists and eager deconstructionists we are gleefully sharpening our knives and ready to operate on the patient. We do this with one hand on the knife, and one hand on our heart, for we don’t won’t to end up with a corpse. We love this tradition and we want to make it ours in the deepest way possible. It is a mission of compassion, to fashion it into something battle hardened that can stand up to inspection in future years. If we don’t go through this process, it will end up in a backwater and be useless to anyone other than a navel gazer.

    We are seeing the end of the primacy of the guru-disciple relationship, and various Tibetan teachers are squirming, pissed that the old ways are being called into question, and basically not working anymore. How did we ever think that a baroque medieval Buddhism would be able to graft itself onto our culture without huge adjustments? There is and will be a lot of shedding in the years to come. There will be some to keep, but much to dispose. We are in a new axial age, and the forms we are creating will not simply arise from a smoothing out via an east-west dialogue. Some parts of the baby may go the way of the bathwater.

    In a way, it’s not even Buddhism we may end up with. We are beginning a tumultuous time of thrashing and burning in order to find the jewels left in the ashes. With these jewels we can build again. Mainly, I think this is getting back to the core, simple teachings, unencumbered by all the accretions built up over the centuries. Though schooled in the Tibetan tradition, I now find myself stripping much away, realizing that a lot of it is window dressing, though it is indeed aesthetically and scholastically pleasing at times.

    What I desire is a more direct route to the heart. I like to read and to write and to have discourse, but mostly I like to wander around in spaces that I feel are sacred. These spaces are interior mental spaces, as well as physical outdoor places. My bias is toward receiving teachings from the environment. When we are in an uplifted natural or spiritual setting, we get the download.

    The last few years my emphasis has been in creating sacred environments for people to have an experience with, something that doesn’t come with words. This is lacking in the West. We are all about talking – comparing and contrasting, agreeing and disagreeing. Garbage in, garbage out. At the end of the day we are exhausted, victims of the excesses of our rational mind.

    My building of stupas and the resulting temples spaces, coupled with my time in Asia amongst these forms has led me to an immense satisfaction. I believe we need these forms now in the West, as a self-empowering teaching tool. We need to feel, not to intellectualize. Most discourse is just chasing one’s tail. This emphasis on creating sacred environments is a welcome diversion from the self-help circuit of today’s western Buddhism.

    What we really want is to have experience, to feel sacredness, to know we are connected to something divine, something outside ourselves. We just want to get there. The methodology doesn’t really matter. This is the part of the tradition that needs pruning, to get rid of the deadwood.

    So, my little tirade is about wanting to shift the focus to creating sacred space for people to enter. Fuck all the talking, let’s get building and let people encounter their own divinity instead of packaging a message that we can sell to them. To do this, go to Asia and traipse around the temples and pick up on the vibe. Have a swoon. Make love with the mystery, the transcendent aspect of the Buddhadharma we all love. Then come back home and look around at how we can plant this here in the West. We need to create these settings to keep up our inspiration. God knows it is easy to lose heart in this fucking materialist culture. We need places of refuge apart from this madness. Learn from the best of the Asian Buddhist form and build anew here.

    To follow this thread you can see what I’ve been trying to put in practice and record through my web site and blog:

    http://www.dharmasanctuary.org/my-blog/

  3. Glenn Wallis said

    Dear Andrew,

    Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate not only your perspective on the issue, but the passionate and heartfelt manner in which you expressed it. And you managed to say “fuck” a couple of times, too!

    I’ll say more later (have to run now) but I wanted to say two things quickly. First, I wonder if the work of Peter Zumthor might represent an opening for the relationship between feeling and space of which you speak.

    Zumthor writes, for instance:

    “To me, buildings can have a beautiful silence that I associate with attributes such as composure, self-evidence, durability, presence, and integrity, and with warmth and sensuousness as well; a building that is being itself, being a building, not representing anything, just being.” And:

    “The sense that I try to instil into materials is beyond all rules of composition, and their tangibility, smell, and acoustic qualities are merely elements of the language we are obliged to use. Sense emerges when I succeed in bringing out the specific meanings of certain materials in my buildings, meanings that can only be perceived in just this way in this one building.”(in Thinking Architecture: http://www.arcspace.com/books/zumthor).

    My second point is that I wonder about the possibilities that get lost when you/we assume modalities such as “the sacred,” and some sort of special something like a “vibe” or an Asian mystery, and so on. I think that the creative work requires language that is, in the first instance, close to the bone, close to an unadorned humanity. Then, we can begin to add whatever seems necessary. From my experience–and I dare to say, from Zumthor’s experience–it turns out that little, virtually nothing, in fact, beyond the unadorned givens of human being is required to realize beauty, power, and wonder. What would be lost in formulating your views (and I am basing this question on my perusal of you lovely blog) in utterly naturalistic language and imagery?

    One more thing: as someone who derives satisfaction and insight from both feeling and thinking, I ask whether we really need to privilege the former over the latter?

    More later. Thanks again, Andrew.

  4. Brad said

    Andrew,

    Divinity? Transcendent? What the fuck are you talking about? 😉

    I don’t know, I for one am leaning more in the direction of going deeper into “materialism” — not the consumerism and faux materialism of Wall Street and Hollywood, but the natural wonder at the material world: my flesh, my senses, the natural world. It seems you may agree? I love the idea of sacred space. Yes, but let us not fetishize it.

    To expand on your analogy Andrew: the patient is already dead and the best that can be done is make whatever good we can with the organs by giving them to the living: to the secularists, materialists, nihilists, existentialists, poets, sensualists, humanists, rebels, etc. In the meantime we may have to employ the hyphenated labels so as not to shock the onlookers and maybe gain a few converts: so there is “secular Buddhism” for instance. Ultimately, though, we’re on our own. We’re in a second axial age and who knows where the chips will fall.

    Loving this blog immensely.

    Brad

  5. Divinity, transcendence, sacredness- sweet words indicative of something beyond ourselves. I suppose it’s all made up, this otherness. It’s a hook that works for me, but who the fuck knows what Divinity really encompasses. Perhaps it is just my emphasis on the feeling tone, rather than a specific…..a bit of a romantic over here on my tropical isle.

    I like the idea of fetishizing sacred space, dressing it up, putting out streaming garlands and such, as long as we don’t concretize it. The natural wonder of the world is the ticket, so is inspired architecture – anything that sends a tingle down our spine and wakes us up.

    I don’t think the patient is already dead. We are cutting off body parts, but it remains to be seen whether the core will survive and grow new limbs.

    Andrew

  6. Thanks for the lead on Zumthor, Glenn. It seems he’s good with just the pure expression of the building and doesn’t need to make any associations to give it added meaning. That’s a sparse approach, but it works for him. I can relate. Building a structure that doesn’t represent anything, at least in regards to its commercial, utilitarian function is a great conundrum for many. Stupas are just that, but have the added abstraction of the Buddha’s mind representation. This is what we need, separating materialism from commercialism so we can just relate to form. Then you have the gob smacking huge stupa bearing down on you, reducing you to awe at how it got there, and loving every minute of your brush with sacredness (I recently came back from Burma).

    I’m not sure we’re losing out with having a vibe, or the feeling of sacredness, or other Asian mystery associations. Perhaps it’s not precise language and takes us down an old road of excessive embellishments, but I think many people need these hooks.

    Of course this comes from a guy who’s a bit of a romantic and uses a word like swoon.

    The feeling thing is a good antidote to the arm chair philosophizing we all do. Thinking is overrated. It’s what we do, and understandably for many of us it’s the part we’re better at and enjoy the most. For my part, I’m working on the heart opening aspect, the visceral contact with stuff (quite an imprecise term) that makes you feel connected in and joyous (getting romantic).

    Andrew

  7. Jayarava said

    “My main criticism, though, is that Buddhist writing of all varieties is just so damn boring. It borders on cant. The same lame tropes over and over again, the same vacuous idioms, the endless platitudes, the be-happy! bullshit at every turn of the page.”

    Funny. This is my main criticism of most Buddhist writing as well, though I would extend it to Buddhist writing throughout history. I sometimes think of what I do as panning for gold – have you ever seen it done? There are still places back home where you can see demonstrations. It involves a lot of patience and skill, washing the sand over and over. The heavy gold tends to go to the bottom and you just repeatedly rinse off the top layers until there’s more gold than sand.

    Perhaps you ought to start a list of writing you admire, and comment on why?

    I think I can honestly say that every time I have set out to provoke someone I have regretted it. I’d like to think that just occasionally I might cause someone to think think again, or move them in some way. I don’t respond well to provocation from others either. I don’t usually use ‘fuck’ in my writing, as I see the situation as somewhat formal – and I’m mostly talking to strangers. Also I don’t want the reader to just be reacting to one word, when usually some of the other 1000-2000 words are much more important to my efforts to communicate. But I do swear in daily life. The question I ask myself when writing is “who is my audience, what am I trying to say to them, and what medium am I using?” And funnily enough my audience is usually me and strangers.

  8. Tobes said

    It is, it is boring: Buddhism is not really a great literary tradition. Its philosophical language is terse and deconstructive. Language itself is usually seen at best as a useful tool to be abandoned. There is very little humour and play, never any aesthetic flourish, always a deadpan seriousness. That’s within the canon. I suppose you have poetry written by sages – such as the songs of Milarepa…..but it’s so soteriologically directed; normative and prescriptive moral language. I’m not sure I’ve found any text within the canon which I love, on a sentimental or aesthetic level. Brilliant ideas: boringly expressed.

    Within academia: the obsession with the text, with the canon, with philology, with hermeneutics produces good scholarship, but very little genuine thinking. The fidelity to orthodoxy and tradition is way too strong. Not critical enough, not creative enough, no where near interesting enough…..it should be a fascinating minefield of ideas and contestation.

    As for those publications: they come across as well intentioned but very naive, and always incredibly superficial.

  9. Rangdrol said

    “[A]cademic institutions; mass market publishers, such as Wisdom Publications, Parallax Press, Snow Lion Publications, Shambhala Publications, and Windhorse; and the big three glossy magazines, Buddhadharma, Tricycle, and Shambhala Sun” set “the standard for writing about Buddhism today?” What an incredibly ethnocentric statement! Don’t you know that the majority of the world’s Buddhists are unaware that any of this purported trifecta sets a standard for Buddhist writing?

    Also, I can’t identify anything especially Buddhist about the blockquote above, aside from the acknowledgement of transience, but it does smack of something like po-mo.

  10. Glenn Wallis said

    Hi Rangdrol,

    You make a good point. This blog is indeed ethnocentric, as you say. My concern is western Buddhism, or, if you prefer, Buddhism in the West. The “trifecta” that I mention does include work by “the world’s Buddhists.” But I have a hunch that you have in mind people other than the “westernized” teachers from Tibet, Japan, China, Thailand, and all the rest of Asia. It’s an interesting topic, this East-West divide in Buddhist writing and teaching. If a teacher from, say, Vietnam, writes in English, is he creating a “western” text? I once heard a talk by a renowned Tibetologist in Germany who claimed–and, if you ask me, proved–that the Dalai Lama presents two irreconcilable versions of Buddhism. When he is speaking to a Tibetan audience, the scholar argued, the Dalai Lama endorses an archaic cosmology, an animated natural world, spirits, magical utterance, a strong version of re-birth, and so on. When he speaks to a western audience, the Dalai Lama endorses values stemming from the eighteenth-century western Enlightenment, such as the primacy of reason, evidence-based claims, the superiority of scientific method over archaic systems, a weak version of re-birth. So, the issue that you bring up in your comment is one that requires careful investigation and research. Whether Buddhists like it or not, their tradition is terribly fragmented. really, the moniker “Buddhism” makes little sense. We need, perhaps, more nuanced terminology to capture the radical differences that all of the schools reflect.

    I don’t see anything pornographic in the block quote. Difference makes the world go ’round, I guess.

    Thank you for you comment, Rangdrol. Peace.

  11. Rangdrol said

    Not porno, po-mo… postmodernism. Ha!

    As for the Dalai Lama, I don’t think he’s imported any foreign, Enlightenment-era ideals. There is definitely a strong skeptical/critical strain in Tibetan scholasticism, especially HHDL’s Gelug school. And there’s tension between this current, which you might even call rationalistic, and the more magical side of Tibetan Buddhism–that could include both tantra and pre-Buddhist, animistic elements. AFAIK, however, His Holiness doesn’t ever endorse a worldview that excludes karma and rebirth, not even when talking to Westerners.

    As for myself, I have no problem embracing the freaky, magical side of Buddhism. I know a lot of Westerners have hang-ups about this, however. I think they’re missing something with their excessive rationalism, but I’m not here to win converts to my way of thinking. But I do think it’s problematic that Westerners come to Buddhism with so many preconceptions that they end up trying to reform the tradition without ever letting the tradition work on them. This game is supposed to be transformative; that means loosening your cognitive sphincter a bit. The whole of Buddhist thought hangs together as a unit, I think. If you take out some of the elements that are sticking points from a materialist point of view, you end up with a kind of pop-psych Buddhism lite. That shit bores me, too.

    I don’t have a firm idea of what Asian teachers are telling their Western audiences. I suspect it runs the gamut from hard-line traditionalist to traditional ideas repackaged in more modern language to teachings that are arguably not even Buddhist anymore. Still, the idea that these Inji publications speak for Buddhism rankles me, because there are so many Westerners out there are who writing about Buddhism without any knowledge of it.

  12. Tobes said

    I totally agree with Rangdrol’s basic point – but it also goes back the other way:

    Once there is a claim for “the real, authentic Buddhism” it must necessarily be geographically and culturally anchored where its history and culture has been manifest. The real authentic teachers must be from there. The real knowledge must come from there.

    This move implicitly, and often explicitly denigrates the west, usually with very reductive assertions about an overarching materialism and excessive rationalism (never defined – are we talking about Aristotelian sophia here? Kantian practical reason? Weberian instrumental rationality?)……

    But ‘the west’ is not so easily defined or understood. Western practitioners are as varied and multiplicitous as each human mind naturally is. So the move of framing ‘the west’ from the perspective of ‘traditional Asian Buddhism’ is bogus as well. I notice a lot of Tibetan teachers tend to frame things in that way. What’s happening in the convergence is far more complex and interesting than that.

  13. BenA said

    Regarding Westerners “coming to Buddhism”: my sense is that more and more Westerners are finding things of interest in the Buddhist tradition without meaning to “come to Buddhism” at all. I suppose it is an interesting question what we call the set of practices that arises out of this encounter–secular Buddhism, speculative non-Buddhism, what have you. But my understanding is that the very category of “Buddhism” is, in many ways, a Western one. Speaking only for myself, if I can learn something from Buddhist thought and practice, I care much less whether or not it merits the title “Buddhism.” If a particular version of pop-psych Buddhism lite is inadequate as a way of living in the world, it seems to me that it should be criticized on its own merits and demerits, rather than in relation to some hypostatized vision of “tradition.”

  14. Glenn Wallis said

    Hi Jayarava. Nice to hear from you. About all the boring Buddhist writing throughout history, I wonder if we should just start creating some new, more exciting literature. I suppose that some of the books that have been written in the 20th and 21st centuries in the West – you know the “classics”– will be read a couple of hundred years from now. The problem is, those classics are nearly as boring as the ancient and medieval literature. Who in the Buddhist world will shake things up a bit? I get the impression that people such as Brad Warner and Noah Levine and a few others have it in mind to vary the nature of Buddhist discourse in the West; but they all read to me he as coming from the same old mold. I have been experimenting with some Buddhist writing. But, as I’m making clear on this blog, this writing is so removed from what I call Buddhism’s vallation that it is best described as non-Buddhist (though not not-Buddhist). I think one of my concerns with this project here is to find a way to revitalize what I have come to see as the dying and deadening form known as “Buddhism.” Having tired of flimsy metals, perhaps, I, too, am panning for gold.

    I hope you won’t give up on your efforts to provoke your readers. One of the posts in my queue involves the value of polemics in keeping a tradition vital and fresh. It is written by a Catholic thinker, but has much to offer contemporary Buddhist thinkers. I will post that one soon. I imagine that Camelia Elias’s recommendation to write for oneself plus, maybe, one or two interested readers, comes from hard earned experience. Maybe you can take her advice to heart. I myself am content these days to release my ideas into the wild and let them blow with the wind. And I no longer see the value in being so damn careful.

    Peace to you, my friend.

  15. Seth said

    I remember once being quite aghast at hearing Martin Aylward, an insight meditation teacher, using the f-word in a dharma talk, which only served to highlight the religiose criteria pertaining to dharma-talk-decorum that I clearly must carry around with me in my head.

    I also once criticised (on a feedback form) an MBCT course leader for peppering her semi-dharma spiel with the odd swear word. I think she was trying to “keep it real” and that somehow grated. (Although I wonder now if this had more to do with the fact that English wasn’t her mother tongue, and so the “fuck” and “shit” sat somewhat awkwardly in her sentences, like kitsch ornaments.)

    Can I just say though, being a relatively newcomer to your writing that it has a level of heft and brio that I very much admire. It’s a bit like discovering that John Updike was writing a blog about Buddhism. Most excellent.

  16. Glenn Wallis said

    John Updike! I’ll take that, indeed! What a funny image: a foreign MBCT instructor unknowingly grating on her pious listeners with intermittent “fucks” and ‘shits”! Hilarious! And, yet another phrase/image for my future blogdada poetry: those nasty words sitting “somewhat awkwardly in her sentences, like kitsch ornaments.” Beautiful!

    I mentioned somewhere else in the comments that I’m intentionally writing in a somewhat, shall I say, energy-laden manner. That decision is, in part, in reaction to the puerile writing that I encounter in Buddhist books and magazines.

    Thanks again for joining us, Seth. Peace to you.

  17. Jamie said

    To your words “I care much less whether or not it merits the title “Buddhism.” Mwaha! This is precisely why I like to carry the title of Buddhism even when others disagree. In fact I like to informally label things Buddhism even if the higher ups disagree. Maybe it’s because I’m immature and I like to rebel. But, I only like rebelling when someone gives an ultimatum. If someone claims that right speech means Buddhists should refrain from swearing, I just itch to reply “I’m a fucking Buddhist!” Whenever someone wants to debate posture for meditation/proper forms of meditation, I point out that meditation isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. That plenty of people neurotically meditate for many hours a day and are still just as human as the rest of us. I even dare to imply that someone can be wise, self-aware, and compassionate… and never meditate a day in their life. Inevitably someone responds “That’s all very well and true. Quite possible to possess such characteristics without meditation, but I wouldn’t call it Buddhism”. I want to seize them by their coat lapels and scream “Don’t you get it man! It IS fucking Buddhism!” (I always imagine a Buddha ghost floating behind me saying “True dat my sistah”.) Sigh. I try hard not to let my distaste for authority’s narrow definitions, and ultimatums chase me away from Buddhism. I will not concede to the reigning majority, lol.

  18. Waldo said

    To say the word for the sake of the experience is an essential rite of passage. As an expression of not taking one’s self too seriously, it is a step in the right direction if it is more than a fashion statement. As a noun it is often apt, and as a verb it can be just what the situation calls for. Having sifted through the silt that clogs the pages and the arteries of human interaction to experience and confront the true “what is”, is to arrive at “Buddha nature.” It is the task of any inquiry to separate the wheat from the chaff. When that is not possible, when there are whole volumes that contain no wheat, it is very important to say “fuck this,” and to mean it.

    I love the way you mean it.
    Keep up the great work!
    (no shit.)

  19. Erick said

    I look forward to your critique of these three gatekeepers of Buddhist writing. I agree that they are far, far too often predictable, formulaic, shallow, dessicated, dusty. Especially the mass market publishers and magazines. The writing in and of academia can avoid those ruts more frequently. Presumably though you might need to add certain blogs to that trio of standard bearers. The ability of blogs to digitally replicate and propagate writings makes them especially powerful as standardizers in a way more conventional print media can’t quite reach.

    I would also hope that you might expand your analysis of the deadening hand of standardizing gatekeepers to the realm of orality as well, however. I can hardly manage to stomach or attend introductory lectures by Dharma teachers anymore, I must confess. They are also far too often predictable, repetitive, boring, unexceptional, dessicated. I fully realize the power of repetition in learning via oral instruction, but still, it amazes me how so many Western Buddhists can sit through rotating iterations of the same basic teachings, themes, idioms, issues and questions (and answers) over and over.

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