Speculative non-buddhism, as an idea and as a blog, is now one year old. Here are some thoughts that come up when I reflect on things so far.
- Most importantly, I am pleased with the intelligent, thoughtful nature of the comments. Thank you. I hope you will continue to discuss and argue with one another. Your “site of struggle” approach has been edifying for me.
- I will do my best to keep this an anti-right-speech forum. You’re welcome! “Right-speech” is a popular x-buddhist stratagem for perpetuating the x-buddhist status quo. It is a passive-aggressive form of conformist coercion.
- Speculative non-buddhism, in other words, is a humanistic project. It aims to nudge the human–whatever that entails–to the center.
- Speculative non-buddhism views x-buddhism as anti-humanistic. X-buddhism aims to place itself in the center. X-buddhism desires to replace your thoughts with its thoughts. It desires to graft its emotions, values, and actions onto your life and world.
- Speculative non-buddhism is not offering a new and improved version of Buddhism. It is an attempt to think new thoughts, non-Buddhist in nature but using Buddhist postulates. Because of the force of those postulates (as really, really special, and super-duper Buddhist, for instance) this is no easy task. So, much of the project involves disempowering the voltaic mania of x-buddhist postulation. One way of doing this is to probe the rhetoric operating unconsciously in the x-buddhist text. That’s where the critical thrust of the project comes from.
- “Thinking new thoughts” also means imagining new material structures for practice and dialogue. Speculative non-buddhism is an applicable critical practice. You can apply the ideas (of the heuristic, for example) to x-buddhist works in order to discern certain operations that the work—whether a sutra or a website—doesn’t make manifest. You can also imagine, and even experiment with, a form of sitting practice that has been stripped of, say, x-buddhistic path tropes. You can try talking about x-buddhist themes without using buddhemes. There are endless possibilities for application.
- “X-buddhism” is a stand-in for all varieties of Buddhism. The term is meant to convey the fact that every form of Buddhism—from the most secular to the most orthodox, and including quasi- and crypto- forms such as “mindfulness”—are merely individual instances of a common structure. Following the contemporary French thinker, François Laruelle, I call this structure “decision.” You can read more about it here. I have yet to encounter a version of x-buddhism that does not conform to this decisional syntax. What that means is that, for example, Stephen Batchelor’s secular Buddhism is absolutely identical to Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s fundamentalist Buddhism.
- The language used for this project spans a continuum from everyday syntax and vocabulary to technical and creative forms. Unlike every other x-buddhist venue, I assume that my reader is intelligent. I also assume that he or she has access to a dictionary.
- “Hallucination” on this blog refers to what happens when x-buddhists mistake their dharmic ideology for a natural state of affairs, for how things are. Non-buddhism assumes that x-buddhism may have value for human beings, but only if x-buddhism is taken as yet another regional form of knowledge, and thus is consciously integrated into an ideology.
- There have been a few critiques of the project around the web. But in each case it seems obvious that the reviewer either did not read the basic material describing the project, or read it but didn’t understand. The two most egregious examples have been Stephen Schettini and Seth Segall, and, in a much more limited scope, Sujato Bhikkhu. Schettini and Segall could only bewail what they perceived to be the un-buddhisty (hence, necessarily wrong) tone of my language; and Sujato, as monks tend to do, could only recite reams of intricate exemplification. I look forward to more relevant criticisms in the coming year.
- All blogs have what are known as “lurkers“–regular readers who never comment. I don’t mind that at all. Please, lurk all you like. I do it myself on other blogs. But I do find it interesting that I receive so many private emails from some of these readers. Included among them are academics, Buddhist studies scholars, and even well-known figures in the Buddhist world. I believe that all of these people should speak openly. Take a fucking risk, for Christ’s sake. I would like to say to the latter in particular: You possess an institutional stamp of approval. It signals to everyone that you are good and knowing and even wise beyond the average person. That’s why you are the sensei or lama or roshi or meditation teacher or popular author or whatever. Well, prove it to us, fuggermuckers!
- Yes, you will be confronted with the occasional provocation, like “fuggermuckers.” Whether crude or sophisticated, such provocations are meant to help you see–help you feel–where your deceptions are fermenting. Where is that? Usually at the confluence of ego, preciousness, and indignation. Disabuse us of the belief that an x-buddhist is a person who does not do what s/he says and does not say what s/he does.
- Some of you are writing comments that are more like stimulating post material. Reminder: you are all invited to write for this blog.
- Finally, I said at the outset that I hope to attract five or six people who pick some of this non-buddhist flotsam out of the murky ocean of so-called knowledge. Matthias Steingass, Tom Pepper, Tomek Idzik and Adam S. Miller, in doing so, are pushing the project in ways beyond what I imagined. And that’s exactly as it should be.
Image: Jeffrey Hayes, “Tangerine Number One.” Artist’s blog.
What do you think?