Issue Eight of non + x is Out


(B ⊂ R) ⇒ ?: If Buddhism is a Religion, then what? By Richard K. Payne

This essay is intended primarily as an analysis. The one programmatic goal is to call into question the adoption of the category of religion by Buddhists.While in many cases this is simply a kind of default, there are also Buddhist groups that have purposely adopted the cloak of religion, and participate actively in the rhetoric of “we the religious (good, moral, etc.) people” in opposition to “those secular, humanist, atheistic, materialistic (bad, immoral, etc.) people.” Such a rhetoric generally employs a kind of nostalgic anti-modernism. Pointing out the rhetorical entailments of identifying Buddhism as a religion will hopefully help to make problematic the purposeful adoption of that category as a vehicle for solidarity with other religions in opposition to the realities of our contemporary existence.

A Buddhist Critique of Cartesian Dualism in the Cognitive Sciences By William S. Waldron

The task of “naturalizing mind” has been underway for some decades now and its assumptions either explicitly or implicitly underlie nearly all research in the brain sciences. “Naturalizing mind” refers to the attempt to understand how mind and mental phenomena work by reference to nothing but the material processes measurable, in principle, by the natural sciences. On the face of it, this is a promising direction. As technology keeps improving, so too does our ability to probe into neurological processes, revealing more and more about how the brain works. Unfortunately, the notion of “naturalization” carries with it certain philosophical assumptions about the relation between mind and matter that make it much more problematic than first appears.

Taking Anatman Full Strength and Śāntideva’s Ethics of Truth By Tom Pepper

There is probably no Buddhist concept that has caused more debate, confusion, and misunderstanding than the concept of anatman. Everybody seems to want to assert fidelity to this central Buddhist teaching, but nobody is quite as eager to embrace all the implications of what I will call a full-strength anatman. It is too troubling, for a multitude of reasons, to accept the possibility that the early Buddhists really meant that there is no atman at all, of any kind. So, we get a host of watered-down, more palatable versions of anatman, which turn out always to sneak some kind of atman in under another name. The implication of this, I will argue, is the complete elimination of any possibility that Buddhist thought and practice could function to decrease suffering in the world, the complete destruction of the bodhisattva path.

Creative Writing

Ninth Letter By Akilesh Ayyar

I’m telling her why New York now has bakeries to rival Paris when the sluices open and cold fact faster than a flood submerges me.

The words I just said did not come from me.

Those words came, and these words that I am thinking—these very words—come from elsewhere.

I am, after all, not sitting in some little workshop hammering out, from all possible words, these words. They just—zip—come to mind, sequential as a teleprompter. Only better, because this teleprompter reels off not just words but images and sensations of all sorts, like that red elephant on a beach ball I saw before drifting off last night, not to mention feelings and memories.

Strange I never noticed this before.


What Kind of Scientist was Buddha?
Review of The Scientific Buddha: His Short and Happy Life, by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., and Buddha’s Brain, by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius
By Tom Pepper

Donald Lopez begins the fourth chapter of The Scientific Buddha with a brief discussion of the history of phrenology. This is offered as a cautionary example, to remind us that what is widely accepted as scientific truth often comes to appear absurd in hindsight. How could anyone possibly have believed in such ridiculous notions as phrenology, alchemy, the four humors, and phlogiston? Lopez is interested in detaching the investigation of Buddhism from the claims that it is somehow scientific, that it is saying exactly the same thing as our newest scientific discourses and is therefore a spirituality perfectly suited modern times. I will return to a discussion of how successfully I think Lopez has accomplished this important goal; first, though, I want to consider another question that this discussion of phrenology raised for me: why do we persist in believing silly things?

I want to consider this question in connection with a book which is one of the most successful proponents of the scientific Buddha’s newest incarnation: Buddha’s Brain.

Please leave any comments you may have about the issue right here. Thanks.

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