Posted by Glenn Wallis on March 1, 2014
In this post, I am asking you to share your answer to this question. You can just drop a word or short phrase into the comment section. Don’t worry about formulating a long explanation. You can do that, of course, and it would be welcome; but my aim is to encourage as many responses as possible. I particularly hope to draw out the many lurkers on this blog. I can surmise or outright conclude from subscriber data, for instance, that at least two dozen prominent x-buddhist teachers are regular readers. I also know firsthand that a good number of Buddhist studies scholars read. Both of these groups must have quite firm answers to the question. A third source of valuable responses would come from the many committed x-buddhists who read here. And then we have all of you ex-x-buddhists. You must have thought about this question in some form already, and reached certain negative conclusions. If the 90-9-1 theory of blog participation is anywhere near accurate,1 we have a huge reserve of potential respondents. So, please, tell us what you think.
The question is at the heart of the non-buddhism project. You could even say that it is the very desire to formulate an answer to this question that drives the project. Think of non-buddhism as a continuum. At one end are the destructive practices of radical critique, the effort to expose, to lay bare, to de-potentialize x-buddhism’s operation. At the other end are the constructive practices of using x-buddhist materials to think anew.2
In the Introduction to Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice, we ask whether Buddhism is fit for modern life.
Many questions present themselves. Does Buddhism even yield useful knowledge anymore? Doesn’t science provide more satisfying models of, for instance, perception and cognition, than does Buddhism? Doesn’t philosophy better articulate the questions that seem to animate Buddhist discourse on meaning, language, and being? Doesn’t psychology offer more effective forms and models of mental health? In short, are Buddhism’s institutions and beliefs too cumbersome and unsophisticated to satisfy any but the most willing to believe? (8)
Please think about it, and share with us.
What does Buddhism offer that we can’t get from any other system of thought and practice?
EDIT: Just to make clear that I think there are (still, barely) compelling reasons to continue to work with x-buddhist materials, I think Tom Pepper’s work on the “event of buddhism” is an example of a justification. Have a look at “What Kind of Buddhist are You?” See also “Raw Remarks on Meditation, Ideology and Nihilism,” which raises the question whether x-buddhism might function as a science of ideology, as opposed to its current role as inculcator of ideology. We have created many texts that present (still, barely) compelling reasons for working with x-buddhist materials. I hope you’ll do some research.
1 The 90–9–1 principle “states that in a collaborative website 90% of the participants of a community view only content, 9% of the participants take part in discussions, edit and/or think actively about the content, and only 1% of the participants actively create new content. 90% of readers, then, are lurkers who are, nonetheless, attracted and/or fascinated.” (Matthias Steingass in “How to eXplode x-Buddhism, part 1,” at The Non-Buddhist)
2 Tom Pepper’s hypertranslations are just one example.
Photo: Dave Gibbeson.