Conversation With Charles Hallisey

If you are in the Boston area, I hope you’ll consider coming to this event at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard. Charles Hallisey is a preeminent figure in Buddhist studies. It will be a lot of fun!

Monday, March 11, 2019, 5:30-7pm
Harvard University, Common Room, CSWR, 42 Francis Ave, Cambridge, MA
Call 617-495-4476 for further information.
Event page






12 responses to “Conversation With Charles Hallisey”

  1. Shaun Bartone Avatar

    Going! Thanks for the head’s up. Hope to see you there.

  2. Matthias Avatar

    Will the event be filmed so that we people from overseas could have a mediated look at it?

  3. Enrique Bocardo Avatar
    Enrique Bocardo

    Thanks A good chance to meet Glenn

  4. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Shaun. Did I miss you? Matthias. Yes, it was videotaped. I’ll provide the link when I get it. Enrique. It was nice to meet you.

  5. Shaun Bartone Avatar

    Sorry, I couldn’t make it to Cambridge. Here’s the event on YouTube.

  6. Shaun Bartone Avatar

    So Glenn; it was a very interesting presentation. I got the sense of your work in ‘Ruins of the Buddhist Real’ (and I’ve also read the book). But I have a question. If you already know about the Real, and it’s obvious that you do, and you understand it in all its names and manifestations, what do you need Buddhism for? If the ultimate point of Buddhism is to uncover and point to the Real, or to help you encounter the Real, why do you need Buddhism? This is not meant to antagonize you, but to me, it’s just an obvious question. Buddhism points to the Real, but so does Sartre and Existentialism, and so does Lacan’s psychology, and you’re obviously familiar with them as well. So why bother with Buddhism at all? This is what I keep saying, that once you ‘get’ what Buddhism has to teach you, then it’s time to ditch the raft. You just don’t need it anymore. Otherwise, what you’re doing is teaching others this ‘path and fruition’ which is a sort of Mahayana thing to do, so ok I get that. Or otherwise what you’re doing is beating a dead horse. It’s over, exhausted, there is no more to learn from Buddhism. Ditch the raft. I do that every time I feel like I ‘got’ something from it, then I realize it’s time to let it go. Unless I find something else that needs to be fixed or discovered or reflected upon, something that piques my curiosity. Otherwise, I’m just hanging on to Buddhism because it’s become familiar to me, something I depend on emotionally that I can’t let go of. And this is not just a ‘secular western Buddhism’ thing. It happens in traditional Asian Buddhism as well. One of my Buddhist role models is the Thai monk Buddhadasa, who, at the end of his life, stopped calling himself a Buddhist. He stopped teaching that there was any such thing as Buddhism: “However, those who have penetrated to the highest understanding of Dhamma will feel that the thing called “religion” doesn’t exist after all. There is no Buddhism; there is no Christianity; there is no Islam. How can they be the same or in conflict when they don’t even exist? It just isn’t possible. Thus, the phrase “No religion!” is actually Dhamma language of the highest level.” ( You’re right, there is no ‘Buddha’, and there probably never was one. The greatest Emptiness of all is not just Buddhism (which is completely empty) but the ‘Buddha’ himself. He turns out to be the biggest Nothing of all. But if that’s what you end up with at the end of all this, you’ve probably arrived exactly at the place where the Dharma is meant to go.

  7. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Thank you, Shaun. And thanks for posting the CSWR link. I agree with your basic position. In the terms with which I have been working, I see yours as the position of the disidentified subject. Within this subject position, there is no need to discard any particular cultural material related to “thinking the Real.” Where good subjects naively wrap themselves in that material, and bad subjects naively denigrate that material (remaining wrapped in it), disidentified subjects use it, employ it, put it to work, craft something from it, in a word, mutate it. So, yes, you can discard it, but why? It’s got some interesting shit going on. By you logic, wouldn’t we end up trashing it all, including your examples of Sartre and existentialism and Lacan’s psychology? The disidentified subject can do/use virtually any cultural chora. Personally, for instance, I can derive important insights and pleasure equally from a Catholic Mass, a Satanic Mass, a Zen sesshin, or a university lecture of Keats. (I can also, of course, discern the subject-capturing elements at work in each of these formations, thereby negating or profoundly complicating the “immediate,” affective response, but that’s another topic.) My point is that disidentified subjects have it all at their disposal. Having dissolved the cage of unconscious ideological subjugation, the disidentified subject, has to get to work; for there is, as far as I can discern, no escaping subject-formation.

  8. Shaun Bartone Avatar

    Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ seems to be an algorithm for thinking through the process of de-subjectification. I’m pursuing this research, using D & G to think through a dharma-fictional person who becomes a buddho-alien. But instead of rejecting the psychoanalysts couch and the Oedipal ‘holy family’, the buddho-alien rejects the meditation hall and the subjectifying institution. And so on.

    Foucault’s introduction to ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’
    • Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “de-individualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.

  9. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Hi Shaun. These fragments would add a lot to the discussion on immanent practice. Do you want to transplant them over there?

  10. Shaun Bartone Avatar

    Yeah, I think they’re an excellent beginning. But first I really have to properly digest D & G’s ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ so I can use it to create an entirely fictitious story about a human/alien ‘practitioner’. I may not give it the prefix ‘budh’, but invent some other fictional practice/philosophy. Lots of science fiction writers have done this. ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, published in 1961 did this. I have a whole collection of ‘buddhistic’ science fiction. The premise is that the practice of this ideology creates a subject who is completely alienated from everything around them, Deleuze’s schizophrenic, who must then undergo ‘Schizoanalysis.’

  11. James Blackman Avatar
    James Blackman

    There is something incredibly powerful within Buddhism in that it is not an all-encompassing, all-defining, belief system. People in their need, in their constant quest for improvement – improved emotions, states, selfhood, emotional life – forget this, and put as much of the terrain of meaning and reality under its auspices as possible. Whilst they might not say it is all-encompassing, part of them secretly believes it so. The wilder the eyes, the more the terrain has been conquered, convolutedly conceded to the doctrine. But looked at carefully it doesn’t have to define everything. It is only a few answers to anything, powerful that those answers are. No self, impermanence, dependant arising. These are fairly commensensical givens, and stripped of any mystical meaning, they become beautifully complimentary to all other world-views. They are as mystical as saying that the desert is hot, or that you will get wet if you fall in the sea. Unlike the Christian who just sees everything as God’s Will, who has to somehow take things on faith, spending a lot of their time trying to deceive themselves. Buddhism should be bought to ruins, but I sometimes have to remind myself whilst reading this blog that it really is not necessary, or wise, on an essentially individual level (Buddhism is nowhere near the answer to most social ills), to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is nothing mystical and there is no damage but huge value to me, as an insignificant spec of being, to ask, when I am in pain, “why am I suffering? What to do about it?” in this regard I have no real issue with reframing a lot of buddhist teaching as mere simple and largely affective self-help.

  12. James R. Martin Avatar

    I enjoyed watching / listening to this: [the CSWR link]
    It reminds me of the first line of the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
    In Taoism, Tao (Way) seems to be employed as a term very nearly akin to Dharma in Buddhism.

    One might interpret much which occurs in American pragmatist philosophy (and neo-pragmatism) as alluding to the insight “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao”. Or, in other words, pragmatism seems to be steering its users away from pointless attempts of representing “the Real”.

    One can also speak of map and territory in seeking to think the relationship of all the represented things (The ten thousand things of classical Taoism). Thinking, though, partakes directly of representation, is carried on the wave of language. Or perhaps that’s overstating it? How could we know if there is thinking not carried on the “wave” of representations? What “real” or “way” might there be to get to the rock bottom of metaphysics? Lao Tse says no such way is present; that all such ways are silly, futile, beside the point.

    And yet it is NOT pointless to speak of the impossibilty of THE Way. It’s impossibilty, though unspeakable, MUST be spoken, must be inquired into. It must be sat down with, walked with, made strangely intimate, closer than near. The map truly is NOT the territory. But neither is the territory apart from mapping. And pretty soon we give up on all of the existential self-flagilation, pointless longing…. The territory reveals itself without inappropriate concern about maps along with the grasping at “territory” as a represented notion. It does not leave “silence” in its wake when this happens, nor even exquisite music. What remains when the grasping after The Tao dissolves is … just this. Nothing more or less.

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