This intensive online session revolves around the question, “What might we make of Western Buddhism today?” The question, of course, assumes that an intervention is necessary. Why? We will explore the contention that in aligning their tradition with the contemporary wellness industry, Western Buddhists evade the radical consequences of Buddhist thought. With concepts such as vanishing (anicca), nihility (shunyata), extinction (nirvana), contingency (paticcasamuppada), and no-self (anatman), Buddhism, like all potent systems of thought, articulates a notion of the “Real.” Raw, unflinching acceptance of this real is held by Buddhism to be at the very core of human “awakening.” Yet these preeminent human truths are universally shored up against in contemporary Buddhist practice, contravening the very heart of Buddhism. How does this contravention occur? And how might this disavowal be reversed? We can put the issue in Buddhist terms: how might a dedicated Buddhist once and for all “abandon the raft”?
Our text will be Glenn Wallis, A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real. The critique of Western Buddhism in this text is threefold. It is immanent, in emerging out of Buddhist thought but taking it beyond what it itself publicly concedes; negative, in employing the “democratizing” deconstructive methods of François Laruelle’s non-philosophy; and re-descriptive, in applying Laruelle’s concept of philofiction as buddhofiction. Through applying resources of Continental philosophy to Western Buddhism, A Critique of Western Buddhism suggests a possible practice for our time, an “anthropotechnic”, or religion transposed from its seductive, but misguiding, idealist haven.
We will meet over Google Hangouts. A link will be provided on registration. Sign up for Google Hangouts here.
Facilitator: Glenn Wallis holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University. He is the author of six books including Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice and Basic Teachings of the Buddha as well as numerous articles, chapters, and essays on various aspects of Buddhism per se and Western Buddhism in contemporary society. His most recent work, A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real, employs the “non-philosophical” methods of French thinker François Laruelle. Wallis has taught at Brown University, Bowdoin College, and the University of Georgia. He is the founder of the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism.
Reading: Glenn Wallis, A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real (London: Bloomsbury, 2019). A printable pdf file will be sent on registration. Bloomsbury has made the entire Introduction available. The following reviews will give you some idea of what the book is about:
Chaim Wigder, “Killing the (x-)buddha(ist subject): A Review of Glenn Wallis’ A Critique of Western Buddhism”
Matthew O’Connell, “A Review of A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real”a
Annabella Pitkin, “A Clarion Call for Buddhism”
My response to Annabella Pitkin
My response to Ann Gleig on SNB