Richard Keys has published a new essay at Dharmic Détournement that will interest readers of our Trash Theory series. His piece, “Towards an Expanded Image of Practice,” helps advance our thinking about what form(s) x-buddhist practice might take going forward. I find it very productive that Keys grounds his thinking in premises such as (his words):

• practice indicates an active relationship with the real;
• practice proceeds from the “truth of suffering;”
• meditative practice actively co-constitutes and mediates subjective experience; such that:
• underlying theory of mind and maps of meditative experience are embodied in the meditative techniques themselves on a basic level;
• discursive production is a central feature of Buddhism;
• practice is always tied up with language and representation, with theory, that informs and frames it as a mode of intervention in the real;
• practitioners must realise that the are actively participating in their own subjectification, determined relative to a socially constructed “plan of action” and conception of the real;
• therefore, must actively seek to participate in shaping it.

Three big takeaway points:
“I think it is paramount that we continue to critically interrogate how the goal of practice is conceived (as well as the axiomatic conditions from which it proceeds), and by extension what form the plan of action that proceeds from this assumed ends will necessarily take, rather than simply taking them as given.”

“Though greater collective engagement, both critically and creatively with theory, both Buddhist and otherwise, Western Buddhism would go some way to overcoming the anti-intellectualism and reductive understanding of discursive thinking, that generally characterises it, and come to develop a more rich and robust body of discourse than stands.”

“New social formations, new sanghas, and traditions, with new approaches and values must be formed, beyond the current horizons of Western Buddhism in order for us to construct a new image of practice.”

Let’s have some discussion at Dharmic Détournement!

Dharmic Détournement

As discussed in my previous post, arguably Western Buddhism at large holds to a reductive image of practice, centered around an instrumentalist conception of meditation practice. Borrowing from the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s notion of the image of thought, Glenn Wallis coined the phrase image of practice as a means of critiquing the orthodox conception of dharma practice in Western Buddhism and the various ideological postulates that inform it (1). In this post, taking a step back from the concerns discussed in my first post, I will attempt to analyse the basic assumptions about what constitutes practice in a Western Buddhist context. Towards these ends, I draw primarily on Louis Althusser’s definition of practice, as defined in his 1975 essay What is Practice?, in order to isolate a number of components of practice in general — which is to say practice as a basic form of human activity…

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