About

Welcome!

Thank you for visiting. Please see “WARNING!” page before moving on.

About the blog

This blog is a warehouse of critical and constructive tools. The tools are intended to be used for speculation on Buddhism, or, more properly, on what I call “non-buddhism.” Perhaps you will use the tools to craft new ideas concerning Buddhism’s maturation, rupture, and disruption on the current North American scene. To state it more bluntly, I hope these tools prove useful to you as you sift through the ruins of the dilapidated fortress I call x-buddhism. Who knows what treasures you may find? Remember, our ruin is ruin because of treasure.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The blog neither takes for granted the salubrity of Buddhist teachings for the contemporary world nor forecloses on the possibility of adaptation, renovation, and application. It sees, rather, in the very questioning of tradition a speculative opportunity. The approach taken here risks destruction. Why? Because I still believe in the possibility of human liberation.

About the blogger

My name is Glenn Wallis. I have been an observer of Buddhism in North America and practitioner of Buddhist-style meditation since 1975. As you will gather from the blog, however, I am not a “Buddhist”  of any sort. I have written several books and articles on various aspects of Buddhism. You can find further information at my website.

More recently, I have found the entire Buddhist project fruitlessly tedious. I’ve been asking myself this galvanizing question: what would happen if I were to take seriously the Buddha’s admonishment to “cast aside the raft” and “leave the collapsed house in shambles”? What has happened so far is that life–naked, indeterminate, raw, organic, contingent life–is enhanced to the very extent that “Buddhism” diminishes. Put in those terms, without further explanation, that sounds simplistic. This blog is, alas, the fuller explanation.

Co-conspirators

Since founding Speculative Non-Buddhism in 2011, I have been fortunate to be joined by (in order of appearance) Tom Pepper, Matthias Steingass, Adam S. Miller, Shyam Dodge, Richard Payne, Patricia Ivan, and Craig Neely. Please visit the Authors page for more information.

 


Image: Gerhard Richter, Skizze zu Parkstück  1971.

13 thoughts on “About

  1. “what would happen if I were to take seriously the Buddha’s admonishment to “cast aside the raft”

    then you would cease publishing, would you not?

  2. Hi Jonathan. I don’t see the connection that you apparently do. Would you mind elaborating? Maybe I should mention that I subscribe to Beckett’s contention that “”there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with an obligation to express.” So, for me, throwing away the raft operates within those impossible parameters. Still, what did you have in mind?

    Thanks for your comment, Jonathan.

  3. How wonderful! How rock star esk!’ How conscilient! Wait, I need to go right click on salubrity. What fun!

  4. Hi Glenn, would you be willing to pose a handful or two of questions, the answers to which might illuminate where the answerer stands on the x-buddhist/non-buddhist continuum?

    I have been studying buddhism for about 4 years, first tibetan, then chan, then pali canon. Not exhaustive by any means, simply a spiritual aspirant following inate tendencies. I’m particularly interested in evaluating if or to what degree I am carrying ideas that indicate I have unknowingly succomb to x-buddhist rhetoric, flamboyance, etc., or to what degree I’m not.

    Does that make sense?

    I have read this site a bit, and the paper “Nascient Speculative…” a few times. I find myself saying “yah, no kidding.” As I’ve alluded to, I find the base premises of your thesis delightfully true, and I find the elaborate language being tossed about quite difficult to follow and distracting from the point, especially for about 99% of everybody. (Some places you get beat up for talking like that.)

    And along that line, isn’t a lot of the high-end, philosophical name and concept dropping, pointing to the wish to have the answer to questions of ultimate existence, which Siddhartha declined to answer and dissuaded his listeners from pursuing? Something I read reminded me of that, although I didn’t build a case for it or anything.

    Examples:
    Thaumaturgical Refuge – brilliant! Obvious even! I’ve never been one to suffer from magical thinking. My secular, anarchist, humanist upbringing may have served me well.

    The contradiction between rebirth/reincarnation/continuity of consciousness and anatman/emptiness/lack of inherent existence. Duh! And its virtually impossible for common westerners like myself to discuss this (I mean at the buddhist center – such heresy would make one quickly unpopular.) Since I have faith that the “tibetan master” whose organization I was involved with is of high integrity and knowledge, I take this as proof of my theory that this topic is extremely difficult communicate and teach, and that some of the ancient knowledge (the truth) may simply still be kept secret.

    And a great reference on this blog that I haven’t refound yet – something about folks missing the fact that we’re apes, homo sapien and that is a fact that is vital to understanding “the world as it really is”, and my apish place in it.

    Years ago I was on a huge primate kick and meditated on the idea (didn’t call it meditation then, but now I would) of the first primate to become aware that they were aware – what that moment, in that fairly intelligent but extremely ignorant animal, must have been like. (Hey that describes me fairly well too.) I can recall moments in my life of peak spiritual experience, and wonder how that first homo sapien – that first receiver or preceiver or discoverer of the spark – would have adapted to what may have (must have?) been a real (grapefruit sized) brain cracker. I’ve thought there could be a Michener-like, generational novel there…

    What do think about my self-assessment idea? I think I get it. I want to find out if I do or don’t.

    Anyway, hope you like it, still a fan,

    Garett.

    ok, enough rereading tweaking spellchecking punctuation obsessing just click Post!

  5. Thought about it in a different way. Really I’m just trying to engage in discussion about (x) Buddhism to see where I stand. How much has this decision you refer to affected my thinking?

    Went home last night and began some notes on your Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism paper,and I just said to myself ‘aw crap I think I misspelled Nascent’ in my previous post.

    “Speculative non-buddhism is a transgression against buddhistic transcendence—an atavistic yearning to rise above the status of homo sapiens ape and to escape, unscathed, from empty reality.”

    Well, there it is.

    As soon as I read this the first time I felt at home. I was not surprised to learn you get it. (Not surprised because all 4 of your works I have read have been timely and resonant with me.)

    The words “the dark concealment of” reveal a strong bias in your thesis, I feel, and detract from an otherwise lovely and impactful sentence.

    “Speculative non-buddhism permits an understanding of Buddhism more basic than Dharma-infused buddhistic discourse.”

    Great. Can’t wait to read more about it. And Glenn, do tell, just whose understanding do you assert is pseudo – mine or yours?

    Moving on folks, 100 out of 100 Walmart shoppers agree “I have no idea what specular oracularity means.” Maybe it means speculative babble.

    “It thrives on the violent absence of the dharmic good, and thus of everything that protects, consolidates, or guarantees the interests of the individual personality.”

    That means that the dharmic good = everything that protects, consolidates, or guarantees the interests of the individual personality, or, if these are not equal, then one goes with the other, since without one, the other is absent also. Sorry, in either case, I don’t get you mean at all.

    “The death of this transcendent pretension is the ultimate transgression, the release of narcissistic humanity from itself, back into the blind infernal extravagance of the sun”.

    And you’re criticizing flamboyance? OMG you suck bad. That’s the most pretentious criticism of pretension in history. Are you hearing that in the voice of James Earl Jones?

    “What is true cannot change; what changes is not true”— is this not the miserable dream in which too many have diffused their cleverness?—Françoise Laruelle

    No, I’ve never heard that before. Although I agree it is a wrong-headed premise, as Laruelle is implying, I wouldn’t agree that very many, let alone too many, are diffusing their cleverness thereby. (Translation: flamboyant elaboration – sounds good but not true.)

    “Speculative non-buddhism is a way of thinking and seeing that takes as its raw material Buddhism. It is a thought-experiment that poses the question: shorn of its transcendental representations, what might Buddhism offer us?

    I was able to come up with five right off, in no particular order:

    – It offers a very gentle, non-proselytizing opening for the skeptical, alienated, ignorant, unhappy, anxious, and spiritually orphaned, to approach the topic of leading a spiritual life, if they want to. (It offers the same opportunity to everyone else, as well.)

    – It offers a significant many, who live their life in the fog of rage, very approachable language regarding the nature of anger, and it builds a case for the idea that treating anger and its building blocks as one does poison, is logical and wise.

    – It calmly offers a radical, simple, and, once realized, radically pervasive idea – that “I” am actually not more important than “you”.

    – It bluntly states that which only a good friend would: “Think about it friend – you could die today. Its true and we all know it, but we all go through every day with the rose-colored presumption ‘I will not die today. We all die someday, but not today for me.’ So, we feel no urgent need to develop a spiritual life. But when death comes, it is both too early and too late. Instead of thinking ‘I will not die today’, think ‘I may die today’, and consider strengthening your spiritual preparedness.

    – It offers strong, logical, secular answers to the question: what is meant by leading a spiritual life, and why on earth should I be interested in it?

    So there’re 5 quickies, and I dare say none of them suck.

    “Speculative non-buddhism is an approach to analyzing and interpreting Buddhist teachings. But, again, it results in buddhistically untenable, indeed, buddhistically uninterpretable, theorems.

    Could you give an example or two of the un theorems?

    SNB “is designed with three primary functions in mind: to uncover Buddhism‘s syntactical structure (unacknowledged even by—especially by—Buddhists themselves); to serve as a means of inquiry into the sense and viability of Buddhist propositions; and to operate as a check on the tendency of all contemporary formulations of Buddhism—whether of the traditional, religious, progressive or secular variety—toward ideological excess.

    LOVE IT!

    I want to add, since I mentioned it in my previous post – yes, ironic, regarding the mental operation of speculation, and how this angle has played out on the blog, and that I mentioned that the talk smacked of questions of ultimate existence. Is the question of ultimate existence a part of “the project”?

    And, checking back on my post from yesterday I see another mistake. If the first primate to experience consciousness in the way we do was homo sapien, then that brain would not have been grapefruit sized. It was a clever line though. Do you think other primate ancestors leading up to modern humans may have experienced such awareness?

  6. Garrett (#4, 5). Thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions. You ask: “would you be willing to pose a handful or two of questions, the answers to which might illuminate where the answerer stands on the x-buddhist/non-buddhist continuum?” Crank the amps. Here goes. (I will try to be succinct.)

    I find the elaborate language being tossed about quite difficult to follow and distracting from the point

    The language ranges from anodyne to dadaistic. It is all lucid. The language can not be separated from the point being made. So, “distracted,” under these conditions, means, “in need of another read, some careful thought–and a dictionary.” I want to create a counterweight to what I see as facile and anemic x-buddhist discourse. Language is blood.

    The words “the dark concealment of” reveal a strong bias in your thesis, I feel, and detract from an otherwise lovely and impactful sentence.

    Can you say more? Maybe “dark concealment” can be understood, in one sense, as having something to do with the fact that, as you say, “Siddhartha declined to answer and dissuaded his listeners from pursuing.” There is much concealment in the teachings. For instance, even overt postulates, such as emptiness (sunyata), contingency (paticcasamuppada), and fading (anicca) reveal much more about homo sapiens reality than x-buddhist normative teaching permits. My post “Raw Remarks on Meditation” raises this point. The dark concealment of possible trajectories of x-buddhist postulates is a theme, too, in my new book (not finished yet).

    just whose understanding do you assert is pseudo – mine or yours?

    The x-buddhist as subject has a pseudo understanding because of my equation of such an understanding with the rule (as norm, law, German Regel) of dharma. Once an x-buddhist shakes the dharma out of his appropriation of the postulates, he will be able to make a clear assessment of those postulates' import. For instance, dharmic-infused "emptiness" says nothing about anything other than the nature of dharma infusion. (This is the force of "decision.")

    I have no idea what specular oracularity means. Maybe it means speculative babble.

    It means that x-buddhism uses the world as its own reflection. Everything in the world becomes an occasion for x-buddhism to reflect itself. The world becomes x-buddhism’s very eye. This eye, moreover, sees the world–its terms and conditions, as Brassier says–from above. Before you determine that this is babble, why not read, say, the Secular Buddhist FacileBook page with an eye to this concept. I am, after all, presenting the ideas to be used by others in their own analysis of x-buddhist material.

    “The Dharmic good” refers to the promise at the heart of x-buddhism to deliver the homo sapiens ape from himself and from contingent life, ultimately unscathed–fixed, whole. My claim is that “dharmic good” is a trope in an ideological Geisterspiel.

    “the blind infernal extravagance of the sun” is a reference to two crucial ideas operating in my thesis. The first can be summed up in Georges Bataille’s statement that “ultimately, we are nothing but an effect of the sun.” The second sense is that given by critical realism’s attempt to articulate a mind-independent reality.

    Re: “What is true cannot change; what changes is not true”— is this not the miserable dream in which too many have diffused their cleverness?” may I suggest you spend some time at, say Sujato’s blog, or even the Secular Buddhist FB page. Again, use the idea as a heuristic, and see what it yields.

    So there’re 5 quickies, and I dare say none of them suck.

    Right, they don’t suck. But they raise a huge question. It is a question that forms the initial impulse of the project on the blog. What, namely, is this “it” to which you refer, and which yields all of these wonderful, decidedly non-sucky moods and dispositions? What degree of dharmic charism is coursing through them? How much of the x-buddhist system of postulation remains in play? Are they available wholly removed from the dharmic refuge? Etc. You’ve just brought us back to the beginning.

    Could you give an example or two of the un theorems?

    1. Impermanence (anicca) and emptiness (sunyata) as postulates supporting (requiring?) nihilism.
    2. Meditation (bhavana) as organon of dissolution.
    I could offer as many instances of x-buddhistically uninterpretable theorms as their are x-buddhist theorems. Why? Beacuse I perform acts such as the cancellation of x-buddhism’s auto-granted warrant to truth, mute its vibrato, and all the rest.

    Is the question of ultimate existence a part of “the project”?

    The question of the real or radical immanence is. I don’t know about no “ultimate.”

    Do you think other primate ancestors leading up to modern humans may have experienced such awareness?

    I have no thoughts on such matters–really. I turn my mind toward the matter, and all I see is my utter ignorance.

    Thanks!

  7. Questions

    From P12-13, Buddhism – “Doctrinally: a specular, ideological system founded on teachings given canonically to a literary protagonist named ―the Buddha.” — two words of concern – ‘given’ and ‘to’. Could it be ‘given by’ or ‘attributed to’? …the Buddha.

    P13 – Curvature – “…distorted image of Buddhism.” When you say ‘distorted’, error comes to mind. By logical extension then, I would conclud that your paper is asserting its correctness in contrast to the error. That’s fine with me if its fine with you — I just wanted to point out that interpretation of your writing. Perhaps “alternate” view? [More concerned with the presumption of correctness than the declaration of error. Just pointing it out. I won’t mind being wrong one bit. Never do. In fact I love finding out when I’m wrong, which is why its necessary to come out of the woods and get onto the internet. I am a classic proprietor of ones own (my own) private logic.]

    Found an internet connection, so I thought I’d just post this right quick. ttyl.

  8. Btw, I’m going to answer this for sure — “What, namely, is this “it” to which you refer, and which yields all of these wonderful, decidedly non-sucky moods and dispositions?” — and hope to knock you off your seat. [wish me luck with that one.]

  9. Hello Glenn. (forgive the presumptuous intimacy) I come fleeing back here as to a refuge from the Secular Buddhist FB page. Much of the language here is beyond me (it’s not the vocabulary as such – an encyclopedia serves – it’s the syntax.) But I’m not complaining – it must get tedious to keep getting that sort of response. I’m addressing this to you because Tom P, frankly, scares the shit out of me.

    I’d like to hazard a couple of contributions, but don’t know if they would be naively simplistic, nor on which post would be appropriate. So I’m sort of asking for a kind of “pre-approval” before I waste anyone’s time. They would be along the lines of:

    soteriology: Buddhism (I can’t be arsed to keep prepending an “x-“; take it as read) presents itself as a soteriology. In the words of the Lotus Sutra, the house is “on fire”. Now, the smoke detector in my kitchen seems to think that toast turning a pale shade of tan constitutes some kind of emergency, but I don’t believe it. What is the diagnosis of you Spectacular Nuns? Are you offering a soteriology? Is the house on fire? If so, what’s the fire extinguisher? (N.B. this seems to be beginning to be addressed by Tom, or at least, I’m beginning to understand something like that.)

    Related to this, tangentially, is that there are…traditions? religions? stances? that are not, at least overtly soteriological. I’m interested in whether or not there is a tool for exploring Buddhism in the Sung and Ming Dynasty Neo-Confucian responses to Buddhism. As a tradition that had its own history and felt it had to respond to Buddhism, is there a parallel with a Western response to Buddhsim? I think, for example of the stance that Confucian “jing zuo – quiet sitting” is not the same as zazen – even though from another perspective (e.g. mine, on initially coming across this) the practices seem identical.

    BTW – you Spectacular Nuns have caused me to *spend money* on a copy of Zizek’s “The Parallax View”. I’m not sure how to read it yet. I’m dipping in here and there at the moment.

    In spiritu ludi.

  10. Peter (#9). Presumptive intimacy? I’m American! No such thing as presumptive intimacy in the land of All (White, Land-Owning, Privileged Men) Are Created Equal.

    Would you care to say more about “fleeing back here as to a refuge from the Secular Buddhist FB page”? I want to write or ask someone else to write a critique of the secular movement as it is coalescing around that FB site. I want to say, though, that I find the founder, Ted Meissner deeply humane and intelligent. I think he is an exemplary model of fair-mindedness. The community, though, is another matter. There is much that needs urgently to be addressed, since the Association is beginning to create palpable critical mass now. So, your comment made me curious.

    About the language. By now there is a real range of expressive form, don’t you think? From the clear, concise, unambiguous, composed of one-or-two-syllabled Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, to the dadaistic, epi-poetic, borderline crazy (though still, I insist, lucid). We offer a variety of styles and flavors.

    Now, to your point.

    What is the diagnosis of you Spectacular Nuns? Are you offering a soteriology? Is the house on fire? If so, what’s the fire extinguisher?

    Those are great questions. Do I understand correctly that you don’t want a full blown answer from me now; but, rather, are wondering whether the question is “worth” raising to this blog community at large? It certainly is a very interesting and important question. I would think a lot of people here would have a lot to say about the issue. And it would certainly get us thinking about something that we have not yet explicitly thought about.

    I think, for example of the stance that Confucian “jing zuo – quiet sitting” is not the same as zazen.

    That example, and others like it, would be very interesting to consider. Such examples would be particularly fruitful to consider in light of my contention that what is needed in order to gain a fresh view on the terribly burdened traditions of x-buddhism is a wholesale de-cluttering. Maybe history offers examples that would prove helpful in continuing to think the matter through.

    So, …Pre-approved. These questions and comments of your seem to fit well with the current discussion on “Samsara as the Realm of Ideology,” don’t you think? If your not so sure, let me know.

    About your trepidation: I understand. feel it all the time myself. And I am glad that I do. It makes me take extra care in formulating my ideas. Not that I am all that careful; but I’d be much sloppier and stupider if it weren’t for the scary people out there–or at least in my mind.

    Thanks for your interest and participation, Peter.

  11. Thanks for the encouragement Glenn. I shall post something soon regarding the Neo-Confucian critique of Buddhism.

    I certainly would like to say more about the Sec Bud FB site. I have characterised it on a comment there as “fundamentalism” – that’s perhaps a glib retort without further explanation. I’ll email a slightly more detailed response.

    Gosh, this blog seems to have interrupted my dogmatic slumber. I feel my brain beginning to begin to come alive again. Many thanks.

  12. Glenn, it is nothing. there is no it.

    i’m glad you (all) are doing this work
    i admit i don’t like the temperature of the water. i don’t like the way it feels.
    not sure what that means, no doubt a word has already come to your mind i’m sure you’ve got me covered in you glossary
    when i get your words there is a reaction of mind like looking into the lights for a fly ball you are blinded by absolute white light for what must be numerous microseconds, and that same too bright is the too many of your words in my head

    its a bit stunning really.

    stunned, made off ballance, momentarily blinded, kadoosh!
    so now i’m a few more microseconds behind than i was before.

    a visceral, related to deep inner feelings, as opposed to the intellect {shared exchanged true} {detectable memorable} {heard seen felt wished for fulfilled}
    a visceral moment of shared knowledge.

    but those micromoments are nearby, only recently aperceived, like moments falling off the time tree lagging behind and behnd again, each true moment of creation burning before our eyes {the Now of pop-culture, the breaking wave of creation itself, radical immenance?}. The Radically Immanent Now? Did somebody already say that?

    So, I’m gonna toss up some words at Tom Pepper on the Ideology paper, which I enjoyed, ya know, moderately.

    Also compelled by the intro to World and Event, which I read on Amazon. Which would you recommend to read first…Logic of Worlds or Being and Event?

    instead of typing lacanian, why noy type words that describe the actual whatever it is you are trying to communicate rather than referring to something someone else has typed in a different time and place and maybe even language, and within said something was probably a reference to something someone else, in another different time and place and perhaps language said ABOUT something, so with each such reference one gets further and further from truth. ok, i know, there is the other side of the coin, (probably the other side of the brain?),where all those words create a picture i simply don’t see. perhaps, for some, a visceral experience?

    well, i’m taking up too much of your time. if i was to be stranded on gilligans island, your Dhp would be a must-rap-in-a-zip-lock.

  13. I would like to hear Glen’s input on the “Tao Te Ching”. I realize this site is about Buddhism, but the two are similar and do intertwine I think. I consider this site the greatest compliment and also the greatest critique of Buddhism. Thanks.

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