Adbusters and Sogyal Rinpoche. Really?

X-buddhist anti-intellectualism at Adbusters?

Yesterday I received the latest issue of Adbusters.

On page thirteen we find a citation of Sogyal Rinpoche. It is superimposed on a two-page reproduction of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. The citation begins:

Because in our culture we overvalue the intellect, we imagine that to become enlightened demands extraordinary intelligence.

And it ends with an alleged Tibetan proverb:

Theories are like patches on a coat, one day they just wear off.

I was shocked to read a citation of Sogyal Rinpoche in Adbusters. If there is one big liar in Tibetan Buddhism, it is this man. I wrote a comment at the Adbusters site at once, formulating my objection, but it didn’t go through and wasn’t published. Strange.

The citation is a case of the typical anti intellectual stance x-buddhists take as their savoir vivre.

The logical mind seems interesting, but it is the seed of delusion.

Such a “logic” (also from the citation) is enough for the x-buddhist to disparage thinking once and for all. But this is not the point here. The point is that Adbusters, a magazine that is the self-declared front of the revolutionary meme-war against the dead dog of capitalism is falling prey here to their very enemy. Continue reading “Adbusters and Sogyal Rinpoche. Really?”

The Twist

KumaréGuru one. Sri Kumaré  is a revered yoga master whose ancestors can be traced directly to the Indo-Aryan civilization of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. He spent over a decade studying yogic science with masters of the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and other esoteric traditions. The Kumaré tradition’s main objective is to achieve personal transformation through “Action — not just theory.” Kumaré teaches any and all people how to find their Guru within themselves. Sounds great, doesn’t it? He teaches how to find the inner guide. His film Kumaré, about his journey to enlightenment, is a true guide to the true inner guide.

Guru two. Deepak Chopra is the invisible in the midst of cosmic human observation. An Indian-born American physician he is the son of Krishan Chopra, a prominent Indian cardiologist. Inspired by his father and the novel Arrowsmith Chopra initially becomes a physician but suddenly gets enlightened when he meets Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. From then on he begins teaching about the heart as the ground of descriptions of facts. He also revived the ancient Indian teachings of the existence and the wisdom of precious reality. His latest book  The True Ingredients to Subjective Positivity is also a true guide to the true inner guide.

The difference. The true name of guru one is Vikram Gandhi. His Indian accent as Sri Kumaré is as fake as everything else about him. Gandhi is a filmmaker from New Jersey who undertakes an experiment. He sets out to test if he would be able to fascinate people pretending to be a guru. The whole experiment is filmed from the beginning of gathering followers to the end, with Gandhi unveiling the truth about himself. Underway he realizes that people trust him so much that he wouldn’t be able to just bail out with a lame excuse. He feels responsible.  So he invents the true teaching of the false guru: “I am fake and you have to find the true guru inside yourself.” Or in his pseudo-indian accent, “you can find yoga center inside.” Everybody believes him but only when he shaves and sheds his accent his disciples realize that his teaching is about reality.

The true name of guru two is Deepak Chopra. His accent is as true as everything else about him. Continue reading “The Twist”

Aggressive Buddhist Appeasement

I think a lot of people have difficulty understanding “negative thinking” because today we are primed by the like-button. This is not a joke. Facebook’s like-button is the latest incarnation and variation on the terror of positive thinking – be happy, don’t worry, have fun. Regarding teachers in Tibetan Buddhist lineages, this ultimate truth is presented in its most ludicrous way in Robert Thurman’s Infinite Life. There, he asserts that Tibetans were living in an “endless vacation”  for hundreds of years until the Chinese invaded. Robert Thurman has been called “the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism” by the New York times. Infinite Life has been “okayed,” as Thurman puts it, by the Dalai Lama. Thereby, the Dalai Lama supports Thurman’s ridiculous claim about the “endless vacations” of the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama himself supports at other places an equally delusional view of Tibet’s history (in, for instance, Thomas Laird, The Story of Tibet). This is an important part of the ideological structuring in which so called Tibetan Buddhism situates itself today.

Another part of the story is that Tibetan Buddhists are forced to believe in an afterlife, in personal reincarnation, in disembodied ghosts, fortunetelling via oracles, decision making via lottery; and it encourages (“His Holiness” no exception, quite to the contrary) the belief in personal superhuman powers among a lot of other things that a normally functioning mind today would disregard as medieval dreamworld thinking.

Third, as Tom Pepper has demonstrated here with the the thinking of Alan Wallace as an example, Tibetan Buddhism deems itself as absolutely superior in every aspect of life, especially regarding the sciences.

This self representation of absolute superiority of Tibetan Buddhism is the background before which we have to see figures like Ken McLeod: they present themselves as part of a global spiritual elite holding the key to a perennial philosophy representing age old wisdom to which only certain specialists have excess. Continue reading “Aggressive Buddhist Appeasement”

I’ve Done It

What can we know? That is a question of the European as well as the Buddhist enlightenment. What can we know and what are the resulting consequences of what we learn? For example, what can we know about the Buddhist notion of no-self in this moment, in our lived situation?

One popular description of no-self is that it is a timeless truth which brings deep compassion, bliss and happiness automatically to our life as soon as we get rid of our ego. This view holds that pure consciousness is the secret to eternal life and never-ending bliss, and that a certain entity called ego is the bad guy who prevents the true self from realizing the final and absolute truth. Basically this is some variation of the so-called perennial philosophy, which holds that there is a final truth, a truly real reality which “all” religions at “all” times, “all” over the globe, in “all” civilizations came to know. It is the universal truth. A prominent and influential representative of this view is Robert Thurman. In Infinite Life he states clearly that it is not a question of religion or of belief to accept his invitation to embrace the true reality he wants to be known. “It is a matter of fact, a matter of science, a matter of experiment, and a matter of awareness” (Thurman, 2004, 23). His timeless truth is Infinite Life, reached through the development of the most subtle forms of consciousness, beyond corporal reality (cf. chapter 8). These forms are hindered in their development by the ego. The ego is the ultimate evil; so it has to be destroyed. It is described drastically as “a terrorist in your brain, coming out of your instincts and culture, who is pestering you all the time” (50). This basic duality – true self vs. ego – can be found often in all sorts of esoteric talk. It is not restricted to Thurman’s brand of Buddhism. Enlightenment, in this version, is to realize the true self and to abandon the bad ego. The no-self is the absence of the bad ego whose place then is taken automatically by the true self, from which compassion arises automatically. The terms representative of this view vary. True self can be pure consciousness, pure awareness or something similar. The term ego is relatively stable – sometimes it is also called self – and it seems to have a certain attraction as the denominator of the incarnation of the evil. What does not change is a basic notion of good eternal nature vs. bad mortal nature.

Continue reading “I’ve Done It”

Are Buddhists Stupid?

I dislike referring to the work of Howard Gardner; but, for better or worse, his idea of multiple intelligences seems to have settled into the memestream. Just this morning, I heard a sportscaster refer to LeBron James as “a genius.” Just as I was muttering “huh?” under my breath, the sportscaster rattled off a list of James’s  athletic abilities. He meant, of course, that James was a genius at basketball. Gardner holds that such locutions are wholly justified. We may, he says, speak of intelligence as manifesting within specific domains; namely: spatial, linguistic, musical, interpersonal, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and kinesthetic.

So, if counting cards at a blackjack table is any indication, Rain Man was a logical-mathematical genius. But when it came to interpersonal relations, he was a fucking idiot. I am an intelligent decoder of obscure ancient Sanskrit texts. But ask me to explain my financial matters, and you will be subject to the incoherent burble of a sorry-ass moron. Why not, then, ask whether we may speak of “multiple stupidities“? I am not ashamed to say that, in many areas of my life, I am stupid. How about you?

In the following essay, Matthias Steingass argues that x-buddhists exhibit a specific form of stupidity. I will let you read for yourself what he says about that. I would like to take a moment and put his argument in the terms of this blog’s project. Very briefly, the issue concerns what we may call “the principle of sufficient buddhism.” This is, obviously, the idea that when it comes to “the crucial matters of life and death,” x-buddhism is sufficient in itself. Whether we are concerned with the nature of consciousness or with the tone of our language, x-buddhism’s got it covered. Some of you may be thinking, “well, the Salvador Dalai Lama conducts dialogues with scientists all the time.” Yes, he does, indeed. But if you be a gambling man or woman, I suggest you put your cheese on x-buddhism’s remaining just as it is, thank you very much. For x-buddhism is sufficient in and of itself. It don’t need no science telling it what up.

Might we see this insistence on sufficiency as a sign of x-buddhism’s stupidity? Continue reading “Are Buddhists Stupid?”

No More Meditation!

Speculative non-buddhism poses a simple question: shorn of its transcendental excess–its adventitious conceptual representations–what might x-buddhism offer us? That question suggests a methodology. It starts by deflating the lofty doctrinal postulates, hovering above our heads like the Hindenburg, and watching them come crashing down. As they lie there, prostrate on the ground, we can have a closer, less doctrinally-determinate, look.

In the present post, Matthias Steingass continues a lively discussion about the prospects of raw, doctrinally-shorn, x-buddhistic materials for practice. This discussion started with the post and comments (particularly those by Tom, Robert, and Erick) on “Raw Remarks on Meditation, Ideology, and Nihilism,” continued with Matthias’s article “Meditation and Control,” and has since arisen on the comments of virtually every post here, regardless of the post’s topic.

Although he does not cast it explicitly in such terms, Matthias’s piece is, in my eyes, an example of what we can do with non-buddhism. Maybe it is fairer, and in fact more to the point, to say it is an example simply of what we can do with thinking–thinking being what happens when we drain from cognition the charism surging in from the x-buddhist power grid.

I hope the reader will pay especially close attention to the programmatic remarks Matthias makes toward the end of the essay. There is something concrete there that we can build on, something promising that we can explore in action. (Glenn Wallis)


No More Meditation!

Matthias Steingass

There is a lot. Calm, the coming and going of explicit thought, feeling, sensation, mixtures of this and its phasing in and out of syntactically correct renderings, spots of non-thought presence, the wandering of the focus of attention, physical effects, effects which might be reflected in behaviour, insights, ideas, dullness… but no meditation.

Let’s turn the thing around. No introduction to “meditation” but search for experiences which might point to or are certain specific properties of being conscious. There are experiences which one can describe. It is not from semantic content to experience but vice versa. The point is, one has to find a way to describe experience in a fresh way. Talking about “mindfulness” is not talking about mindfulness: it is talking about something one has learned to say about mindfulness in a series of expensive seminars. The other thing is not learned but is a given – and it is for free, which, in our economic culture, means it has no value. What is the point to know that I am right now? That is at once a trivial and at the same time very important question. This is nothing mystical; it is present experience – for which one can find expressions. Interactional expression is the creative scribe which maps out and structures – with all the colourful complicating reciprocity that this brings with it.

But let us abandon the word and then look for experience as not looked for but experienced – and just let’s say “No!” to “meditation.” Continue reading “No More Meditation!”

Meditation and Control

“Keep on selling me my future and I’ll keep on wearing my disguise.”

Meditation lies at the root of the myth of Buddhist exceptionalism. The cataclysmic event known as “awakening” and its aftermath (liberation, the overcoming of suffering,  perfect peace of mind, etc.), was, we are asked to believe, ignited by the Buddha’s practice of sitting meditation.

A central concern of speculative non-buddhism is to explore the relationship between x-buddhist doctrine and its meditation practice. One impetus to this investigation is the curious fact that practice seems invariably to verify doctrine. That fact raises the suspicion that x-buddhistic practice is impotent to effect anything even remotely resembling “liberation,” and, on the contrary, functions as a tool that reinforces established x-buddhistic ideology.

Or is such hallucinatory coercion only the result of subsuming “meditation” under “Buddhism”?  I present you here an essay, “Meditation and Control,” by Matthias Steingass, that gives thought to what might happen if we invert this equation. Such a move is necessary, says Steingass, for, “meditation as a sub-set of x-buddhism is logically unable to see more than that which this framework and setting are able to reveal.”

Along the way, Steingass presents a provocative case for the vampiric demands of our technological society on our attention. In sum, he asks: (1)  “What is our situation; how is it influenced socially by technological-economic forces? (2) Can meditation be of help in our situation? (3) What might the nature of such a practice be? (Glenn Wallis)


Meditation and Control

By Matthias Steingass

A distinguishing characteristic of the situation we live in is that our attention is very much in demand by media everywhere we go the better part of our waking time. The combined average time of media usage is over eight hours per day. TV-usage alone in Europe and the US is generally around four hours per day; advertising is literally everywhere our senses reach, and the content we are exposed to via this steady input does not seem to be a flow of information we process consciously as much as a stream in which we live with a lot of bait bobbing for our attention.

I am not concerned here with promoted products—with the ads and fads washed around in this hotchpotch. Rather, I am interested in the values which are transmitted to us through this multiple media frenzy. That the definition of beauty for example is inscribed into the consumer via this steady infusion is a more obvious case; but what about more subtle messages concerning, for example, moral values, what to expect from life, what goals to accomplish and how to reach them, notions of fairness in interacting with my partner, neighbors, colleagues, competitors or even with somebody hostile and hateful? Another question: how does this steady stream of media input influence our consciousness on even more basic levels? Continue reading “Meditation and Control”