Organizational Notes #34

fatigueWho can still doubt that the logic of contemporary western x-buddhism is a redoubling of the logic of western neoliberal capitalism? On one hand, this should not be surprising. For, everywhere it goes, x-buddhism conforms to the dominant ideology of its host. On the other hand, it should be outright revolting. For, everywhere it goes, x-buddhism carries with it seeds for the destruction of that dominant ideology. Which way it pivots depends on the organizations that are built to house it. These organizations conceive of the subject and fashion the person who then replicates their values. The organizations of western x-buddhism, so far, have opted for the conservative status quo role. In doing so, they function as enablers of the social-economic turmoil, the effects of which their conformist practices are, so they tell us, designed to cancel out.

To claim that the current x-buddhist situation is simply “what it is,” and that nothing can be done about it, would, of course, just be adopting a cynical neoliberal position. Repudiating this stance, we can ask questions like: under what conditions might a militant thought-practice develop? Asked another way: given the intimate group nature of x-buddhist practice–people gathered in snug settings, even private living rooms–for practice and edification; given concepts such as radical interdependency,  social-symbolic selfhood, and void; given the roots of the teachings in an urgent and outspoken disavowal of a repressive social formation, why are western x-buddhists such politically harmless creatures? Maybe it’s the organic food. Continue reading “Organizational Notes #34”

Un-Mindful Collusion

I want to ask a simple question: Are contemporary western Buddhists complicit in what is arguably a rabid capitalistic system?  I don’t just mean the conservative western traditionalists, like the Zennites, Theravadins, Vipassanins, Tibetophiles, etc. I mean those communities that modify “Buddhism” with words that are meant to impress you with their enlightened advancement over such regressive and irrational religionists. Modifiers like Secular-, Atheist-, Progressive-, Post-traditional-, Agnostic-, Existentialist-, Naturalist-, Insight-, Non-sectarian, and Postmodern-. And we certainly can’t leave out the Mindfulnistas.

Are these communities unwitting agents helping to extend our predatory social, cultural, financial, and political status quo? And, if so, do they give a shit? In Marxist terms, which comes first for an x-buddhist: private profit or social need? Please pause and think before those bodhisattva buddhemes start booming in your brain.

We may have to pose an even graver question: do western Buddhist communities and media actively aid in the creation of a person who is incapable of the passionate, risky, and sustained commitment that is perhaps the first condition of real change? Is the contemporary Buddhist person-subject just too nice, mindful, and equanimous to be anything but a dupe to Exxon and J.P. Morgan? I cannot tell you how many times I have seen an x-buddhist douse himself/herself with a debilitating dollop of “non-reactivity” or “non-judgmentalism” in the face of genuine passion.  Well, why should I be surprised? After all, the  roots of x-buddhism lie deep in the yearnings of world-renouncing ascetics. Continue reading “Un-Mindful Collusion”

Slavoj Žižek: From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism

Whatever you may think of Slavoj Žižek (people seem to either love him or hate him) his points about western Buddhism’s complicity in what is arguably a rabid capitalistic system are not easily dismissed. Might he be right in his contention that Buddhism, as it is practiced in the West, “is establishing itself as the hegemonic ideology of global capitalism”? Certainly, I have seen no Buddhist response to his claims that even approaches the intelligence and care which Žižek brings to the matter.

In addition to the issue of Buddhism’s role in inuring people to a destructive form of capitalism, I hope we will all give sustained thought to the issue of fetishism. I mean here the imbuing onto objects a power and potency that they do not possess. Would Buddhism, as yet one of countless offspring of western “spirituality,” be the multi-billion dollar enterprise that I suspect it is if not for western Buddhists’ propensity to fetishize–to some extent, at least–its practices, teachers, texts, and ritual paraphernalia? Can we give it some serious thought? I, for my part, will revisit this topic from time to time. Here is Žižek’s piece. Continue reading “Slavoj Žižek: From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism”