I want to start at the end, and state my conclusion at the outset, so that it doesn’t get lost in the supporting text that follows. Conclusion: x-buddhism leaves its politics unthematized, and therefore hides it from (1) itself and (2) its acolytes. We should, of course, expect this degree of unconsciousness from a form of thought that is grounded in faith in an abiding absolute such as The Dharma (not to mention its zombie-like persistence in positing a transcendent Self.) Affective and cognitive conditions ensue from such faith, and these conditions breed an unthinking political subject. I have in mind in particular the conditions of x-buddhist specularity, whereby the world becomes x-buddhism’s self-reflective mirror, and the Principle of Sufficient Buddhism, whereby nothing other than The Dharma need be thought.
How else might we understand the lack of political awareness exhibited by our x-buddhist communities? Does, say, Jon Kabat-Zinn, give thought to the real-life political implications of his rhetoric of “non-reactivity” and “non-judgmentalism”? Weren’t those qualities on full display during George Bush’s build-up to the American war in Iraq? Does Sharon Salzberg understand the political implications of her many comments along the lines of “We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by why and how we do it”? Right, Sharon. The Koch brothers would like to offer you a job in their PR department.
I asked this before, in Extrapolating Equanimity, to virtually no response, “what kind of political philosophy might we extrapolate from x-buddhist teachings?” For instance, can “equanimity” be seen as a buddhacized version of “political complacency”? Now, we also have to ask that question about the project on this blog: what are the implications of the non-buddhist critique for political thought and action?
So, to the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »