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”

Running from Zombie Buddhas

A primary concern of speculative non-buddhism is how we might think new thoughts with and about x-buddhist materials.

As the following essay by Tom Pepper shows, thinking new thoughts with and about, in this case no-self and buddhanature, requires radical reconstructions of those affective and cognitive frameworks through which we make sense of self and world. But thinking for Pepper doesn’t mean tinkering with an idea to make it fit our cozy, already-existing ideological system. He means, rather, the sustained forceful action of considering a matter, like no-self, and of not flinching before thought’s logical conclusions. That that latter demand of thought proved to be too much for as a great thinker as David Hume should give us pause.  Why did Hume, and many others since, flinch before no-self? Pepper suggests that one reason might be that thought sometimes presents us with truths so unwelcome that we simply refuse to accept them. Perhaps the hardest truths for x-buddhism to face are the ones that oblige us “to change our social and economic systems, instead of simply adjusting our ‘selves’ to the world as it is.” But what happens when we begin to think anew with x-buddhist axioms? (Glenn Wallis)

Running from Zombie Buddhas

Tom Pepper

To each human animal is given, several times in its brief existence, the chance to incorporate itself into the existing subjectivity of a truth.  To all, and in multiple types of procedures, is granted the grace to live for an idea, therefore the grace to live at all.

–Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds

“You can’t handle the truth!”

–Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson), A Few Good Men

Why do we so often blink at the truth? Continue reading “Running from Zombie Buddhas”