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”

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”