Non-Buddhism – Aufs schlimmste zu

M. Steingass —  10.5.13

It’s true, what you say–and yet it’s not!

This is the last comment written by Glenn Wallis on the Speculative Non-Buddhism blog. After that – on Mai 9th 2013, 13:42 UTC – the commentary section of the blog shut down. In an eery silence this huge mountain range of text lies dormant now. What is left to hear are the ventilators and electric humming sounds of the server farms which let bits and bytes flow – until a sun storm (or any other end) wipes their digital configurata into the nirwahn of white noise.

What preceded the closure was struggle. But it is not about struggle now wich ended this two year experiment… or rather brought to an end the first phase of speculative non-buddhism. It is about the gems hidden in this mountain. The blog – commentary section and texts – might host something around 1 million words. Each and every one written by a human thrilled in one way or another by the leading idea of this blog:

What happens with Buddhism if we really begin to think?

„Thrilled“ meaning everything from annoyance to enthusiasm. But what is it that thrilled the spectators and participants? That is the question I want to put forward here. Think of this post and its thread that might or might not ensue as if it where some kind of guest book. You leave the show and before you go and disappear into the night you put a note into it. What was it that made you curious? What idea, what discussion, what stupidity or what brilliant thought? Forget about the characters you hated and loved. What intrigued you in the first place and made you watch the play – or even engage in it yourself?

Put down a short note and think of it too as something witch might help to navigate this dormant giant in the future. Be specific. No general hail, debauch or damnation. What was it? Name it, cite it and if you remember the place, link it.

I put this question to everybody. The x-, pseudo-, real-, crypto- and non-buddhists. Wether you have been pissed off or you were fascinated, take a moment to put down a note.

Thanks

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31 Antworten zu Non-Buddhism – Aufs schlimmste zu

  1. 

    I am going o go ahead and break one of your rules. There is indeed a general reason I started following and occasionally commenting. I love the idea of a process that questioned dogmatic premises that for too long had been taken for granted. I love exploring the idea that passion, creativity, non-denial of human biology, all play a key role in how we practice and how we interpret that practice. I am not a Buddhist, I am a human who meditates, for now I am a poet attempting to express being human and meditating. I am sexual abuse survivor who only ever found reconciliation with my human body through the act of sitting still and quiet and observing. There is a population of us that gets left out of „Buddhist“ discussion, especially when it becomes „spiritual“ and revolves around power dynamics. There is a perspective missing, a perspective of a quietly practicing, recovering population…who could care less about enlightenment or no-self or _____ insert dogmatic language there. That is why I made an attempt to be involved in the blog. It seemed like it might have been a place to explore this perspective. It was not the place, so I still followed the conversation, but took my expression elsewhere. But I loved the idea of looking at meditation practice through a lens that just might „break the rules,“ or at the very least shake the rules up a bit.

  2. 

    Thanks for asking, Matthias. I noticed „Sometimes“ had commented when she’d (like me a year-plus ago) found the S N-B blog at first often and insightfully, if not from the seminar-room philosophical approach favored by Glenn and Tom and contributors, but a more personal, direct perspective. Many shared her preference for combining daily life with what they meditated about or refused to meditate about; others championed a very intellectual take full of logical formulae and contemporary theory from psychology, political analysis, and in some cases a fervent Marxism. I was curious why anarchism and peacemaking did not gain a wider consideration, but the thrust of the agonistic struggle on S N-B under its most vocal and formidable exponents took a more charged, staunch, footnoted and academic stance, as many tended to come to the blog soured by conventional x-buddhisms and determined to dismantle them.

    I by contrast found the blog such a steep learning curve that I tended to study it as an observer and participated rarely–posting maybe five or six times, three of those to one piece „A Spectre is Haunting Buddhism“ where I tried to bring in Gary Snyder’s 1969 essay on Buddhist anarchism, the fate of the dharma as imagined by David Mitchell’s novel „Cloud Atlas,“ Jonathan Sperber’s new biography of Marx, and Occupy as contexts. Given my background in literary and cultural criticism, my interests shift to marketing and transmission of the dharma in popular media, but this leaning was not followed much, compared to score-settling and counter-arguments with the standard figures associated with the x-buddhists. I tried to enter the discussion to contribute thoughtfully, but when my posts (and people tend to ignore newbies if they do not belittle them; at least I was not crushed with disdain!) weren’t taken up, I had to remain content to read along. I do wish (as I do when I teach online discussions) that if a poster was responded to by name directly, he or she would have followed up in turn by name, as this appears to me polite and follows the same conventions one would expect in a classroom–not to be ignored by classmates or professor, but I realize in the mosh-pit charged atmosphere of S N-B that niceties and netiquette were not expected to be applied as I’d expect myself.

    As I teach college courses (including Comparative Religions) to a non-liberal arts enrollment at a business-technical university, I don’t have the luxury to dig deep into material in my daily setting and duties as Glenn, yourself, and colleagues may elsewhere, and I continue to reflect on the gap that opens between rarified (however necessary such discourse may be among scholars and practitioners) speculation and everyday conversation, as I wonder when I deal with the student with zero knowledge of religion or philosophy or literature compared to the students and teachers who may incorporate the discussions of S N-B into their classrooms, sittings, and seminars. I lack that opportunity, and what I would have liked to see more of on S N-B was patience (and advice) how to deal with the majority of folks out there who might benefit from its perspectives but who did not possess the intellectual wherewithal to enter the spirited discussions, and power plays that found this blog (as others I have witnessed the past nearly two decades in a politically relevant realm) engaged with heated advocacy of particular theories by insistent believers.

    Lacking any personal resentment with the establishment myself as I never had joined it, I found S N-B’s challenge bracing, and as the warning posted after I had been reading it awhile rightly declaimed: it’s good to spend a few years studying Buddhism first, before coming to it. As I had done just that, the blog found me at the right time and frame of mind, whereas if I had stumbled on it earlier, it might have confused me. I did admire „Basic Teachings of the Buddha“ for its phenomenological approach to the suttas, and the organizing principle of it I found ingenious. I recommended it to others and they too admired it and told me it is the best presentation they’d found. I remain very curious about how Glenn teaches now at his Buddhist Institute given the history he has with that book compared to how he’s progressed since its publication, and how he–like many of us who followed S N-B–continue to evolve once we’ve been shaken up by our experiences. Peace…

  3. 

    Hello Matthias,

    thank you very much for all the input and talso he provoking stuff. For me your and Glenn’s work is buddhism at it’s best. Those who dare to ask questions and make up their own minds are those who bring us all forward. Questioning everything is a core practice of buddhism, isn‘ t it?

    I am sure this wasn’t the last we heard of you and I am looking forward to seeing what your next project will be about. Creative guys like you will not be able to sit still for long :))

    Lucius

  4. 

    Sometimes,

    I’m with you. I also ask the question, ‚what about the people for whom meditation etc. is a literal lifesaver?‘. Not sure SNB was a venue for discussing that, but I’d be interested if there are any sites where it is discussed. Do you know of some?

    I’m one who has found a specific x-buddhist practice quite helpful in dealing with the deck of cards life dealt me. I always wondered where that fit in the discussion on SNB. It was addressed a bit in some articles. It was definitely a critical project.

    Craig

  5. 

    Hi Matthias,

    I am sad about the end of SNB, but this seems to be the common fate of the best rock bands. It looked like a creative and therefore potentially explosive mix to me. All the thinking made my brain hurt at times, but you guys gave us some interesting tools.

    It was not a project that one can follow leisurely, it does require active participation, follow-up and thinking, in other words time. The discussions aren’t light and come with the necessary homework: reading list of former articles, knowledge of Badiou, Laruelle etc. One has hardly time left to meditate…

    Thanks to all three of you for your interesting initiative and I will keep reading you.

  6. 

    The blog was interesting because, from the zen view, it was based on a wrong idea or thesis. Actually, Buddhism was from the beginning about thinking („why all this suffering?“) and zen about the intellect and how to get to its limits. Buddhism is a practical philosophy of mind. Not coming from zen, the creator of this blog thus helped to line out the disadvantages of Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism especially, on which concepts many of the participants based their views.

  7. 

    Thanks for your comments so far.

    One reminder: this is not about this blog here – Der Unbuddhist – but about the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism (SNB). This blog here isn’t going to stop soon. Also I don’t think Glenn Wallis at SNB is going to stop writing (he has already published a new piece yesterday). What has ended over there is the discussion. Among other reasons this is because of the sheer amount of time and work such discussions require. That is the same here with me – whereby I have the additional challenge that I am not a native english speaker, what probably everybody can see, and it costs me more time writing English than German.

    As for the topics. There are already some emerging. I will try to summarize them a bit later or in the next days.

    I hope more people will contribute. I tried to reach as most people as possible about this. Please spread the word. I think some people have been so bugged by some discussions that they won’t come back to this at all. But such a negative impression is just as valuable as anything else.

    Have a good day.

  8. 

    Hi Matthias,
    ‘If you build it, they will come’ (anyone catch the movie reference?), I received your communication via the follow on my blog. Another human animal reeled in through the blogosphere. I didn’t realise you wrote English language posts here at your blog. I attempted to do the same in Italian, but was not up to the task, so well done.
    Unlike the first two commentators, I am what you might define as a hardcore Buddhist, a proto Buddhist of sorts. I don’t see a need to discard Buddhisms’ practices, techniques and immense commentary on the methods of practicing meditation and so forth. I tend to view it as a large mass of maps and sign posts that other humans have put together, obviously within very specific historical, cultural, social and institutional settings. I think it quite possible to extract the real from the mass of overlay.
    For me aligning myself with the figure of the Buddha as human, means I jettison all notions of special, spiritual and super, ad recognise a fellow human that engaged in a thoroughyl human activity, which I am also engaged in. I am very interested in the human results of pushing the potential of Buddhism as a series of practical techniques and methods as far as possible within the human animal state of being and living. In this way I differ from many of the visitors at the SNB blog. I love intelligence, and pushing thought, but always come back to the simplicity of the body, of environment, of feeling, of interaction and communication in the flesh with other human animals. I consider the two perfectly capable of co-existing. Once romantisicm has been discareded, simplicity of gesture can be re-embraced.
    I have spent considerable time dismantling the internal belief structure centred around the notion of special, which I was deeply embedded in, so that my 20 year journey through Buddhism was focused on goals, awakening and radical change. Gettign rid of such warped obsessions was a major undertaking and SNB helped with that.
    I am not a soft, damaged soul. I am an animal dedicated to discovering the limits of what it means to be human (without any special categories). Coming to SNB was a means for furthering such a practice and speeding it up dramatically.
    My attraction to SNB was its wholehearted dedication to dismantling all special categories for Buddhism, which I found both exhilarating and liberating. I had already begun in earnest my own disenchantment with Buddhism, so when I first came across the article ‚Buddhist Anti-Intellectualism‘ by Tom a couple of years back, I found new play partners in the ongoing experiment of a human life.
    I dipped in and out like many after but was constantly called back by the sheer intensity of critique and was happy to throw in a few comments of my own: the last one seemingly was one fo the elements that pushed the blog over the edge.
    Oddly enough, I probably gained the most from Tom’s articles and Glenn’s comments. I found myself most often in agreement with you Matthias, perhaps because I am interested in the pragmatic and human results of meditative activity of the like found in Dzogchen and Mahamudra, which you’ve alluded to too. Rather than discard these practices and notions after disenchantment has occured, I’ve always seen the work at SNB as an opportunity to change the rules of how you percieve and engage with Buddhism’s core tenets, ideas and practices. Disenchantment is necessary and it also marks a step forwards in independence and therefore maturity, but then you have to take the next step, which is what I often called for at the SNB blog. At that phase, human contact becomes more necessary. In spite of the intensity of the group work that took place there, I wonder if perhaps the missing ability for humans to come together in the flesh was in part what limited the ability of the blog to become a means for producing the answer to what comes next for those who actually follow some form of meditative practice. Glenn stated that that wasn’t ultimately his intent however.
    Finally, returning to specifics as you asked for Matthias, I have long had a sense of the collective identity, or rather how we see ourselves in others and how unoriginal we are. Tom’s piece on Taking Anatman Full Strength was an excellent attempt at giving form to what I had intuited, but been unable to give expression to. As I was always unwilling to define it in spiritual terms, I never found a satisfactory conceptual framework for defining it until Tom’s article. I don’t believe it is the end of the story, there’s more to be said, but it is indeed an excellent article. I would say that the two articles I mentioned mark the two key intellectual gains for me from the blog.
    I could say more, but that’s probably enough.
    A nice SNB survivors thread Matthias. Thanks for putting it up.

    Matthew O’Connell

    P.S. Matthias, did you read the article I sent Glenn and Tom a while back on Reconfiguring Enlightenment? I’d be happy to hear your views on it.

    P.P.S If any readers here are interested, I say a lot about meditation at my blog if you’re after a different view point on practice from traditional Buddhist teachers. My articles tend to focus on meditative practice from a non-traditional approach and I employ many of the intellectual tools from SNB. I have no vested interet in convincing others. I have no ties to traditional Buddhism any more. Everything at the blog is an ongoign experiment in how to do Buddhism in contemporary, western society.

    http://posttraditionalbuddhism.com/2013/05/09/considering-enlightenment-a-project-in-reconfiguration-1/

  9. 

    I came to Speculative non-buddhism already disillusioned with the various postulates of xbuddhism… its ‘quietism’ which, as Zisack says, makes it the perfect ideological formation for co-option by capitalism, its sufficiency, which smothers genuine questioning under a frustrating circularity of thought, and its promise of bliss and a safe passage from vicissitude, which seduces those most disheartened by their situation and therefore least able to resist its blandishments. Also, I was trying to find a way of integrating my interest in Marxism with the fundamental postulate of classical Buddhism: dependent origination

    Much of this is articulated with great power and originality in Glenn’s initial blog text Nascent Speculative non-buddhism , which can be found here http://www.nonplusx.com/issues-1-4/
    Why was I ‘thrilled’ with SNB?. The reasons are all here in this text; an extravagant use of language which acts to decommission xbuddhist circularity by forcing the mind to grapple with a new way of speaking about the ‘material’ of xbuddhism; the utilization of Laruelle’s non-philosophy as a tool for disabling xbuddhist sufficiency. The only thing missing here is a critique of Buddhisms co-option but it is implied and (as i soon found) was a major preoccupation of the SNB’s many posts and comment treads., often fueled by Toms insistent articulation of a Badiou inspired Marxist critique .

    So…all in all it had everything I was in need of and more; and added to that was the excess of knowledge and insight displayed by you Matthias, and by Glenn and Tom , not to mention the many knowledgeable people it attracted to its comment treads and commissioned in its posts.

    Furthermore, there was an added advantage for me in that it provided for me a philosophical home, though not a very comfortable or reassuring one. I found the discomfort, which like some of the other commenter’s here centered on the necessity to think and think again, until as Joy said’ all the thinking made my head hurt’. Ha ! not to mention having to look over my shoulder at Rinzai Pepper! (which was for me often a positive experience… I have to say that Tom’s presence pushed me to be as exacting over my attempts at thinking as i could. (The only place I have experienced anything similar was as a member of various communist factions in the seventies and eighties.)

    What have I taken away from the experience. Well there’s no better expression of what that is then Glens formulation;

    ‘only once we have suspended the structures that constitute Buddhism, only once we have muted Buddhism’s cosmic vibrato, are we free to hear fresh, terrestrial, resonances.’

    ‘Fresh terrestrial resonances’ is exactly what I have taken away and I’m now permanently on the hunt for more. That and, strangely enough, (but confirming an intuition of Glens,) a greater commitment to the Protagonists concept of dependent origination, now understood to include the social formations which give rise to Human thought and action… and a renewed commitment to silent sitting, perhaps the hardest of all to explain but there you are!

    Craig,
    I’m humming ‘dusty porch’ these days
    ‘Like so many time before,
    Trying to heal these age-old scars’

    Wonder what the ‘specific xbuddhist practice’ was?
    Don’t want to know until you tell me in some new lyrics!

    Matthew,
    looking forward to reading your ‘enlightenment’ essay.

    Sometimes,
    love the poems, often dip in when the head hurts…’I am a human who meditates’ says it all!

    Fionnchu,
    enjoy your reviews and all the blather bout the old sod

    Matthias… great idea!

  10. 

    Forgot to say:
    The thing I wanted to raise more on SNB and the one thing that never got any real attention, except maybe in terms of critiquing distorted notions of what it actually entailed , was the question of the body…its role as a site of repressed trauma, …the question of energetic flows and blockages and their relationship to mediative experience,..the whole question of the imagination, visualization and its relationship to thought…that whole area seemed to get ‘short shift’….
    Had this something to do with the emphasis on pushing thought?…or had it something to do with Toms commitment to the psychoanalytical tradition (of which I know little and now want to know more);
    or the opposition to atomistic positions which centered the site of agency within the body/brain complex instead of within the social formation..
    All areas of fruitful inquiry and material waiting for non-Buddhist
    interrogation

    oh and apologies to Mr Zizek for misspelling his name!

  11. 

    Hey Patrick,
    I’d love to explore the topic of the body further too. I’ll write something on it myself soon, time permitting. I would come at it from a pragmatic pov, how else can you if you want to explore the body, and not just abstract ideas about it. The key points you mention are both fascinating and essential to any ongoing meditation work. They are bound up with resistance, attraction and repulsion, and yes, trauma.
    If you’re interested in a rather intersting contemperary viewpoint and can stomach a light dose of romanticism, I’d recommend ‚The Spell of the Sensuous‘ by David Abram. It offers a rather useful starting point based on an exploration of the later work of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. He lays out an interesting perspective of the body as a site of communication. It’s not perfect, but his perspective is radical.
    Matthew

  12. 

    Thank you everybody for your input.

    There are some points which I would summarize under the heading missing perspectives. It is difficult for me right now to go into this without again touching the difficult terrain of personalities shaping communication. But personal characteristica very much shaped the discure on the SNB-blog… what I find a bit ironic with all the talk about the interindividual emergent subject. Personalities very much shaped the discourse and the topics to debated and not to be debated. But that is nothing uncommon.

    Sometimes, you say:  There is a perspective missing, a perspective of a quietly practicing, recovering population.

    Perhaps that too concerns all the lurkers and those who do not respond to this call for a short annotation to non-buddhism. It is very difficult to fathom, if at all, what effects and what interests happend to be there. Maybe it has been just another hype, maybe it is gaining momentum just now while taking a break. But what missing perspectives are there?

    A quietly practicing, recovering population… This makes me think about all those people who feel lost, overwhelmed and exhausted in our modern world. Working hard and/or being hurt, trying to find spaces and places of rest to recover without being able to leave the frantic pace they are torn in. Could the blog have been some help for those?

    That resonates also in what fionnchu says: The gap that opens between rarified (however necessary such discourse may be among scholars and practitioners) speculation and everyday conversation.

    There have been at numerous times questions from readers/commentators if it would be possible to lower the niveau of language and of educational background which where necessary to take part in the discussions. Is this possible? For example, is it possible to explain the Laruellelian „decision“ in a straight forward way? I think this is something at the heart of the non-buddhist project – the decision – but at the same time it might be the elephant in the room.

    In regard of this gap in the beginning I had in mind a certain kind of conversation which I hint at in the final notes of my No More Meditation. I have given up on this idea relatively early in the project, sometime last spring. Perhaps this was a mistake and it would have been better to further it.

    What I see is that on either side of this gap walls went up. Positions hardened.

    Perhaps it would take a good novelist to bridge this gap. Somebody to write a good story about the sometimes all to abstrus things happening in x-buddhism and the way to think oneself out of this. Think of Woody Allen making jokes about psychoanalysis… Perhaps Buddhism is in a similar position today like psychoanalysis: it has values but as soon as it is popularized it inevitably gets corrupted. In a way the film Kumaré already showed this – the strange thing being that even this joke went unheard and instead a person like Deepak Chopra praises the film. What an irony.

    The one big missing perspective in the whole project is an awareness about its structural development in the discussions that where taking place. But maybe it is simply impossible to see such development in the making. So the rupture which now takes place might a be a very good thing.

    fionnchu mentions another missing perspective. That which could have developed out of the text A Spectre is Haunting Buddhism, or: Give Marx Some Credit. One thing is that this text had the fate of being ill-timed. Shortly afterwards Tom Pepper’s Metzinger Critique was published  and as this topic was one of the fault lines of the blog the discussion at once concentrated there.

    X-Buddhism is an a-political affair as Glenn Wallis observes and non-buddhism puts the question of politics and Buddhism on the agenda again. Gary Snyder asks the political question in his Buddhist Anarchism but than it gets lost. What remains is that all there is to do is to meditate (what also Synder in a way is suggesting). So perhaps this discussion is also so difficult because buddhism has a in the West a history of being a-political for nearly fifty years now. There is no political analysis in Western Buddhism in the sens of an analysis of how the structures we live emerge. There is a sense that is something is wrong but no more.

    At the same time Tom Pepper is so determined about his political view that we have a polarity of an absence visavis a full fledged ready-to-use political stance. That was at least always my problem: I come in as somebody who has a lot of questions I not even know yet and I get bombarded with answers which I am unable to judge (to put it in a nutshell). The process of enabling oneself to judge is missing here.

    The missing perspective from my point of view was a kind of conversation which would enable people (inclusive myself) to develop the ability to judge answers.

    Disenchantment seems to be another common topic in one way or another, but that is no wonder given to topic of the blog. Who could come to this blog without being disenchanted about Buddhism in one way or another?

    Matthew: Disenchantment is necessary and it also marks a step forwards in independence and therefore maturity, but then you have to take the next step, which is what I often called for at the SNB blog. At that phase, human contact becomes more necessary. I wonder if at some point it is necessary to really meet?

    But personally I also still wonder what comes after disenchantment and what the next step is? There are a lot of open questions. One is how we answer the question what comes after Buddhism is stripped off its transcendental camouflage? Personally I suspect my answer is different from Tom’s and Glenn’s. I came into Buddhism because of my interest in meditation techniques. The secondary but perhaps more important effect was that I came into contact with European philosophie (via Dzogchen => Herbert Guenther => Heidegger …). Now Buddhism vanishes again – philosophically and practically speaking. The next step for me is much more thinking about our situation with the help of contemporary philosophie à la Laruelle, Byung-Chul Han or Zizek. But I don’t see where Buddhism will come in here. Time, culture, language – that are all mighty gaps to travers for an understanding before one can even think about a reformulation. Others might do this.

    I don’t know how the guys 1000 years ago meditated – apart from the fact they had no central heating – so there is only me now. No past. Only some flashes.

    That’s another point: Meditation. You all mention it several times. That would have been my topic but I came to the conclusion that it is of no use to speak about „meditation“ at all. There is an early comment by Glenn Wallis:

    I do not doubt that we can enhance our human experience by, for instance becoming more sensitive to our surroundings, breathing rhythmically and diaphragmatically, attending to our judgments, pausing before habitually reacting, and so on. None of this, though, is “mindfulness.” What is it? Just what it says: breathing rhythmically, paying attention, etc. Do we really need to subscribe to a multibillion-dollar, institutionally entrenched cultural fad in order to spread the news about the value of simple human capacities?  (second last paragraph)

    That says a lot and from there a discussion could have evolved. But strangely as far as I  can remember that seldomly happened. Instead the discussion often was loaded with emotion. Certain terms would at once be chastised without the request for more precise definition. Never where certain human abilities like deep wakeful relaxation, rhythmic breathing and its effects, semiconscious states of consciousness and the weird things happening there, lucid dreaming and a lot more discussed as what they are: Phenomena humans observe, describe, discuss, use, misuse, misunderstand or what ever. The whole discussion almost always was loaded with emotion. I remember this post of mine and I only can say: it is my fault not having been consequent enough in following through with this.

    Instead this whole topic of meditation was discussed again and again with no result at all. For Tom Pepper it seems to be something what I would call „thinking about“, for Glenn Wallis it might be something like „just sitting“ and I just  said it’s like having a cold beer after a hard days work. All bullshit. Very frustrating.

    We all do it in one way or another. You sometimes describe it in some of your poems in a way  I seldomly see. Unpretentious.

    Perhaps that is one of the missing perspectives too: coming unpretentiously to terms with ones life.

    Then there is the Body.

    That is an interesting point too and again a missing perspective. I asked about the locus of experience in the blog at some points. But as you Patrick say the questions in this area are largely left unanswered.

    Had this something to do with the emphasis on pushing thought?… or had it something to do with Toms commitment to the psychoanalytical tradition… or the opposition to atomistic positions which centered the site of agency within the body/brain complex instead of within the social formation?

    I leave it here for today. Sorry if this comes all a bit unsorted or even redundant.

    Perhaps this was just some punk band making some noise and falling into oblivion again. Joy: the fate of the best rock bands… at least we have the records. 

  13. 

    Matthias, I meditate now and again with a group that examines the process via Buddhist philosophical concepts but dispenses with any identifiers of the practice except a mediator timing a sit and then asking us to articulate what we’ve recollected from the sit after it. As „Sometimes“ calls many who sit with me: „a quietly practicing, recovering population.“ Not those who may gravitate towards the combat of S N-B, but yes, some who’ve welcomed the „Basic Teachings of the Buddha“ by Glenn Wallis that I’ve recommended. Some come to sit after being burned out on Zen, many come as another sort of recovery (a „lifesaver,“ Craig?) after abuses of many kinds, some as an adjunct to therapy, others out of curiosity. I don’t label myself by it.

    Certainly as Matthew agrees, „disenchantment“ brings us together to sit. I am sure Glenn would peg me and the participants as he has unsurprisingly critiqued the author (American, a former Theravadan monk in Sri Lanka) who conceived this approach, but for me, as I already knew and trusted the man who conducts the sessions locally years before I studied Buddhism or even knew he was involved with it, I was open to his invitation to come and try it out. Otherwise, given my personality, my exposure would surely be limited to books and blogs.

    It appears from this thread that I can relate my situation here in a way that I could not on S N-B given as Matthias knows well the personalities dominating it and by necessity the parameters drawn by the editors as to what was off-topic. The „social formation“ Matthias alludes to as needing examination when we talk about (x-)Buddhism, and what Patrick touches on as the level of exchange raised to such a high level that those of us without a training in contemporary philosophy find ourselves left behind both tie in to the question Matthias raised about the need for contact, in person, which after all is how Buddhism has traditionally been transmitted. And, this is a method, to me as a college instructor, where it’s alas not the language of the seminar for grad students, but that for remedial freshmen, in my humbler duties. Not sure if this reliance on matching understanding to the listener and participant who needs guidance in the vernacular gets brought up much in the online varieties. On related issues, an Australian sociologist studies: Buddhist Meditation and the Internet

    While I am a more aloof, egghead type and I find the discussion that follows a sit in this approach a challenge to my reticent nature, it’s helped me as I get to „hear“ what happens to others in a sit. That’s fascinating: I tend to dwell on ideas or roam into mentally „empty content“; others may be more visual and sensual by comparison. Unlike reading about Zen, say, and getting nudged (Soto?) or teased and berated (Rinzai?) if I can’t get the breakthrough, in the sit I go to, there’s no goal. Instead, one’s advised to abandon the idea of having to „get permission“ for what one chooses to do during a sit. The only request is that one records a sit after it’s done in writing and is willing to discuss this with the rest of the group after a sitting. The „human contact“ Matthew notes and the lack of pretension that „Sometimes“ may evoke do happen. People stumble and hesitate, laugh and sigh as they try to put into words what’s happened during a sit, without interference by others, who only listen as the mediator asks questions.

    This lack of a top-down imposition of direction allows participants to discuss dharma understandings without feeling bound to them; the focus is to come up with our own ways of relating our experience, rather than by default applying only the Buddhist definitions. While the mediator’s concentration on „nothing arises in isolation“ locates a familar dependent origination emphasis he favors, he admits it’s his own orientation. (Patrick, he’s also reflecting on the issue of homelessness as a state that meditation on Buddhist teachings brings one into to, and the ramifications of that. When I tried to bring up Occupy in this context, he didn’t take my bait, however!)

    The discourses attributed to the Buddha may or may not „work“ for us now. Dharma may be drawn upon, but as a tool to dissect our own situation, and not the only instrument for this investigation. I’m not as bound daily as some to the journal keeping participants do after each sit, but this follow-up approach to learn from one’s sit, and not simply to end it, encourages insight so as to integrate what’s found out in meditation with what precedes and follows it.

    That is, it doesn’t separate meditation from the rest of our lives, and it does not return to a breath, mantra, focus, or deity as its central foundation. Rather, it lets one drift or dig down, float or fall asleep even, free-associate or mull over what’s „on our mind“ naturally and without judgement or self-criticism. Many who sit with me enter hypnogogic states; I do rarely. I find this a gentler, more tolerant and patient direction that encourages self-awareness without weighing down meditation with blather (a good word, Patrick, indeed) of affirmation expectations, tiresome platitudes, or mindfulness jargon. And, it does bring up the body as a fundamental (pun?) grounding for all of us.

    As to psychoanalysis, I aver (if as one who’s never been drawn to it) is that this appears to return one to establish the sense of a cohesive self, to restore well-being; Buddhist approaches to me seem to open one up to the loss of self, the dangers of well-being as a pallative to ameliorate the human condition by a system dependent on theory, a professional class of powerful directors, and often a system that thrives on sustaining a moneyed clientele at least as its American institutional cadre. I am aware of leftist and Marxian critiques, but a commitment to restoring a class of therapists as a priesthood appears to me at odds with the more anarchic approach that such as Snyder hint at (and I agree leave at that) in his critique that you link to above, Matthias. I’m glad you’ve linked to „A Spectre“ and your „No More“ piece on S N-B as both provide sensible touchstones for further application and study.

    The political approach for me’s still unfolding. In the middle of (my review to come) a galley of LGBT activist-Jewish legal scholar-Buddhist practioner Jay Michaelson’s „Evoking Dharma.“ So far, it glances at Glenn and discusses Matthew’s essay on post-trad B in some detail within a section about online {x-buddhist} debates. I’m anticipating Michaelson’s own progressive stances vis-a-vis Occupy (of which I was a somewhat participant-observer in L.A.) as the final chapter may reveal how he fits „sacred activism“ into his previous examination of the inevitable commodification of what he calls the „disappearing“ dharma as it enters and is sold by mainstream Western cultures. Michaelson favors a „mindhacking“ model that promotes meditation as a way to „upgrade“ one’s mental technology, and he encourages a nuanced acceptance of its results, noting one must eventually grow out of them: what Matthias labels „the weaning off of the infusion“ as the next step.

    For me, the appeal of analyzing x-Buddhist approaches appears from seeing how they can provide joy and not only anomie, guidance and not merely dissatisfaction. I don’t think one needs to come to them with only resentment although I understand the reactions of many on SN-B. As one from the first round of the (post-)punk scene, there’s an uplift that comes from immersion in possibility, but real danger of burnout too.

  14. 

    Hello Matthias

    ‘But personal characteristica very much shaped the discure on the SNB-blog… what I find a bit ironic with all the talk about the interindividual emergent subject. Personalities very much shaped the discourse and the topics to debated and not to be debated. But that is nothing uncommon.’

    You point here didn’t strike me at first but has got me thinking. Especially about ‘personalities’. I too often found it ironic that in the context of discussion on the SNB blog, where the social formation of the individual was emphasized, that very discussion was ‘personality’ driven. But having given it some thought I now wonder about the assumptions we make when we think of the collective as the erasure of difference.
    Does it follow that because an individual is dependently originated that his of her personality or individuality or uniqueness is in some way diminished or ‘relativised’?

    I think it is easy to slip into this way of thinking because of the pervasiveness of the xbuddhist reduction of dependent origination to an emptiness reified as some sort of transcendental field of complete equality, in which all traces of difference and (inconvenient) particularity are erased. It is one of the seductive appeals of xbuddhism that it promises just such an immersion into a blissful field of baseline equilibrium, in which all of the prickly’ particularities of personal and collective life are conveniently removed. This is, as Glenn says, part of the seductive virbrato of xbuddhist appeal that must be deflated. Could it be that emptiness and ‘personality, (difficult or otherwise) do not in fact erase or equalize one another but are one and the same thing? in such a case of what use is the concept of emptiness, or for that matter social formation ?

    In other words if emptiness is not a refuge from the particular and its mundane and inconvenient ‘difficulties’ is emptiness, or the cultivation of rest in emptiness as the object of meditation, of any use whatsoever? And what then of Buddhism and its promise of ‘liberation’? Shouldn’t we just abandon it and embrace methodologies that force us to grapple with particular difficulties ,no matter how painful the prospect of having to do that may seem? Or is the ‘true’ practice of a spiritual path just exactly this?

    On such a scenario it seems that ‘enlightenment’ is in fact a realization that there is no permanent place of rest and, conversely, confusion is the xbuddhist belief in just such a place. What then of those who are not strong enough to even ‘make it through the day’ ? (at some time probably all of us)

    You make so many other interesting points in your comment that I could go on but this is probably already too much for a comment (and probably way to broad in scope)

    One more point. I too see myself for the immediate future concentrating on contemporary ‘European’ philosophers, but I can’t see myself escaping the net of Buddhist philosophy if only because it touches time and time again on fundamentals. As a case in point consider Lacans concept of the ‘void’
    “The Real, therefore does not exist since it precedes language . . . it ‘ex-ists.’…The Real is . . . that which has not yet been symbolized.”
    Sound familiar?

    I found a very good blog on all of this that is fairly accessible…heres the link http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2013/04/17/lacans-ontology/

    I immediately jumped at you inclusion of Byung-Chul Han with Badiou and Zizek because I was not familiar with the name. I found some good articles on him but most of it was in German… are any of his books in English?

    Fionnchu,
    You too make so many interesting points but what most interests me is your description of your own meditation practice.

    That is, it doesn’t separate meditation from the rest of our lives, and it does not return to a breath, mantra, focus, or deity as its central foundation. Rather, it lets one drift or dig down, float or fall asleep even, free-associate or mull over what’s “on our mind” naturally and without judgement or self-criticism. Many who sit with me enter hypnogogic states; I do rarely. I find this a gentler, more tolerant and patient direction that encourages self-awareness without weighing down meditation with blather (a good word, Patrick, indeed) of affirmation expectations, tiresome platitudes, or mindfulness jargon. And, it does bring up the body as a fundamental (pun?) grounding for all of us.

    This is more or less my a replica of my own experience too. These days I sit mostly on my own with a few friends (one in particular )and without any ‘moderator’ I always try to include some analysis afterwards but mostly I sit in silence ‘ Dzogchen style’ using the breath to ‘stabilize’ the mind ( something I never achieve…should we want to and is it ever really achievable?)
    Then its a matter of just being ‘there’. One part of the mind watching what the other part is up to, or teasing out the origin and nature of a particular sensation or feeling, dropping into thought or fantasy and coming back to ‘awareness’.
    I don’t know what if anything this contributes to my own wellbeing but at this stage I couldn’t imagine not doing it.
    Glenns latest post on SNB offers a really good analysis . His point about the self-referential nature of meditation in an xbuddhist context hits the nail on the head. In most cases meditation functions to bring the xbuddhist subject into existence. In other words it performs an ideological function of replicating forms of capitalist social relation in a form more suited to the demands of late capitalism and a modern, consumerist professional class. Thats not all it could be of course and what it is can be changed along with the ‘Subject’ and its ‘World’

    Matthew,
    Thanks for your comment. I will check out David Abram book when I get some time …I have such a reading list it makes me despair of ever getting a handle on anything.
    When I mentioned ‘the body’ it was in full awareness that the subject of ‘body practice’ in all its forms is really a philosophical hornets nest. As an example there is this by someone called Eric Walrabenstein in response to a situation in which some Yoga practitioners were criticized for passing a picket of underpaid hotel workers in order to gain access to their Yoga conference on the subject of ‘bodily wellbeing’

    -Yoga is not about standing up for what’s right, while going to war with what’s wrong.
    It’s about transcending right and wrong all together.
    -Yoga is not about aligning ourselves with those who do good and against those who do not.
    It’s about being liberated from the self all together.
    -Yoga is not about standing up and fixing the problems of the world.
    It’s about sitting down and seeing the innate perfection that has always already been.
    This war against reality is the ego’s game, not yoga’s—and certainly not your truest self’s.
    But please don’t drag yoga into your war against God’s perfection.
    Yoga is about creating unconditional stillness; yoga is about accessing the perfection of what is; yoga is about recognizing who you truly are—beyond the one filled with outrage and self-righteousness.
    If you wish to truly do something in the name of yoga, sit, breathe, and smile.

    Could there be a more eloquent expression of the blatantly ideological nature of ‘Yoga spirituality’ than this? Indeed it would be a perfect example of the sort of ‘Subject formation’ referred to in Glenns article.
    The same could be said for the many ‘psychological’ approaches to ‘bodily trauma’ and somatic holding’ and ‘energetic blockage’ As Glenn asserts in the above post.

    How else should we understand the perfect confluence of some x-community’s practice with its doctrine? It never fails. It appears to be as inevitable as it is complete… Meditation, it seems, is a potent tool for inculcating ideology. And the meditator, as good subject of that ideology, cannot hide the fact. S/he cannot but expressively ventriloquize the terms and beliefs that populate the practice.

    This recursive loop between the discourse and its terms and the ‘practice’ is the mark of an ideology .
    I think the situation is better in the environmental, ecological and eco psychological area..at least there our ‘bodily’ experience is related to our ‘embeddedness’ as a nexus of many interdependent strands of ‘being’
    What I would like to explore is how ‘personal’ meditative exploration of ‘inner’ bodily experience relates to these strands and how all of that is articulated in a language that avoids co-option of the sort illustrated in the above quote. Much of this was side-lined on SNB for various reasons.

    From my own experience I think such a practice lends itself to a form of bodily reconciliation with ones experience of psychological pain, often solidified into permanent bodily ‘attitudes’ and habitual forms of self-restraint and self- aggression.

  15. 

    Hi fionnchu and Patrick.

    I have to read your comments later/tomorrow with a bit time. I’ll have to say some things about it. Especially about „meditation“ and the point Patrick makes in the beginning of his comment –: Does it follow that because an individual is dependently originated that his of her personality or individuality or uniqueness is in some way diminished or ‘relativised’?

    In the mean time: Do you know this text => #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO FOR AN ACCELERATIONIST POLITICS? It reminds of the Lewis Powel Memo Jayarava posted in A Spectre is Haunting Buddhism. Only that it’s the other way around this time. I still have to read it carefully. A replie to this text you find here => #Celerity: A Critique of the Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics.

    Btw: Blockqutes do not work in the comments here in this template. I always put citations in italics („em“ und „/em“. Also there are no numbers to reference comments. Perhaps I’ll have to look for another template some time.

  16. 

    Patrick says: “..having given it some thought I now wonder about the assumptions we make when we think of the collective as the erasure of difference.
    Does it follow that because an individual is dependently originated that his of her personality or individuality or uniqueness is in some way diminished or ‘relativised’? In other words if emptiness is not a refuge from the particular and its mundane and inconvenient ‘difficulties’ is emptiness, or the cultivation of rest in emptiness as the object of meditation, of any use whatsoever? And what then of Buddhism and its promise of ‘liberation’? Shouldn’t we just abandon it and embrace methodologies that force us to grapple with particular difficulties ,no matter how painful the prospect of having to do that may seem? Or is the ‘true’ practice of a spiritual path just exactly this?”

    I am wondering instead if such a concept of emptiness as a unifying absolute is basically a means for feeding the primal, maternal need to be unified again with the source of our physical emergence; the mother.
    The idea that emptiness is of no use whatsoever seems reactionary and rather superficial. The concept is simply a starting point if you take the body as the basis for engaging with meditative technique as an ongoing practice. The problem with mainstream Buddhism is its prescriptiveness. The tendency to state goals, its truths and the experiences one should have through engaging with its techniques and emptiness as a concept is treated the same; this is the ideological trap. If you instead take ideas such as emptiness as a working hypothesis, then it is up to you to explore how it appears in your immediate experience and how valid it is. Meditation, if used as a means to create stretches of space between our reactive and habitual thinking, feeling, impulsiveness, merely provides the space/ greater degree of objectivity, where we can feel our way into an exploration of what emptiness means as a lived, seen, whatever reality. The body is important here because it provides the basis for being, thinking and feeling. It’s important to avoid one answer replies to such exploration. Answers are almost always multiple when it comes to exploring such topics, whereas in Buddhism, or any –ism for that matter, trading in absolutes is normal and promotes ignorance. Instead of seeing emptiness as either: nothingness, voidness, nihilistic meaningless, fullness, togetherness, boundaryless, you can explore how it is to experience the loss of certainty in each of these modalities. That is when experience communicates knowledge that is experienced directly (does that make sense?).
    As I write in the rest of my essay on reconfiguring enlightenment the notion of absolutes is highly problematic. Concepts such as liberation have to be defined better, and the first step is to add a preposition: liberation from..and then we have to ask, what? Then it starts to get interesting. Specifying in as clear terms as possible what liberation is from brings us to an experience that can be known and shared. Recalibrating our understanding of meditation as providing us with nothing special is essential to a revaluation of the meaning of meditation practice as we choose to engage with it. Once uit is stripped of all special categories, then it has to reveal what it actually is on simpler, more sober terms.
    Reading Buddhism critically from a sociological, political and philosophical stance is great: Essential. But I think we need to be careful about locking ourselves into an ‘us and them’ mentality which perverts the ability to simply pick up meditative practices and explore their efficacy on ‘our’ own terms. After disenchantment, move on. Play a new game with new rules. I don’t see why we have to consider Buddhism as the honey trap. It may be for many others, but once you’ve recognised the game and its rules, opt out. Opting out of Buddhisms’ positives is of course an option, but taking a new approach on new terms is also available.
    Sure, philosophically the body is a big, confused issue, but experientially it is always there and usually very simple. It is the primary door to accessing any degree of the ‘real’. Understanding how our ability to feel and the degree to which we can actually feel, unimpeded by fear, pain, tension, resistance to pleasure etc, is concomitant with our ability to feel the real and reduce the distance between what is perverted through the sensory fields and what is actually there. You can argues these points from a variety of philosophical schools, but the basic elements of feeling, pain, pleasure, etc are always there as they are.

    “..at least there our ‘bodily’ experience is related to our ‘embeddedness’ as a nexus of many interdependent strands of ‘being’
    What I would like to explore is how ‘personal’ meditative exploration of ‘inner’ bodily experience relates to these strands and how all of that is articulated in a language that avoids co-option of the sort illustrated in the above quote. Much of this was side-lined on SNB for various reasons.
    From my own experience I think such a practice lends itself to a form of bodily reconciliation with ones experience of psychological pain, often solidified into permanent bodily ‘attitudes’ and habitual forms of self-restraint and self- aggression.”

    What you say here is interesting. Recognising the ephemeral line between inner and outer is a good place to start.
    Perhaps what’s is needed is to move on from complaining about eh xbuddhists and their failure ot live up to our expectations and start exploring more freely ourselves what is important and what can be done with Buddhism’s entrails? One cannot remain a vicitm for ever.

  17. 

    Hello everybody,

    there are a lot of topics here already. But I cannot keep pace at the moment with the amount of text and the different topics mentioned.

    One of the problems for the blogger is the sheer amount of text, topics, problems, question concentrating on him/her as a network nod. I had a nice little war going in the last days with the Tibetan Center Hamburg. It is that such a debate, its sometimes cruel stupidity or all those who contribute something useful, have to be given answers if one triggers it. People begin to write essays and send them via e-mail etc. etc.

    All the while only few are aware that there is an asymmetric relationship between blogger and readers in regard of workload. This leads the blogger sometimes to harshly and cruely select topics or to reduce answers to a few lines.

    This might have to do also with certain problems we observed at the Speculative Non-Buddhism blog.

    The question is how to reduce the amount of energie the network nod has to process? The answer is in my opinion clearly: The collective.

    There are a number of topics which should be processed, asked about and be discussed.

    1) The silent ones sometimes mentioned.
    2) Meditation (proper definition, pros & cons, miss use as a potent tool for inculcating ideology…)
    3) The body
    4) Marxism and Buddhism
    5) Anarchism and Buddhism
    6) non-politics and Buddhism?
    7) Personal characteristica and the interindividual emergent subject
    8) The gap (sophisticated discussion vs. down to earth every day dwellings)
    9) Direct interaction (in the body)
    10) Psychoanalysis
    11) Talking about experience (not only in relation to #2)
    12) Jay Michaelson’s “Evoking Dharma.”
    13) Liberation? Shouldn’t we just abandon it (Patrick)
    14) Lacans concept of the ‘void’ (Patrick)
    15) Yoga
    16) Prescriptivenes of ideas such as emptiness vs. taking them as working hypothesis (Matthew).
    17) ‘Us and them’ mentality
    18) Being still a Buddhist in all this

    …. that’s just a few points skimming through your coemments. Please add missing points.

    Now, what to do with these points? Glenn for example starts to write coincidentally about meditation. Should we discuss this all here – if at all? Is there interest to develop these and other points which partly have been neglected so far?

    I think – if at all – there should be a collective approach. One point mentioned so far was that Buddhism is transmitted so far person-to-person. But one thing today is fact is that we have a totally new situation in which we communicate (otherwise this here would not have happened).

    Point one would be a meeting we could arrange – at least for the europeans now here.
    The second point is that we should use internet technology to develop further this project.

    For the first point: there is a place relatively central where we could meet => Bordo. I know the place (haven’t been there for some years though) and I know the people managing the place. Take a look. It’s an x-buddhist place, Kagyu lineage (Sharmapa side). But they would let us do what we want. It should be relatively affordable too. And its lovely, country side, mountains, nice little old huts….

    Second: How about establishing an extra blog for all these questions. The difference – that’s just brainstorming now – should be a collective approach. That means we (who exactly?) should all have authorial rights and should be able to post articles at all times.

    The agenda could be to separate and discuss the points mentioned above (others too of course). It could be a paralleling blog to the Speculative Non-Buddhism blog to discuss further what is presented there. There could be certain rules how to communicate to experiment with alternative styles we couldn’t try out so far.

    That’s just some rough thoughts.

    What do you think?

  18. 

    Matthias + comrades, I’d have to rely on this forum as I’m far from Europe, but the parallel blog for discussion collectively is a fine idea. I’d like to pursue at least #5 + 12. I suppose like #1 I tend to be more a „silent one“ but I’d welcome the opportunity to speak up more, as my ideas percolate. I understand the workload you are under as this conversation takes off, and I appreciate the reminder that these endeavors do come „on the side“ in our busy lives. I agree that the transmission is changing, and as the „Buddhist Meditation + the Internet“ study (I linked my review above) tries to examine the pros/cons that cyberspace + collaboration offer us much. Michaelson touches on „feedback loops“ by which proponents nowadays can improve more rapidly, and this concept might spur on such a project.

  19. 

    Hi Matthias,
    I think the points you raise are spot on and the ideas you suggest intriguing and well considered. Time and attention are stretched by investment in these online and abstract projects. Choices must be made and your attraction to collaboration a sensible solution.
    I think the idea of the blog as a collective field of exploration is great. After starting a blog just over a years ago and starting a new more focused one recently I realise that I don’t have the time to invest the required energy to make it meaningful enough to impact those who might find it worthy of a read. Buildin gon each other’s ideas and work could be a more efficient tmeans for creating more stream lined and focused excchange.
    I would happily participate in a group blog work with each bringing his or her uniqueness to play, providing an array of morsels on which to feed, nibble, devour, add.
    The idea of a physical get together sounds interesting too. Especially if it were to take place in the summer months, say August?
    Consider me as interested in both and willing to contribute.
    I have a variety of skills and a lot of experience in the organisation of both local, national and international events, seminars for small groups and very large groups, so I could certainly contribute if the get together idea takes off.
    Matthew

  20. 

    hi Matthias,
    great idea would be very interested…am away from home at moment working ..will return tuesday next will respond then in more detail…have little internet access here but interested in the points you make, especially the idea of a parellel blog with collective imput and responsibility, and a meeting at some stage.

  21. 

    Sorry I have not been commenting. I will be traveling until June. But I have been reading and enjoying the comments. I like the direction that the discussion is going and would love to (and plan to) participate once I am back home and settled. Or perhaps if I have a moment while traveling…thanks for including me in the discussion, I truly appreciate it.

  22. 

    Hi Matthias,
    As I said above I would be very interested in contributing to a blog. My interest would be to contribute to posts, essays and comments, especially as commentary on whats being produced at SNB, but also, of course, with a view to its evolution into something new, whatever that might entail.

    As for the list I am interested in everything there. I think thats certainly enough to begin with. On a more general level I have little experience with creating blogs etc so I don’t think I would be of much use there. My feeling is that it should be visually different from SNB but have some of the useful elements such as numbered comments and good and easy formatting when writing posts, comments etc.

    The other thing that I think is important is to develop a relationship to other blogs touching on similar issues, especially those that try to explore ’spirituality‘ (not only Buddhist… for instance there are good developments happening in catholic theology and various other denominations). I think it is essential to try to bring everything into ‚conversation‘ with ‚post-modern‘ critical thought so trying to establish contact and collaboration with blogs with similar philosophical and political interests would bring a new dynamic to things. For me everything is rooted in a social and political context that I cannot imagine excluding ( not necessarily Marxist. I am interested in other positions on the left and in ecological issues and Animal rights issues, all of which are connected of course.)

    Collaboration with a network of blogs in the philosophical, ‚Spiritual‘, and political spheres would be a way of enriching content and bringing new perspectives. I don’t know much about the technical aspects but ‚ping backs‘, re-blogging and other possibilities might be some of the ways we could broaden the conversation to include new and interesting perspectives. For me the ethos should be one of openness and acceptance of difference but in the context of trying to push thought to its limit in all spheres. And for me personally that means in the context of radical alternatives to capitalism, but one that includes an emphasis also on individual transformation…. for me that (objectively) implies the conscious evolution of a new ‚ collective subject‘ articulating an as yet only dimly perceived ‚truth’… but of course it is not necessary to put things in this way… other ‚vocabularies are not only for me welcome but probably essential.

    Last but not least I think it is essential to include other than overtly analytical perspectives… I mean more ‚creative‘ approaches as ‚ for instance, exemplified by Sometimes and the work she is doing there with poetry…I really think this is important and not simply an add on … for instance I think critical work,(reviews, re-writings . Re-interpretations in the area of literature, film, visual Art, music etc are really important.)

    Maybe this all seems a tall order but I think its simply a matter of evolution and everyone contributing only as much as they feel they are able to.
    As for rules and comment monitoring or the lack I think we need to discuss these things and maybe experiment with different approaches… nothing at this stage need be written in stone.

    Hope some of my points are helpful.

  23. 

    Ps
    Would be interested in a meet up definitely… know already about Bordo but have never been there.. I will be spending a week in the mountains there a little way from Domodossala on the Swiss side… a friend I sit with has a stone cottage there (no electricity or running water… candle power and a stream outside…. we spend a week there working and sitting…will be there July 8th to 15th but I suppose thats too soon for people…I’m trying to save myself money (in very short supply… but I will settle for a later date as I think a get together would be interesting… I personally would like a lot of sitting but thats just my preference …others may need/want something different… I’m open to whatever…As for formal meetings , public speaking etc forget it I’m useless Ha!

  24. 

    Agreed w/Patrick about the scope and format of a compatible blog project. I review eclectically and that aspect is one I’m most eager to contribute to. I think (looking ahead) a domain name is very important that hints at or suggests a sufficiently broad perspective, so readers and searchers via blog rolls and the net can anticipate what they’d find. As Matthew elaborates, a project open to contributors combines a collective accumulation of insights and ideas that can move substantial thinking into action more rapidly, with the flexible opportunities of this medium encouraging collaboration. Alas, we cannot all be there in one place physically. While being (at least) 6000 miles away (the Italian Alps: you are lucky) prevents me from a corporeal manifestation along those of you Continental comrades, the ecological, ideological, and cultural dimensions that take up dharma without being beholden or locked into it appeal a lot. Moving into anti-capitalist critiques beyond or spinning off of Marxist/ Marxian approaches to me makes sense. I’m researching Occupy-inspired spirituality and „sacred activism“ writings now, for instance. I’m here to help.

  25. 

    The blog needs a person willing to set it up and maintain it. If it were to be a free blog, that would simplify matters. It could either be run as a free for all: a space where a select number of people might contribute regularly with a view to read and comment on new posts and that si open to any contributer. A second approach could be that of a more creative project where a theme is chosen each month and core contributers write something, short even, but connected to the theme, to stimulate further discussion, engagementt, sharing of ideas. Again, I’m happy to contribute.

    Sharing purpose and direction always helps.

    As for the meet up, I have various ideas that I’m happy to share if there is genuine interest. We could start by getting the blog up and running and then I would post there ideas on retreats and gatherings in a post-traditional approach.

    Patrick: I am happy to discuss marx and all the rest, but would very much like the blog, meet up to be focused on bringing all such discussion towards practical ends, rather than remain at the level of theory. Not that I don’t love a nice bit of theory, but if this blog/potential meet up is to meet the calls made in this post and line of comments, hands on would seem the appropriate direction to take and the one that interest me the most. There could obviously eb space for both however.

    If no one steps forward (Matthias?), I will have some time in June when I could put together a free blog.

    Fionnchu: Perhaps we could start by throwing out names for the site? Off the top of my head: Non-Buddhism Perspectives/Non-Buddhism Tour/Buddhism Dismantled/After Buddha Blog/Dharma Dice/..

  26. 

    Hello everyone,

    Matthew,
    Thanks for your comments.

    Not too clear what you mean by ‘hands-on’ . How would a hands on approach apply to the blog ? …as to the meet up I would like a chance to sit together as much as to talk.

    On a more general level I think, as I said earlier, the ethos of the new blog should be one of openness combined with a determination to push thought to its limit and to put xbuddism into proximity with contemporary thought …that seems to me essential but of course I welcome other perspectives and hope that anyone with a different perspective would push it too… its in ‘opposition’ after all that unity is established. On this point there is a really interesting post over on Jayarava’s blog which reviews a book which puts forward the argument that critical thought or reasoning is more about argumentation rather than a solitary analysis the object of which is the uncovering of a ‘truth ‘ by means of theoretical analysis.

    What this suggests to the authors it that reasoning is best adapted, not for truth seeking, but for winning arguments! They argue that this is its „main function“ (60) which is to say the reason we evolved the faculty. Furthermore reasoning helps to make communication more reliable because arguments put forward for a proposition may be weak or strong, and counter arguments expose this. Reasoning used in dialogue helps to ensure communication is honest (hence I suppose we intuit that it leads towards truth – though truthfulness and Truth are different)

    http://jayarava.blogspot.de/2013/05/an-argumentative-theory-of-reason.html

    This seems to me to be plausible; critical thought as a teasing out of a ‘truth’ by means of an open ended collective process of examination ( in its original meaning as ‘to weigh or to test); which in itself could be a description of the function of a new blog visa vie xbuddhism.

    I get the impression that you feel that the critique of xbuddhism is somehow complete.

    You say

    I am happy to discuss Marx and all the rest, but would very much like the blog, meet up to be focused on bringing all such discussion towards practical ends, rather than remain at the level of theory

    I feel exactly the opposite; to me the process as only barely begun. Maybe this is due to a difference in our understanding of what the process of ‘critique’ or ‘critical examination’ entails… a good example of what I mean is contained in the dictionary meaning I referred to above…’a weighing or testing’; in my opinion the critique of Xbuddhism ( as just one variant of late capitalist ideology) should be pushed to breaking point in exactly the same way as a stress test is conducted on a material in order to see if it is at all useful as an element for constructing a new edifice. What might this new edifice look like? As Glenn puts it;

    We will never know until we, as the literary protagonist named the Buddha or Gotama is made to put it, let the collapsed house lie in shambles

    And the edifice under construction is not a new theory but a new ‘world’, that is an objective shared space that is both the ‘real’ world we inhabit and the ‘world’ of thought which we collectively construct as our reflection on this world.

    You say

    The idea that emptiness is of no use whatsoever seems reactionary and rather superficial.

    There’s a serious misunderstanding here. When I say;

    … if emptiness is not a refuge from the particular and its mundane and inconvenient ‘difficulties’ is emptiness, or the cultivation of rest in emptiness as the object of meditation, of any use whatsoever?

    This statement is presented as a question for xbuddhism; here ‘emptiness’ is used as a term within the overall xbuddhist formulation of the meaning of ‘nirvana’ or ‘liberation’. Xbuddhism invariably reifies the state of emptiness as a transcendental realm of harmlessness and bliss. If it can be shown that this reification is untenable than it is indeed the term ‘emptiness’ is useless in relation to its logical function within xbuddhism. The whole edifice is put into question; which is the desired outcome of the practice of non-buddhism.

    However in trying to understand the (ontological) nature of reality and our experience of it (in meditation for instance) as something akin to emptiness or voidness, these terms are as good as any others; as good as , say, inter-dependence or dependent origination; but none of these terms should be allowed to go unchallenged when they are used as elements in the ‘transcendental phantasmagoria’ of x buddhism

    When you say,

    Instead of seeing emptiness as either: nothingness, voidness, nihilistic meaningless, fullness, togetherness, boundaryless, you can explore how it is to experience the loss of certainty in each of these modalities. That is when experience communicates knowledge that is experienced directly (does that make sense?)

    To answer your question would take a too long a comment but, on an experimental basic, and as the material for the new blog, such a statement could be used as the basis for posts from whoever is interested in trying to unravel and explore all of the implications contained in such a short and compact formulation.

    I hope any of the above doesn’t give the impression that I am uninterested in exploring the ‘phemononology’ of the practice of meditation and trying to find a vocabulary unencumbered by xbuddhisms extravagance, in which to be able to speak clearly about ‘inner’ subjective experience. As I said earlier all of the points listed in Matthias list are worth exploration. and more besides.

    Anyway all of these issues could be teased out in detail in a new blog.

    I would be delighted if you could take on the practical work of constructing a new free blog, in agreement with everyone else of course. The sooner the better in my view. As for a name, my preference would be simply ‘The Non-Buddhist’ since it references both SNB and Der Unbuddhist and both reference the non-
    philosophy of Laruelle

    fionnchu

    the ecological, ideological, and cultural dimensions that take up dharma without being beholden or locked into it appeal a lot. Moving into anti-capitalist critiques beyond or spinning off of Marxist/ Marxian approaches to me makes sense. I’m researching Occupy-inspired spirituality and “sacred activism” writings now, for instance. I’m here to help.

    Just the sort of cross-over between x buddhist spirituality and politics that I see an fertile ground, that whole area of spirituality, activism, alternative movements, radicalism and spirituality (going through the ‘sixties’ and all the way back to Trancendentalism) is important to an understanding of the emergence of American xbuddhism.

  27. 

    Patrick. “Not too clear what you mean by ‘hands-on’ . How would a hands on approach apply to the blog ? …as to the meet up I would like a chance to sit together as much as to talk.”

    Thanks for your considerate reply. It’s funny how at times I write something off the top of my head, as an initial reaction and then recognise in the same moment how it will likely cause a reaction against, and yet can’t muster up the effort to change it. I should make more of an effort at times, but time is limited and life demands. I apologise. I’ll try and explain. My phrase was probably an attempt at saying I am primarily interested in the phenomenology of Buddhist practice, but also in the impact on such the nature of contemporary xbuddhism has on it, and what it then looks like if you jettison the insipid ideological traps of Buddhism that are asserted as truths, but are really the human machinations of history; political, institutional, etc.
    My interest is primarily: What occurs in the subjective field of experience when a human animal engages in meditative techniques and Buddhist practices as a means for creating change and radical transformation and abandons the traps of contemporary xbuddhism? I tend to view ontological arguments as most useful in their relationship to the actual experience of the human animal. Please be aware this is a personal reflection rather that statement on what should or should not be done by others. I love to dismantle the beast, but only because it creates greater room to breathe, cleaner perspectives and greater awareness of the implication of alignment, allegiance and the formulation of a self. I am interested in the effect a radical acceptance of philosophical ‘truths’ have on the human animal and how they live it in a contemporary life, rather than remaining at the level of theory or speculation.
    For me the house has collapsed. In stripping Buddhism of all special categories and engaging over at SNB I honestly feel I kicked down the last precious gems I was holding onto with regards to Buddhism. The house still remains for the majority of Buddhists though of course. You can sift among the ruins and rubble and destroy the minutia, but my question is what do you as an individual get at that point? I’m interested in that. So for me ontological argument is important, but then I am always asking how do you as a human live with the result, the consequences of really facing up to the implications and shaking force of the truth that is revealed through pursuing such line of thought? That’s where the poorly stated phrase was attempting to move towards. Hopefully that is clearer now.
    As for emptiness, yes, your points are important, but they lead me to a curiosity about the result in an ongoign practice of contemplatign such insights. Phenomenoligcally I would ask, what happens if you experience a state of being without an ‚I‘? Of experiencing something conceptually presneted as emptiness, non-self. Buddhism tells us what should happen, what it means, and what should happen next. I am interested in what happens if you forget all that and engage with that experience without grasping at such assurances. My interest is in that space and other such experiences and how they emerge when you actively strip away the conceptual frames provided by Buddhism, or other ’spiritual‘ perspectives. To be able to do that you have to rid yourself of xbuddhisms contamination. How do you do that; that’s where the SNB blog was most useful to me.
    As for the blog. I think there is room for work that is interested in and prioritizes different critical approaches to xbuddhism and many could potentially be hosted and likely to great effect. These projects always require time and energy so I think it’s important that contributors work on what inspires them an ideally meet in between the gaps. If my interests are too far from the non-Buddhism project then those interested enough to explore the questiosn Matthias listed will need to decide what is apporpriate/possible.

  28. 

    Hi everybody,

    I found Patrick’s idea so compelling that I set up a blog and a domain => The Non-Buddhist.

    Patrick: The idea is your’s, so the domain is your’s too and I can transfer it to you anytime.

    What could be done with such a blog is open. But I find Patrick’s thought very important:

    The ethos of the new blog should be one of openness combined with a determination to push thought to its limit and to put xbuddism into proximity with contemporary thought.

    Especially „to put xbuddism into proximity with contemporary thought“. This often is forgotten due to the sometimes deeply engrained principle of sufficient buddhism.

    With the blog there are some technical details which aren’t solved. I haven’t found a template yet which allows numbered comments. Glenn’s old template isn’t available any more.

    I invited several people as authors to contribute. As an „author“ you can:

    edit, publish and delete your posts, as well as upload files/images. Authors do not have access to modify, add, delete, or publish pages.

    You will see who it is in the upper right corner. Who by the way should be invited as further authors? By what criteria?

    One step level below the author is the Contributor:

    A contributor can edit their posts but cannot publish them. When a contributor creates a post, it will need to be submitted to an administrator for review. Once a contributor’s post is approved by an administrator and published, however, it may no longer be edited by the contributor.

    So far I am the godhead of the blog, the administrator. This function is of course to be discussed. So far I see my function in just to provide the possibility to blog. I will not intervene – except with common trolls generally and with proselytizing x-buddhists. In both cases it isn’t easy to find the balance… but that’s just to begin with this.

    I will work on the layout in the next days.

    Just post what ever you seem fit. For example about the recent posts by Glenn and Tom about ‚meditation‘.

    Experiment!

    As for the collective approach there is one problem I am thinking about: How to handle super-dominant people who use an open space like a non regulated comment aera of a blog to push their own agenda?

    Re meeting. I am not sure exactly what I will do during the summer-holidays. I will check the availabilities of Bordo in August. I am in Bozen/Bolzano from July 4th to 9th. If anybody is in the vicinity I’ll be happy to meet you. I think the agenda for a meeting should be relaxed at first but anybody with an idea what to contribute should just push forward.

    It’s one more experiment.

    P.S. I am not going to post a lot in English. Besides that I have to write a lot in German I have some other things to do during the summer.

  29. 

    Great Matthias, Afraid I’m virtually illiterate when it comes to these things so I have only a vague notion of what it means to ‚own‘ a domain! Thanks… now I’ll transfer to the new blog.

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