“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ivakhiv on Buddhism (Object-Oriented Buddhism 28)

I'm so glad Adrian is weighing in on this with another excellent post. This really is his bailiwick.

Take-home line (of many):

I would simply point out that Zizek doesn't seem to have conducted any studies, or even referred to any studies, showing that Western Buddhists are any less socially or politically engaged than anyone else. If anything, I'm pretty sure that research would show, and has shown, that that isn't the case.

I was hoping someone would add some empirical spice to the proceedings. Cheers Adrian. More soon.

Adrian is one of those people it's a treat to think with.


Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this recently, but from another angle. I haven't read everything he has to say about the subject, but have listened to some of his lectures, in which he describes a manual recommending the use of Zen meditation techniques during the second world war to fortify Japanese soldiers; at another time, refers to Buddhism as the dominant religious outlook among the super-rich, etc - real-world evidence of a sort, albeit tendentious - yet his support for (a highly unorthodox interpretation of) the Christian legacy and its supposedly emancipatory potential is based on ideas, not on its blood-soaked, mind-manacled history. What is good for the Christian gander should be good for the Buddhist goose.

Henry Warwick said...

Buddhism less socially engaged? Let's look at the evidence:

Is there a Buddhist Relief Fund? No.
Is there a Catholic Relief Fund? Yes.

Is there a Red Cross? Yes.
Is there a Red Crescent? Yes.
Is there a Red Lotus? No.

The list is long. Buddhism is not a religion. It's a philosophy. That it got all tangled up in metaphysics back before people had the language and ability to separate these things is not Buddhism's fault, but it is up to contemporary authors to have the sense to be clear about such things.

Is there a Freudian Relief Fund? No.
Is there an OOO cross? No.

Nor will there be.

Psychoanalysis and OOO are not religions. Their ties to the social are narrower (even more so than Buddhism's).

my 2 cents worth on the subject.

Amod said...

Hi Tim,

At the risk of too great self-promotion, I'd like to link to the following posts of mine which I also mentioned on Adrian's post, as they express a point of view somewhat contrary to his:

For me, Buddhism has mostly been an anti-political tradition, and this is something valuable about it, a feature and not a bug. I would agree that contemporary Western Buddhists (perhaps contra Žižek?) tend to be of the Engaged variety, but in this respect they move away from much of the tradition's history.