“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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Žižek, Anarchism, Buddhism

It's a sign of the times, perhaps, the Occupy times, that Žižek can come this close to my favorite combination of flavors: Buddhism, anarchism and Taoism. Check it out:

Our task is thus to remain faithful to this eternal Idea of communism: to the egalitarian spirit kept alive over thousands of years in revolts and utopian dreams, in radical movements from Spartacus to Thomas Müntzer, including within the great religions (Buddhism versus Hinduism, Daoism or Legalism versus Confucianism, etc.).

As John Clark points out to me (HT to him), it should without doubt be Daoism versus Legalism or Confucianism—but never mind. Then Žižek goes and slightly spoils it:

The problem is how to avoid the choice between radical social uprisings which end in defeat, unable to stabilize themselves in a new order, and the retreat into an ideal displaced to a domain outside social reality (for Buddhism we are all equal—in nirvana). It is here that the originality of Western thought becomes clear...

Right? I mean, no, we're not all equal “only” in nirvana, within Buddhist praxis. For a kickoff, we all have unconditioned karma: we're not totally stuck in our caste or class. (This was the whole point of the social origin of Buddhism.) And nirvana and samsara aren't separate. I see no inherent obstacle in Buddhism to adhering to the egalitarian spirit in this world.

Never mind. Žižek comes along quite far here.

1 comment:

Schizostroller said...

Hi Timothy

As someone knowledgeable on Buddhism, as well as theory, perhaps you could clear this folk belief for me. I often hear people say stuff like "Yeh, well its karma, you know, what goes around comes around."

Now I don't know the genealogy of the phrase 'what goes around comes around' but I have always associated it with the idea of punitive justice within a protestant ethic. That there is a constant weighing up, but that we have no power over it.

Now as I'm aware, and as you suggested, Karma, is inconditioned, therefore not punitive. It is about how one acts on one's life and the lessons learned. The idea of 'just rewards' does not exist in it, one may be an 'evil' man but be reborn in a well off family because to do so may allow you to learn a soecific lesson about the nature of enlightenment.

Is this right?

If anything the phrase 'swings and roundabouts' may be more accurate, although stil denying one's active role in the world.

all the best

Schizo Stroller