“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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Morton on Buddhism (interview)

This was such an honor an really fun to do for Lion's Roar. Take home line: Buddhism is not about suffering at all.


Louise said...

Many thanks for your interview with Lion’s Roar. I read it with great interest, as, being a Buddhist practitioner with a keen interest for (Western) philosophy, psychology and anthropology as well as for the philosophical aspects of Buddhism, I agree that the time is more than due for Western thought to gain familiarity and insight into Buddhism’s philosophical traditions and the quite pluralistic intellectual context where they evolved. Western thought, rooted in the abrahamic-hellenistic tradition, is still mostly blind to the philosophical history of classical India and the East. For centuries, Buddhist philosophical schools have debated among each other, and other schools of classical Indian philosophy ranging from theists to atheists and materialists to idealists, on ontological, logical, epistemological and ethical topics that Western thought still believes to be the sole standard-bearer. Since before the Christian era, Buddhism, and especially the Madhyamaka school, the middle way out of all extremes, has come up with insights that seemed – and still seem – out of reach to a Western thought entangled in its fundamental (and faulty?) paradigms and dichotomies.

I must admit I had never heard of you and OOO before the interview. Any opinion of mine on your work would be premature. I don’t know how familiar you are with the Madhyamaka philosophical school, founded by Nagarjuna (1st century C.E.), but (how can I say?) I feel it is the diamond-splintered sword that cuts the Gordian knot of our basic “I/other” dualism from which stems this ontological sense of lack and separation, this primordial malaise called the all-pervasive suffering/dissatisfaction in Buddhism. In case they can be of any use for further development and input, I would like to suggest some references, both long and short (some of which I have posted on the Lion’s Roar Facebook release of the interview). For now, I would start with this very very brief discussion by the Dalai Lama, the leading proponent of Madhyamaka today: http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/dalai2.html

I guess you know a bit about French-born Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, a student of one of the root teachers of Tsoknyi Rinpoche and a close friend of Tsoknyi’s brother Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Matthieu Ricard also happens to be well versed in Western philosophy and science for being the son of influential French philosopher Jean-François Revel. If you haven’t read it yet, I warmly suggest "The Quantum and the Lotus", a dialogue between him and Vietnamese-born American astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan that offers fascinating insights on Buddhist ontology and epistemology in relation to Western thought and science. From Ricard, I also suggest “A Plea for Animals” (those non-human sentient beings…) and “The Monk and the Philosopher”. I confess that I would be extremely interested in hearing/reading a discussion between you and him, and perhaps even with B. Allan Wallace (a Western scholar and brilliant teacher of Dzogchen). In note this down on a wishlist.

PS. Apologies for by bland writing style. My native and everyday tongue is French and I lack idiomacy in English.

Louise said...

Following up on my previous post, I thought you might be interested in these articles:




I think you might be quite interested in Vietnamese Zen master (and pioneering ecologist) Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, especially with respect to ecology.

When I said in my previous post I’d be extremely interested in hearing/reading a discussion between you and Matthieu Ricard, and perhaps even with B. Allan Wallace, I forgot to mention professor of Buddhist philosophy Jay Garfield, as well as David Loy.