This paints with far too broad a brush. There are plenty, as you later state, who are not anti-intellectual, or to drop the double negative, their are plenty of American Buddhist intellectuals.
Perhaps it would be better to focus on the anti-intellectuals more specifically and avoid trying to make sweeping societal claims. Buddhist psychology definitely separates sense perceptions and language. And in meditation, at least in the Theravada tradition, there is great emphasis on seeing them clearly so as not to conflate them.
Somewhat related, you state:. Taking that away would deflate the vows tremendously. These perceptions in and of themselves are neurological functions. When we pull away from touching a hot burner or cover our ears and eyes due to the intensity of input, these are reactions not mediated by higher brain function. Even amoebas do similar things. How we understand what has happened, is when the influence of language comes to bear. Hi Justin W. Thank you very much for joining us here. I appreciate your comments.
I would just like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a few Speculative non-Buddhist ideas using your comment as a partner in dialogue. Buddhism is trapped in a circle of narcissistic reiteration. Your comment here exemplifies this principle. Yes, they may be difficult, and may take time, for some people to grasp. Your point just provides further evidence for my contention that contemporary western Buddhists are inured to language that borders on the banal and the simplistic.
Buddhist language, if the glossy mags, the books, the blogs, the scholarship, the dharma sermons, are any indication and how could they not be? Justin: If I failed to make the case that Western Buddhism is anti-intellectual, your post certainly helped! I was more thinking of Lacan: we can only see what we know how to look for. Certainly amoeba and reflexes might be react thought-free, but surely we also perceive the world actively, seeking out things, not just waiting for them to hit us or burn us. Even our sense of our bodies, in a Lacanian understanding, is profoundly affected by the structure of our thought—which, of course, includes language.
When we sink down into the bodily sensation, we bring our ideology with us—in the way we feel our body, but also in the naive belief that that is a place of pure, ideology-free, experience. I will say, though, that his work was pioneering and is usually dismissed far too easily without being understood. Glenn, I still practice. Third it has to do with what I think is special in dzogchen and mahamudra in that there is an emphasis not to abandon thinking.
Thinking here as every conscious content. It provides time for a relaxation modus of the cognitive as against the working modus. The rangdrol-thing makes it not a daydreaming but provides the experience of seeing the dissolution of content… vanishing. This deems me something very real. It is not enough though.
I mean, I can see through theoretical learning how very practically I am a composition and this composition could vanish or change. So somehow both sides of the equation come together as praxis. But how would one describe the atmosphere one experiences to somebody else…. The stasis of meditation turns it around.
Think of all these nadis and whatever runs through the body in tibetan visualizations. They visualize them and they try to find them, to see them.
Now the holy Lama Synesthete writes it down and for the rest of the millennium everybody else tries to reproduce this light. That is why, I think, generalization in this area is counterproductive and why a real conversation is needed. As for your last paragraph, I am beginning to see what you and Tom mean. I have to think. As for the strands of thinking in the dzogchen and mahamudra techniques… perhaps a simple synopsis of the characteristics I mean would do at first — but not before December.
I must admit, I have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of response incited by this post. Not that I expected it to set the world on fire, but it seems to have aroused far less interest than the topic of Buddhism and therapy. I received several emails and Facebook messages about the essay, and even a few notices of other blogs and discussion boards where this essay has been mentioned, but nobody seems to want to discuss the matter here. It may be that the tone of my responses is part of the reason, and clearly I have little patience with academics are not intelligent and want to rule out of court anything they are ignorant of.
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As a couple of people have mentioned to me in emails, Dogen would likely have responded to such pride in stupidity by hitting you with his stick and throwing you out of the zendo. The only pale equivalent I have here is my curt tone. What kinds of things might it be helpful to rigorously rethink from a non Buddhist perspective? What systems of thought, what philosophical problematics, what scientific paradigms, might a Buddhist perspective help us to think our way through and break free of?
Any suggestions? My own interest, at the moment, is in the theory of the subject, and aesthetics. It seems to me these efforts can be hugely useful, but are likely to meet with stubborn resistance from within mainstream academics. A site like this can be a great way to explore questions that are not even comprehensible within the problematic of existing academic debate.
Hi Tom. I share your desire to see more robust discussion about the issues you raise in your comment. In fact, I long for such stimulating discussion. Sadly, though, I am not at all befuddled about the lack of response to your essay and to this blog more generally. I perceive another disrespected limit at work here as well: that of tone. To my ears, it ranges between vacuous pollyannaisms and well-mannered English-like disagreement.
Hence, the range of tones given voice here. This business of feeling like I have to apologize for responses that are received as aggressive or curt or arrogant—I am done with all that. To paraphrase Herr Nietzsche, I think: Nothing is more ridiculous than a blogger who wants to be liked. The Human Agreement System? Destroy it! Finally, when I say that I hope to reach six or seven people with this blog, I mean it.
I have come to expect very little from committed Buddhists when it comes to thinking. After all, why should a Buddhist think? Those topics you mention sound like the beginnings of a research program—one that would certainly interest me, anyway. I am starting to wonder whether a different format, such as an on-line journal, might better serve our perceived need for more robust work. The anti-intellectualism of Zen is one of the things I have always hated about Zen.
Generally, the students are all college educated, with not a few holding Masters and even Doctorates neither of which I have. And that I would be upfront in affirming that what I would be offering was indeed philosophical thinking, which has always been a part of the Buddhist tradition. What are you offering besides your critiques? Tom, this point needs to be made to those other teachers at Spirit Rock and the majority of Buddhist teachers like them :. THAT tired anti-intellectual cliche?
However, perhaps it would be better to just ask questions, instead of insisting what you can easily comprehend is all that needs to be understood. Real quick, this is most indubitably not an academic blog. Neither is it oriented toward philosophy. I doubt a single Buddhist studies scholar reads this blog. None, at least, has admitted to it so far. Interestingly, a few literary scholars have shown up. I have seen several references to it on different blogs, and have received numerous comments by email and even personally, face to face.
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Believe it or not, this is a mental-masturbation-free zone. Not a single unnecessary word has appeared here. And every word that appears on this blog is brimming with more life and love and relevance than the entire Tripitaka in all languages combined. Critique is a huge project. One speculative possibility, for instance, that is offered here is the opportunity for the committed practitioner to begin to see buddhistic representation as buddhistic representation. Such seeing as , though, is potentially destructive.
So, there is a taking in the very offering. I am curious about your last paragraph. I think many tones are present. Who do you have in mind? Thanks for joining the conversation, Frank. To my mind, the implications that academic discourse is indeed what is going on here are fairly clear from this comment. For instance, after speaking about the tendency to reify various concepts in those lectures to yoga students I mentioned in my previous comment , I now add a phrase or two explaining the term.
And, what do you know… greater comprehension arises in my listeners! And okay, critique really IS huge, important, and necessary! Perhaps this truly is enough for this venue. All too many of my friends from 30 years ago are dead. Many who are not dead kind of look it! Finally, as to whom I have in mind needing to hear your critique, I admit that they are probably the least open to hearing it!
I found — as you too did — that the inquiry had some rather firm boundaries, and that the buddhist teachings were for the most part out of bounds! I end with a question for you Glenn. Hello Frank. I think your final question gets right to the heart of the matter.
How do I harmonize my past work on Buddhism, which was concerned with a hermeneutics of appreciation, with my current critique, which is closer to a hermeneutics of suspicion? And I can tell you what is responsible for that stance. It is thinking. I could expand and say: it is also meditation practice, change, and, perhaps, even something like growth.
An academic would scoff at the claim that it were so. Jayarava has many thoughtful things to say on this topic a more recent post—maybe from the summer—is on the role of the amateur in the world of scholarship. It may help some; and it may hurt some. I just want to clarify one thing—the comment you seem so bothered by, in which I use the term academia, was not meant to assert that this blog IS academia. I think if you read through the entire post the point will be clear. As for my dismissive tone with YOU, well, what kind of response do you expect to your own tone?
And I would hardly say I am not ideologically conditioned; I think if I have one advantage over many other people, it is that I know that I AM always functioning within ideology—that I do not take my ideology for transcendent truth. I will try to spread the word in my own way, but I doubt those teachers are an audience that would ever listen to me! I have always said I am very weak in skillful means. I generally do not work within their problematic, their set of questions and rules of discourse, and so my arguments seem scattered and thoroughly uninteresting to those trained in academic philosophy.
Just the other day, I was somewhat confirmed in my conviction when I came across an article from Tricycle Magazine, written nearly 20 years ago, which has recently gotten a flurry of comments on the website. The responses to this interview cover the gamut of reactionary thought. When one commenter points out that Buddha seems to have been involved in advising political leaders, nobody seems able to understand what he is saying. The interesting thing for me was the absolute assumption that these commenters have that politics cannot do anything, cannot change anything at all.
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So, they turn to Buddhism, of all things, as compensation for a world they think must just naturally run along its capitalist path. The best we can do is find some solace in private meditation. Hirota calls it the 'linguisticality of human existence. The next chapter, 'Reality as Language' moves from a consideration of what Shinran considered true to the concept of 'reality as name', a concept again enunciated in Tannisho as the next part of the passage quoted above.
This brings us to the next chapter which Hirota calls 'The Dialogic Structure of True Language' and in which he relates the creative tension between the Dharmakaya as Suchness and the Dharmakaya as compassionate means to that between the Name and the Vow. Thus language and reality intersect. This brings to an end the first section of the book. The creative analysis of the language of Shinran's creative in the sense that the analysis stimulates thought, not in the sense that something not present is being dreamt up - that this part of the book undertakes is subtle and, in the end, reveals much about the content of Shinran's insight and teachings.
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Shinran could convey his understanding only by language, but his use of language was careful and creative and bears close analysis. Hirota has conveyed his analysis in a form which is, as is Shinran's, allusive and dense with meaning. It bears repeated reading, and some understanding of what Hirota has to say here - and my brief attempts here just convey something of the flavour but not much of the substance - is necessary before the rest of the book is attempted. The second part of the book is 'Engagement with the Pure Land Teachings'. In the first chapter of this section, 'Modes of Engagement with the Teaching', Hirota introduces one of his core concepts.
In the initial stage of engagement, the person entering the Pure Land path finds a tension between his or her aspiration and the image of the perfection of the Pure Land. This tension will provoke introspection and, at some time, the tensions are overcome but not eliminated and this is shinjin. The rest of the book is, in a sense, an elaboration of this concept but Hirota has further insights to share. In the next chapter, 'The Encounter with Truth', he elaborates on Shinran's use of language in his teaching.
Despite the deep knowledge of Buddhist texts that Shinran displayed in writing his Kyogyoshinsho, in the records of his personal encounters with those who came to him seeking clarification and re-assurance Tannisho , he declined to provide textural authority for his understanding, instead presenting his reliance on the insight and attitude of absolute reliance on the Nembutsu of his teacher, Honen. Hirota calls this Shinran's notion of truth becoming 'manifest as a mode of apprehension and not a conceptual formulation. He continues with the chapter, 'The Context of Encounter' and equates 'the abandonment of the mind of self-power' with shinjin.
This abandonment of self-power is genuine engagement with the Pure Land teachings and implies abandonment of the self deceiving interior monologue that compares the self with some unattainable but still strived for ideal and which judges others and itself against this ideal. This concept could also be expressed in the teaching phrase that Amida invites each of us to 'come as you are'. This is a homely turn of phrase, but deeply affecting, nevertheless. Queen on Christophe Jaffrelot, Dr.
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Related Asuras Harp: Engagement with Language as Buddhist Path
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