Feeling Trumped?

The world is not America. Thank goodness for that. We do all live in crazy times though. If you’re a good Buddhist, you might want to send compassion out to those lost souls that voted for the orange one out of desperation and anger at the neo-liberal agenda. You may choose to send out a dharma slap to the evangelicals and neo-fascists instead. They will all need it as Trump will inevitably disappoint with his big talk. If you’re more the nihilist, you might embrace the mad hat brigade with a wry smile and a drop of whiskey sourced from the Scottish island where he’s been shitting on the locals’ lives with his golf course project, cutting off water to old women and ruining the community as he goes. If you’re just your regular human struggling through samsara, here’s a song that captures the feel of the moment from my favourite group. They’re Canadian, which means something in this precise moment.

New podcast is being projected and a huge piece of super sexy writing is in the works. Please be patient. We have lives, jobs and families to care for.

Here are links to some interesting takes on the Trump win that I read this morning. You may read them whilst chanting a mantra of your choice and holding an image of the world surrounded by a beautiful white light, purifying the whole place of its racism, misogyny and ‘anger’;

http://inthesetimes.com/features/zizek_clinton_trump_lesser_evil.html
https://theintercept.com/2016/11/09/democrats-trump-and-the-ongoing-dangerous-refusal-to-learn-the-lesson-of-brexit/
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/rise-of-the-davos-class-sealed-americas-fate
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot

In bolstering this tidbit of a blog post after Matthias’ complaints, I’ll add a film recommendation too. Hell or High Water is a film about the America that voted for Trump. It’s also very well made and acted. Go check it out.

http://www.fandango.com/hellorhighwater_192826/movieoverview

24 comments

  1. I had an interesting struggle with my emotions this morning about the consequences of Trump being the 45th US president. Now I wait what will happen, and right, love is always a good way to cope with challenges. On Twitter they wrote Lady Gaga cried in her car and then went to a Trump place (can’t remember what place). She took a sign which had the following slogan: “LOVE TRUMPS HATE”. I liked that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Somehow this turns up in my timeline, otherwise I wouldn’t have read it at all – and rightly so: This is exactly the meek Buddhist response nobody with a critical mind wants. What do you want to say – after entertaining yourself with the Speculative Non-Buddhism project! – with signifiers like “compassion”, “dharma slab” or “samsara”? Do you say anything at all? And what is it with this little pop song about anxiety? How about looking into real anxiety? Who needs this pop lure? Look it up. Anxiety. In Aleppo, at Raqqa, as a black or LGBT person protesting anti-Trump in a Trump convent or being threatened by an American Hold-Up Cop. Why don’t you shut up if you do not have anything substantial to say. This is Buddhist tripe. Why don’t you let speak people who really think about what is going on and have really something to say. There are young people, the generation of my children, like, for example, Laurie Penny, who really say something substantial about what is happening. Check On the election of Donald J Trump! This is something. And at last: Get rid of “Buddhism”, this male-white-Eurocentric fiction from 150 years ago. If you are still intrigued by that what might have triggered that invention look into Mahayana. Make a break and think about, for example, what the eightfold path might hold for us in a radicalized manner readied for the 2the century.

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      1. Sorry for intervening at all Matthew. The link you and I give say it all. Good. But, as Zizek a long time ago said (The Sublime Object…): we all know it. Wether Klein, Penny or Zizek repeat it (in ever more succinct analysis every time they repeat themselves) it makes no difference. The radicalization of The New Right, the racist, misogynist misery goes on and is now grown into the White house. What is left to do? We also know the root of the problem. Soon every school child will call it: capitalist reproduction and accumulation. So what?

        My question is: has Buddhism (wether that fantasy from the 19th century or its triggers) anything to add? Anything which goes beyond we already know? Anything more than cheap empty signifiers?

        I ask this too because you and Steward undertook quite an effort to go into the SNB-project. What are the consequences of this? What are the consequences of the thought that there is a ‘structure’ pre-formatting thought? Are you even aware of this thought which leads far more away from anything we know? And if so, how can you still, in all seriousness, talk about compassion?

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      2. Matthias, you have summed up your own error of reading too much into my playful post with the following line: “how can you in all seriousness…”
        The post was far from serious, in fact, it was a nonsense parody of the sort of phrases one would expect from good Buddhists. I guess that was lost on you. But that’s fine.

        We in Italy have had our dangerous clown as the glorious leader and one thing that was learnt by all was that a sense of humour is essential for surviving the madness. Do you remember this guy with the fake hair, models and claims of being self-made?

        http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21709984-americans-could-look-italy-taste-things-come-what-donald-trump-and-silvio?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/

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  3. Well, your irony again, like in that Glenn Wallis-flattering recently? To me it seems more like a rhetorical strategy. Depending on the reaction it’s either serious or irony. But let me tell you, in this regard the Master is Tutte Wachtmeister. Do not try to copy him. Btw: how about Tempel’s reaction to your irony? Is it irony too. And if not: Doesn’t your statement and this thread come down to some serious confusion? And… oh yes: Is irony (after what I hinted to regrading good old Zizek) the right tool right now? Facing a growing radical right in Europe? Wilders, Le Pen, Orban, German Afd-Suckers, polish PiS, you name it? Berlusconi will have been fun compared to what we are facing.

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    1. People will read into anything. This is why I resist posting comments on Twitter much more than I used to. You end up having to waste time explaining yourself to people who either take everything literally, and/or personally, or frame it within their world-view. You have kindly reminded me of why doing the same here is problematic. Since we’ve started this exchange, I will throw in a few cents more.

      I think that most westerners are struggling to cope with the rate of change we are seeing around us, the loss of hope, environmental degradation and the failure of politicians and elites to respond effectively or provide direction that goes beyond a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo and their own privilege. Some of the common folk drift to the right in reaction, which we all ought to know is inevitable. Others hang around their ideological affiliations on the left or in the middle, grasp onto their ideology’s pet beliefs and look for coping mechanisms. I have sympathy for those on both sides. I appreciate how fragile and ignorant we all are. If a Buddhist wants to find refuge from it all in meditating, practising Tonglen or some other practice that helps them cope, I say good for them. It’s better that then descending into despair. If it were done with a real sense of abandon, even better. It’s taken me some years to learn to be more tolerant of people’s indulgences. I have enough of my own.

      I am in two minds about the progress and reliance on such methods as long-term coping mechanisms. On the one hand, I wouldn’t assume to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do and see no merit in shitting on their attempts to manage life. On the other, I am all too aware of the need we have for regular folks to wake up to the world we live in, educate themselves better, and more, and participate in alternatives to the neo-liberal agenda and its horrific outcomes, both present and future. It’s a struggle that is resisted. I do my part to raise such matters with those I meet and contribute to local initiatives and attempts at larger scale projects such as DiEM25. I talk with my high school and university students about such issues and the percentage of those engaging and responding meaningfully is increasing very slowly as the world appears to darken, but even so, most would prefer to run and hide and the degree of political engagement and sustained interest in the big issues is very small. I have lost enough friends and acquaintances to now know that forcing ideas, opinions and so on down people’s throats doesn’t convince anyone. Facts and hard reality are not convincing enough for most people.

      As for Tutte (it means ‘everything’ in Italian), he must be pleased to have such a big fan. As I told you before, I (and Stuart on the podcast) will continue to write posts and record episodes in my own way and have no need of approval from you or anyone for that matter. As long as I get pleasure out of this work, I shall continue with it. I personally would rather face the world with a smile and a chuckle than a carrot up my arse. If you get the humour on the podcast or think it poor, it’s all the same to me. As for Tenpel (Tenzin), his reaction is just fine too. There’s room for everyone to interpret as they wish. Let’s take your statement that it can be read both ways and say that’s what it is plus more: poor imitation irony for you, a well-wish and encouragement in solidarity for Tenpel, a sharing of a cool track for Shaun, a five minute flippant gesture for me.

      The piece I’m writing now is a genuine post and will be a serious reflection on post-traditional approaches to Buddhism, non-Buddhism and new material and ideas thrown in. Your generous commentary will be most welcome on that when it’s ready.

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  4. Matthew, thx for the reply. It seems to me you say “each for him- or herself”. That is what neoliberal economy wants you to: separation & isolation.

    The question remains: What answers Buddhism from the 19th century onward has to offer which haven’t been answered in better ways in the West or elsewhere in the same time?

    If you have an answer to this question, good, I am looking forward to your text. If not you have to be criticized not, as I have repeatedly stated, because you are a Buddhist but because you pretend that you have to say something where you don’t. Not the religious Joe average has to be criticized but the exponents.

    As for discussions on the net, specifically on blogs. My conclusion since some time, they are mostly useless. A text which brings up important new (!) thought or important new (!) critique should be answered by more high quality (!) text – not by comment as it is practiced today. I have a relapse here, indeed. Sorry for that. I have again contributed to a fucked up form of communication.

    I look forward to your text.

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    1. The question you pose in the last comment is a great one but it is certainly not one I am attempting to respond to or would likely be capable of answering. The significance of this for you will likely be to not waste your time here any more and try to answer the question yourself. Perhaps you could write something built on the question. It would be interesting to see where you go with it.

      I think you make a fair few assumptions in your comments Matthias. Being a blog, this is a space for me to explore ideas out in the open. I don’t assume to be doing anything new or even useful although it may be both and you are of course free to critique; I find your criticisms more interesting though when your intentions and objectives are out in the open. Contrary to what you claim, I don’t assume to be any sort of expert or be pretending anything much. I have no idea instead what’s going on in your head unless you state it. The question you posed above is the first example of clarity on what interests you and drives you at this time and I would suggest the assumptions on your part are a big piece of what you defined as ‘fucked up communication’.

      We are engaged in a fragmented exchange through an artificial medium in which we know very little about each other, our motives, primary interests, etc. I’ve long considered communication through social media, blogs and sites to be one between invisible personas with imagined ideas about interlocutors being a major part of why communication can break down or be unfruitful. This has nothing to do with any notion of right speech, which I don’t care for at all, and everything to do with clarity.

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  5. “The question remains: What answers Buddhism from the 19th century onward has to offer which haven’t been answered in better ways in the West or elsewhere in the same time?” Good question. I’ve thought about this one a lot. Most of what is offered in Buddhism as a definition of the problems of human living and the solutions have been replaced by various arts and sciences. Here’s a sketch of my answer:
    five skandhas, Abhidharma, consciousness, “mind”: neuroscience, psychology
    4 noble truths, suffering, etc: psychology, social science, philosophy, arts & humanities, medicine
    dependent origination: evolution, ecology, systems theory
    emptiness: quantum physics, physical cosmology
    8-fold path: critical thinking, social science, political economy, psychology and neuroscience
    5 precepts: philosophy of ethics, sociology, psychology, medicine, educational psychology
    meditation: has become a neuro-science, so it’s already been replaced.

    My take on this is that if modern arts and sciences can do just as good a job, or better, at defining the problems of human living and solving them, then make use of modern arts & sciences. If this is what Buddhism is pointing to, then by all means, go there.

    Then what’s left of Buddhism? I see it as a heuristic, as a way to think counterintuitively about “self” “other” “world” “cosmos” “life, death and suffering”. I see it as coordinating the intellectual resources and behavioural practices for an ethical way of life. Could an “ethical atheist” society do just as much? Sure, and if that works for you, follow that path. I see Buddhism as asking many of the right questions, and pointing to some effective answers. I certainly don’t see it as “sufficient”. There are many other valid questions that need to be asked and many more solutions to be found than what Buddhism has to offer.

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  6. Matthew, I have written about it. Laruelle’s Decision implicates the question and a general answer in the sense that one has to ask (in our case here) for the otherness of Mahayana thought. This otherness is not an otherness as the opposition of identity but an alterity which is not thinkable for us as long as we do not understand concepts (in the Deleuzeian sense) which might inform other forms of thought humans developed. One example is substance. Since Aristotle this is a central concept of Western thought but you cannot hold substance with Nagarjuna. Therefor Mahayana thought is a thought which is not based on substance (and therefor on identity). This is a bifurcation of thought which happened a long time ago. In spite of this we think we can compare Mahayana and Western thought (which is based among others on the concept if identity) just like two arbitrary items form the supermarket. This does not work because of the given bifurcation the very comparability is not given. Buddhism as a phenomenon from the 19th century onward does not see this at all. It assumes to this day that it is right in interpreting Mahayana within its own thought-form which hasn’t understood an essential difference between the two forms. (The difference here is something other than the differential difference. If this sounds strange that is because it is.)

    To go into Mahayana (or better into thought which is even more away from ours) would mean to understand our own limitations of thought because we would see something totally alien to us and would come back to our own thought with a new vision. But this is possible only when one knows the relevant languages and has a thorough basing in thinking like that coming from Foucault, Deleuze, Laruelle etc. Sadly we do not seem to have Buddhologists who are grounded in this way and so we have nobody to help us. The good thing is we have people working in other areas (e.g. anthropology) who begin to decipher alien thought-systems which are incompatible to ours. Luckily we can also find examples of more or less alien thinking in our own cultural development. But all this comes to nothing if one does not undertake an ernest attempt in thinking at all and than thinking differently.

    Having said this Shaun’s answers to my question are good as regards me, but they do not take into account the alterity which might make impossible any comparison. None the less I think they are important (although I would not agree in each case).

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    1. So, if I were to summarise, we’re retuning to the notion of decision and the need to recognise how the interpretation of ‘other’ thought occurs following the assumptions, concerns, biases and limitation of the thought system that’s approaching it, which almost always inevitably translates the ‘other’ in its own terms, applying its own agenda, in a sense, and leading to ideological contamination which renders such ideas subjugated to the dominant or leading perspective that investigates it. You seem to be picking up on Tom Pepper’s work here. One of his most recent texts mentioned the idea of inhabiting the thought world of those who wrote some of the key Buddhist texts, if I recall correctly, in order to break from the inheritance of the empiricist John Lock, which he claims saturates our modern interpretation of Buddhism.

      I would second your mention of anthropology as producing interesting lines of thought and engagement with ideas, identities and relationships. I’ve mentioned the work of the British anthropologist Tim Ingold at this blog before, who has been busy constructing alternative ways for viewing and understanding. He draws, inevitably, on the work of continental philosophers from Heidegger onwards but has a creative approach to crossing ideational borders and attempts to grasp the way other cultures view and experience the world. Adrian Ivakhiv has one foot in the anthropological world too, one of our past podcast guests. I was strongly attracted to his process-relational work as it moves away from the subject-object world view that most westerners use to conceptualise Buddhist ideas and practices. As just one example, I have long said myself that western Buddhist teach, define and describe notions of no-self and so on in purely dualist terms so that they fail to grasp its significance, specifically, in how such a core ideal conditions the way followers think about themselves and the world and fail to apply such a powerful and destabilising concept to how they experience their own apparent continuity of subjectivity. It is an incredibly destabilising concept and relatively straightforward but it gets turned into an idealised abstract notion rather than a tool. The transformational power of such concepts has to bridge the gap to the experiential and not remain at the level of theory. The two must join.

      For me, the priority is praxis, informed by theory, which is to be understood as human practice. As a practitioner I am attracted most to the experience of doing and experiencing theory. I don’t see a division between the theory, as human ideas and the symbolic realms conjured up by those theories, and the subjective experience of them as they disrupt the experience of self and open or close possibilities to see, experience, question, doubt, etc. I am most interested in the ethical outcomes of, let’s say, examining how Lock’s conclusions form a shared subjective experience and how held within that are assumptions, limitations, guarantees, expectation and so on. The same is true of Laruelle. How do I/we hold to a dialectical split in my relationship with the world? How is perception shaped by my/our identification with this or that position? This is why Buddhism still proves so useful because many of its meditative practices can be harnessed for an inspection of subjectivity and its basis in human history and the social order, or the ideology within which a person’s subjectivity is formed. It also provides tools that can be appropriated for withstanding the emotional impact that deconstruction of the self leads to when not being co-opted for the subjectification process.

      The writing I’m working on is concerned with this. It prioritises the relationship between ideas we hold, concepts we entertain, beliefs held and the possibility of using Buddhism, post-traditionally, to examine it all experientially. To work on subjectivity and the construction and deconstruction of the self. This emerges from my own self interests and a desire to share what comes of it. I’m navigating the line of what Glenn has described as a therapeutic approach. In part because of my job as a counsellor and life coach, primarily though because I find such work fascinating. It surprises me how much it continues to excite me. The possibility that the way I’m thinking about or approaching such a task may be conditioned by the faults in thought that were mentioned time and time again at the SNB does not invalidate such a project, Rather, it makes it much more exciting and challenging and provides invitations to look and go further.

      The issue of bifurcation and the comparison between Mahayna and Western thought is being discussed, in part, in this recent review of Garfield’s book written for Western philosophers after he complained about the exclusion of Asian thinkers from western philosophy faculties (see link below). The reviewer seems to be indicating that Garfield is guilty of what you describe. One could additionally argue that the value of Mahayana thought is lost if unaccompanied by the actual process of deconstructing the self and contemplating its insights. Considering how many Buddhist scholars are not practitioners or are, but very often are so within the highly orthodox and conservative Gelugpa school, may explain, in part the tendency you describe. That said, in returning to Pepper, the Lockian trend may run so deep, that even for folks such as Garfield, who is a practitioners, decision is to blinding. That accompanied with all of the ideological traps that accompany membership of a Buddhist tradition make creative critical engagement, if not impossible, certainly stunted.

      So that you understand the degree of my willingness to participate in these discussions and the effort required, it’s worth bearing in mind that I see all of this as a hobby/passion.

      https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-buddhist-challenge?utm_content=buffercb644&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer#!

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      1. Matthew,

        if you like to see where I am picking up on read Deleuze’s/Guattari’s What is Philosophie? and, for example, Francois Julien’s  Vital Nourishment: Departing from Happiness.

        Laruelle’s Decision implicates the question about alien concepts. To put forward that question is hardly anything new. But Laruelle is unnecessarily obscure about that question. The first mentioned text above outlines the problem in a much clearer way. The second gives astonishing insights into how, down to the level of the body, concepts are cultural derivatives.

        That said, I wonder why you still use a floating signifier like “meditative practices”. That is the frustrating thing about such discussions. I put forward repeatedly that there are concepts (or at least that has to be supposed) in pre-western buddhist thought about, what you name, the “inspection of subjectivity”. Take as an example the Tibetan sam tan in the work of Longchenpa. And, speaking about Heidegger, I remember proposing to look at what he says about Lange Weile. What he does there is the construction of a new concept. That has also to do with that inspection. Why not use a term from pre-western Buddhism and try to establish the concept it might entail? But apart from that I see you have some interesting thoughts about all that, so I am looking forward to your text. You seem up to something.

        Regarding Garfield. I think he knows what the problem is (and Arnold’s ‘review’ rather looks like that boring narcissistic academic exercise to prove wrong somebody in one or two points neglecting everything else). Garfield discusses some of the hermeneutical problems one faces in a task like the one we have before us here in his Methodological Postscript of Engaging Buddhism:

        Sometimes in order to see that the ideas and intuitions we take as bedrock are not transcendental facts, it is necessary to follow Nietzsche in a genealogy of our thought, to discover the historical roots of our thought, and thereby to see the singularity or even arbitrariness of that we take to be necessary, or to see how our current arguments recapitulate those of our intellectual forbears. This is why the discipline of philosophy must contain its own history. Without it, we don’t even know what we are doing, or why.

        The “genealogy of our thought” is what it is about. Ideology, for example, has to be examined too in this way. Even Deleuze’s/Guattari’s concept of concepts. That than leads into what Nietzsche called Der Taumel des Denkens. There you go.

        I will look into what Tim Ingold and Adrian Ivakhiv have to say. Thanks for the hint…

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  7. “To go into Mahayana (or better into thought which is even more away from ours) would mean to understand our own limitations of thought because we would see something totally alien to us and would come back to our own thought with a new vision/”

    I just saw “Dr. Strange” today at the cinema. In response to the above statement, I would say “Dr. Strange” is a visualization of some of the Mahayana sutras, with its extreme hyperbole, fantastic multi-dimensional worlds; enlightened beings with super-human mystical powers, etc. I would also say it’s what some people secretly wish they could experience through Buddhism, but the reality is so far from that. So hey Matthew how about a podcast on ‘Dr. Strange’ and other Buddhistic films and literature?

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  8. I have to correct one point: One cannot speak about a bifurcation because this presupposes a commonality. The latter cannot be taken as given.

    Re Mahayana: I use the term as a placeholder for certain indian developments in thought which branched out into a wide array of ideas. This is in opposition to so called Buddhism.

    As one can see, it is not easy to escape the Decision. All these terms like bifurcation or to branch out implicate a tree pattern of evolution – at whose root there is, of course, the original.

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  9. Going back to the original post, “Feeling Trumped?”, I heard one female journalist comment on some news program: “Opponents of Trump took him literally, but not seriously. Trump supporters took him seriously, but not literally.” Putting aside whatever one feels about Trump, I could say something similar about Buddhism. When I was trapped in institutional Buddhism, that is, trying to be a member of a Buddhist sangha, I took Buddhism both literally and seriously. It turns out my biggest problem was not with “Buddhism” per se, as in the teachings and practices. My problem was with institutional Buddhism, its hierarchies and organizations. Once I freed myself from the institutions, I could do what I like with the dharma and practices. I can interpret it any way I like, in a way that suits me. I can take it seriously, but not literally. Or I don’t have to take it seriously at all. It’s no longer a totalizing institution that I have to adhere to. I don’t have to answer to anyone in the Buddhist world. No authorities, no teachers, no doctrines, no rules. Fuck them all. I have been trying to inhabit this space for a long time, and it’s been scary at times. But now I’m getting used to it. The greatest sense of freedom came when I finally accepted the fact that institutional Buddhism failed me completely. It failed to deliver on any of its promises of enlightenment, release from suffering, transcendence, perfect wisdom, etc. etc. Buddhism failed in every possible way. But that failure was my liberation. It meant I could walk out of institutional Buddhism for good. Instead of trying to fix it, or defend it, or force it to make sense, e.g. using western philosophy, I just let it fail. It’s like you said, Matthew, use it as a tool for understanding one’s life experience, rather that expecting it to be some kind of totalizing system that is perfectly rational and coherent. I’d like to approach Buddhism the way that Jack Kerouac did, as a poet, who took bits and pieces of it and used it to spark a poetic response to life.

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    1. use it as a tool for understanding one’s life experience

      Yes, of course. Somehow we all want to understand this. But this, and how we undertake it to solve that question, already might be a result of a certain presupposed and unconscious decision. If we do not think about that question we will come up always with the same result (although in different disguises). For example, that we have to produce an answer.

      But, generally speaking, perhaps it is not such a good idea to talk about that strange Laruelleian thing called decision. Perhaps we should go back to the simple question translation poses. As soon as we begin to translate a text (that is: any kind of stuff a cultural developed) we are confronted with the problem – if we are honest translators! – that the source text does not lend itself to an easy one-to-one mapping into the new language.

      So how about Buddhism beyond institutional Buddhism. We are still confronted with the same hermeneutical dilemma if we do not try to transcend decisional problems. And in this regard we can learn from European philosophy. Not that we interpret pre-western Buddhism in European terms but that we learn that to be on guard not to project unconscious cultural patterns into something which originally (sic!) might have been altogether different.

      A basic requirement here could be: not to translate, for example, sanskrit into english, englishizing Sanskrit, but to sanskritize english.

      Of course one would have to learn about what Buddhist sanskrit texts might have to offer in terms of different concepts they might have developed. But in regard of this there are plenty of sources to day to delve in.

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    2. use it as a tool for understanding one’s life experience

      Yes, of course. Somehow we all want to understand this. But this, and how we undertake it to solve that question, already might be a result of a certain presupposed and unconscious decision. If we do not think about that question we will come up always with the same result (although in different disguises). For example, that we have to produce an answer.

      But, generally speaking, perhaps it is not such a good idea to talk about that strange Laruelleian thing called decision. Perhaps we should go back to the simple question translation poses. As soon as we begin to translate a text (that is: any kind of stuff a cultural developed) we are confronted with the problem – if we are honest translators! – that the source text does not lend itself to an easy one-to-one mapping into the new language.

      So how about Buddhism beyond institutional Buddhism. We are still confronted with the same hermeneutical dilemma if we do not try to transcend decisional problems. And in this regard we can learn from European philosophy. Not that we interpret pre-western Buddhism in European terms but that we learn that to be on guard not to project unconscious cultural patterns into something which originally (sic!) might have been altogether different.

      A basic requirement here could be: not to translate, for example, sanskrit into english, englishizing Sanskrit, but to sanskritize english.

      Of course one would have to learn about what Buddhist sanskrit texts might have to offer in terms of different concepts they might have developed. But in regard of this there are plenty of sources to day to delve in.

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  10. “Not that we interpret pre-western Buddhism in European terms but that we learn that to be on guard not to project unconscious cultural patterns into something which originally (sic!) might have been altogether different.”

    The above statement sounds like “faithfulness to the text, or the original (sic) meaning of the text”.

    Why the imperative for “faithfulness to the text”? Isn’t that also ‘decisional’? Who knows or cares what the original meaning or cultural patterns might have been? This is assuming that there is some rational, discernible “original” meaning.

    Take the Bible for example: Fundamentalists approach it as thought it all hangs together as one document that is “the word of god”, oblivious to the fact that the Bible is the product of thousands of authors from hundreds of different cultures writing in dozens of different language over thousands of years, amalgamated by clerical scholars and produced for mass market in the 20th century.

    I see the same approach being taken toward Buddhist texts. Because Buddhism has this veneer of rationalism, we assume that it is all supposed to hang together in some kind of cohesive form. But just like the Bible, it’s written by thousands of authors in dozens of different languages and cultures, incorporating many different philosophical and religious traditions, collected over thousands of years and re-translated into European languages for the western world.

    There is no way this is ever going to hang together in a rational way as a cohesive set of texts.

    I take a Derridean approach; all we have is the text. For Derrida: “there is no out-of-context” (il n’y a pas de hors-texte). Alternatively, “there is nothing outside the text.” For those not familiar with Derrida, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    b. Arche-writing

    “In Of Grammatology and elsewhere, Derrida argues that signification, broadly conceived, always refers to other signs, and that one can never reach a sign that refers only to itself…This is not writing narrowly conceived, as in a literal inscription upon a page, but what he terms ‘arche-writing’. Arche-writing refers to a more generalised notion of writing that insists that the breach that the written introduces between what is intended to be conveyed and what is actually conveyed, is typical of an originary breach that afflicts everything one might wish to keep sacrosanct, including the notion of self-presence.”

    In the West, the text finds itself situated in a completely alien culture than which it was originally written. We will never know the original intent of the countless authors, so we take the text as it is and we interpret it for ourselves within our culture and time. This is the method of BRICOLAGE.

    “The bricoleur, [who does bricolage] says Lévi-Strauss, is someone who uses ‘the means at hand,’ that is, the instruments he finds at his disposition around him, those which are already there, which had not been especially conceived with an eye to the operation for which they are to be used and to which one tries by trial and error to adapt them, not hesitating to change them whenever it appears necessary.”

    I am interested in “original” Asian versions of the next, not out of an imperative to be “faithful to the text” or the “original meaning of the speakers/authors”, but out of curiosity for the variety of meanings those Asian interpretations might bring to the text. I’m interested in the kind of different thinking and experiencing they might engender. But I am otherwise free to make use of the text and practices as I see fit, as “what is to hand” to create my own meanings and practices, in the bricolage method.

    I find it interesting that Derrida was also a phenomenologist, something akin to our current interpretation of Buddhist practice.

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    1. original (sic) meaning

      Shaun, I didn’t write it this way. But I do not split hairs. I am taking part in these discussions (SNB etc.) since 5 years and my mantra all the time was “There Is No Original”.

      It is frustrating. We are here again at the very basis to explain what the original is. But my frustration is not your fault. I cannot expect that you are somehow up to what I am at (regarding what I have written about it). Although one could say, after hinting to Deleuze’s/Guattari’s concept of the concept and about Julien in this thread, me saying “something might have been originally (sic!) altogether different” cannot mean an original in the sense you seem to allege.

      Re Derrida. Of course we have learned the lesson. There is no-out-of-context. But that is exactly the point. There is lots of context for a given pre-western Buddhist text. There is ours. But there is the context which is drawn out philologically, archeologically, anthroposophically, ethnographically and so on. If we want to know something we have to take this into account too!

      The problems with the material and the results we gather in these ways are all well known and discussed. The hermeneutics are difficult. The problem is to step out of a self centered Eurocentric thinking. But who really wants to take that step? Or put another way: Who, for once, is aware of the problem? The problem of ethnocentric, Eurocentric thinking in knowing pre-Western Buddhism – or, that is, of knowing any other culture?

      Speaking about post-traditional, or even non-buddhism, without a knowledge of that problem is simply more ideological opacity. That we still have to speak about these problems is telling.

      Ok, that said, I am out. Take care.

      Yours, Matthias “There-Is-No-Original” Steingass

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