Recently we have been writing here about “Non-Buddhism” as it would be a project we work on. That is a development which comes from the dynamics between Patrick and me outside the blog and from the dynamics on this blog.
No comes up the question (via e-mail):
Habe ich das richtig verstanden, das das non-buddhistische Projekt im Kern ein Soziales ist, welches in der Welt etwas verändern will, und sich eben nicht in theoretischen Wortschwurbeleien verlieren will?
Did I understand right, the Non-Buddhist project basically is a social one which wants to change something in the world, one which does not want to wear itself down doing theoretical drivel?
Well, is this a project?
If I remember right, the thing was started by a few sentences I wrote in an e-mail to Patrick in September:
“What electrifies me is the possibility of forming a theory/practice of Non-Buddhism and go ahead with it in a straight forward way. I mean to speak about „Non-Buddhism“ without recourse on any X-Buddhist parlance. Speaking about „Non-Buddhism“ and nobody understands what this would have to with Buddhism – with the Buddhism we know today. That would be, for example, dependent on a crossover of Yogacara, Madyamaka, Foucault, Agamben. Take this text from Jay Garfield:
Madhaymaka gives us an account of the ontology of phenomena – of their interdependence and the lack of any intrinsic nature. Yogacara then gives us an account […] of the nature of our subjectivity […].
That means Madhaymaka gets at it from the ‚outside‘, Yogacara from the ‚inside‘. Thereby the subject gets decentered in its world of objects and in its world of selfhood. That would be a reading of Vasubandhu and Chandrakirti. But this is only a general or perhaps even a generic decentering. Now comes Foucault as a very important supplement. He teaches how the specific objects and subject come into being by certain historical apriori or, as he put it later, by certain discourses and dispositives. That would give us a specific understanding of the genealogy of our being in our situation now. That means we do not have it to do only with a general decentering which is only an abstraction, but we have the material from which we are made and with which we in our situation have to work. The latter point being the important one I think. At last, so far, comes in Gorgio Agamben with his very strange little book The Coming Community. That one tries to give an impression how the essence-less beast, the human, can go on after it is made clear what already indian Philosophers looked at 1500 years ago – but without ever developing any social theory/praxis (?) in regard to this insight and also living probably in extremely different circumstances.
That is a rough outline and a very vague picture which hopefully gets clearer. I just wanted to jot down the general idea. The question is: Should we name the thing Non-Buddhism? It could be good to do so for polemical reasons. To point out that the idea which was laid out by Glenn is pursued further, and, on the outer side, to make clear that it really has to do with the essence-less, the antaman, of Buddhism as we can conceive it after having been decentered.”
I do not know if this makes it any clearer. To point to it from a more personal side perhaps would be of help. I was interested in Buddhism since when I was 15. But this was until 10 years ago only in a very superficial way. I just thought the notion of Buddhism with its world view without any god and its dependent origination should be very interesting. When I really looked into Buddhism I found out that in reality there are many gods, ghosts and other spectres and dependent origination was only an abstraction in the worst sense of the word. But there where some good books and a few good people. So I went from X-Buddhism to serious writers about Buddhism – like Herbert Guenther – and from there to european philosophy. The point is the following: I had an idea about dependent origination which mainly came from a reading of technical and theoretical texts by William Burroughs. Of course he never writes about “dependent origination” but the idea – the notion – was the important thing. When I found out that in popular Buddhism – what we call now X-Buddhism – is nothing to be found about that notion I went on. And viola, here I am now: Reading Agamben for example and being excited about how everything falls into place suddenly. In this regard about Buddhism there has to be made a clear distinction. Pop culture generates X-Buddhism, this is of no interest any more and I wouldn’t waste any time any more with it. But on the other side there is serious (academic) work which is of great help if one wants really delve into Asian Buddhist Philosophy.
In a nutshell. I got a certain notion by William Burroughs about the constructedness of the individual, the world, whatever. X-Buddhism as a product of popular culture does not provide any understanding about this notion. But our own philosophical culture since Marx and Nietzsche and especially since the french structuralists is superrich in this regard. That is my personal line of flight. From Bill Burroughs to Foucault and Agamben. And that then is Non-Buddhism as I want to conceive it: It is about a motivation to understand the constructedness, the origins, the genealogy, the discourses and dispositives of what is, whereby the subject I am is dependently originated.
Non-Buddhism then is the will to know that.
Of course this notion has to be developed further. Its components have to be developed. It is about that notion not about that name.
One of these components, just to name one, is experience. That is what in a very partial way X-Buddhism is about. That is also what lots of philosophers and wannabe revolutionaries are quick to dismiss.
Another component of that notion would be learning.
Another one would be ethical consequences.
But first and foremost, I think, the question of duality has to be treated. The dialectics of, for example, the individual and the collective are misleading…
And – to answer that question – it certainly is a social undertaking. Every person taking part here has this social thing already in his or her life. The touch stone is there not here. In regard of this “project” of Non-Buddhism – the notion – here on this blog, it is the question of every person taking part in the developing discourse. It is the question of participation. The “project” in this sense cannot be conceived beforehand.