The Case Against Buddhism:
Critique and Creativity
Four Mondays: March 8, 22; April 5, 19, Mondays, 6-8 PM Eastern US Time
What are we to make of Western Buddhism? It presents itself as the treasure house of ideas and practices that were formulated by an enlightened teacher who lived in India 2,500 years ago. Followers of Western Buddhism tell us that this man’s teachings accurately identify the real conditions of human existence. If true, that is quite a remarkable achievement. It would mean that an ancient diagnosis of human experience still pertains in our hyper-accelerated, ultra-technological modern society. Is such a correspondence possible?
In this four-session seminar, we will give thought to the question of what to do with Buddhism. We will take as the basis of our discussion A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real. The basic assumption at work in both the book and the seminar is that Buddhists evade the consequences of Buddhist thought.
With concepts such as vanishing, nihility, extinction, contingency, and no-self, Buddhism, like all potent systems of thought, articulates a notion of the “real.” Raw, unflinching acceptance of this real is held by Buddhism to be at the very core of human “awakening.” Yet these preeminent human truths are universally against contemporary Buddhist practice, contravening the very heart of Buddhism.
The approach that we will consider is threefold. (1) It is immanent, in emerging out of Buddhist thought but taking it beyond what it itself publicly concedes. (2) it is negative, in employing the “democratizing” deconstructive methods of François Laruelle’s non-philosophy. And (3) it is re-descriptive, in applying Laruelle’s concept of philofiction. What is our goal? It is to conceive of a possible practice for our time, an “anthropotechnic,” or even religion transposed from its seductive, but misguiding, idealist haven.
March 8: Preface; Introduction; The Snares of Wisdom; Specters of the Real (pp. xii-55)
March 22: First Names of the Buddhist Real; Non-Buddhism (pp. 57-104)
April 5: Immanent Practice; Buddhofiction (pp. 105-158)
April 19: Meditation in Ruin (pp. 159-172).
Facilitator: Glenn Wallis holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University. He is the author of several books, including Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice and Basic Teachings of the Buddha as well as numerous articles, chapters, and essays on various aspects of Buddhism and Western Buddhism in contemporary society. His more recent work, A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real, employs the “non-philosophical” methods of François Laruelle. Wallis has taught at Brown University, Bowdoin College, and the University of Georgia. He is the founder of the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism and Incite Seminars. His most recent book is An Anarchist’s Manifesto (Warbler Press, 2020) .
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