Zizek on Buddhism

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Zizek on Buddhism

Postby convivium » Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:08 am

Although "Western Buddhism" presents itself as the remedy against the stressful tension of the capitalist dynamics, allowing us to uncouple and retain the inner peace and Gelassenheit, it actually functions as its perfect ideological supplement. One should mention here the well-known topic of the "future shock," i.e. of how, today, people are no longer psychologically able to cope with the dazzling rhythm of the technological development and the social changes that accompany it — things simply move too fast, before one can accustom oneself to an invention, this invention is already supplanted by a new one, so that one more and more lacks the most elementary "cognitive mapping." The recourse to Taoism or Buddhism offers a way out of this predicament which definitely work better than the desperate escape into old traditions: instead of trying to cope with the accelerating rhythm of the technological progress and social changes, one should rather renounce the very endeavor to retain control over what goes on, rejecting it as the expression of the modern logic of domination — one should, instead, "let oneself go," drift along, while retaining an inner distance and indifference towards the mad dance of the accelerated process, a distance based on the insight that all this social and technological upheaval is ultimately just a non-substantial proliferation of semblances which do not really concern the innermost kernel of our being… One is almost tempted to resuscitate here the old infamous Marxist cliche of religion as the "opium of the people," as the imaginary supplement of the terrestrial misery: the "Western Buddhist" meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way, for us, to fully participate in the capitalist dynamics, while retaining the appearance of mental sanity. If Max Weber were to live today, he would definitely wrote a second, supplementary, volume to his Protestant Ethic, entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of the Global Capitalism.
And, instead of playing the old game of the aggressive Islamic monotheism against the "gentle" Buddhism, one should rather use the bombing of the Bamiyan status to reflect on a more fundamental deadlock. It is not only that Western Buddhism, this pop-cultural phenomenon preaching inner distance and indifference towards the frantic pace of the market competition, is arguably the most efficient way, for us, to fully participate in the capitalist dynamics, while retaining the appearance of mental sanity — in short, the paradigmatic ideology of late capitalism. One should add that it is no longer possible to oppose this Western Buddhism to its "authentic" Oriental version; the case of Japan delivers here the conclusive evidence. Not only do we have today, among the Japanese top managers, the wide-spread "corporate Zen" phenomenon; in the whole of the last 150 years, Japan's rapid industrialization and militarization, with its ethics of discipline and sacrifice, was sustained by the large majority of Zen thinkers — who, today, knows that D.T.Suzuki himself, the high guru of Zen in the America of the 60s, supported in his youth, in Japan of the 30s, the spirit of utter discipline and militaristic expansion. There is no contradiction here, no manipulative perversion of the authentic compassionate insight: the attitude of total immersion into the self-less "now" of the instant Enlightenment, in which all reflexive distance is lost and "I am what I do," as C.S.Lewis put it, in short: in which absolute discipline coincides with total spontaneity, perfectly legitimizes one subordination to the militaristic social machine. Or, to put it in somewhat simplified terms (which, however, just repeat the central ethical lesson of Bhagavadgita): if the external reality is ultimately just an ephemeral appearance, even the most horrifying crimes eventually DO NOT MATTER.
"Western Buddhism" thus perfectly fits the fetishist mode of ideology in our allegedly "post-ideological" era, as opposed to its traditional symptomal mode, in which the ideological lie which structures our perception of reality is threatened by symptoms qua "returns of the repressed," cracks in the fabric of the ideological lie. Fetish is effectively a kind of envers of the symptom. That is to say, symptom is the exception which disturbs the surface of the false appearance, the point at which the repressed truth erupts, while fetish is the embodiment of the Lie which enables us to sustain the unbearable truth. Let us take the case of the death of a beloved person: when I "repress" this death, I try not to think about it, but the repressed trauma persists and returns in the symptoms. Say, after my beloved wife dies of the breast cancer, I try to repress this fact by throwing myself into hard work or vivacious social life, but then there is always something which reminds me of her, I cannot escape her ghost haunting me. In the case of a fetish, on the contrary, I "rationally" fully accept this death, I am able to talk about her most painful moments in a cold and clear way, because I cling to the fetish, to some feature that embodies for me the disavowal of this death. In this sense, a fetish can play a very constructive role of allowing us to cope with the harsh reality: fetishists are not dreamers lost in their private worlds, they are thoroughly "realists," able to accept the way things effectively are — since they have their fetish to which they can cling in order to cancel the full impact of reality.
So, when we are bombarded by claims that in our post-ideological cynical era nobody believes in the proclaimed ideals, when we encounter a person who claims he is cured of any beliefs, accepting social reality the way it really is, one should always counter such claims with the question: OK, but where is the fetish which enables you to (pretend to) accept reality "the way it is"? "Western Buddhism" is such a fetish: it enables you to fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game, while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it, that you are well aware how worthless this spectacle is — what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always withdraw. http://www.gazette.de/Archiv/Gazette-Au ... izek2.html

http://www.egs.edu/faculty/slavoj-zizek ... ist-ethic/
http://www.egs.edu/faculty/slavoj-zizek ... -buddhism/
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Zizek on Buddhism

Postby lyndon taylor » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:05 pm

To me, living in the west, one of the central teachings of the Buddha is to not get caught up in the delusion that material things offer great benefits, HE DID NOT mean drive a new Mercedes Benz, live in $500,000 house but don't be attached to it, He obviously means to live humbly and simply and don't get caught up in the Rat race of chasing after more and more expensive material things, Unfortuanetly this part of the Buddhas teaching seems to be lost on all but the poorest Buddhists who would be poor anyway without the teaching, Over and over I hear "buddhists" saying its OK to have lot of things as long as you're not attached to them. Tell me How do you have a newer Mercedes Benz and not be attached to it, do you not drive it, or loan it to a homeless shelter. No you drive it everywhere, so Obviously YOU ARE ATTACHED TO IT, no matter what little tricks you want to play in your mind'

For me I have a small at one time very cheap house, a 23 yr old car, albeit at one time a luxury car, no cell phone, No TV, don't listen to the stereo unless Im driving, Use the computer A LOT, but mostly for reading world news and violin/buddhist chat forums, do spend a lot eating out at coffee shops, unfortuanetly a horrible addiction to cigs. Other than that the only thing I spend money on is supplies for my violin repair business, I have several buddha statues on my alter, but two of them lost their heads, long story(ex roommate)90% of my possesions are work related; violins, pianos and tools etc. I mostly wear thrift store clothes, When I get payed $1000, I don't immediately think what can I go out and buy, but rather, what bills have to be payed and how long can I make this money last.

But obviously even I am not a good example of the simplicity and humility of living that so many asian buddhists practise. Western Buddhism can be very much a "buddhism" of ME, not compassion for others. We all need to remember you get love for yourself, by expressing love for others, as long as you put yourself and your happiness first, ironically you will never find true happiness, because true happiness is going to end up coming to you mostly from others, others that you have brought happiness into their lives.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Zizek on Buddhism

Postby daverupa » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:39 pm

one should rather renounce the very endeavor to retain control over what goes on, rejecting it as the expression of the modern logic of domination — one should, instead, "let oneself go," drift along, while retaining an inner distance and indifference towards the mad dance of the accelerated process, a distance based on the insight that all this social and technological upheaval is ultimately just a non-substantial proliferation of semblances which do not really concern the innermost kernel of our being


Maybe he's writing against Mahayana; this doesn't really map onto the Dhamma as I understand it.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Zizek on Buddhism

Postby Anagarika » Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:38 pm

Maybe he's writing against Mahayana; this doesn't really map onto the Dhamma as I understand it.


Dave, that was my take on the article as well. If by "western Dharma" he means 1960's and 70's American Zen and Trungpa Vajrayana, then perhaps his argument is possibly viable, ie as Zizek suggests "in which absolute discipline coincides with total spontaneity, perfectly legitimizes one subordination to the militaristic social machine."

What Zizek describes, however, is not Dhamma. It seems quite the opposite of Buddhadhamma. That is the modern struggle: reconciling what the Buddha taught with what is being represented as Dharma in the west. It's not that Buddhism provides an easy fetish for the propogation of harmful mental states and negative states of existence. Again, quite the opposite. So, Zizek's argument make sense only so long as one assumes his skewed assumptions to be true, and they are not true of Dhamma.
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Re: Zizek on Buddhism

Postby chownah » Sun Jul 28, 2013 4:00 pm

This is an excerpt from Edward R. O'Neill's "The Last Analysis of Slavoj Zizek" which is a review of "_Cogito and the Unconscious_":


"
In the absence of any detectable method, a dizzying array of wildly entertaining and often quite maddening rhetorical strategies are deployed in order to beguile, browbeat, dumbfound, dazzle, confuse, mislead, overwhelm, and generally subdue the reader into acceptance. Example after example is supplied, but the principle that makes them examples is not itself given. Appeals are implicitly made to Lacan's authority but the source of that authority is never mentioned. The truth of Lacan's theories is urged by showing how other people's theories support that truth but without explaining why these theories have the same object. One concept is defined in terms of another, which is then defined in the same way, ad infinitum. What's being explained is mixed in with what's doing the explaining in a circular fashion so striking that it may well count as both a novelty and a technical innovation in the practice of interpretation. Concepts are 'applied' without any boundaries on either the concepts or the scope of their application. Arguments and interpretations are hastily summarized rather than being patiently outlined. Finally, sheer rhetorical force substitutes for argument.
"

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Re: Zizek on Buddhism

Postby convivium » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:24 pm

Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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