After Buddhism: Culturally Complacent vs. Critically Engaged

r926916_9677188“Buddhism is the opiate of the middle classes.”

—Slavoy Zizek.

“One of the most interesting critiques I’ve heard comes from Slavoy Zizek. He says, “Buddhism is the opium of the middle classes.” In other words, its a kind of a drug, mindfulness—that can make us feel a little bit more detached, kind of chilled out, cool, not being so caught up in things—in order that we do not actually get upset by, in his point of view, the systematic evils of global capitalism. He’s a marxist, although he realizes hat marxism is sort of out of favour these days. But I though a lot about his comment. . . that we could as it were, lose the richness and the complexity, that integrity of Buddhism by simply reducing it to a kind of palliative care.”

—Stephen Batchelor, “After Buddhism”

Listen to Part 3 of “After Buddhism” where Stephen Batchelor and Joan Halifax discuss the differences of culturally complacent vs. critically engaged Buddhism.

Stephen Batchelor & Joan Halifax: 02-12-2013: After Buddhism (Part 3)

Joan discusses the problem of the commodification of Buddhism, teaching meditation technique without sila, or Buddhist ethics. Stephen discusses the possibility of a Buddhist practice and philosophy that is not only secular, but non-sectarian and outside of anything that sounds like “religion.”

“I’d like to think that Buddhism might lose its sectarian territorial-ness, which is to me such a deeply irritating feature about Buddhism, is everybody trying to stake out there own little plot. Whereas if we could have the openness of heart and mind to consider ourselves, these little groups that are scattered around the world, as nodes within a network, within a kind of an Indra’s net as it were, rather than always trying to hold on to our specialness, then it would give rise to, and I’m probably being hopelessly idealistic, but I think we have to think through these kinds of ideas, if we’re to respond to these questions, and not assume that things will always be as they’ve always been. And that requires courage, it requires imagination, it requires a willingness to take risks.”

—Stephen Batchelor


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