Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds /Milk Tea Alliance

Dharma is Governance

To the question, ‘what is dharma?’ I have a provisional answer: dharma is governance, in the Foucauldian sense. Glenn Wallis calls it ‘the Magistrate.” It is a potent combination of power-knowledge—dharma, scripture—with discipline— meditation and thought constraints, that produces constraints on thought, speaking and behavior. For westerners, it operates as the self-governance of the Neo-liberal subject.

It operates as a disciplinary regime by delegitimizing and precluding whole categories of thought and speech. One is not allowed to speak, to think, to critique or question the dharma outside of the discipline. One is not allowed to think outside of dharmic categories, to think about, and thereby legitimize, the categories of the ‘other-than-Buddhist.’ As a discipline, not only must one meditate for hours-per-day, without moving or speaking, but even in the presence of teachers, where one is supposedly in a dialogue, one must sit quietly, not move excessively or question anything that is said. The discipline of meditation posture creates ‘docile bodies’ that only receive and never question the power-knowledge regime.

But the subject can oppose this discipline through counter-power, by ‘speaking truth to power’, by seizing the category “dharma” and using it’s power-to-legitimate to thereby legitimate whole other categories of thought and speech. The subject can thereby create a counter-hegemony that not only refutes but supersedes the regime of Buddhist dharma. It can create a counter-power of discipline by using the power-tool ‘practice’ to introduce new “practices” that legitimate other forms of being, acting, doing. This creates a whole new form of self-governance, the self-governance of the post-colonialist subject

This is precisely how innovation proceeds in Buddhism when it is introduced into new cultures. When it was introduced to the West by avatars such as Chogyam Trungpa, he invented a new regime of power-knowledge, ‘Buddhist psychology’, and a new ‘practice’ discipline, psychological introspection and guru therapy, to adapt Tibetan Buddhism to western cultures.

Repeatedly on this blog I have used the power-knowledge regime ‘dharma’ to create and legitimate whole new categories of thought and speech, e.g. ‘the dharma of Valerie Solanas’, and introduced whole new ‘practice’ disciplines, such as the Situationists’ ‘derive’ and ‘detournent’ and ‘jazz dharma.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 2018/04/20 by .


Follow Engage! on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 653 other subscribers

Blog Stats

  • 216,435 hits

NEW! Become a member of Engage! Dharma Culture Club through my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=80736941

If you love dharma culture and want to create more, jump into membership in Engage! Dharma Culture Club as a monthly patron. Through Dharma Culture Club, you’ll connect with other dharma culture creators, learn from and inspire each other.

%d bloggers like this: