Ditching the Raft 4: Staying Connected
Today I led a discussion with Trash Community on ‘Ditching the Raft’ (MN 22), i.e. letting go of Buddhist dharma when we no longer need it, especially when modern science does a better job of explaining things than ancient Buddhists texts do. Evolution, modern psychology, quantum field theory, social science, ecology and systems theory all do a better job of explaining cosmology than the dharma does. I don’t need Iron Age explanations of how the world works—so I can ‘ditch the raft’, just like the Buddha said (MN 22). What Buddhism does is provide me as a practitioner with a personal experience of interdependence, an experience that provides a spiritual sense of connectedness and an ethics for actualizing that connectedness in the world. So that’s what I want from Buddhism. I just want to keep that awareness and experience of one-ness and connectedness.
Buddhist Naturalism does this perfectly well. All of these sciences and human knowledges, by themselves, do not give me that personal sense of connectedness and one-ness, nor do they provide an ethics for actualizing that knowledge in the world. It’s knowledge, but it’s not a spirituality, and not an ethics. So that’s what Buddhism does for me that human knowledge and science alone does not do. Buddhist Naturalism is what gives me that sense of connection, one-ness and compassion for the world.
Like Ambedkar’s Navayana, Buddhist Naturalism strips it all down to what is most essential for me to live out that interconnectedness as a spirituality and an ethics. I would like to see how I could expand on this idea of Buddhist Naturalism as a practice and a way of life, not just for myself, but for others who are on the same path.
One might wonder where to learn more about what it means to appreciate a materialist sensibility while unlearning mechanistic worldviews at the same time.
I would suggest that the ‘middle way’ is to appreciate and protect the natural material world of living species and ecosystems, but to reject the ‘materialism’ of capitalism and consumerism.
Yes, you did make that point quite clear. One can never appreciate or strive to protect diversity itself too much. This was brought home to me recently in being alerted to the importance of promoting a greater diversity of microbial life with regard to horticulture, to our guts, and even to the interior of our homes. Reading about archaea in particular seems especially ripe for inspired speculation.