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Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds

Buddhist Futures: Anarres Revisited

On the Uses of Buddhism for Collective Evolution. Following my participation with the NonBuddhist Posse, and reading The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (anarchist book club), the questions that emerge for me now are these: can Buddhism help us to survive as a species?

The critical issue for me is not whether Buddhism is true, in the religious, philosophical, or scientific sense; and not whether it leads to optimal well-being (eudaimonia) in the personal, psychological sense; but does it help us to survive as a species? Does it gives us a common framework of values that helps us to cooperate as a civilization and ensure our mutual survival? The people of Anarres (The Dispossessed) had a common religion called Odonianism, after its founder, Odo. The purpose of this religion was social cohesion, to create a common framework of values and cooperative behaviors that ensured mutual survival under difficult conditions. So my question is, does Buddhism help us to do that, and how? Does it enforce social cohesion from the top-down as a form of feudalism, or fascism, aristocracy or meritocracy? Or does it generate a voluntary desire to cooperate, to provide mutual aid and protection? Does it respect the individual? or does it require the threat of peer pressure, shaming and exclusion, and the sublimation of the individual in order to work? Does it require a hierarchy? or can it succeed without needing or creating patterns of social domination, control and subservience? Can Buddhism help us to resolve intergroup conflict, whether ethnic, religious or class-based? Can Buddhism help us resolve conflicts over scarce resources? Does it respect all species and all life in the planetary ecosystem? or does it promote human privilege and ‘transcendence’ over the living ecosystem? Can Buddhism help us cope, collectively, with difficult and even catastrophic global conditions, such as we are facing now with climate change and its ensuing social conflicts? Can Buddhism help us as a civilization and a species to adapt to and survive catastrophic climate conditions? I believe it’s possible for Buddhism to provide the kind of social cohesion we want, but only if we design it that way. And I believe we can intentionally design Buddhism to meet our needs and expectations. These are questions I will be exploring in future editions of ‘Buddhist Futures’.

2 comments on “Buddhist Futures: Anarres Revisited

  1. Dear Shaun Bartone,

    Hello! I wonder whether you meant to type “eudaimonia” rather than “eudamonia”.

    Thank you for your wonderful post about flashing out the (conceptual, philosophical, ethical, practical and/or social) framework in examining the possibility or plausibility of Buddhism for “meet[ing] our needs and expectations” to “help us to survive as a species”. I look forward to reading your future posts.

    I am delighted that we both care about the Earth and the state of environmental degradation and global ecological crisis as well as our fellow human beings. There may be no hope for humanity on Earth as we continue our wasteful and non-sustainable existence plus over-population. As for the future of humanity and migrating to other extra-terrestrial world(s), I have the following to add. Let me quote just a paragraph from one of my fellow bloggers by the name of Robert Elessar as follows:

    Of course, as physicist and pioneer of quantum computation David Deutsch argues beautifully in his book The Beginning of Infinity, we humans—and our descendants, whether biological or technological or both—have the potential really to become significant on a cosmic scale. As he also points out, there is no guarantee that we will do so, but there appears to be nothing in the laws of nature that prevents it. It’s up to us** to decide.

    Furthermore, I would like to add that the culture of expansion and exploitation as well as the ever-burgeoning population seem to be both the crux of, and the bottleneck to, our becoming significant on a cosmic scale.

    Since the human species has not (always, adequately and/or consistently) been a good custodian of the environment and the Earth (not to mention countless wars, atrocities, resource depletions, species extinctions, environmental degradations and so on, plus an area of rainforest as big as 100,000 football courts is being cleared or destroyed everyday), there is no assurance that once the human species migrates to another planet, the same problems would not again surface and plague us, perhaps at an even quickening and/or devastating pace as a result of better and greater expansion, production and technology. We would indeed export our baggage and problems to other worlds!

    Another blogger, Matthew Wright, commented to SoundEagle on 16 July 2013 at 11:39 pm as follows:

    I think if we went to Mars, we’d deal to it the same way we’re currently dealing to Earth. Richard Attenborough summed it up when he referred to us as the ‘scourge’ of the planet. Caused an outcry, but it seems to be true. Jared Diamond has published a good analysis of it, if a little deterministic for my liking. The reason would seem to be a faulty survival mechanism – hard-wired techniques for maximising resources that worked when we were on the ragged edge of extinction in the ice age, but now serve to create problems.

    Perhaps we could also liken humans as cancer cells on the petri dish that is Earth.

    Extinction is a euphemism for extermination, considering how many and the manner in which members of many endangered species have met their fate and untimely end.

    More than 99% of all species that ever appear on Earth are already extinct since life began.

    The average lifespan of a species is one million years. The human species (counting the early hominids) has lasted six million years. Extinction is the rule; survival is the exception.

    Even if humanity were to survive and later conquer other planets, there will be no guarantee that humanity will not repeat its mistakes and export its problems to other extra-terrestrial worlds.

    As you probably already know, we are already in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction. If you are interested, the main issue is twofold: speciesism and anthropocentricism. Until we critically deal with the main issue, even environmentalism in all its diversity may not suffice to turn things around, as discussed in my multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary post entitled “SoundEagle in Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality” at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/soundeagle-in-debating-animal-artistry-and-musicality/

    Being simultaneously witty and serious about a number of outstanding issues, the said post actually ventures far beyond whatever its title may suggest or mean to any reader, especially in the very long “Conclusions” section. Please note the ISEA Model that I have devised to analyse and describe the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives.

    May you find this winter and the rest of the year very much to your liking and highly conducive to your writing, thinking and blogging!

  2. Pleae excuse my typo: I meant “fleshing out”, not “flashing out”.

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This entry was posted on 2020/12/06 by .

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