Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds /Milk Tea Alliance

Buddhist Modernism

I consider it my mission, my job if you will, to kick off and push forward the project of Buddhist Modernism. What is Buddhist Modernism? First, it’s not the same as Modern Buddhism. Modern Buddhism is a religion of sorts, a philosophy, a spiritual practice, i.e., a religion. Buddhist Modernism is an aesthetic, a [Post-, Hyper-, Meta-] Modernist aesthetic, a Modernist aesthetic that has been influenced by contemporary Buddhism. In this stage of my life, I am deeply involved in the arts as a practice extending from both my contemplative practice and my engaged practice in the world. This aesthetic does not exclude or shield me from the world. It’s a way of reimagining the world, of recreating the world in terms of both truth and beauty. Artists change the way we perceive the world and ourselves. 

Buddhist Modernism describes the whole mid-20th century modernist movement in the arts, which was deeply influenced by Buddhism: avant garde, conceptual art, abstract art, abstract expressionism, performance art, ‘happenings’, Beat poetry, John Cage and his Zen approach to music composition. Beyond the history of Buddhist Modernism, there are artists and composers today whose work I would consider to be Buddhist Modernism.

I offer as an immediate example of Buddhist Modernism the following composer of “Nothing.” This is a beautiful generative modular synthesis work embellished with a poem on “Nothing.” I don’t know if the composer espouses anything like ‘Buddhist Modernism’. I don’t know what he espouses other than what he presents in his work. ‘Buddhist Modernism’ is how I interpret what he does, how it sounds to me.

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This entry was posted on 2023/01/18 by .


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