What water? asked the fish: “globalization” as obscuring Euro-American/white culture by Richard K. Payne

Richard K. Payne

Recently I have twice explicitly encountered a rhetoric that claims that it does not make sense to think about the “Westernization” of Buddhism, since it is being globalized anyway. The effect of this rhetoric, however, is to naturalize Euro-American culture—its values and preconceptions—as unproblematically universal.

One instance is in the introduction to the forum on mindfulness published on Lion’s Roar in which we find the rhetoric employed parenthetically, as if it is so obvious that it does not require consideration:

We are still in the very early phase of the establishment of a “Western” Buddhism—if the term even has any meaning in this age of globalization—

Jon Kabat-Zinn made almost exactly the same claim in the course of his interview on the Mindfulness Summit, when he appeared on the Summit’s final day.

I’m sure that there are a lot of other examples of this rhetoric being deployed, such the changes…

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gimme hammers tongs & wedges: Hegelian stranglehold on the historiography of Buddhist thought by Richard K. Payne

Richard K. Payne

Along with the other problems of the treatment of Buddhist thought as philosophy—an increasingly popular intellectual pastime it seems—the Hegelian historiography of philosophy still acts as “an intellectual style” of thinking about the history of philosophy, a style persistent and widespread enough to apparently be largely invisible. Since Hegel the history of philosophy has frequently been written in terms of abstracted “positions” and the relations between those described in terms of the inadequacy of one being overcome by the next. The dialectic dynamic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis constitutes a narrative structure and in doing so creates the appearance of causality. (on the implication of causality by narrative structuring, see Richard K. Payne, “The Path from Metaphor to Narrative” [yes, that is an intentional pun] Pacific World, third series, no. 16 (2014), 29–48.) Hegel’s concept of this pattern as constituting a three part progression of Geist as a transhistorical phenomenon…

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The Hegemonic Power of Categories & Rhetoric, or Why Bother? by Richard K. Payne

Richard K. Payne

Hegemony is an understandably popular term these days—and remains important despite the potential for its overuse to the point of irrelevance. It refers, as I understand it, to the ability of certain ideas to be accepted as natural, and thereby to be invisible in their control of thinking. So much so that one is effectively a willing participant in the propagation of the systems of thought that dominate one’s thinking.  (This is my own narrow focus of the much broader theorizing of Antonio Gramsci.)

“Religion” is just one such concept, and it continues to play an unconscious role in forming present-day ideas about Buddhism. One important way is in the oppositional pairing of religious and secular. Under this dichotomy, if one critiques Secular Buddhism (itself a different project from criticizing it, though some of its adherents don’t seem to recognize that difference), then the presumption is that one is in…

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