My absence

Work and play have been keeping me from this blog. That will change, the sooner the better. Until then, here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

What is the role of humanistic knowledge and information if they are not to be unknowing (many ironies here) partners in commodity production and marketing, so much so that what humanists do may in the end turn out to be a quasi-religious concealment of this peculiarly unhumanistic process? A true secular politics of interpretation sidesteps this question at its peril.

— Edward Said, “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community”

Though I am not interested in a politics of interpretation, I am interested in a secular politics. Perhaps I believe the two are incompatible.

Moving on:

Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

— Heart Sutra

True words are not ‘beautiful.’

‘Beautiful’ words are not true.

Those who know are not ‘widely learned.’

The ‘widely learned’ do not know.

The good do not have much.

Those who have much are not good.

The Sage accumulates nothing.

The more he does for others, the more he has.

The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.

The Way of Heaven is pointed but does no harm.

The Way of the Sage is to serve without competing.

Dao De Jing Verse 81

Contrary to most amateur readings of Buddhist and Daoist tenets I’ve seen (I don’t read the professionals), my sense is that they don’t at all consider ‘harmony’ to be easy or automatic. Of course, I can only refer to my own tiny inroad into (the very different) Buddhism and Taoism, but it seems evident that much as ‘Being’ might be the central problem for  Greek philosophy and its offspring (whether through the logic of sympathetic resemblance or identity and difference), Harmony is rather what these texts are about; it is their organizing problem. The reactionary conservativism and historical fatalism that seem to be their general political tenor is a consequence. But another consequence is the rejection of ‘the Being of Being’ or ‘Being’s being-for-itself’ as a false problem however much it is also a inevitable one, whose solution is its negation. The real question for positive knowledge is the relentlessly practical one of appropriate relations. The effect of meditation on Being is the foreclosure of any logic of Being, and the ‘utility’ of philosophy is its own self-abnegation. I believe this point is what continues to sustain my interest in these practices, and how I might one day justify my frivolous, Orientalizing indulgences.

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5 Responses to “My absence”

  1. “But another consequence is the rejection of ‘the Being of Being’ or ‘Being’s being-for-itself’ as a false problem however much it is also a inevitable one, whose solution is its negation. The real question for positive knowledge is the relentlessly practical one of appropriate relations. The effect of meditation on Being is the foreclosure of any logic of Being, and the ‘utility’ of philosophy is its own self-abnegation.”

    Great point. I’d like to see more on this. I feel like a number of Buddhist scholars and practitioners dealing with it in different ways. One way is the highly abstruse and doctrinal mode of much of Tantric Buddhism, in which the Being of Being is scrutinized to a painful point. Take Nagarjuna:

    Neither from itself nor from another,
    Nor from both,
    Nor without a cause,
    Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.

    There are foru conditions: efficient condition;
    Percept-object condition; immediate condition;
    Dominant condition, just so.
    There is no fifth condition.

    The essence of entities
    Is not present in the conditions, etc.
    If there is no essence,
    There can be no otherness-essence.

    Remind you of anything? On the other hand, there’s the mad yogi tradition, and an ethos of disavowal. This seems to be more responsive to the “human realm” as its called in Tibetan cosmology. Jigme Lingpa:

    Listen, Abushri,
    You miserable, daydreaming fool,
    You remember how delusions
    Confused you in the past?
    Watch out for delusions in the present,
    And don’t lead a hypocritical life.

    Stop unnecessary speculations.
    You’ve made hundreds of plans
    Which never came off
    And only led to disappointment.
    Unfinished acts are like
    The overlapping of the waves.
    Stay alone and stop
    Making your own head spin.

    You’ve studied hundreds of philosophies
    Without grasping any of them.
    What’s the point of further study?
    You’ve studied without remembering
    Anything when you needed it.
    What’s the point of contemplation?
    Forget about your “meditation!”
    It doesn’t seem to be
    The Cure for conflicting emotions.

    Political and religious activities
    Are only for gentlemen.
    That’s not for you, my dear boy.
    Remember the example of an old cow:
    She’s content to sleep in a barn.
    You have to eat, sleep and shit –
    That’s unavoidable – anything
    Beyond that is none of your business.
    Do what you have to do
    And keep yourself to yourself.

    You’re as low as the lowest
    So you ought to be humble.
    There’s a whole hierarchy above you
    So stop being proud.
    You shouldn’t have too many close associates
    Because differences would surely arise.
    Since you’re not involved
    In religious and political activities
    Don’t make demands on yourself.
    Give up everything, that’s the point!

  2. anonymous Says:

    I believe this point is what continues to sustain my interest in these practices, and how I might one day justify my frivolous, Orientalizing indulgences

    god forbid you should just go ahead and get into these indulgences….

  3. It’s cool that your absence is over, your insight is always welcome in my feeds.

  4. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks for the quotes, alex. i’m more of a zen koan man, myself.

    82 from the shaseki-shu:

    Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

    Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no relaization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”

    Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

    “If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”

  5. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks for pointing out my obnoxious piety, anonymous —

    and tom — well, i have to disappoint you. my absence isn’t over until november 18th. it is an honor to appear in your feeds.

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