Fighting Buddhism: Peek-a-boo

In an earlier post, I objected to the claim that one can disprove Descartes and prove Buddhist anti-substantialism (anatman) from the fact that there are brain-damaged people who are unaware of their own existence.  It occurs to me now that one could go farther.  These brain-damaged nuts are the reducio ad absurdum of Buddhism.  They have lost their ego sense and, in a sense, achieved Buddhist enlightenment.  If Buddha would have just said that his goal was to give people Cotard’s syndrome, he might not be so popular with our celebrities today.

Another example of people with a high degree of “enlightenment”:  newborn babies.  They have not yet learned to conceptualize the world in terms of enduring substances with distinct natures.  The world is a meaningless chaos of color and noise to them–Buddhist sages take decades of meditation to achieve a comparable level of idiocy.  My daughter is four and a half months old right now, and I’ve started trying to help her achieve a different, ultimately Hellenic/Christian, kind of enlightenment.  I want to help her realize that there are distinct beings, and especially distinct people, whose identity endures through time.  This idea of personal identity (“the soul” as people call it when disparaging it) is central to the Western (Hellenic/Christian) way.  Without the idea of distinct, enduring selves, there can be no personal responsibility (because it has no subject) and no love (because it has no object).  The Buddhist sees love as an obstacle to the pure detachment he craves; we see it as the purpose of existence.

Fortunately, Western man has invented a rite to induct his little ones into the holy mystery of personal identity.  That is the game of peek-a-boo.  “Where’s daddy?  There he is!  Where’s daddy?  There he is!”  The point, of course, that daddy is an enduring being who can be visible, then obscured, and then visible, all while remaining the same person.  Once they figure it out, kids love this game.  (Mine hasn’t quite got it yet, but I’ve seen this over and over with nieces and nephews.)  What could be more delightful than to realize that the world is not chaos?  Mommy and daddy are not momentary gobs of color, but enduring beings, subjects who can love and be loved.

10 Responses

  1. hey, ‘hole.

    how about you live the way you want, and Buddhists live the way they want?

    Oh never mind, I know; it’s because Christianity has lost its grip on the idiots of the world, and they’re turning to other idiotic philosophies, hoping for something better that what you defend.

    I’ll tell ya this:Christianity- it’s really not worth defending; it’s kind of “over” for you and your mystery polytheism called the father, the son and the holy spirit.

    what a mixed-bag of borrowed philosophies xtianity is – is it any wonder that people, dumb as they may be, have decided that putting pressure on people to convert is a complete waste of time.

    Thought I’d ley YOU know, ‘hole.

    xtianity – a losing proposition.

  2. I think you struck a nerve, Bonald.

  3. pgibson: This doesn’t strike me as a Buddhist response. Was it meant to be? If not, what is your philosophy?

    Bonald: That’s an interesting observation on peak-a-boo as an education in the existence of the soul. Do you suppose that Buddhism has found a receptive audience in the modern West because it palliates the fundamental nihilism of the culture, is itself a somewhat less painful form of nihilism?

    I’m a new reader. Keep up the good work

  4. Hello JMsmith,

    Welcome! And thanks for the encouragement. I admit I’m a bit weird with my hostility to Buddhism (especially when one couples it with my oft-expressed admiration for Islam and outright paganism). I see it as the Eastern equivalent of what we in the West would call atheism, phenomenalism, and nihilism. Spengler also regarded Buddhism, socialism, and Stoicism as “morphologically equivalent”. Each represents the spiritual collapse of its respective civilization. I expect you’re right that this spiritual kinship explains to a great degree Buddhism’s appeal in the modern West.

  5. Well, there is a little catch in Buddhism, that was not mentioned in here…

    Buddhism, (at least what I know about it) strongly believes in existence of individual soul, which re-incarnate itself over and over again. This doctrine is not original, but borrowed from classical Hinduism.

    However, Buddhism consider this individual existence, and attachment to it as cause of suffering and reincarnation process. To avoid that suffering destruction of ego and achieving of Nirvana (emptiness) is required, and the rest mentioned by Bonald.

    There are few differences in Buddhism, because in Mahayana Buddhism of Tibetan type, there are lots of personal Buddhist deities worshiped within it, as I remember. This, perhaps, has nothing to do with original Buddhist doctrine, but with old Tibetan religion (Bon). I’m not an expert on Buddhism, so I leave the final answer to some who is more educated on Buddhist topics.


    Seems that avoiding of suffering through annihilation of ego and selfish desire is somehow paradoxical. Is not avoiding and rejection of suffering quite selfish and egotistical, and is actually form of desire (desire not to suffer)?

    As Nietzsche once remarked: ” A man would rather desire nothingness, than nothing to desire for”

  6. You have put your finger on the fatal flaw in any form of Phenomenalism, Eastern or Western, namely, that it ignores the intentionality of perception. In other words, I cannot point to what I mean by, say, “yellow”; I can only point to a yellow object. I can show someone what I mean by yellow only by doing things with coloured objects – such as sorting and arranging them by colour.

    Of course, many people have been misled by a crass misunderstanding of what Realists mean by substance. As Miss Anscombe observed,
    “Because Aristotle distinguishes between substance and quality, those who take a predicate like “man” [in the sense of “human”] to signify a complex of properties readily suppose him to be distinguishing between the being of a thing and the being of any attributes that it has. They then take the thing itself to have no attributes. It would be almost incredible, if it had not happened, to suppose that anyone could think it an argument to say: the ultimate subject of predication must be something without predicates; or that anyone who supposed this was Aristotle’s view could do anything but reject it with contempt.”

  7. I have always believed that the only valid way to understand Buddhism or any other religion is through it’s traditional practice. It does seem to provide a large amount of charity to the poor, and has been the religion of many traditional societies. I find Islam to be much more of a threat, precisely because it so severely perverts our religions teachings. At least the Buddhists believe in celibacy. My own cursory examination of Buddhism has always seen it as a workable paganism, one that does not fall easily to Christianity or Islam.

  8. When you say that loving one another is the meaning of life and all and that enlightenment would take away that joy, you have to realise that desire also leads to suffering. One day your loved ones will all have to disappear, and so will your memories of them. If you are enlightened you will have no attachment to anything, meaning no suffering. If you say they will miss out on the joys of life, well they won’t really be desiring that joy. For example, if your girlfriend cheated on you but you never knew, you wouldn’t feel pain or any difference would you? Buddhism is a way to self discipline yourself, make yourself a better person.

    Enlightened ones aren’t devoid of emotions, to become an arahant you must have the 10 perfections, among those is compassion for all living beings, which is a desire to rid living beings of their suffering.

    A baby is not like an enlightened one, an enlightened one is not ignorant of the world around them, they know the true nature of the world around them. Babys still feel pain, and still desire.

    In the end you have to ask yourself, what is the cause of suffering?
    Desire, you don’t have to want to become an enlightened one, but the Buddha taught not to cling on to anything, when something is gone, just let it go and you won’t feel pain from losing that thing.

  9. There are more important things in life than not suffering, and love is a far greater thing than compassion.

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