More proof that Buddhism is of the Enemy

It caused the Enlightenment.  Okay, the author doesn’t prove this, but the fact that Buddhist thought could have sparked such a noxious movement in the West if (the unknown historical contingency) it had been known tells you all you need to know.  The article itself is mix of two stories, one boring and one interesting.  The boring one is about the author’s midlife crisis.  Probably the Atlantic thinks their readers like that sort of thing, and they pressured Professor Gopnik into adding the personal stuff.  She doesn’t really strike me as the mopey, self-doubting type.  She makes sure to sneak in enough information that we’ll know how awesome she really is; note that she makes sure to drop in a hint about the size of one of her grants!  The interesting story is about Jesuit missionaries in the Far East, some more cases of ambitious Jesuits who got the idea to travel across the world, learn the culture, beat the local sages at their own game, and win whole peoples for Christ.  Little seems to have ever come of these stunts, but they are impressive and fun to read about.

Let’s remember why Humeism/Buddhism is so incompatible with Christendom:

In his Treatise, Hume rejected the traditional religious and philosophical accounts of human nature. Instead, he took Newton as a model and announced a new science of the mind, based on observation and experiment. That new science led him to radical new conclusions. He argued that there was no soul, no coherent self, no “I.”…

In fact, if you let yourself think this way, your life might actually get better. Give up the prospect of life after death, and you will finally really appreciate life before it. Give up metaphysics, and you can concentrate on physics. Give up the idea of your precious, unique, irreplaceable self, and you might actually be more sympathetic to other people.

However, if my self is an illusion, then other selves are illusions too.  All that’s left is pleasure and pain without coherent subjects.  I can have compassion (sympathy), which concerns itself with pain, but not love, which concerns itself with persons.  Thus the West is led to utilitarianism.  Ironically, while Buddha promised his original followers that his teachings would deliver them from slavery to their desires, the Enlightenment has made human desires absolute master by making happiness and freedom primary.  There is also the change of scope, on which the Enlightenment has always prided itself.  Love is particular; abstract concern with pain is universal.  Replacing charity with compassion as the main social virtue was the great work of the Enlightenment, and it amounted to the creation of a new civilization.  The Christian empire of charity build on a metaphysics of substance was replaced by the Enlightenment empire of sympathy built on a rejection of metaphysics.

24 Responses

  1. Yes, Buddhism is very nominalist. There is no stable self. There is no stable anything.

    It isn’t necessary though for there to be any influence from Buddhism on modern thought. These ideas have been around forever, in Western as well as Eastern form. The real question is what suddenly made them so plausible to so many people?

    I myself think that changes in the way we live have made nominalist ideas more plausible to more people, but others may have different thoughts.

  2. I think this kind of attitude had a big effect on the arts in the East.

    If you go to any large museums in big centres you’ll start to see that kitschiness goes back way longer in in far Eastern cultures. Even the good art and literature tends to be about exquisite little moments rather than big important moment, and this is also a lot like the best of modern art and literature.

  3. Once again the retarded white race tries to blame someone else…

  4. “Give up the prospect of life after death, and you will finally really appreciate life before it. Give up metaphysics, and you can concentrate on physics. ”

    The problem was that this actually worked – for a while.

    Many of the greatest scientists and artists or philosophers etc of the past 250 years did exactly this – they were brought up as Christians (or Jews) then abandoned (more or less) their faith in teen/ adult like to concentrate all their efforts on their art/ science/ philosophy.

    Their success appeared to validate the idea.

    But the next generations were *not* brought up religiously and became the short-termist, dishonest, careerist bureaucrats who dominate the arts, sciences… indeed pretty much everything nowadays.

  5. Hume gives us the reductio ad absurdum of Descartes’s dualism. Already Locke had speculated that the thinking substance which thought the thought “I did it” might nevertheless be a different thinking substance from the one that could have had the thought: “I am doing it” when the act was done? Thus he detached the identity of the “self” or “person” from the identity of the thinking being which does the actual thinking of the I-thoughts.

    Of course, “self” here is simply a misconstrual of the reflexive pronoun. As Miss Anscombe points out, “it would be a question what guaranteed that one got hold of the right self, that is, that the self a man called “I” was always connected with him, or was always the man himself. Alternatively, if one said that “the self connected with a man” meant just the one he meant by “I” at any time, whatever self that was, it would be by a mere favour of fate that it had anything else to do with him.”

    In the sentence, “I am sitting typing,” “I” is not a name. I-thoughts are an expression of reflexive (non-observational) consciousness of the states, movements, postures of this “person.” Now, there is nothing difficult to grasp about the idea of a “person”; we all know what “that person over there” means; it means a living human body.

    “I” is no more3 a referring expression than “it” is a referring expression in “it is raining.”

  6. […] is partially an answer to Bonald. I do appreciate how from a Western, especially Christian angle Buddhism sounds dangerously similar […]

  7. Bruce brings up a good point. A lot of great stuff was produced by transitional figures breaking away from traditional religion. But where are we now?

  8. Those figures whether religious or not were still surrounded by religious societies, which could kind of do the believing for them.

  9. I’ve always considered Buddhism to be a totally contrarian philosophy which denies the most basic things required to even function as a human, the concept of the self through time in particular.

    This said, I don’t consider it much of a threat. It is one of the few religions declining globally.

  10. Of course, the implication of taking seriously either Hume’s or Buddhism’s account of reality is that everything, including Gopnik’s essay, is complete gibberish.

    These people are highly selective (and arbitrary) about what they accept as coherent and meaningful.

  11. Why would giving up “the prospect of life after death” cause one to “really appreciate life before it?” This does not appear to be true empirically, as “religious” people are said to be unusually happy. And it doesn’t make sense logically. Does a condemned man eat his last meal with unprecedented relish? Do children find the last day of summer vacation the sweetest? Could we say, “give up the prospect of life after tomorrow, and you will finally really appreciate life before it?” Of course not!

    One of the earlier commenters already pulled apart Gopnik’s third apercu. If I am an illusory self, other selves are illusory, and there is nothing for me to sympathize with. The historic reason the West placed such value on the individual was because Christianity taught that we were all precious, unique and irreplaceable selves. Take that away and people are just the stuff out of which the state builds its own power.

  12. Yes, the last time you see X is usually an occasion of maudlin meditations of regret for things-not-done. Maybe that’s why Sartre is always such a fun read.

  13. I can understand this sentiment of Gopnik’s at least. “Appreciating” life more might mean finding more significance in it, not enjoying it more. A final meeting with an old friend will probably be both sad and pregnant with meaning.

    I’m guessing reincarnation is not one of the Buddhist beliefs Gopnik is appropriating.

  14. A 19th century French thinker Edgar Quinet described Buddhism in this manner:

    “Doubt arrived at its last limit, faith is born again of spiritual death. A new religion springs out of this abyss of abstractions; the East is still so full of God that scepticism only ends there by giving birth to the New Testament of India.

    In its most extreme departure from orthodoxy, Indian doubt retains its gods, only contesting their eternal duration. When, from examination after examination, philosophy reached the absolute void, instead of shrinking from the abyss like the European doubter, the Indian went on until he arrived at a new belief. Outside all created things, outside every form or limit, beyond light and darkness, beyond the bounds of all thought, he found a God who had no relation with the world. Never did Christianity, even in the heart of the Middle Age, so absolutely anathematise Matter. To the Oriental the visible world was an imposture; he wished to tear off the mask that covered the universe. In this heroic age of philosophy the human spirit fought quite naked. The better to resist matter, it began by planting itself in the attitude of victory at the last confines of the ideal. Here, as it were, at the antipodes both of Nature and Tradition, it found another heaven, another god; for out of the last efforts of philosophy to overthrow everything, came forth the revelation of Buddha, a religion which counts to-day a number of adherents greater than the united hosts of all who profess Christianity and Islamism.

    Christianity itself, in its purest charity, has not proclaimed more irrevocably the equality of all men. “The distinction of races,” said one of these Asiatic abolitionists, “is marked by organisation. Thus the foot of the elephant differs from that of the horse, the foot of the tiger from that of the bull; but I never heard that the foot of the Soudra differs from that of the Brahmin. In like manner, the eagle, the hawk, the turtle-dove, the paroquet, are each distinguished by plumage, flight, colour, and beak; but priests, warriors, labourers, artisans, are the same in flesh, skin, blood, form, and bones: all men being alike, without and within, are assuredly but one caste.”

    Such is the theory. But what else can result from this spiritualism born of doubt than a negative morality and a society ever bent on its own dissolution?

    Since the dogma exacts the abolition of all private or collective personality, Buddhism left to itself tends to a rejection of such ideas as the Nation, the State, the Government, the only true society being the Monastery. The true believer has no country but the convent; and as all that recalls individual right is contrary to the spirit of his religion, it follows that he can possess nothing of his own. The Buddhist, from his very nature, belongs to the mendicant orders. All alliance, except with the invisible, being wrong, marriage is condemned; but since in this exaggerated idealism each reform goes so far as to become impossible, polygamy is simply corrected by celibacy, property by almsgiving. The rigorous consequence of Buddhist dogma would result in the absolute extinction of humanity.”

  15. Mahayana Buddhism could be seen as an ideal religion for the Shitlibs – and it is indeed fashionable in Hollywood:

    “First Mahayana Buddhism maintained that early Buddhism was selfish as it encouraged monks to strive for their own individual liberation. Mahayana Buddhism said that the Buddhist sage should strive to enlighten all beings. They said it was selfish to be striving for one’s own individual enlightenment, especially when Buddhism taught there was not such entity as the self. By accenting the central Buddhist notion that there was no self, the later Mahayana Buddhists transformed the notion of the Buddhist sage into a totally altruistic being. This new Buddhist sage, the bodhisattva, was a person who could have entered into nirvana, but instead had refused this enlightenment in order to help all other beings become enlightened. The bodhisattva knows that all other beings are suffering and through compassion for them, refuses enlightenment; instead she vows to remain in the realm of suffering until all beings are enlightened. Because of her compassion for other beings, she actively spends her time trying to save other beings and because of her compassion she experiences pleasure in helping others.[cliii]

    The bodhisattva, like the good utilitarian, is concerned for all persons equally. The bodhisattva “must educate his mind that he may feel in each case the same affection for all creatures that naturally centres in his son, or in himself.”[clvi] There is no privileging of the bodhisattva’s personal sorrows or personal concerns over the concerns of other people. “Another’s sorrow is to be destroyed by me because it is sorrow like my own sorrow…Since a neighbor and I are equal in desiring happiness, what is the unique quality of the ‘self’ which requires an effort for happiness?”[clvii] This is what the bodhisattva continually says to herself: “All sorrows, without distinction are ownerless; and because of misery they are to be prevented…Not just in myself. Everywhere!”[clviii]

    Nor is this concern for other people a totally altruistic act. For the bodhisattva gets joy and happiness in taking care of others. So “having transformed their mentalities, delighting in the tranquilizing of another’s sorrow… When beings are delivered, it is for them an ocean of joy.”[clix]

    Not only should the bodhisattva accept torture from humans in a loving manner, he should also accept painful treatment from animals. For if he is attacked and eaten by wild animals “he should react with the thought: ‘If these wild beasts should devour me, then just that will be my gift to them.”[clxvii] “

  16. Buddhism is actually a great rebuttal to neo-pagan WNs: it turn out that Aryan prince Siddhartha Gautama came up with a more pervertedly suicidal religion than what any Semitic prophet ever did.

  17. It is a mistake to see Buddhist reincarnation as a form of personal survival. The Buddha insists that “Body is not self, feelings are not self, perception is not self, mental constructs are not self and consciousness is not self.” There was nothing on which he insisted more strongly than the composite character of the personality. This ceases at death; it is the components that are, as it were, recycled.

    In a famous analogy, Nagasena asks if the pole of the chariot is the chariot. Answer, no. Nagasena asks if the axel is the chariot or if the wheels are the chariot. Answer, no. Nagasena asks if the reins are the chariot. To this and further questions about the parts, the answer is no.

    Nagasena explains that the chariot is not something other than these parts. Yet the parts are not the chariot. Nagasena states that chariot is just a word; it exists, but only in relation to the parts.

    Likewise, Hume was well aware that there are sounds coming out of human heads, and people behaving in response to those sounds in ways that are patterned and regular. What he denied is that we need the concept of a substantial “mind” (as opposed to reflexive consciousness or awareness) to account for this behaviour. All we need is the notion of the brain as a complex and intricate system which responds in systematic and regular ways to features of its environment.

  18. Warner, thank you for sharing these quotes.

  19. […] also thinks Buddhism may have caused the Enlgihtenment. If so, it didn’t do that in Eastern cultures. Ideas have consequences. But also different […]

  20. Please. Buddhism may be inspired by demons or Satan himself, but has zero (Shunya) to do with the European enlightenment, and the “discovery” of Buddhism in the West is nothing more than an extended exercise in projection by hippy Westerners.

    BTW Hume was explicating a de-theologized version of William of Ockham’s metaphysics, as Edward Feser has pointed out in his book on scholasticism.

    There is some similarity between Hume’s metaphysics and Buddhist philosophy, which exemplifies the philosophical limits created by the rejection of a concept like potency and act.

    I think Buddhist ethics, in general, are closer to Christian apatheia than say Post-Modernist ethics. No love of abortion, sexual perversion, ethnic chauvinism, commodity fetishism.

    Last, Buddhism does not say the self does not exist or is an illusion:

    “Form, … feeling, … perception, … [mental] fabrications, … consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.’ But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.’…
    “Thus, monks, any form, … feeling, … perception, … fabrications, … consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: ‘This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.’
    “Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, ‘Fully released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'”

    The claim is that the self cannot be identified with form, feeling, perception, mental fabrications, or consciousness, with the point of cultivating ascetic detachment. The identification of self with form, feeling, perception, mental fabrications or consciousness is the illusion. What the self is, from a Buddhist perspective, is addressed apophatically and sometimes in antinomy.

  21. If Buddhism is to be associated with any form of government, that government would be an absolute monarchy headed by a Buddhist king or imperator. It is a legitimate question to ask, based on the Buddhist Sutras, whether a Buddhist state can truly be anything other than an absolute monarchy.

  22. I think it is a mistake to view Mahayana as expressing the view that the “self is an illusion”. Mahayana really is rooted in a relational ontology, so my being is in part constituted by its relation with your being. This is in contrast to an “atom” or an Aristotelian substance. So “enlightenment” cannot be “achieved” apart from the Other, and Mahayana is rooted in the interdependence of being, the reflection of the dawning evening moon representing the new beginning of a world, not an isolated being. The illusion would be the “self” existing independent from the world (from it’s own side).

    Certainly, on one level, there is a profession of a higher equality of all things (as manifest in their interdependence), but on the worldly level, the operation of karma insures a hierarchical and organic social order based on fealty, starting with fealty to the king or emperor, which was justified so long as the monarch preserved the Dharma from corruption. (In fact, rejecting the natural hierarchy which results from the operation of the laws of karma is a denial of interdependence in the search for a false autonomy that cannot exist.)

    These ideas give to rise to oaths like the following:

    “Be it thus that we, emulating the purity of the League of the Divine Wind, hazard ourselves for the task of purging away all evil deities and perverse spirits. Be it thus that we, forging deep friendship among ourselves, aid one another as comrades in responding to the perils that confront the nation. Be it thus that we, never seeking power and giving no thought to personal advancement, go forth to certain death to become the foundation stones for the Restoration.”

    It is because of the interdependence of all things that the sacrifice of one’s life for the Nation can become the foundation stone for the emergence of a new national order purged of perversity and foreign corruption. Not quite Hollywood.

  23. if only the laws of karma, whatever they may be, operated nicely then and settled accounts and sorted categories as expected…

    or if the Dharma supreme order, whatever that could be, could only be kept uncorrupted by whatever godking is needed to keep it (the jetsetting dalai lama?)…

    or if only the interdependence of “all” things did not collide with the national order, as well as with local/familial/personal/biological orders whose interdependence with the Other isn’t straightforward due to their very nature formed by smaller asymmetrical interdependences, starting in the biological and historical…

    we could illustrate with an example such as: a town that lives on cattle and landholding, and another that lives on fish and seafaring trade; both places also speak different dialects and have different cultural feasts. they may collaborate organically at times but not be wholly interdependent all the time, without necessarily harming the other but also not always able to help each other. would that be karmic-just or not?

    not to mention, even the non-Aristotelian atoms discovered by the
    scientists can be interdependent, you know… and, if my atoms’ material-self is illusory, how can these atoms believe the material-self quality of the other’s atoms is real? and why would the other’s atoms believe my atom’s material-self is real, when my atoms just defined my material-self as illusory?

    this eventually becomes a decision to subject your metaphysics and epistemology, and ergo ethics, to the Other entirely, and expecting whatever you ironically subjectively believe the Other should subject you to, with whatever relativism karma may be applied to restore the equally-relative concept of Dharma. no wonder hippies of the West love this ideology, tons of introspection in order to ignore or help the Other as magical karma instructs at a given moment according to one’s subjective unconscious… at least Christian apatheia focuses on the giving of the self, ergo motivating the individual to examine said self so as to perfectly love the Other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: