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Zizek, buddhism

October 26th, 2014 · No Comments

http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/2/western.php

This is the article linked to in the previous post. Zizek states his case, of some interest, but then applies a kind of marxist criticism of ideology to debunk buddhism in the name of commercialized buddhism. Trying to fob off the marxist theory of ideology on buddhism won’t work. The conservative character of late buddhism since the medieval period passes naturally in the kind of situation of Zizek’s criticizes. But it is doubtful anyone in the capitalist world would adopt buddhism as an ideological cover. Please, Mr. Zizek, the path to enlightenment is not a capitalist ideology or an opium of the masses. We should note that the original buddhists were ‘beggars’ who lived as homeless figures.
Medieval Zen in Japan was an ideology of the samurai, no doubt, but it was also a classic experiment in the buddhist transformation of society, and is responsible for the mysterious depth even in what is left of the tradition. Something went awry somewhere, and the military gotterdammerung of Zen in the world war left the subject hard to fathom. But Japan was one of the first societies to adopt ‘mindfulness’ meditation as a nearly universal practice, sometimes enforced by samurai who chopped of heads of the mindwanderers. The whole point was to lift attention beyond the mundane to a focused awareness in a new culture. This wasn’t commercial ideology in action. The class basis was the same same old aristocrats, warriors, merchants, and commoners…. (please check the details)
The problem became visible long long ago with figures like Gurdjieff denouncing spiritual activities given free and who introduced a form of degenerate sufism that fleeced a lot of people, and in the process spread a reactionary ideology. The New Age movement from the start was a set of vehicles that charged/overcharged for services, and at the point the commercial mindset began to enter as self-deception. Next to this figures like Rajneesh complained that the classic traditions, like buddhism, had preached poverty for so long that the result was counterproductive.
I have a nasty feeling that in the name of esotericism there has been of lot of secret transmission to elites, leaving the main body of the New Age movement to oblivion. But it is very hard to work with rich people, we should note. Jesus got it right: such people are hopeless cases. They must think that a little Gurdjieff and lite reading of Nietzsche puts them in the superman class. Disillusion follows.

I think Zizek is right if he points to utilitarian distortions of buddhism, but his own ideology prevents him from seeing that there actually is a core to buddhism that is about a spiritual path, not a form of desire-based ‘conscious business practice’, and other bullshit.

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