History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Buddhism, secularism, and the future of religion

April 4th, 2015 · No Comments

http://darwiniana.com/?s=buddhism+secularism I have often discussed buddhism and secularism, and even suggested that the emergence of buddhism in antiquity was almost a ‘secular’ transformation before the fact.
And I have also tried to expose the misuse of the term ‘secular’ in insisting that ‘religion’ is not inherently non-secular. This abuse of terms is frequent in the new atheists, but is fairly entrenched already as a word that has shifted meaning. We can disagree on religious issues but it would be dangerous to deny religion a place in modernity. That confusion is a sign that ‘secular humanists’ have contracted the definition of modernity. It is not easy to make such a defintion. It won’t work to equate all that with science dogmas, which are too often false, and too often guilty of making a mechanized scientism as substitute definition for issues that intersect with value questions.
In any case, I have perhaps been too fair to buddhism: it prefigures a kind of secular mood (I am misusing the term after the manner of my critique of such!) arising already in antiquity, and the same could be said of Archaic Greece, but perhaps this claim is a result of a kind of identification with buddhism that wishes to prejudge the case.

The term secular should be used to refer to the ‘new age’ effect of modernity. It has nothing to do with religion or anti-religion. Buddhism comes close to being a kind of modernity of religion before the fact and was a powerful restatement of ancient Indian tradition. But in the final analysis it lacks many of the ingredients of what should be an as yet undefined ‘modernity’ of religion. But it is so far ahead of the religions of the monotheistic type that it simply floats into modern society with ease.
I think the history of buddhism has yet to be told, and the core has shifted (as for example from left to right). Buddhism is like Xtianity an overgrown cult with a ‘dead guru’ as its leader, a very difficult state of affairs in all cases. Adherents become ‘disciples’ of a dead guru, and the whole nature of the teaching shifts into a different emotional framework (which many denounce as artificial and malevolent: gurus should only be considered such when alive). Buddhism has many archaic aspects, etc…But forget it if a ‘modern secularist’ tries to say what is the problem here. We now have a ‘secular’ effort to negate the reality of ‘enlightenment’ as superstition, supernaturalism, and, hey, non-secular. That is baloney. Many have tried to point out that ‘yoga’ was really a science of consciousness from antiquity. Buddhism is analogous in this respect. The issue of enlightenment has never been resolved by science, and in many ways the ‘science of consciousness’, as it were, overrides this misjudgment.
But the nature of buddhism has already been transformed by modernity, for better or worse, and some result will survive here, although the whole new age phenomenon is rapidly undermining the older tradition, with what result we don’t know.
It is worth remembering that many successive age periods have seen a rebirth of the ‘core buddhism’ with Jainism being one of the ancientmost sources of the later version of Gautama. In any case the era of the Axial Age shows us the way the Indian religious heritage suddenly remorphed one strain and produced a world religion, the first from India. its next stage remains unknown, but it seems in danger of chaotification on the one hand and displacement imitations of low quality on the other. Whatever the case, the Indian tradition has witnessed a real continuity in the practice of ‘yogis and buddhas’ and we can see the new age movement ‘moving’ to first clone its past and then turn that into a fresh and creative re-rendering. The occult history of the now archaeo-buddhism is smeared with dark rumors and ghastly rumors, and the whole game is likely to fall over dead over its crypto-fascist world historical degeneration, a long drift from its first revolutionary moood: the more then to be ready to skulk away with a neo-buddhism, after the fashion of one such new buddha for modernity, the Rajneesh phenomenon, whatever that was. The buddhas have been quite sly in restaging their ancient wisdom in new epochs. We should discuss whether this will be true of religions like Xtianity….We will defer that to another discussion. Many now wish to see humanity abandon religion: but over and over again that succeeds only for the religions of an earlier epoch. The phenomenon is usually reborn on schedule, this time no doubt to be called something else.

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