July 17, 2015

Let's strip the veneer off the importation of Eastern "spiritual" thought

A new Salon article laments how Eastern spirituality, in this case, mindfulness meditation, has been hypercapitalized. A similar article, a year ago, had Buddhists worrying about this.

Actually, this isn't new. Either monetary greed or other forms of it were affecting Eastern traditions when imported to the west 40 years ago.

At the same time, to riff on the second article, let's not put Eastern ideas — or their environments — on a pedestal. Yes, China has done ethnic repainting (no, not quite ethnic cleansing) in Tibet. But, pre-1959, Tibet was a feudal theocracy ruled by its lamas. And, monks were the only Buddhists doing meditation. They were the only ones who had the luxury, especially in more "primitive" places, because, just like many a Catholic monastery in feudal, semi-theocratic medieval Europe, Buddhist monasteries have traditionally been heavily dependent on lay support.

The first story, speaking of this, notes that mindfulness godfather Jon Kabat-Zinn noted that Buddhism's backgrounding of meditation might itself be a problem. So, he worked to de-Buddhist it. And, at the same time, started Ye Olde BuJew Movement, still alive and kicking, as recent nonsense from Dan Harris and Sam Harris clearly attest. (Slamming Sammy and Kabat-Zinn both say, in different ways, they never really were Jewish. Both have clearly borrowed from Stephen Batchelor in their attempts to de-Buddhist meditation; he was just as wrong himself when he tried to strip Buddhism of any and all metaphysical overtones.)

That, in turn, allowed it to get a purchase in the corporate world. Enter Steve Jobs, who surprisingly did not invent a mindfulness app before dying.

And, from there, the corporate world saw "increased productivity" and ran with it. Dan Harris' book reflects the Taylorite angle in its title by claiming to quantify just how much happier meditation made him.

The second article is kind of funny. 

Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek calls this adulturation "Western Buddhism." In turn, he calls that ... well, he calls it the new opiate of the masses. The article also notes that the Dalai Lama, while claiming to be a Marxist, is plenty ready to bed down with capitalists. (See paragraph the third, on Tibet's pre-1959 history.) 

And also per that third paragraph, all too often, Buddhism has been its own opiate of the masses back in its Eastern homelands, though it, like Christianity, has often had exceptions, too.

No comments: