And Now For Something Completely Different

If I was a book in a library, then I'd finally be free

Buddhism and Abstraction

with 12 comments

Extending a thought I started in a comment at Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt I add:

G.W.F. Hegel’s “Who Thinks Abstractly?” and his critique of common-sense abstraction (Nietzsche’s “herd mentality”) are kind of at the heart of it, and I think the originality of Buddha’s everywhere in terms of both compassion and wisdom.’

‘Common-sense’ abstraction as opposed to the more conventional attribution of abstraction to academic and otherwise educated people. Hegel’s response to the question ‘who thinks abstractly?’ is ‘the uneducated, not the educated.’

We have to remember that with the exception of Hui Neng and some other figures in the Pali canon, most of the prominent figures of Zen and Buddhism in general were either directly from or just outside the aristocracy of their time and place, the Siddharta Gotama especially. However, I think we are led astray if we chase after some hitherto repressed ‘householder/everyday buddhism’ as something very different from what does appear in the written and orally transmitted teachings/stories. There is no authentically ‘everyday’ form of Buddhism, and it would be absurd not to view the already given teachings as speaking to and from everyday life. Kings and Queens and Masters and Buddhas are just ordinary people.

We should recognize a form of this ‘talk in plain speak’ attitude in the appeals many conservatives and hicks make to the common-sense appeal of creationism and intelligent design (or the common-sense appeal many liberals feel comfortable making to ‘the market’). Mind you, those two bits in particular are beside the point. The point is in the way that ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ rhetoric appears even when we seem to be talking about universality and equality and the close ties it has with other forms of reductive thinking.


Written by Joe

August 23, 2009 at 9:35 am

12 Responses

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  1. A Noble post.

    Ted Bagley

    August 23, 2009 at 9:02 pm

  2. Your words remind one of the “Suffering vs Not-Suffering” rhetoric of the dominant Four Noble Truths interpretation.

    Ted Bagley

    August 26, 2009 at 6:15 am

  3. Which words, Ted?

    Joe Clement

    August 26, 2009 at 10:38 am

  4. Sorry, just your post in general.

    Ted Bagley

    August 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm

  5. Kinda looking forward to being home next week.

    Ted Bagley

    August 26, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  6. I have sat with this for a couple days, and you’ll have to explain a bit more.

    Joe Clement

    August 28, 2009 at 4:00 pm

  7. Alright, it’s mostly in the very last sentence. Sustitute “suffering” vs “not-suffering” for “us vs “them”. And substitute what is and what I want for universality and equality.
    I’m posting next on what the Truths are saying in a direct statement…or what I belive they are pointing to. I think Freud would have agreed.
    Plus I still advocate that the Buddha was not speaking as a Noble, but that doesn’t mean he advocated a “householder” position either because I think “householder is another way to say Noble as apposed to Monastic…but thats just me, and you know I’m a looney.

    Ted Bagley

    August 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm

  8. I guess what I was wondering was what you meant by how my words reminded you of the dominant interpretation of the FNT. Does it remind you of it in the sense that I was simply reiterating or challenging it?


    September 2, 2009 at 3:24 pm

  9. Reiterating by challenging the dominant interpretation. How’s that?

    Ted Bagley

    September 2, 2009 at 3:30 pm

  10. Not challenging by reiterating? “You have heard it said…”


    September 2, 2009 at 6:16 pm

  11. Yep. And “Thus I have heard…”
    Check out the Fundamentalism post at Progressive B.

    Ted Bagley

    September 2, 2009 at 9:13 pm

  12. Reblogged this on syndax vuzz.

    syndax vuzz

    March 13, 2014 at 9:41 pm

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