Buddhism and/as Communism


Daniel Ingram (self-professed arhat) just joined the conversation, and got a reply from Tom Pepper (self-professed communist). As their exchange took place in a very long, possibly dying, comments thread on a sub-page of this blog, I repost their comments here.

Feel free to join the discussion. Before doing so, let me suggest one thing: Spend five minutes trying to understand what is meant by “Communism” (and “state-run Communism”) here. Be mindful of the fact that gut-feelings usually indicate that it’s time to do some thinking.


ingramDaniel Ingram
Surprisingly, I am intrigued by what has been discussed here.

I am not sure that I really saw my favorite philosophical paradigms, those of pragmatism and empiricism, addressed to the degree that would seem appropriate, but then I am clearly biased in that regard.

Anyone interested in a discussion of how those might apply to these topics?
Further, I got the sense that the SNB crew had a favorite economic framework that they preferred to capitalism, and is easy to imagine which ones they might like, but I was wondering if they could be a bit more explicit about that, as well as what, if any, uses they had for Buddhism and contemplative practices in general, which is to say that I wondered what benefits they think they might produce.

I am working long nights at this time, so my apologies in advance if replies are sometims a bit slow.

tomTom Pepper
There hasn’t been much discussion of pragmatism and empiricism, but why would there be? They have been discussed ad nauseum for a century, and it is pretty much commonly understood that they are simply ideologies of capitalism. If you mistake empiricism for an actual epistemology, nobody could possibly discuss real philosophical thought with you, right? There are literally thousands of pages written on this, so why rehash in on a blog?

No doubt you “imagine” you know what the SNB crowd would prefer to capitalism, and no doubt you would be completely wrong. If you believe that pragmatism is a valid philosophical position, and not simply capitalist ideology, then probably you cannot conceive of any alternative to capitalism other than state-run capitalism–and no doubt you would not see that this isn’t really any different than capitalism. There is no “framework” advanced for a future economic state, because, well, there can be no such framework dictated in advance. First, get rid of the commodity form of money, then begin constructing, and endlessly reconstructing, the social formation. For most people, this work of taking responsibility for our social formation strikes terror into their hearts, as surely it would cut down on x-box time, or episodes of “real housewives of Rwanda” or something.

Of course, the pragmatists and other capitalist ideologues have long had a standard two-part criticism of Marx. 1) He shows the contradictions and inherent oppressiveness of capitalism, but never lays out a dogmatic and unquestionable plan for what we should replace it with. 2) Marxism lays out a dogmatic and unquestionable plan for what society should be like, and we don’t want anything that inflexible. (Sometimes, these are presented in the other order).

Get rid of the delusions that convince people capitalism is natural and inevitable, then…the work begins. And Buddhist thought could be a practice in which to endlessly critique our practices so that we don’t resume reification. Of course, I know that isn’t what you meant by “contemplative practices,” which are always in x-buddhism a strategy for not thinking, for avoiding this kind of endless critique and comfortably reifying our current structure of perceptions. For that, there would be no place at all.



5 thoughts on “Buddhism and/as Communism

  1. Continuing the debate from here as suggested…

    …as for whether mindfulness is merely one more ‘opiate FOR the masses’, not only do the ‘capitalist powers’ have very little power over whether and how citizens choose to address their suffering. ‘It is permitted to exist’ is about all you can say. Yet there are parallel ways of addressing mental health and wellbeing issues in pretty much every type of state, whether it’s Vipassana meditation (which is essentially what mindfulness is), tai chi, yoga, zazen or actual mindfulness. The only differences are trivial – the details of the technique and the means of provision. In a communist state or social democracy it’s more likely to be delivered free by the state rather than paid for privately. Here in the UK it’s both. I happen to support state provision, for the treatment of diagnosed mental health issues and as an alternative to traditional therapy and pharmaceuticals, but I’m certainly not against people running private courses (as long as it’s not over-sold).

    We can even see the equivalent in genuine Marxist Communist countries… oh wait a minute… there aren’t any… after the bold and violent revolutions, all the “Dictatorships of the Proletariat” turned out to be no different from any other sort of highly repressive tyrannical regime, failed to materialise the promised “Workers’ Paradise” and they collapsed under the weight of disillusionment and economic failure, into corrupt oligarchies and capitalist dictatorships. Unfortunately political Marxism failed when the wheels hit the tarmac of reality. The most successful examples of socialism turn out to me social democracies, for example, Denmark, Norway, Sweden.

  2. Clearly this whole line of discussion is done. It has been taken over, once agai, by the reactionaries and the morons. Some will pronounce on what is and isn’t “effective,” assuming that what is “aesthetically” pleasing for them is the only effective arguemnt. Please, learn what aesthetic means, people. To “aesthetically enchant” people is to ideologically interpelate them, and will always work to prevent real thought; such arguments just use cheep rhetoric to insist, in Heideggerian fashion, that we must remain ignorant of our ideologies. Then, this moron Justin, offering the kinds of arguments one would expect from an adolescent who learned everything he knows about the world from watching Fox News. No serious discussion can take place while the simple minded children keep shouting nonsense at the level of “if there’s no Santa, why are there all those pictures of him? And where do my Christmas presents come from.” Justin feels free to run a blog where idiots can complain about me but I can’t respond–we need to return the favor.

    As for the Ingram thing, above–I’ve read his book. It’s clear, and free of all that platitudinous x-buddhist crap. Ingram is what I call an “Atman Buddhist,” faithful to the belief in a completely dualistic and transcendent consciousness (he calls it “non-dualistic” because he doesn’t understand what the term dualism means–it is completely separate from the time-space continuum, he says, and so is not “permanent” becaus it is not in this world at all, like the god of negative theology). There is no way to argue against such faith; the whole goal of meditative practice becomes to create the experience(illusion) of this transcendent awareness, and any effort to change the world we live in is pointless. I’m interested only in discussing ways to teache people to free themselves from their illusions. The discussion here has become focused on how to use aesthetics to produce illusions, or on insisting that capitalism is just natural and inevitable. Sorry Tutte, I enjoy your satirical presentation, but for now I’m done trying to make the hoplessly stupid reactionaries uncomfortable enough to hazard a thought. I’m going to focus on the positive attempts to produce some real Buddhist and marxist practice–which most of those who are so angry at my “tone” simply refuse to understand, and then insist don’t exist.

    Thank you, though, for updating my picture in this particular post.

    • Just a short final addendum. There seems to be far too much concern over the use of the phrase “fucking idiot.” As far as I can tell, I am the only one here who has used that expression, yet it has been used as a pathetic excuse to avoid addressing serious criticism made by everyone on this board, not merely my own serious criticism. And take a look at the one time I did use it. The “thoughtful, caring and intelligent comment” to which I replied was Kenneth Folk calling me a drunk–as an alcoholic, I admit I may have overreacted to that particular accusation. That, apparently, is an acceptable insult–I’ll stick with the more frank term “idiot,” and avoid making assumptions about what may be clouding Kenneth’s, or others’s, thoughts.

      Justin’s blog, so objectively, just accept that this term, used once, is used to respond to every single serious and intelligent comment. This is the most pathetic way to avoid serious criticism.

    • Tom,
      I have some (ever so faint) hope there will be a fruitful discussion here about effective ways of communication (not the tedious whining about your vitriolic wit), including the aesthetics of satire, how it is responded to and so on. I’m sorry you’re leaving, but if you want to comment on Justin W (and other x-buddhist scholars), there is a separate page for that. (And, speaking of aesthetics and enchantment: You look much more trustworthy without that beard.)

  3. In capitalism there seems to be only two main options, delusion or work for change. I can see why folks work so damn hard to maintain delusion with conversation stoppers like, ‘communism failed’. It’s because seeing the reality of capitalism is worst than any nightmare the greatest horror writers could come up with. Ironically, after that initial horror a type of liberation occurs. Depression settles a bit and one begins to really see the collective mind, how it is created and how it can be recreated without reification. Alas, the roadblocks of delusion prevail. I’m both pissed off at the deluded, but, on a good day, I totally understand where they are coming from.

    It is pretty amazing seeing through all these x-buddhist bloggers. When examined, there is nothing there in terms of personality or content. It’s all just internet garbage. I too need to move on from engaging with those iron clad in their delusion. There’s so many threads and blogs and links to other blogs. It’s so tiring. For me, it’s going to be faithfulbuddhist.com and rev left.

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