Monday, September 9, 2013

David Loy on Buddhism, duality, transformation & social justice

Balder posted a Loy video talk in this post. I commented on it in the linked thread as well as the IPS anti-capitalism thread, both commentaries enclosed below.

After listening to the first few minutes a couple of comments. He starts by noting that Buddhism's defining characteristics are impermanence and co-dependent arising. (I'd even call these characteristics of postmetaphysics, in that there is no utterly transcendent, permanent or unchanging anything.) Then he discusses how Buddhism must itself exemplify those characteristics when it enters new cultures. Hence it syncretized with Taoism in China and with Bon in Tibet. However if in the syncretization process it takes on characteristics that are not impermanent and/or co-dependent arising then it cease to be Buddhism per se. It could be a mix of Buddhism and something else, part of each, but it loses that essenceless 'essence' or groundless 'ground,' at least in some respects and contexts. We see this is kennlingus, for example, which mixes Vedanta and Buddhism and thereby the model has both elements of metaphysics and postmetaphysics.

I finished the Loy video and commented on the socio-economic aspects in another thread. Here I'd like to focus on his comments about duality. He finds it to be a particular problem for western (Abrahamic) religion, the eternal battle between good and evil. Whereas Buddhism is free of that duality he does admit that it too divides liberation from ignorance and strives to overcome delusion, greed and something else. While he doesn't go into the 'nonduality' aspect of Buddhism so much in this talk I'd be interested how he argues that Buddhism overcomes duality when there is such an obvious dualistic split between nirvana and samsara. And to which he admitted elsewhere. (See this post, then this one and following.)

To comment on Buddhist duality then might lead to the inevitable conclusion that nonduality is a myth. But only in how we define it. If by duality whereby the compliments are completely separate and in opposition, either/or, the sure, that is 'bad' duality. But if by nonduality we mean that the compliments are in mutual entailment, including nirvana and samsara, that's a different story. And even the latter duality is dual, in that there is a healthy, balanced and functional way for nirvana/samsara to operate and also the dysfunctional variety. Formal (metaphysical) duality is duality per se; postformal (postmetaphysical) duality is nonduality per se. Maybe?

The David Loy video also fits in the anti-capitalism thread, as he covers much of the same ground. In comparing Buddhism with western religion he finds that we need individual transformation from the former and institutional transformation from the latter. He finds the corporate structure to inherently feed individual greed so just changing its leaders consciousness isn't enough; structural change is necessary. But conversely just changing the structure without changing the consciousness of its members will likely revert to previous structures. Or so he contends. At the outset in Part I I agreed with Wilber that changing the societal structure was likely the strongest way to change one's inner consciousness. The structure will require that people behave in certain ways and that behavior will inculcate the relevant consciousness.

Also recall this post:

See David Loy's essay "Can corporations become enlightened?" in The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory, Wisdom Publications 2003. An excerpt:

"The system has attained a life of its own. We all participate in this process…yet with little or no sense of moral responsibility for what happens, because such responsibility has been diffused so completely that it is lost in the impersonality of the corporate economic system.

"One might argue…that there are good corporations….The same argument can be made for slavery, there were some good slave owners…. This does not refute the fact that slavery was intolerable…. And it is just as intolerable that today the earth's limited resources are being allocated primarily according to what is profitable to transnational corporations.

"My Buddhist conclusion is that transnational corporations are defective economic institutions due to the basic way they are structured…. It is difficult to see how…they can be simply patched up to make them better vehicles for our economic needs. We need to consider whether it is possible to reform them in some fundamental way…or whether they should be replaced by other economic and political institutions" (100-01).
Also see this prior post, where Loy criticizes McMindfulness and how corporate structure promotes meditation to reinforce its bottom lines. The post following criticizes Buddhism for not getting socially engaged. Both are themes from the video.

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