Nov 30, 2023Liked by Aaron Ross Powell, Akiva Malamet, Shikha Dalmia

I have practiced Buddhism for 35 years, and I’d say that Buddhism does indeed inform my liberalism. Similar to us all being made in the image of God, in Buddhism we all have a buddha’s (an awakened one’s) nature of mind if we strip away the obscurations that get in the way of realizing it. So at our core is a sort of purity and goodness. It violates my faith to hold any one class, race, ethnicity, etc as better or more entitled to freedom than another.

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Nov 30, 2023·edited Nov 30, 2023Liked by Aaron Ross Powell, Akiva Malamet, Shikha Dalmia

Thank you.

I'm not in a state of mind at the moment to properly absorb this essay, but even skimming it, I can see it's something I've been hoping I would find eventually. I've reflexively pulled away from older, Western explanations of Buddhism that explain it as a philosophy that seems to me fanatically anti-materialistic, taking the view that, because our connections to the world can bring us pain, we should reject any part of ourselves capable of such connection, even if that ultimately means that we reject every part of ourselves. That it sought and advocated the very "emotionless detachment" you so pointedly reject.

I long suspected, though, that this understanding was a false one, based on some failure of translation or transmission that led to the vocabulary of Buddhism being used to express a very familiar sort of Western fatalism. I had hoped to hear you give your own account of Buddhism, since you are both a practicing Buddhist and someone whose thoughts often seem to closely align with my own. I am glad to see you have, and I look forward to coming back around to this essay to dig into it properly.

The Buddhist path is not for me, and I don't think it will ever be; I prefer to make my own as much as I can. Still, having seen so often that your path runs parallel to my own road, it's a comfort to confirm we're seeking the same destination.

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I cannot help thinking of Marx saying that under capitalism "all that is solid melts into air"-- it seems both the liberal and the Buddhist would respond that yes, that happens under capitalism and all other systems too, because it is a consequence of reality and not of capitalism.

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Do you have to be a Buddhist to think this way? It pretty much already makes sense.

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This is white people Buddhism. There is no Buddhist majority country that's a free democracy. A lot of Buddhist majority countries have actually attempted genocides. Liberalism came from Protestant individualist culture.

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Nov 30, 2023·edited Nov 30, 2023

I’m going to have to ponder this deeply because Buddhism took me from an anarcho-capitalist to what I could only describe as a pacifist Marxist. To me, liberalism is a failed philosophy and I see the values necessitated by the Buddhist path as more properly aligned with social democracy, absolutely NOT American style “liberalism” which as Samuel Moyn coyly points out is a husk of what it was 70yrs ago.

If we agree that part of the end goal of the path is the extinguishment of our sense of self, (Nibbana is the word used to snuff out a candle) then it isn’t speculation to suggest that individualism is *radically* contrary to the goals of Buddhism. When the self disappears the only thing left is the whole.

I see a fundamental contradiction immediately at that level. It’s not a coincidence that in the chanting done in Southeast Asia, the Salutation to the Triple Gem’s shortest verse is the Dhamma, and the longest is the Sangha. Community’s importance to Buddhism is demonstrated right there, as is the democratic nature of the monastic institution. Ideology on display.

I have more to say but will read through this a few more times.

FWIW: Theravadan Buddhist with 20yrs on the path.

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Buddhism offers much wisdom. And peace. But it is anything but "dynamic."

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