Archive for October, 2011

Quora answer: Why isn’t Buddhism as popular as Christianity?

Oct 23 2011 Published by under Uncategorized


Why isn’t Buddhism as popular as Christianity?

Popular with whom? Buddhism has basically replaced all other religions with the intelligentsia in the USA. Christianity is not take seriously any more, for fairly obvious reasons. But across the world Evangelical Christianity is grown as Catholicism loses its grip. In other words the reformation is just now reaching some places on earth. Buddhism is older than Christianity by about as much as Christianity is in relation to Islam. So Islam is just now reaching the reformation period, which by the way was when there were a lot of wars between christian groups. Buddhism was pacifist from the beginning but it is long past being something to fight over, and that is something that appeals to many who are sickened by the wars of the twentieth centuries which were ideological rather than religious, but who is to say ideologies are not just religions in other form, i.e. secular religions.


In reply to a comment asking me to support my assertion concerning the Intelligentsia in the USA. Of course, I don’t have any statistics to support my case. But what I have is a deep reading of the tradition which basically amounts to an attempt to understand Buddhism, Taoism and Sufism and watching what has happened to Buddhism over the years. The key event was the exile of the Tibetans, which gave legitimacy to the Buddhist movement in the USA. Basically Tibetan Buddhism has transplanted itself to the USA. The Dali Lama is seen as an acceptable alternative to what appears to be a Nazi Pope. But the key point is the extent to which Americans have taken on Buddhist scholarship under the tutelage of the transplanted lamas. Now when you combine this phenomena with the fact that Tibet had an unbroken Buddhist tradition, with deep scholarship we get a very powerful intellectual combination, which has become growing movement in the USA. Disenchanted with the Dualistic Western tradition, many are turning to this alternative because it is a living tradition, going back to the Buddha which has perhaps deeper philosophical roots than the Western tradition. We are talking about an unbroken tradition going back to 600 BC or so. The Western tradition seems like an adolescent in comparison. Up in those mountains in Tibet amazing things were happening that we are only now learning about as many major texts are being translated. One of those things is DzogChen. In terms of personalities we have Dzong Ka Pa on the one hand and Mipham on the other. These were amazing Buddhist scholars. Interestingly Dzong Ka Pa thought that consciousness was not reflexive, and Mipham defended the reflexivity of consciousness. Buddhism other places has have its ups and downs but when it mostly died out in India it lived on in Tibet. However, we do not say that it survived in any pure form. Tibetan Buddhism is a real mess. But it is a fertile mess mixing shamanism with exalted meditational states, and sublime philosophy. Much more sophisticated philosophically than Western Dualism which is about as crude as you can get even though it has its own interesting moments. Western Philosophers don’t know anything about Buddhism, and particularly nothing about Tibetan Buddhism. So all this has passed by unnoticed by the Western Philosophers. But I believe that others have taken note. Personally I think that the success of Tibetan Buddhism is that it has monasteries, and Lamas and something like a Pope and so we can understand the structures even if we do not understand the ideas. And our desire is to escape the Catholic influence (read inquisition, and crusades, and destroying cultures though the manifest destiny of colonization) that they are willing to embrace a Buddhist Pope. Once we have a lot of texts translated and a gaggle of American born Tibetan Buddhists I think things are going to get really interesting, because the level of intellectual sophistication and the depth of their tradition is hard to match. About all Western dualism can do is ignore it. But there is a good chance that the populace will take it seriously, because it offers a genuine nondual alternative with its own tradition. And the kicker is that Buddhism itself is a heresy of the Indo-European tradition (cf Hinduism in India) and so it is well equipped to deal with dualism, because this heresy grew out of the Indo-European roots. Most of the Western Intelligentsia are willing to take this form of Buddhism seriously while they no longer are interested in Christianity. Christianity is basically spreading out its evangelical tentacles around the world, while nondual Buddhism comes home to roost here at the center of the global empire. The decisive difference is that Buddhism is considered spirituality and not a religion, as such. This is because Buddhists don’t care what else you claim to be, as long as you put in your time meditating. The death knell of Christianity occurred when you had Zen Catholicism. Non-dual paths are not exclusionary. What ever you call your self or think you are when your brain is stilled and experiences prajna everyone is the same. My wife showed me a cartoon of a Zen Monk getting a card which said, “Not thinking of you.”. That about sums it up, Buddhist spirituality, not as a religion, is seen as intellectually acceptable by many of the Intelligentsia.  This is because there is a deep suspicion concerning any mass movement after a century of fighting ideological and thus perverted religions in the twentieth century. Buddhism fits well our capitalistic individualism as consumers in a mass market. As Adorno says in Negative Dialectics the powers that be  are happy if their intellectuals stop thinking. That is exactly what they want them to do.



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Quora answer: How many of the proverbs in the Bible predate the Old Testament?

Oct 23 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

As far as I know, this question is unanswerable as stated. There are wisdom literature in both Egypt and Mesopotamia I believe and Proverbs is the reflection of this in the Bible, however whether these wisdom literature predate the bible is open to question because the copies we have of the bible are rather late. I am not familiar enough with these wisdom literature to know if the same statements are in both the bible and those literature from the two close civilizations, but even if they were then it would be a problem knowing which was the more original source because of the lateness of the Bible versions we have for Proverbs. But this is not my area of expertise. So perhaps someone will come along who knows the real answer. There may however be a book on it you might try to find, because I know this question is of interest to scholars. There may be a dissertation on it somewhere.

In general I will say this. The bible has many genres of literature within it. It is really a mini-library, and so proverbs are just another genre which was definitely popular in the Middle East in general during early times. It is not something specific to the bible, but I have never seen a study comparing the wisdom literature in the bible with that in Mesopotamia and Egypt. But one would imagine that they are very similar. But what has had the greatest impact on our understanding of the bible is the discovery of the library at Ugrit. This literature shows that the bible and heroic literature we see in Greece, and plays all differentiated out of proto-literature that was a mixture of Genras from our point of view. We also now know because of that literature that the Greek Literature derives more from Mesopotamia than from Egypt. I have seen a study on that which was very good.

So the real question, is not so much whether wisdom literature in the bible is similar to similar kinds of works in Mesopotamia or Egypt, but rather how did these genres themselves differentiate to give us something like the bible, i.e. a book containing multiple genres. What were the forces that produced this differentiation. The Ugrit material suggests that the Bible, with separated genres is rather late. However, I defer to others who know more about these things than my meager studies have turned up.


But since I brought up Ugarit, I want to tell you my favorite story from those tales. It is about Baal, who asks the maker God whose name I forget, to build him a palace. The Maker God asks Baal if he wants a window in his palace, and Baal says yes, and in the very next line death comes in and seizes Baal and there is a life and death struggle that ensues. To me this is an incredibly significant scene. This is because Baal is essentially the same as Zeus. Zeus is a two faced God of dark clouds with thunder and lightening, i.e. who represents nihilism which is either too light or too dark. Baal is also the god of covetousness. I talk about this in my book Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void. Baal has a genealogy in Greece which is very interesting. When we realize that Baal and Zeus are the same then that Genealogy becomes even more interesting which I trace in my book. But to me the story about Baal and the window is about groundlessness. As soon as Baal asks for a window, then that gives an entry way for death and leads to his struggle with death. The window might have been for Baal to look out over his kingdom but in fact it was a weakness in his palace defenses. The fact that Zeus has two faces one dark and the other light tells me that nihilism is at the center of the Greek worldview in the form of Zeus, and the fact that Baal, the earlier Zeus was covetousness explains Zeus’s behavior, his philandering has its root in covetousness. And in the bible it specifically says you should not covet your neighbors wife.So as we already know the Jewish faith was anti-Baal and this comes out by the specific denial of covetousness. But also we see in Baal this acting out of the problem of groundlessness. To see what is outside the palace you must create a weakness in it, and any kink in the defenses allows death in and leads to a struggle for life. If we think of Baal’s palace as a bit of technology, then what we see is that this bit of technology, the palace for a god, is fragile, by exactly what makes it something with a view, i.e. an important affordance, to be able to see outside. Nietzsche and Heidegger both point out that
technology is connected to nihilism and to fragility and ultimately groundlessness. In this story we can see that these concerns can be seen to go way back but this only becomes when we realize that both cultures had a maker god who builds things for the other gods, and this maker gods contraptions sometimes get out of hand, for instance in the case of Pandora’s box. But even more profoundly, it is when the maker god makes a home for Baal that a choice is given to Baal which leads to the hole in the wall of the dwelling of the God and that place of looking out on ones kingdom is precisely the point of entry of death and thus the groundlessness of the entire structure.

Thetis Appeals to Zeus (by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1811)

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