Thursday, December 25, 2014


1. Mathew Varghese:

It is a good Idea and timely. But I think you can be very specific on the theme  content because I think this is too broad and it would be very difficult to set an agenda. Making the theme specifically on: The influence of Buddhist culture and ethical values on Kerala is one of my suggestions. Another one I could make is a comparative understanding of Buddhist ethical values and Brahmanical Values (Now known as Hindu Values): Both were in conflict with each other. My book Principles of Buddhist Tantra is on the disputations of the Buddhist on Brahmanical (mimamsic) ethical practices.

As you know I am interested only in the philosophical aspects of Buddhism and I am not in support of Neo-Buddhist movements around the world. I feel that most of them consider it as a alternative religious ideology to teach the Westerns (notably Americans) how to behave or live. Personally I feel 80% of what we call Indian values is Buddhistic. The Vedic systems never could function properly in an egalitarian social set up as it call for caste-ism as its primary social value . And that is the problem we see in India today.

2. Marc Lambert:

Thanks for offering a window to my South-Indian perception of Buddhism ; I will be reading thoroughly the text, --but in a quick hovering, I can see already the clash with the caste system. 

In our European countries, Bhuddism —Tibetan Bhuddism— came lately as a « natural » way of mundane renouncement. Are Western societies still working « equality »—as a model, although violently, in phase with Bhuddhism ? It will certainly take much time. Many Vajarayana centers florish in France and England, USA since Chinese military invasion.


3. Sunder Sarukkai:

 ......very interesting topic although too many topics. but it is important to discuss these issues.
4. Panneer Selvam:

The theme is not only interesting but also the need of the hour. You have designed the theme note very well. Perhaps you can include Neo Buddhism and Ambedkar and also Engaging Buddhism, the early Buddhism in Tamil nadu, Buddhism as a revolt against Hinduism, Ayothee dasar and his Buddhism. Also Nagarjuna and Derrida .


5. J. Devika:

I think this is an excellent idea! For a person like me who has no training in philosophy but is deeply interested in Buddhism in all the manifestations of it that you mention, this will be a great learning opportunity.

6. Janaky Sreedharan:

it is for me a highly relevant and sensible issue....i am deeply interested to attend this conference particularly since more and more socially ;and philosophically engaged women are connecting to various streams of also raises interesting contradictions between different notions of self-hood.looking forward to further developments in the conference


7. A. Kanthamani:

Your draft proposal looks too general and is yet to be concluded. You have to specify the distinct principles, doctrines, concepts, creeds, ideas etc.
The 'cultural hybridity' needs to be made clear.
You don't see it as a religion, but want to see it as culture. If so, what are the major  components of the practice of cultural Buddhism? Must be other than the religious components?
What is the 'dialectical non-correlation' you want to highlight here?
Who are the adherents of this non-ideological movement?


8. Asoke Chattopadhyay:

.....The problems you have raised are pertinent, and can generate discussion, as is evident from the blog site.


9. Argo Spier:

The text is solid, assumes nothing, leaves scope for dialogue and discussion and invites positive input from participants. Its a balanced worksheet and your 'clean' academic approach has tipped it to its present level. It could be a very interesting workshop due to the 'freedom of space' and the scope of the topic you have allowed in it for those who participate.

......Here's a precarious step for you to take - who is the 'I' in the poem?

sure of that
'… my stilleto heels
for you'
– Mannekin

when, where ever
I pose among words I pose
as a you

get closer now
I am all you, all over


10. Sasi:

Yes, There is no I and You. But what? We?  I didn't get it.


11. Argo Spier:

smile! good answer - you have passed the first step ... BUT this is not like Buddhism in which one has to take 'steps' to 'make progress'. The word 'now' indicates this. The poem is just a small bubble in the flow of time. There is no progress to be made. It is not a thing like positivism in philosophy as well. Poet says here that there is an 'interchangeability' between the 'what may be called a you, a person' and 'something else' that may come to 'a thing' that is called 'meaning' in its comparison with words ... the poem is a questioning towards the concept meaning itself. 'You' = meaning = among words or in language. Its a poem because this idea has never been posed in the whole of the Poetica Universalis before. And there are  sexual undertones, the poems says, in the interchangeability of the 'you' and the 'I' (=person, Human Being). Its primeaval for a 'you' to be a 'word'. And that's where the danger lies. You are still the you you have been in and/or from the very beginning of the 'becoming of humanity'. This poem is a meta-thing doing art-historical questioning. And yes, the 'second' or 'first level' 'danger is the danger of knowing about the danger. Whether this is a small or a big bubble that has arisen from the collective unconscious of culture is for the reader to decide. The middle distance in the poem is sufficient for this debate. The poem is about the debate of 'getting it' and 'not getting it'. It make sense on a level that cannot be touch by tools such as knowledge, description, cognition, etc. Its rubbish in other words ... but I love it.


12. P. Madhu:
No Ism is worth promoting.
Ism'atic explanations are simplistic.
ideas come forth & go- like everything else. We can only witness them. I would not like to be caught up by them as their spokes person.
'Bad' ideas- like chicken pox- has good effect- I don't hate them.
Ideas that brought moralisms in life, I think are to be approached cautiously, than the ones don't have it.
Moralisms fighting amorals is not a battle of Good vs Bad - the missionary zeal of holding good against 'bad' has malicious excess of Jouissance camouflaged as goodness or justice.  
What Buddhism was 'fighting' with? The object its was supposedly cleansing is a fiction.
What are we talking about? a kind of cultural figuration? That always happen! We witness. Are we going to cleanup would? That is a dangerous ambition. It will be like the 'divinely oriented' missionary ambition of cleaning wild-wild evils & capitalist pragmatism of using the 'wasted' forest lying idle!

....What do you mean by 'practicing' buddhism? like practicing marxism? or practicing medicine?
That one did not have crux or doctrine of any special theology- is more of a nomadism! Why do you mix-up that with Buddhism. Theology is a christian disease. That can't be applied to non-christian, pre-christian worlds. The nomadic tribes- I am not sure would have had 'theology' or doctrines... our imaginations of past are more incorrect than correct. They are our projections from Now. The term nomad- indicates - roaming, having nothing 'depth'- living on the surface- scattered- far lighter than 'culture'. Culture & later civilization replaces nomads- & pushes its prejudices & reformative excess upon it- which has its malicious jouissance whatsoever the name or doctrinal origin of that exercise. Could 'cultural buddhism' escaped its excess? Are we glorifying an acculturing project- the worst of the discriminating projects were acculturing projects! Should we too be part of another acculturing project?

13. Marc Lambert:

It would be difficult to find Buddhists in France, ready to fight on a political level, in the name of cultural Buddhism in France. The inconvenience would be to export a notion from a foreign cultural context to France. Here (in Europe) Buddhism has gone through a renewed interest on the strict terms of the text studies and practices promoted by great lama masters. These masters were requested by the Dalai Lama, to "spread" Dharma for the benefit of humanity to trim the devastations of cultural annexation of Tibet by China. The political context is not the same, of course, in Tibet as in Europe or France; Tibet where the fate of Dharma is directly challenged by China's politics, --specifically, attacks the foundations of Tibetan culture through a systematic destruction of all its components-, while in France, government has knowingly promoted seminars of reflection and the spread the cult through the financing of temples --like in Paris Kaguy Dzong. The French people -generally- feel extremely supportive of the Tibetan polical and cultural issue, but Buddhism per se is not a political issue, as in India, where it faces religious choice of a different kind, mixed with historical problems of class and caste. It is a cultural matter likely to India, but implications could not be the same. Theravada Buddhism in its Indian first component is also very different from Tibetan Mahayana as it was coming in France.

14. Argo Spier:

That note you send regarding your discussion with Marc in France is very interesting and it gave me an idea as to where a 'methodology' for 'cultural buddhism' is to be found ... in culture and attitudes towrds culture. I am thinking about it and will try and write something about it,


15. Marc Lambert:

 Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism in France seems far away from « social buddhism » in India… Please tell me what you expect from my participation. There are two sides, one is the « injection » of Vajrayana buddism in the core of the western society in Califormia (the Sixties) among artists and drug addicts, the other side is the aim of spiritual leaders using their spiritual knowledge as a political weapon….


16. Argo Spier:

mm eh uh, no, Vajrayana or whatever, there wasn't an 'injection'. It was merely a hype and an escape from the utter boredom of over-consumerism. Buddhism has imo had that same quality as what Japaneze art had in the West - its exotic. It was never important to 'be' a buddhist, it was important to be able to tell others that you are 'now' 'into' buddhism. Tell Marc that the Workshop paper has such a broad spectum of space that there could not be any hint of expectation to the it. I mean, even the term 'cultural buddhism' (itself an expression of both erzats culture and buddhism tout court) is but a mirage or a haunch. It still needs to be proved that there IS such a thing as cultural buddhism! Also his conspiridal idea of 'leaders using their vehicles as political weapons' is hard to sell. He has had Quick/r s before in your dialogue exchange with him however that portray valuable ideas! I will go into some of his ideas later. I think his ideas has shown me 'where' to look for that possible creature called 'cultural buddhism'.

17. Marc Lambert:

"I think his ideas has shown me 'where' to look for that possible creature called 'cultural buddhism'";

I'm afraid there must be some misunderstanding: I've never been the one to use first the word "cultural buddhism"...this expression is totally new for me, I got from Sasi....From what I know abt USA, I'm referring to Shogyam Trungpa, Kalou Rimpoche, Karmapa and the spread of many centers in USA through the Sixties, up until now. But I am NOT a specialist, so it is much better to refer to competent participants, why not Buddhists from India? I'll be glad to learn something.


18. Argo Spier:

No, its Sasi who started with the 'cultural buddhism' concept, a very broad enuiery into the possible remnants of buddhism. Much of the concept deals also with the historic report of the matter in historiography through the ages. Sasi seems to have noticed that there is an ill balance between accepted 'facts' regarding buddhism, its influence and the report or tradition of reporting about it. Regard my comment re the 'political use of influence' - yes, it may be but personnally I rather take buddhism serious and the teachers that arrived in the west really had only one agenda, that is to be buddhist and 'go on the path'. It transcends political issues. Many of them however got corrupted and went for the money but that too isn't an agenda but rather proof of their belief - namely, that what you do is what you do and that reality merely is that what you think it is. There's that 'nothingness' and 'it doesn't matter' about it. I came about to the following idea while I browed some of your Quick/r ideas - the idea is that since we are dealing with 'cultural' things which are 'not seen things' we need to approach 'cultural buddhism' (which is also 'not a seen thing' with an 'unseen method', namely to study attidudes. The individual's attitude towards the subject holds the key. This idea came to me when I read that quick/r of you I got via via. I hope to work this out in detail later and will refer to you paragraphs if its ok to you. I'll refer to the attitudes of others too.  What you have said and the way you think about the topic and how you approach it (this goes for everybody) is important and not really the content of your thoughts. But your thoughts, oh, you do seem to be knowledgeable! So you may be an important 'informant' (ha ha this word always seems to be a negative one - but I don't mean it 'that' way) re attitudes in California for Sasi and the others. Although we from the West (another such stupid concept when it comes to core academic stuff) have it difficult to judge the full impact of concepts used and the influence of it in Indian and Keralian society and history, I think there is a slight yet important contribution we can make to the developement of method and universal academic discussion. Is there such a thing as a 'universal academic discussion'? I doubt it but you get my drift.

19. Marc Lambert:

I agree with the idea « that since we are dealing with 'cultural' things which are 'not seen things' we need to approach 'cultural Buddhism' (which is also 'not a seen thing' with an 'unseen method', namely to study attitudes. The individual's attitude towards the subject holds the key ».
The idea also is to be critical about "global culture", and see how nature, eventually through barbary, always pops le gros ballon in the end.

I do not know if I'm interested in talking about Buddhism, and thus participate in the seminar, to repeat what everyone already knows about the status of Buddhism in Europe, marked with Vajrayana seal; finally adopted by a selected clientele among the ruling classes (I have many anecdotes about that) —it is also, there, its biggest failure: it could not remain what it was originally in the West: a generational multiclass phenomenon with deep cultural implications. Set today at 20 Euros the initiation ceremony or the texts commentary given by an insider (ninety minutes: 1600 INR), the Young ones have found other priorities. I honestly do not see what is interesting in repeating this, or talk about the past, the support of Hollywood to the cause of Dalai Lama, by Richard Gere’s efforts.

I don’t speak of course of Buddhism practiced by the French Asian emigrants (Burma, Srilanka), a relatively limited phenomenon in France, which does not constitute a significant social fact, if not obscured in our society because it deals with religion and group faith.

But wait for The Best one: " In our centre, we practice rituals in French" ...

20. AjaySekher:

It is a timely and significant academic, epistemological and cultural response and resistance to the rising cultural Nationalisms, Hindutva Brahmanism and Vedic fascism in the country. This unique knowledge venture can contribute to the justification and democratization of the academic politics of culture and the inevitable life struggle for survival of the human and the ecology at large. This ethical enquiry may also lead us to a great confluence and polyphony of interdisciplinary academic praxis. It is truly futuristic and contemporary and is rightly contextual in Kalady and Kerala having more than a millennium of Buddhist heritage.

21. Sasi:
....if  various ways of finding connection with the ideas/practices emerge from Buddhist culture could be termed as cultural Buddhism, of course it could be an inclusive framework for coming together all people who could go with the most common Buddhist positions such as, a stance against power (egoist or socio-political)  and existential engagement with the sufferings of life. religious/spiritual Buddhist communities seem to exclude people who are connected to Buddhist thoughts and practices on the basis of cultural ideologies of  various sorts.

22. Athena:

  i think the effort is like trying to take salt out of the water, after it has dissolved. 
I do not understand "Buddhist communities seem to exclude people"? Christians are always trying to get others to be one of them. But they also say things that are excluding, like expressing surprise that someone who isn't Christian is concerned with morality. Or I really have to laugh at preachers who warn their flocks about how bad those pagans and heathens are, and then tell them to bring someone new next week. These preachers always stand at the door and shake everyone's hands as they leave, and I love seeing the look on their face when I tell them I am a pagan. I am very offended by this kind of exclusion, but I also know our brains are biologically limited in such away that we need to identify with small groups, and we are driven to think in terms of "us and them". People love to believe they are special, and maybe this true of Buddhist too?

I like the study of animal behavior to understand our own. I think when we understand ourselves as animals, we can be more aware of our own impulses to behave in certain ways, then with awareness of our nature, we can choose our behaviors. That is, we can become more aware of excluding of others, and ask ourselves if we want to do this or not. When I shake a preacher's hand and tell him I am a pagan, I am making him aware of a behavior he obviously is not aware of. A group function is to divide the world between "us and them". The preacher is playing on people's need to belong when he warns them of those threatening pagans and heathens. He is not aware that he is excluding potential new members when does this.

On the other hand what is special to Buddhism? Christians used to preach humility. Perhaps their concept of Satan and evil is equal to the Buddhist concern with suffering? Like the same story told a little differently. In this case I like the Buddhist telling of the story better than the Christian one.

I think we naturally recoil from the killing of animals, until we are taught to kill. Native Americans would give thanks to the animal that gives its life so the man can feed his family.

My argument with Christians is, just because I do not believe your mythology, that does not mean I don't care about morals and my values are not equally as good. We are social animals and as such, we respond to life about the same.


23. Sasi: 
Is it possible to qualify the ways in which Buddhism are being received in the west now as cultural Buddhism?

24. Argo Spier:
I can only answer this question as a layman – Although there are many small groups of people since the 60ties that flirts with Buddhism it is not a cultural 'force' and it has no legacy. Its more of hobby and/or sport to people here. I do yoga once a week and Tai Chi and I meditate. Why? I like it and it let me focus on myself for a while. It makes me calm and it is healthy. Many people, not too many do this. We don't want nirvana or be good to other people or be saved from hell or anything by doing it. It is boredom and rich peoples way to flattened their egos + leisure. So, cultural? Buddhism has no influence on western cultures. It the other way round, Buddhism is bending backwards to get the approval of western cultures. Many teachers are also into it just for the money. I'd say its influenced is a forced upon thing, if any. Although I use many Buddhist koans (riddles) to explain thing sometimes. Is that an influence? I don't know. Here's a poem I wrote using ideas of Buddhism – cause and effect but in the poem's case its senseless effects. One could argue – intellectuals seem to use quotes in poetry … that is cultural influence … but is it a legacy or is it a hype driven by boredom? I don't know.
'...the law of opposite forces … we can remove darkness in a room by switching on the light'
– A Profound Mind, His Highness The Dalai Lama

I opened a book, closed
it, opened it again
it wasn't on the same page

I read the Dalai Lama's
explanation of it all, read
it again

– it wasn't the same

I left home, went
back to it
it wasn't my home

25. A. S. Haridas:

Learning over Buddhism by the world academicians is represented in the novel “SIDHARDHA” written by Herman Hess. It is not a history of Buddha, but an ideological approach to Buddhist living in the current world. How Siddhartha might have behaved in the world of our times is clearly followed and depicted in the novel.
Buddha was not an academic philosopher in the novel, but lived in the society with a philosophical vision. He did not try to change the world, but learned a lot from it. The character as illustrated in the novel did not preach any principle to us, but lived as a common man and learned how to react to the circumstances.
How does a common man live in our planet? This depends on the view of life followed by him/her. But he/ she is not free to think and do, as his/ her thinking is determined by the culture of the state where living. Even though nationalism is not a limit to the right person, in most cases the life-style is determined by the immediate circumstances. The major factor contributing to the style of living is the profession in which an individual is self-incorporating. An industrial employee is different from an academic, from a farmer, from a consumer shop owner and so on. Still there is a common platform for all and it is the economic set-up of the nation and the world as a whole.
It is now known that, after 1980’s and ‘90s world has faced with tremendous new experiences created by the so-called “globalization” and this new world has made human community for a total change either for good or bad. The past “two-world” political concept or set-up has changed to one-world where imperialism took over the cultural determination and that too based on economy/ financial terms.
It is this reality too that governed the character in the novel told earlier. Siddhartha passed thru the lives of Sanyasin, trader, wealth and many such classes. While living those different cultures, he was learning to know how people are living in different ways.
But as for a philosopher of the times of the real Siddhartha, ie., BC 200 or so, others were merely preaching principles as “ gurus” and sat satisfied and calm. This difference in the approach of Buddha is what made him different. It is why we are discussing him even in this 21st century. It cannot be said that, the wise and wisdom of Siddhartha what relevant, but the carry forward of the approach of materialism what made this situation.
This view of materialism is an eye opener and directive to the ideological world of Sree Buddha. Buddha linked the material living to the world of philosophy. While others lived apart from humanity and stayed in isolation, Buddha was more concerned of the material living of common man and their sorrows. While other sanyasins looked into the inner of human minds, Siddhartha looked the outside world. He felt sorrow because of the bad shape of society and their poverty, non-education, deceases and other material problems.
As for a society living now, we know that, the political set-up of our world is not sufficiently capable enough to give justice to all of us. Also, most significant problems faced in our times are related to the material living. All the struggling in the current world are born out of the real life and their experiences. And in this way, people of the 21st century are sharing Buddha’s thinking. This is the relevance of Buddhist philosophy in the current world.