on being and not being a buddhist

It does mean something to be a Buddhist. Every day people make claims about Buddhism. And every day we think of ourselves as Buddhist or not Buddhist in some way. And those claims, ultimately, effect what Buddhism means. Buddhism as an institution, as a socially constructed reality, exists as such because we keep talking about it in very specific ways. Which means (and I think here is my point) that we can change it. The institution of Buddhism can be whatever we want it to be, based on whatever interpretation of the Dharma we think is most apt, or most applicable to our lives today. Which is both terribly liberating and a little unnerving.

May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet

The wedding stamped is on out here in California as thousands and thousands of gay and lesbian couples rush to their local county-clerk’s office to tie the knot! Oh, wait. Did I say thousands? It’s really more like hundreds. Which is sort of the point after all. For all the hand-wringing people have about what this abomination is going to do to good-old-fashioned straight weddings, it’s actually been pretty quite around here. I mean, how boisterous can an eighty-year-old lesbian couple really get, after all?

photo updates

As many of my faithful readers take more of an interest in my personal comings and going than my academic/political/spiritual/etc. ones, I wanted to remind you all that my wife and I have a photo-blog over at PrecariousCat.com. I updated the blog a little while back, and Dana and I really are trying our best to keep it updated. To help in that regard, we posted some pictures of our new apartment — something a lot of my out-of-town friends have been clamoring for. In the coming months, I hope to post more updates over there, especially as we’re doing a fair amount of traveling this summer and fall. Whimsical pictures from such mythical lands as Atlanta and Chicago are sure to follow!


I wonder if the subtext of this quote is lost on the reader? Does the reader understand that what this means is that, when you take a cultural artifact out of its context and stick it in your home, you strip it of its original meaning. Devoid of its original meaning, you are then free to have it mean whatever the hell you want it to mean. That we are capable of doing this to Buddhism and not to other religions has always struck me as a form of cultural imperialism, what my old boss would call being a “culture vulture.” The problem with being a culture vulture is that you invariably strip the culture you profess to love of any agency in claiming its own meaning. Buddhism ceases to be whatever it is and becomes “a blank slate” that you are free to define however you like. Leaving us with the very real and important questions, “Is it Buddhism? Is it not Buddhism? What is Buddhism? Is Buddhism about peace and serenity? Or are we just claiming it is because we’ve got this blank canvass?”

that’s it! i quit!

I really wanna to talk about the Buddha. I really want to explore Buddhist thought and practice and the intersection of the scholarly world and the rest of us. These two spheres, popular understandings and practices on the one hand and high-falutin theorists on the other, have something to say to one another, and I want to use this space, in part, to explore that. Or, at the very least, demonstrate how it can be done.

long time no see/academic quotes

His separation of Zen from Zen Buddhism gave rise to the impression that Zen might hold the answer to the search for pure, unfettered experience. From this it followed that Zen’s connections with aspects of Buddhist doctrine that were more problematic to the modern, relativistic Western mind—such as the teachings on karma and rebirth, the seeming nihilism of nirvana, and the role of ethics on the Path—were simply cultural baggage that could be dispensed with at will.