One ever-present chimera lurking in the background of stillness, and the desire for freedom, is (as you should know by now), ideology: A regular conceptual guest of ours here at the podcast. Ideology is the hidden us, the lurking we-ness, too often ignored and unidentified by practitioners of the way of silence and individual awakening, but also by those intelligent folks who use their hard-earned clarity to spend a life dedicated to Buddhist thought only, whether to early scripture (digging in deep to find the ‘true’ meaning of this sutra or that aphorism), or working to unlock the mystery of that most secret of secret recently discovered secret tantras. There’s nothing wrong with all that. That’s not the point.
Rather, some recognise that the potential for awakening is everywhere; as much in a recent text from philosophy, or the twist of leaves in the wind, as from a sutra, often more easily accessed in a poem, felt in a song, or expressed in a novel than from teachings from another time and place and social context. If one knows how to read, as Derrida might suggest, or think and look, as great minds have done since before and after Buddhism, the opportunities for gaining insight through and from almost anything can occur in unexpected places. To be surprised by the world is a great dharma. To see anew is a great dharma. To experience thought as spontaneous, unexpected arising is a great dharma. Reading and seeing to confirm what one knows, or desires to be so, is not.
And there’s more, of course. There is collective karma, the interdependence of the many minds, ever-evolving and changing shared speech, and the collective and shared unconscious and sub-conscious acts that manifest in the automatisms that pepper our waking moments, and the symbolic dreamscapes of our sleep. They are the unrevealed play of our wishes, desires, and games as human plus human i.e. the great us, the great sea of humanity birthing, dying, struggling and striving in a continuous flow of unfathomable organic wonder, terror, and monotony. The recognition of the ‘us’ is, in my humble view, a call to stretch one’s practice driven thinking beyond Buddhism, and beyond the spiritual, to a more robust engagement with thought and practice beyond the confines of what we know. Buddhism doesn’t have all the answers. It never has. Which is fine, of course.
This is another way of understanding the Great Feast.
To enter the Feast does not appear to appeal to everyone. Glenn Wallis knows this all too well. He also knows very well that in the silence of stillness, many things lurk, and it is to them that much of his writing and critical discourse on contemporary western Buddhism has been focussed. He is not alien to sitting, standing, and walking, however, and I bet he’s even drunk a cup of tea mindfully at some point in his life, for his own life is punctured by moments and stages of practice. It is to some of these that our conversation turns in our most recent recording with him over at the Imperfect Buddha podcast. We also talk about his non-Buddhism practice group, and his most recent book on Anarchism, which might surprise you. The Great Feast beckons. Come in, grab a pint of ale, a plate of grub, and enjoy. Old Derrida is there too, and apparently he’s rather dismayed by the uses and abuses of his most famous creation: You know, the one that begins with de-.
The episode will be up tomorrow.