Worth Your Time

 

There was an article in Tricycle magazine that had some strange implications. People were quoting certain sections of it all over Facebook, etc.  I was thinking about posting on it but Rev. Danny Fisher has written something that covers many of the points I was considering making. So maybe read what he wrote:

Those of us who teach dharma have got to “check our privilege,” as they say — which is, I suppose, ultimately what this whole post has been about. We preach to only our own privilege bubbles at the risk of making Buddhism’s messages of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity practically meaningless. When we teach this way, we’re effectively telling those who aren’t like us, “This isn’t for you. Better luck next time.” How awful.

Read the whole thing here No, *Let’s* Worry about Social Security: Or, On Language, Privilege, Responsibility, and Dharma Teaching

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4 comments on “Worth Your Time

  1. Per usual I disagree with Fisher — but now NellaLou, too? Oh, no.

    In both Holecek’s and Fisher’s pieces there’s this insistence that we take the methamphetamines they prescribe; it’s just a difference of which brand is to be swallowed.

    Holecek isn’t advocating for the end of Social Security — read it again!

    The real problem is with what Holecek and Fisher both do — which is call for everybody else be be bulked up rather than, equanimously, discussing the possible benefits of heading down the Buddha Road.

    There is braggadocio in both writers’ texts. Rush! Hurry! If you want to get anywhere, said the Queen of Hearts, you’ve got to run twice as fast (like I do)! Attend twice as many retreats! Buy twice as many books! Be twice the Buddhist as your friends and leave them to burn with envy. And then, doing that, you’ll be half as good as I am!

    The failing of every religion is that in the end it loses much of its message to one thing: The Entrapment Machine. You will only get there with great exertion. Only a humble few escape the flames of hell. Be exceptional; stand out! [Holecek: “One of the marks of an advanced student blah, blah, blah.”]

    Fisher ends his piece talking about his own privilege. Consider how awful this is which he wrote:

    “We preach to only our own privilege bubbles at the risk of making Buddhism’s messages of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity practically meaningless. When we teach this way, we’re effectively telling those who aren’t like us, ‘This isn’t for you. Better luck next time.’ How awful.”

    Fisher, dude. You don’t have the copyright to loving-kindness, etc. NOT accepting your take on the world isn’t a condemnation to hell. There are a bounty of great people in the world for us to have as teachers and mentors. You aren’t indispensable. Get a grip.

  2. I don’t fully get your point Tom.

    “In both Holecek’s and Fisher’s pieces there’s this insistence that we take the methamphetamines they prescribe; it’s just a difference of which brand is to be swallowed.”

    And you’re advocating something different? You have your brand too. Everyone has a position. An ideology. They are advocating their position. So are you. So am I.

    Kinda how ideological discourse works. That’s about all we can do here in the spectacle.

    Now if you’re pointing out some kind of contradiction in Fisher’s writing (which there is of course implicitly with anyone writing on the Internet especially about inequality, privilege and exclusion) then it’s not really clear to me what that further contradiction is.

    I agree about the “advanced student” stuff with the Tricycle piece but I don’t get what you are on about when Fisher apparently is acknowledging his own privilege.

    Are you saying it smacks of some kind of noblesse oblige as liberals are wont to do? Or something else?

  3. Nobody is wholly dependent on Holecek or Fisher to grasp an understanding of the dharma. There isn’t this grave danger that someone/anyone is going to be swept away and take either guys’ spiel as the final draft of the Great Buddhist Dogma, or the final word on anything.

    What is offensive, to my mind, however, is the narcissism from both who claim to be certified teachers. Bloggers are different! We don’t, by setting or verbiage, claim to be imparting something that should apply to everybody. And we don’t set things up such to seem to be damning of those who disagree (usually/sometimes).

    IMHO, people should have their guard up when the attitude of a teacher who has switched into preacher mode starts to insist on the necessity of Total Commitment, because, yes, you lose the common touch [per Fisher], but this enters the realm where the religion becomes tautological (using the word in its math / Venn Diagram sense) and that there’s this one clear, true, inescapable road to purity. “Doubt” becomes unacceptable.

    It is also insane to suppose that the common people aren’t aware that Buddhist Teachers in the Big Chair should be doubted. We must have our guard up.

    Holecek goes the purity route most evidently. But Fisher does that too because what he is mostly doing is rebutting Holecek’s message, not his method. He takes on Holecek’s method going into his pro-Social Security screed. BOTH take on a holy position. [Social Security isn’t really endangered; but I don’t want to get into that mud slick.]

    There’s a scene in “Frances Ha” where Frances says she’s impoverished and Ben responds that for her to say that is an insult to really poor people.

    What Fisher doesn’t realize is that he ISN’T privileged; but he is in the impossible position of not knowing what not being privileged is.

    Gotta go. This probably isn’t clarifying.

  4. There is something disturbing about the propensity with which some western students of Buddhism (and I would say Zen in particular, but this is by no means a singling out of Zen) have this almost compulsory nerve reflex pinpointing a disjointed relationship with “Buddhism” as an object separate from the stream of mind. What a privilege it is to create universes: we as Buddhists should have more care over what we create. In my opinion this includes people getting their pensions/pledges/promises back in the flower of life so they can focus on that which matters, i.e. spiritual reflection, putting things in perspective, enjoying life a bit, not being shoved aside by a thin lipped desire to better the elites at the cost of the planet’s wellbeing).

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