Meditative Revolutions? A Preliminary Approach to US Buddhist Anarchist Literature
AbstractThis article discusses the various shapes, inner structures and roles given to transformative and liberative practices in the work of US Buddhist anarchist authors (1960-2010). Unlike their Chinese and Japanese predecessors, who focused more on discursive parallelisms between Buddhism and anarchism or on historical instances of antiauthoritarianism within the Buddhist tradition(s), US Buddhist anarchists seem to favour practice and experience. This emphasis, characteristic of the way Buddhism has been introduced to the West,sometimes masks the way meditative techniques were used in traditional Buddhist contexts as oppressive technologies of the self. Whereas the emphasis on the inherently revolutionary nature of Buddhist practice represents a radical departure from the way those practices have been conceptualised throughout Buddhist history, it also involves the danger of considering Buddhist practice as an ahistorical sine qua non for social transformation. This is due to the fact that most early Buddhist anarchist writers based their ideas on a highly idealised, Orientalist imagination of Zen Buddhism(s). However, recent contributions based on other traditions have offered a more nuanced, albeit still developing picture. By assessing a number of instances from different US Buddhist anarchist writers, the article traces the brief history of the idea that meditation is revolutionary praxis, while also deconstructing and complicating it through historical and textual analysis.
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