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Is the problem in our heads?

A key project that I’ve accentuated from the Disengaged Buddhists is that the causes of agony are primarily mental- peculiarly the” three lethals” or” unwholesome springs” of craving( raga ), hatred or resentment( dvesa/ dosa) and delusion( moha)- and that therefore changes in material conditions of life will do relatively little to solve them. Engaged Buddhists reject this latter idea, since they take reforming information materials plights as essential. What has struck me recently, though, is that they reject the idea in ways that are different, and sometimes even opposite- each of which still, amazingly to me in some ways, seems to accept that raga, dvesa and moha are indeed where the key problems of human existence lie. I see this point especially in comparing the different views expressed by Ron Purser and Sallie King.

Recall from my discussion of Purser’s book : Purser agrees that Buddhist mindfulness seeks to eradicate” gluttony, ill will and delusion”( McMindfulness 20 ), but then objects to “a fundamental precept of neoliberal mindfulness, that the source of people’s problems is is located within their heads”, as opposed to the” systemic, institutional and structural induces” of abide and stress.( 38) Purser proponents that beings instead turn their focus outwards, beyond their fronts, to the” the conditions that movement us to tolerate … from a political point of view .”( 249)

King, meanwhile, responded to apparently released texts like the Adittapariyaya Sutta( Fire Sermon ), which is of the view that” the advised royal follower suffers revulsion towards the eye, towards shapes … towards the ear … towards the mind ….” and indicates in response that it still focuses its commentary on the three poisons, which she agrees are mental. I quoted this piece of King’s last time in another context 😛 TAGEND

If these three poisons are indeed the root of the problem, then the problem is in our psyches , not in the world. We can free ourselves of duhkha by rehearse Buddhism in such a way that we get rid of this crave, hatred, and deception. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with leaving the world and everything to do with transforming ourselves, here and now.( Socially Engaged Buddhism 43; emphasis in original)

Notice the differentiate and disagreement between the two about where the problem lies! Is the problem in our thinkers, or not? I think there’s a really interesting comparison to be made between Purser’s and King’s approachings now. We can illuminate it by spelling out a deductive complex syllogism that I anticipate underlies much of the Disengaged Buddhist view 😛 TAGEND

The fundamental problem that we need to solve consists roughly of raga, dvesa and moha( however we might translate these expressions ). If the fundamental problem is raga, dvesa and moha, then the fundamental problem is in our psyches , not in the world. Hence the fundamental problem is in our sentiments , not in the world. If the fundamental problem is in our thinkers and not in the world, then solving the fundamental problem involves choosing our memories rather than fixing the world countries. Therefore we should fasten our heads rather than fix the world.

Now notice: Purser and King both appear to accept premise 1, that these three poisons- nonetheless one alters them- are the key problem in Buddhism, and they appear to accept this premise as their own constructive judgment. Neither of them accept the conclusion, 5; they both want an engaged Buddhist view that does focus on fixing the world. But they rebuff different segments of the interfere premises. King abides 2 and 3-” the problem is in our subconscious , not in the world “; it appears that she must therefore reject 4, in order to continue rejecting 5. But Purser specific repudiates 3, the assertion that accepts,” that the source of people’s questions is is located within their thoughts”, as a tenet of” neoliberal mindfulness “. This appears to be because he acquires premise 4, as King does not: he realizes that if their own problems is with our imaginations, then the minds are what really need setting, and this ancient Buddhist idea is too ” neoliberal” for him. So it would appear that he must also reject premise 2, the assertion that King accepts. It is an odd rejection to me, because I’m not sure how one could get to the idea that raga, dvesa and moha are not mainly” in our foremen”, but it does seem implicit in what Purser has written.

My point here holds to a broader target underlying the Disengaged Buddhism article. The site of that article was not to reject Engaged Buddhism but to be clearer about our inventions, what it is in traditional Buddhism that we are adopting and do not accept. Now, neither Purser nor King spell out their refusals of the centre premises in the syllogism, and as a result, they do not explain their reasons for rejecting those assertions. I think that such explanations would be just the sort of thing that an intellectually advanced Engaged Buddhism needs.

And where do I stand on the question at hand myself? Well, unlike Purser and King I do accept both assertion 2 and assertion 4: if the fundamental human problem is the three mental deadlies, then the problem is in our sentiments, and if the problem is in our recollections, then resolve issues asks cooking our imaginations. I also think that premise 1 is impeccably Buddhist and pervades most classical Buddhist reckoned, at least in South Asia from Thailand to Tibet. But I don’t fully profess proposition 1 myself- and therefore I don’t perfectly acquire 3 or 5, though I’d accept them all partially. Unlike many classical Buddhists, I acquire laudable aims in soul beyond the removal of suffering, and for that reason I don’t think the three poisons are the fundamental human problem. We have a lot of other problems- withdrawal from affection and parish, finding our genuine selves, and, yes, taking care of basic needs like food and remedy, without which we cannot even get to solving our mental problems. To the fullest extent that activism is a good human activity, I think it is so above all in dealing with those other problems; it is much less helpful in dealing with the classically Buddhist problems of craving, hatred and illusion, each of which I believe political involvement may tend to exacerbate.

Cross-posted on the Indian Philosophy Blog .

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Written by WHS

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