I know too much. Reading what he has to say about Buddhism makes me wince; I know what’s wrong with it, and it’s a scraped knee that (once discovered) I can’t ignore.
Do we expect anyone to know what they’re talking about, or does Buddhism remain in a sort of D.I.Y. cultural sub-basement, where anyone can pretty much invent anything like a revelation from a dream? Buddhism isn’t based on revelation: if you want a religion in which people are free to invent anything and call it “the will of god”, you should convert to pretty much any religion other than Buddhism.
I continue to receive messages from people who are profoundly uncomfortable with the concept of textual authority itself (and I suppose that’s why they’re writing to me). Well, if you want to be part of a religion that doesn’t require reading, then Buddhism is pretty bad choice for you. If you want to be part of a modern intellectual movement that doesn’t require reading (and doesn’t require respect for the philology and problems of translation) then even “secularized” Buddhism is a bad choice for you.
Buddhism presumes a lot of reading, a lot of recitation, and a lot of memorization; and, if you become a monk, it also presumes knowing and obeying the writ of a lot of rules. Within that tradition, being a critic or “freethinker” doesn’t require lessreading than being a conformist, it requires even more: within Buddhism, if you want to challenge the authority of the texts (or of the social status quo), you can’t do so on the basis of ignorance of those texts, but only by knowing quite a lot above and beyond the writ of those texts.
Eisel Mazard does not just have an excellent website on Pali research (http://www.pali.pratyeka.org/) but also a very clear and sharp blog. I can feel the desire for more such dhammā (sic!) arising…
Actually, I have been wondering for a long time whether the Renaissance would ever have had occurred and whether Sir Isaac Newton’s name could have been Dhammabodhi Jayasinha if Mohamed had never succeeded in capturing Mekka. All based on the serious and well-read education sparked by the ancient Indian textual tradition which is so rich in scientific approaches, similar to the Greek and unfortunately came to an abrupt end. A.K. Warder’s “Age of Destruction” is very enlightening in this regard.
When you look at the scientific trajectory the early Dhamma had catapulted India and China into (the math, the zero, sunnyatā; concepts of world-disks (galaxies) and Kalidasa’s elaborated poetry and combine that with the exchange between the Greek and the Indian philosophers)…I would probably write these lines sitting on Mars. If this does not make a case for loving kindness than I don’t know what else does