From ‘Philosophy and Social Hope’, by Richard Rorty


“The distinction between the found and the made is a version of that between the absolute and the relative, between something which is what it is apart from its relations to other things, and something whose nature depends upon those relations. In the course of the centuries, this distinction has become central to what Derrida calls ‘the metaphysics of presence’ – the search for a ‘full presence beyond the reach of play’, an absolute beyond the reach of relationality. So if we wish to abandon that metaphysics we must stop distinguishing between the absolute and the relative.”


” We pragmatists shrug off charges that we are ‘relativists’ or ‘irrationalists’ by saying  that these charges presuppose precisely the distinctions we reject. If we have to describe ourselves, perhaps it would be best for us to call ourselves anti-dualists.”

From ‘Philosophy and Social Hope’, by Richard Rorty

From Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s answer to ‘Is Buddhism a Religion?’, in Lion’s Roar (August 2016)


the raft is not the shore

“The Buddha wasn’t a god; he wasn’t even a Buddhist. You’re not required to have more faith in the Buddha than you do in yourself. His power lies in his teachings, which show us how to work with our minds to realize our full capacity for wakefulness and happiness. These teachings can help us satisfy our search for the truth — our need to know who and what we really are.

Where do we find this truth? We start by bringing an open, inquisitive, and skeptical mind to whatever we hear, read, or see that presents itself as the truth. We examine it with reason and we put it to the test in meditation and in our lives. As we gain insight into the workings of the mind, we learn how to recognize and deal with our day-to-day experiences of thoughts and emotions. We uncover inaccurate and unhelpful habits of thinking and begin to correct them. Eventually we’re able to overcome the confusion that makes it so hard to see the mind’s naturally brilliant awareness. In this sense, the Buddha’s teachings are a method of investigation, or a science of mind.

Religion, on the other hand, often provides us with answers to life’s big questions from the start. We learn what to think and believe, and our job is to live up to that, not to question it. If we relate to the Buddha’s teachings as final answers that don’t need to be examined, then we’re practicing Buddhism as a religion.

In any case, we still have to live our lives. We can’t escape having a “philosophy of life” because we’re challenged every day to choose one action over another — kindness or indifference, generosity or selfishness, patience or blame. When our decisions and actions reflect the knowledge we’ve gained by working with our minds, that’s adopting Buddhism as a way of life.

As the teachings of the Buddha pass into our hands, what determines what they will be for us? It’s all in how we use them. As long as they help clear up our confusion and inspire confidence that we can fulfill our potential, then they’re doing the job that the Buddha intended.

Siddhartha was a truth seeker, nothing more. He wasn’t looking for religion, as such; he wasn’t particularly interested in religion. He was searching for the truth. He was looking for a genuine path to freedom from suffering. Aren’t all of us searching for the same thing? If we look at the life of Siddhartha, we can see that he found the truth and freedom he was seeking only after he abandoned religious practices. Isn’t that significant? The one who became the Buddha, the Awakened One, didn’t find enlightenment through religion — he found it when he began to leave religion behind.”

From Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s answer to ‘Is Buddhism a Religion?’, in Lion’s Roar (August 2016)

From “Tell Me It’s Going to be OK: Self-care and social retreat under neoliberalism”, by Miya Tokumitsu, in The Baffler (#41)


“we have apparently chosen, via liberal democracy, to live according to a system of social organization that requires us to be jumpy paranoids, suspicious of everyone and terrified of our own potential mistakes. Believers in capitalist liberal democracies may cluck at the over-the-top Maoist inquisitions devoted to revolutionary self-criticism, but our society encourages us to practice the same extravagant self-loathing, only privately. That’s why America’s vast therapeutic brain trust has steadily eradicated the language of solidarity and class consciousness, honed through collective struggle, and replaced it with exhortations to “do what you love” and “live your best life.” Both aphorisms imply that what we’re currently doing is not enough.

Given that we spend most of our waking hours in an alienated, desperate grind to obtain or maintain a life-sustaining job, blaming ourselves for every snag along the way, gospels of reassurance and self-care are precious cargo. We are denied the ability to seek comfort from colleagues, neighbors, or—heaven forbid—comrades, because neoliberalism has turned them into our competition. Instead, disaffected souls are relentlessly steered back into the thrall of a marketplace where we can access, individually, little hits of succor.

The American Jitters

The individual under neoliberalism is atomized, competitive, and above all, anxious. Indeed, as David Beer and others have pointed out, it’s precisely the gnawing and ever-present sense of anxiety that serves as the neoliberal social order’s psychic motive force. Only when we humans hold each other in paranoid suspicion does the so-called free market work.


But here’s the truly wonderful thing about neoliberalism—as it turns us all into paranoid, jealous schemers, it offers to sell us bromides to ameliorate the very bad feelings of self-doubt and alienation it conjures in our dark nights of the soul. Neoliberalism has not only given us crippling anxiety, but also its apparent remedy. It is no coincidence that as we become more nervous, “wellness” and “self-care” have become mainstream industries. Over the last few decades, workplaces have become ever more oppressive, intensely tracking workers’ bodies, demanding longer hours, and weakening workers’ bargaining rights while also instituting wellness and mentoring programs on an ever greater scale.


Mindfulness—a state of hyper-awareness tempered with disciplined calm—has become the corporate mantra du jour. By encouraging increasingly put-upon employees to assume tree poses or retreat into an om in the face of frustration, corporate overlords mean to head off any mutinous stirrings before they have a chance to gain momentum. Even if CEOs themselves occasionally adopt these regimes with apparent sincerity, mindfulness serves the companies’ bottom lines first and foremost because it is fundamentally anti-revolutionary. “It’s hard not to notice how often corporate mindfulness aligns seamlessly with layoffs,” Laura Marsh writes. “Employees need a sense of calm too when their employer is flailing. Those productivity gains—an extra sixty-nine minutes of focus per employee per month—count for more when the ranks are thinning.”

This mode of psychic self-instruction presents a revealing complement to the anti-union propaganda films that employers may—and frequently do—require workers to view. Silly as all this instructional media may seem, those who circulate it understand that it is worth the investment. They know that language matters. Nothing cuts off self-determination more efficiently than eradicating its language. Replacing it with misdirecting prattle that locates all blame as well as the possible redemption from it back onto the individual is a magnificent coup for those who would like to keep us wary of one another. Corporate feel-goodism has a sick way of twisting the grimmest instances of exploitation and desperation into tales of individual triumph.


Anxiety, and especially depression, as the late social critic Mark Fisher noted, often have social causes, but we are led to believe that we suffer individually and must struggle alone. Fisher’s point is that we are prevented from even considering such conditions as social. The treatments on offer, the most common ways to discuss recovery—therapy and pharmaceuticals—are essentially solo journeys that patients undertake. Against this hyper-individualist vision of psychic healing, we do well to highlight Fisher’s core insight that the tools we are given skew how we understand the world and our place in it. Language, typically the most essential method by which we articulate our affective life, can be a most insidious means of our own oppression if co-opted by those who would exploit us.

[full text  – Tokumitsu’s book]

From “Tell Me It’s Going to be OK: Self-care and social retreat under neoliberalism”, by Miya Tokumitsu, in The Baffler (#41)

From the ‘Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta’ (‘The Shorter Instructions to Malunkya’), in the Majjhima Nikaya


“So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me as declared. And what is undeclared by me? ‘The cosmos is eternal,’ is undeclared by me. ‘The cosmos is not eternal,’ is undeclared by me. ‘The cosmos is finite’… ‘The cosmos is infinite’… ‘The soul & the body are the same’… ‘The soul is one thing and the body another’… ‘After death a Tathagata exists’… ‘After death a Tathagata does not exist’… ‘After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist’… ‘After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,’ is undeclared by me.

“And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That’s why they are undeclared by me.

“And what is declared by me? ‘This is stress,’ is declared by me. ‘This is the origination of stress,’ is declared by me. ‘This is the cessation of stress,’ is declared by me. ‘This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress,’ is declared by me. And why are they declared by me? Because they are connected with the goal, are fundamental to the holy life. They lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That’s why they are declared by me.

“So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me as declared.”

[translated from Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu]

From the ‘Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta’ (‘The Shorter Instructions to Malunkya’), in the Majjhima Nikaya

From ‘On the Flowering of the Unbounded’ (空華, ‘Kūge’), in the Shōbōgenzō, by Eihei Dogen

“with the opening of the blossom, the whole world arises. ‘The opening of the blossom’ means ‘three and three before that, as well as three and three after that’. In order to make the number of these more extensive, they have accumulated a luxurious growth, soaring ever higher.

Letting this principle of blossoming come of its own accord, we need to consider whether it is spring or autumn. Blossoms and fruit do not only appear in spring and in autumn. There will invariably be other times when blossoms and fruit emerge. Every flowering and fruiting has endured while they have waited for their opportunity, and every opportunity has endured while it has waited for a flowering and a fruiting. Thus, all the hundreds of things that sprout up have their time of flowering and their fruiting, just as all manner of trees have their time of flowering and their fruiting. All manner of trees—such as those of gold, silver, copper, iron, coral, or crystal—have their flowering and their fruiting. Trees of earth, water, fire, wind, and boundless space have their flowering and fruiting. Human trees have their blossoming, human flowers have their blossoming, and withered trees have their blossoming.

It is within this context that the World-honored One spoke of the flowerings within Unbounded Space. On the other hand, those folks who pay attention to very little and see even less are unaware that petals and blossoms with their varied hues and brilliance are to be found within everything. These are ‘the flowers of Unbounded Space’, and such folk are only barely aware of a flowering of Unbounded Space.”

From ‘On the Flowering of the Unbounded’ (空華, ‘Kūge’), in the Shōbōgenzō, by Eihei Dogen

From ‘Five Types of Meditation’, (or ‘Huguan, the Five Gates’五關 ) by Dayi Daoxin (道信; 580–651) 

“Know this: Buddha is this mind. Outside of this mind there is no Buddha. Briefly, I suggest that there are five basic principles.

First: Know the essence of mind. The essential nature is pure. The essence is itself Buddha.

Second: Know the function of mind. Its function gives rise to the jewel of Dharma. It functions without obstruction, but is always still; even the ten thousand delusions are in essence just this.

Third: Constant Awakening is without end. The Awakening mind is always present. The Teaching of this Awakening is without form.

Fourth: Always know the body is empty and tranquil. Inside and outside are transparent to each other. Your body arises in the midst of ultimate reality. There have never been obstacles.

Fifth: Keep unified-mindfulness without deviation. Both movement and stillness go nowhere.

Those who practice this will clearly see their Buddha-nature and enter into the gate of practice without hesitation.”

[translated by Anzan Hoshin roshi and Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi]
From ‘Five Types of Meditation’, (or ‘Huguan, the Five Gates’五關 ) by Dayi Daoxin (道信; 580–651)