If you like what you see here, or if you have anything you would like to share do send an email:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An historiography of Buddhism

Buddhism strikes me as being one of the relative "golden children" of world religions in white/Western Australian awareness. Unlike Catholicism, which has to contend with its all too famous examples of the mistakes and abuses of institutional power, Buddhism does not have a centralised institutional authority for all Buddhists around the world.

Unlike Islam, which has to defend and differentiate away from ongoing violence committed in its name, Buddhism is typically associated with pacifism or non-violence, apoliticism or quietism.

Unlike, also, Judaism, Jewish-ness, and Zionism, which are poorly differentiated in many people's minds, Buddhism, as a religion, has not been quite as tormented by the loss of homeland, nor people, in diaspora, not as much rooted by a (historically understandable) will to statehood.

Buddhism is conflated more with meditation, its doctrines hinting at being a "psychology" or a "science of the mind". Buddhism talks about actions and consequences, outside of the machinations or whims of an intervening Divinity outside of one's own intentions, motivations, and habits. There are wholesome and unwholesome actions, loving and non-loving actions. The teachings of Buddhism are referred to, in Sanskrit, as the Dharma.

"Buddhism" itself is an invention of post-European contact with a plethora of cultural, spiritual, philosophical, ritualistic and political expressions, which have enough family resemblances with one another to be described under a unifying, and historically quite racialised, category of "Buddhism". Buddhism has been racialised, in that the category "Buddhism" was historically constructed as an amalgamation of many expressions of non-European "Otherness" (in all their beauty/exoticism, as well as their frightening and unfamiliar dangers) and, in descriptions, conflated the expressions of Buddhism with "Orientals" and "Asians".

Part of the evolution of a religion like Buddhism, then, is that the religion itself, the term "Buddhism", itself already indicates its precipitated encounter with a historically more "White" or "Western" or "European" sensibility, and forms of categorisation of religions or religious difference. Just as historically "white/European-dominant" cultures become more intentionally multicultural (however effectively) in their makeup, so Buddhism itself begins to write its own history anew.

Asia goes Christian
and white Australia goes Buddhist.

Who is writing whose history?

No comments:

Post a Comment