On Seeing Behind the Eyelids – A Marxist Critique of Buddhism in the West


…in general people cannot be liberated as long as they ar unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity.  “Liberation” is a historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the [level] of industry, com[merce], [agri]culture, [intercourse…] then subsequently, in accordance with different stages of their development, [they make up] the nonsense of substance, subject, self-consciousness and pure criticism, as well as religious and theological nonsense, and later they get rid of it again when their development is sufficiently advanced.[1]  (Karl Marx – The German Ideology)

Buddhism, as a philosophical school, is the product of the prevailing socio-economic conditions of 6th century BCE India, although the birth date of the Buddha is a matter of dispute and could be earlier.  In his September 1st 1857 article to the New York Tribune (about the Sepoy Revolt),[2] Marx describes Buddhists as being ‘a sort of Brahmanical rationalists’.  Although Marx does not elaborate on this idea, he does mention that Buddhism appears to have been eradicated in India as a socio-cultural force by the influence of the prevailing creed and the arrival of expansionist Islam.  Did Marx have a knowledge of Buddhism outside of the more ludicrous stereotypes of the East espoused by Hegel?  The answer is probably yes.  In the late 1830’s as a student in Berlin, Marx was a member of the Doctors’ Club, a Young Hegelian group of radical academics who often met to debate and discuss the implications of Hegelian philosophy.  At this time he became friends with Karl Koppen, a friendship that would last all his life.[3]  Koppen went on to establish himself as a scholar of some renown upon the subject of Buddhism within German academia, and presented Marx with a 2 volume set of his study on Buddhism in Berlin in 1861.[4]  This publication (in the German language) is still used today as a reliable reference work.  It may be reasonably assumed that Marx would have broadly encountered Buddhism as a subject within German academia, and probably learnt about its specifics from his many years of interaction with Karl Koppen.  More than this, however, Marx studied widely to frequent himself with the available German academic sources about India when formulating his viewpoint about the historical development of that country.  Ironically, Marx was once described as appearing to be like:

‘…the omniscient, the all-wise, young Dalai Lama Marx.’[5]

However, Marx profoundly disagreed with the religious premise that divinity had created the world, Marx advocated that in reality it was the effect of the external socio-economic environment which generated the psychological climate (or inner conditions) that gave rise to the production of the notion of theological religion.  In other words, religion is made by the mind of humanity and not imported into human existence by a mysterious theistic entity.

Marx never critiqued Buddhism in his lifetime of work – he had no reason to.  Buddhism during the 19th century had no relevance whatsoever for the European proletariat, or the industrialised working class.  It is true that a minority of middleclass scholars (including Marx) knew of the existence of Buddhism, but for the majority of them Buddhism remained a more or less exotic form of idealism.  As Buddhism perceived as a religion had no obvious presence in the Western world, and of course, was not an established church, its deconstruction at the time was not considered a priority.  Today, this situation has changed dramatically and Buddhism needs to be brought into the sphere of Marxian analysis.  This is because Buddhism has spread out of Asia and into the West, and has, in the process of transference, been interpreted through many and varied cultural perspectives, ranging from European idealistic philosophy, atheism, materialism, and even theistic religion, as well as numerous counter-cultural trends and new age movements.  This mediated transference to the West, (which has been primarily intellectual rather than practical), has coincided with a direct (i.e. unmediated and distinctly practical) transference of Buddhism as a living tradition, facilitated by the migration of Asian populations that have migrated and settled in the West.  This has led to an immediate rupture in the Buddhist presence in the West between a Buddhist ideal preferred (and perpetuated) by Buddhist converts, and an Asian tradition that emphasises a disciplined and practical approach to Buddhist practice based entirely upon the historicity of Asia.  Both theories are united in their innate belief that each represents the true intention of the founder of Buddhism; the Westerns by stating that Asian culture is an encumbrance to Buddhist practice, and the Easterners by adhering to what is perceived as an ancient tradition (that ignores modernity), whilst simultaneously perceiving the Western approach for the racism that it actually and undoubtedly entails.

Marx made the criticism of religion the centre piece of his deconstructional analysis of all that exists.  In this he maintained a practical approach and focused exclusively upon the Judeo-Christian tradition, as this is the religion that has infected the minds of the population of the Western world for millennia.  The psychological conditioning initiated and sustained by the outer political structure of the Christian church, embodies the ideology of blatant and brutal class oppression, whilst cultivating the absurd myth that the church exists to help and save humanity.  Marx observed that the only help that humanity needs is to be rescued thoroughly and completely from the psychological and physical grasp of the church.  In this way, individuals could clear their mind of the clutter of religiosity that obscures logic and reason.  The Christian church does not, in its holy duplicity, even follow the teachings of the man it premises its existence upon.  Whilst teaching mythology as fact, the church keeps the majority of its adherents, (i.e. the workers), in a state of mental and physical servitude predicated entirely upon the generation of fear in the mind.  This policy is relentlessly pursued by a middleclass priesthood that partakes willingly in the exploitation of the populace because as a class, it reaps all the benefits for itself within a bourgeois system.  The hell it threatens its adherence with (should they ever develop the capacity for free thought) apparently does not apply to a priesthood, (i.e. the church), that routinely contradicts the teachings of its apparent founder, and participates in such worldly activities such as supporting paid work (and taxation), arms dealing and even institutional child abuse.  This is why the Judeo-Christian tradition was the primary target for Marx.

In his criticism, however, it is important to acknowledge that Marx did not deconstruct the religion on its own terms.  He did not engage the clergy, and had no reason to present the history of the church as it perceives itself.  This is because Marx views the history of religion as a myth based upon the misreading and misinterpretation of the history of socio-economic conditions in a country, mediated through an inverted or false consciousness.  Once physical reality is mistaken for a single thought (or set of thoughts) in the head, then reality is abandoned altogether.  The Judeo-Christian religion does not have a distinctly ‘religious’ history as it assumes that it does (through its theology), but is rather the product of an escapist mind-set responding to oppressive socio-economic conditions that change overtime.  This is why the Christian church seems to be different at different periods in world history.  Today, despite the apparent founder of Christianity stating that money is evil and people should not work for money – the modern Christian church ignores this – (the teaching of its founder) and instead fully advocates the embracing of exploitative capitalism.  As Marx (through his deconstructive method) had no reason to present the (false) theological history of the church every time he criticised its presence and functioning in society, the assumed historicity of Buddhism can be dispensed with in its analysis.  However, as many people in the West are unfamiliar with Buddhism, a concise explanation will its structure and functioning will aid the understanding of its deconstruction.

Buddhism is a philosophy of transcendence that arose in India around 2500 years ago, although the exact date is a matter of academic debate.  Some Indian scholars assume a far older date, whilst some Western academics attempt to prove a nearer date, or the non-existence of its founder.  Buddhism is the teachings expressed over a lifetime by a man of high Indian caste known as Siddharta Gautama.  He referred to himself as the ‘Buddha’, a Sanskrit term which literally translates as ‘knower’.  In the West his teachings, (contained in hundreds of religious texts known as ‘suttas’ [Pali], or ‘sutras [Sanskrit]), has become known as Buddhism – the teachings of the Buddha.  Virtually everything that is known about the Buddha’s biography is gained from his own teachings, although hundreds of years later the North Indian King Ashoka is known to have converted to Buddhism and transformed his kingdom as a result, leaving behind stone pillars with Buddhist teachings etched upon them.  Siddharta Gautama was educated in the Brahmanic tradition of ancient India, and being of the 2nd highest caste, (the Kshatriya) of warriors and kings, he had what can be described as a royal upbringing.  After a life of luxury lived in a palace, he was profoundly shocked when he encountered illness, old age, and death.  This psychological trauma caused him to leave his royal lifestyle, and to abandon his wife and child.  He went into the wilderness with no possessions, and spent his time engaged in meditation as a means to understand why it was that suffering existed in the world.  He lived through begging and wore tattered rags as clothes.  Eventually, whilst meditating – a concentrated act of placing the mind’s attention firmly upon the breathing mechanism and analytically observing the thought process – he realised a complete and thorough understanding of reality that freed him from the taints of greed, hatred and delusion, and attachment to physical objects.  He spent the next 45 years of his life teaching his understanding.  In polytheistic India, he taught that the belief in gods was an illusion, and that although deluded people may be subject to rebirth, those who understood reality were free of its occurrence.  Finally, where Brahmanic teaching taught that karma was partly influenced by the will of supernatural beings, the Buddha taught that karma is simply cause and effect operating in the environment and through the human mind.  The Buddha claimed to have understood the origins of human suffering, and to have discovered a means for permanently eliminating its presence from experience.

Like all religious teachings, the origins of Buddhism remain obscured in a distant past.  Knowing the exact origin would probably not benefit the understanding of Buddhism as it is perceived and practiced today, as like Christianity, the manifestation of Buddhism has ebbed and flowed throughout history in response to changing socio-economic conditions.  What is it about Buddhism that has attracted the Western mind?  First of all it must be clearly stated that the Buddhism adhered to by its Western converts is not the Buddhism of Asia.  As soon as a foreign ideal is transplanted into an unfamiliar socio-economic climate (different that from which it originated within), it is immediately changed by the experience of direct contact with a new and distinct history (and evolved culture), and inherently altered through the accommodation (and assimilation) process.  This is the travelling of an ideal across geographical boundaries free of the culture (and people) that historically created it.  In this regard, Buddhism has become an ideal passed from the mind of one culture (Asia), into the mind of another (the West).  The receiving culture, as it did not initially have to take into account the living Asian cultures that produced Buddhism, was able to dismiss the Asian progenitors of Buddhism (usually with a racist disregard), and reinterpret Buddhism in a manner that suits its own historically conditioned notions of what a spiritual path should be.  As the West has had much of its history dominated by the Christian church, and the Judeo-Christian tradition, it has been an inevitable fact that this reality has influenced the manner in which Buddhism has been interpreted, even by those in the West who believe that they have given up Christianity.  Even when rejecting Christian beliefs and values in practice, many Western converts have continued to subconsciously adhere to Christian notions in a secular manner and for this type of person, Buddhism has become a form of Christianity without a god.  This process of adaptation and change has been assisted by the interpretation of the behaviour of a Buddhist monk, who resembles for the historical Western mind, the medieval Christian monk – a well educated but (by choice), a materially poor individual, who apparently gives up riches on earth for a bounty in heaven.  For the Buddhist monk, material possessions are all but abandoned for the accomplishment of inner illumination – an inner heaven.

The Christian monastic tradition, as manifest through Western Christianity, has generally combined a stringent discipline with voluntary poverty and celibacy.  The idealised image of the Buddhist monk, as it has entered the Western psyche, is one of a man who has abandoned what is here (real material life), for what is over there (imagined religious realms).  Of course, as what is over there, by definition, is never here and now, its presence can never be empirically confirmed.  The Buddhist rules followed by monastics and the laity take the place of Christian piety in the West, but are adhered to by most Westerners with a similar fanatic attitude that completely misses the point the rule is assumed to be designed to achieve.  The physical practice of Buddhist meditation is of course the act of Christian prayer wrapped in saffron robes.  Western converts meditate as if they are praying to a divine being, but with the added titillation that the divine being in question is their own imagined self-essence – or god removed from his heaven and relocated into their own head.  Chanting mantras – the holy syllables of the East – replaces the singing of hymns and the chanting of monks, and sutra reading is bible study by other means.  Just as god in heaven can never be logically verified, enlightenment in the head can not be seen in the environment or known to exist.

The final Western response to Buddhism is that its Asian teachings, as they subconsciously represented an out-dated and redundant Christianity, can be dispensed with as being unsuitable for practice in Western culture.  This approach of convenient deconstruction confirms that the Western embracing of Asian Buddhism has only ever been in the imagination and nothing more.  To the failing Christian, Buddhism has become a disposable stepping stone to the achieving of a secular state of mind, but one still dominated at base by the strictures of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Asian people and their culture remain racialised and insignificant, although over-night, should it be politically expedient, Asians and their culture can be transformed through imagination into the biggest threat the West has ever faced – such is the power and versatility of racism.  There is probably nothing so ridiculous than a Western convert to Buddhism wearing a Buddhist robe, shaving their heads and calling themselves by Asian names whilst simultaneously exuding a hideous Eurocentricism that demeans the very people whose culture they are mimicking.  This is one trend of Buddhism that has spread into the West over the last two hundred years or so.  Where Jesus Christ saves the world through his suffering, the Buddha saves himself from his own suffering through his own effort and insight and this is why his understanding is often termed his ‘enlightenment’, or his delivery from darkness to light, despite the fact that the Buddha was not on the road to Damascus when he experienced his epiphany, but rather sat under a tree in North India.  Like the Buddha, the West has abandoned its gods, but still finds it very difficult to abandon the ritual of worshipping that which is perceived as being greater than the individual.  In the West the Buddha has become a god who is a man – in other words the description of Jesus Christ in the bible.  Like Jesus, the image of the Buddha must be sacrificed for scripture to be fulfilled, but it is not the Buddha that must die, but rather the Asian culture that has conveyed his teaching (and his image to the West).  This completes the Eurocentric project of imperialism which controls through dominance, and transforms through destruction of all it encounters.  This type of Buddhism in the West is a charade based upon a mirage, which is fully in the service of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  It is the perpetuation of Christianity by other means, and its purpose is to destroy and subsume all difference into itself.  This is the danger of boutique Buddhism that preserves the status quo and is in the service of the capitalist system.  This part of the Marxist critique of Buddhism has very little to do with Buddhism per se, but rather the Western embracing and distortion of its teachings.

In the West Buddhism is presented as a form of idealism.  This misunderstanding and distortion is based upon a misreading of Buddhist teachings and the practice of meditation.  The problem is that like Marxism, Buddhism is a complex set of predominantly psychologically based observations taken in relation to the individual experience of the physical environment.  The Buddha taught that an individual should be free of identification with his own thoughts – this is the Buddhist practice of non-attachment to thought.  As Marx defined idealism as limiting the world to an idea (i.e. ‘a thought’) in the head, Buddhism can not be placed in this category.  Although the Buddha criticised certain theories he termed ‘materialist’, nevertheless the Buddha’s analysis of reality is based entirely upon how the human mind perceives and conceives sensory data mediated through the sense-organs and gained directly from interaction with the physical world.  The type of Buddhism that is in agreement with Marx is the kind generally practiced in Asia and conveyed to the West through Asian culture, and which is consequently free of any and all Judeo-Christian influence.  In agreement with Marx, the Buddha states that consciousness is not a continuous and mystical state, but is rather the product of interaction with the environment.  The Buddhist teachings repeat themselves often in the sutras and here is a typical explanation for the material origination of human consciousness:

What now, monks, is the origination of the body?  Through the origination of nutriment there is origination of the body.  Through the cessation of nutriment there is cessation of the body.  Through the origination of sense impression there is origination of feelings.  Through the cessation of sense impression there is cessation of feelings.  Through the origination of mind-and-body (nana-rupa) there is origination of consciousness.  Through the cessation of mind-and-body there is cessation of consciousness.  Through the origination of attention there is origination of mind-objects.  Through the cessations of attention there is cessation of mind-objects.[6] (Buddha – Pali Canon)

This Buddhist extract may be favourably compared with the opinion of Marx writing in the 1840’s:

The phantoms formed in the brains of men are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises.  Morality, religion, metaphysics, and all the rest of ideology as well as the forms of consciousness corresponding to these, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence.  They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their actual world, also their thinking.  It is not consciousness that determines life, but life that determines consciousness.[7]  (Karl Marx – The German Ideology)

As Marx applies a ruthless deconstruction of all phenomena into its constituent parts, his method can not be defined as materialistic, as he readily acknowledges the existence and purpose of the human mind in evolving society; but equally he can not be called an idealist as he does not agree with limiting the interpretation of the world to ideas that have no anchorage in the real, material world.  His historical materialism has much in common with the Buddhist notion of karma which assesses the physical and psychological world as being the product of an endless and observable chain of events – or recordable history.  This is the idea prevalent in modern science, that one cause leads to one result, and that this result becomes, inturn the cause for the next event, etc.  Historical materialism is not metaphysical (or gross) materialism that limits everything to the state of matter.  For Marx, the human mind is as important as the human world and he sees them as inherently linked; but whereas the Buddha emphasises the discipline of the mind and body through behaviour modification, Marx emphasises changing the mind through a combination of direct social action coupled with correct self-education.  Marx advocates the changing of the socio-economic conditions of the bourgeois outer world, and the removal of the destructive psychological traits imported into the minds of those who suffer under its oppression.  However, as the example of Marx, Engels and other progressive thinkers demonstrates, it is possible (within the confines of a bourgeois social structure) to use human intelligence in such a way so as to ‘see through’ the conditioning of the psycho-physical environment without first changing its outer structure.  Of course, many of these progressives had the benefit of a middleclass education, but this can not be said about all such individuals (Proudhon, for example, and many others).  Marx argues:

The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question.  Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-worldliness of his thinking in practice.  The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.[8] (Karl Marx – Theses on Feuerbach)

When the Buddha was approached by his disciple named Siri he was surprised to learn that he thought that the Buddha had taught that there is a continuous consciousness existent within the human mind that survives physical death, and is reborn into another body, moving independently through life without change or disruption.  He chastised this disciple and stated:

A fire is named according to the material on account of which it burns.  A fire may burn on account of wood, and it is called wood-fire.  It may burn on account of straw, and then it is called straw-fire.  So consciousness is named according to the conditions through which it arises.[9]  (Buddha – Mahatanhasamkhaya Sutta)

The Buddhist system places a great emphasises upon the mind as the generator of thought.  It is the mind that is changed, (that is its thought patterns and emotional responses) through the application of meditation.  Buddhist meditation is a method of controlling the mind through the use of the mind.  Its primary purpose is to see through the thinking process and to cognise the interior structure (of the mind) within which the thoughts arise.  When this is achieved, the individual is considered ‘free’ from the taints of greed, hatred, and delusion which had hitherto continuously coloured the inner and outer functioning of the mind and world with suffering.  Such a state is said to be unusual as human desire nolonger arises in a manner that would cause suffering.  The Buddha further described this state as ‘empty’ of greed, hatred and delusion, and this has led to the developed Buddhist view that existence is empty of any substantiality.  This viewpoint is compounded by the Buddha’s emphatic denial of the existence of a human soul or ‘atma’, the sustaining universal principle found within Brahmanism and akin to the notion of a Christian soul.  In the deluded state, the Buddha teaches, the idea of a permanent soul is normal but mistaken.  In the enlightened state, it is understood that life is a combination of temporarily functioning processes.  The Buddhist idea of emptiness allows for a development technique which can oppose even the strongest psychological conditioning.  This is not to say that the Buddha had nothing to say about society, as a great many of his sutras contain detailed explanations regarding such topics as the evolution of the earth, his non-agreement with the caste system, his opposition to killing, stealing, intoxication, sexual misconduct and lying, as well as hundreds of rules governing the behaviour of his monks and nuns.  He even tailored his teachings to the laity and described what he considered to be ethical employment, good behaviour, and how to manage income, etc.  In times of war, the Buddha interceded between the belligerents and brokered a peace deal.  As he did not advocate a theistic belief system, his philosophy can not be termed a religion, but it can be described as progressive.  How does it stand up to Marxist analysis?

The “cranium” system is as old as the Egyptian pyramids, with which it has many similarities, and as new as the Prussian monarchy, in the capital of which it has recently been resurrected in a rejuvenated form.  The idealistic Dalai Lamas have this much in common with their real counterpart: they would like to persuade themselves that the world from which they derive their subsistence could not continue without their holy excrement.  As soon as this idealistic folly is put into practice, its malevolent nature is apparent: its clerical lust for power, its religious fanaticism, its charlatanry, its pietistic hypocrisy, its unctuous deceit.  Miracles are the assess’ bridge leading from the kingdom of the idea to practice.[10]  (Karl Marx – The German Ideology)

Lamaism is a distinct form of Buddhism originating from Tibet that is the product of late Buddhist development in India which integrated into Tibetan culture, creating a distinct form of Buddhism full of ritual, and superstitious beliefs from earlier, pre-Buddhist times.  Marx is apparently well aware of what kind of Buddhism is practiced in Tibet, and clearly sees parallels in this extract with the Judeo-Christian church that he ruthlessly criticises elsewhere.  The tradition of the Dalai Lamas is here ridiculed as self-serving and delusion – a world of isolated idealism with no bearing on reality.  He is writing in the mid-1840’s and on an earlier page in the same book has this to say about Buddhism:

He found that in Hegel the Mongols and, in particular, the Chinese appear as the beginning of history and since for Hegel, too, history is a history of spirits (but not in such a childish way as with “Stirner”), it goes without saying that the Mongols brought the spirit into history and are the original representatives of everything “sacred”.  In particular, on page 110, Hegel describes the “Mongolian Kingdom” (of the Dalai-Lama) as the “ecclesiastical” realm, the “kingdom of theocratic rule”, a “spiritual, religious kingdom” – in contrast to the worldly empire of the Chinese. “Stirner”, of course, has to identify China with the Mongols.  In Hegel, on page 140, there even occurs the “Mongolian principle” from which “Stirner” derived his “Mongolism”.  Incidentally, if he really wanted to reduce the Mongols to the category of “idealism”, he could have “found established” in the Dalai-Lama system and Buddhism quite different “spiritual beings” from his fragile “heavenly ladder”.[11]  (Karl Marx – The German Ideology)

These opinions differ markedly from his 1857 description of Buddhism as rational, but also reveal that Marx may have distinguished between the Buddhism of the Dalai Lama, and the very different Buddhism extant outside of Tibet.  Whatever the case, the comment regarding the Dalai Lama’s excrement, suggests that Marx is of the opinion that Buddhists adhere to idealism such as that found in the European philosophical (specifically German) tradition, and consequently suffer from an inverted or false conscious – believing that excrement sustains (i.e. creates) the environment, rather than being caused by the environment.  As Buddhist teaching does not advocate the reduction of physical existence to an idea in the mind, or advocate the belief in a theistic entity, it is difficult to discern exactly where the ‘idealism’ exists that Marx identifies within it, unless of course, Marx is referring to non-Buddhist (idealistic) elements of Tibetan culture imported into Indian Buddhism upon its arrival in Tibet.  Like Marxism, Buddhism is a set of thoughts in the mind; the question that decides reality is what is to be done with these thoughts?  Both Marxism and Buddhism advocate a clear-cut deconstruction of the world as it is ordinarily seen – be it through the false consciousness as defined by Marx, or the deluded mind as explained by the Buddha.  Each distinct system ruthlessly criticises and denies the validity of the prevailing religious views of their time, and replaces a historical reliance upon religiosity, with a requirement for the development of the advanced use of the mind.  It is interesting to note that in the 1953 Soviet edition of the MI Kalinin’s On Communist Education – a collection of selected speeches and articles – the Foreign Languages Publishing House (Moscow), which was responsible for translating Marxist-Leninist material into many different languages, chose to translate an extract of Marx’s The German Ideology using the word ‘spiritual’:

‘…The class that possesses the means of material production, by virtue of this also possess the means of spiritual production…’[12]

Other translations originating outside of the Soviet Union instead use the term ‘intellectual’ rather than ‘spiritual’, making the text read:

‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same times its ruling intellectual force.’[13]

Bearing in mind that the Kalinin book was published in the Stalin era, it is unlikely that that the use of the word ‘spiritual’ is an error or product of revisionism.  On the contrary, the Soviet use of the term ‘spiritual’ undoubtedly refers to the advanced use of the human mind – specifically the intellect – in relation to material production, and the progressive direction of history.  What the Soviet use of the word ‘spiritual’ does not entail is the extolling of religiosity in any form.  Spirit as used in this context refers to the production of thought, as distinct from (but inherently related to) material production.  The proletariat, Marx explains, when existing in appropriate material conditions, will produce the most advanced thinking ever known in the history of the world.  The Soviet translation appears to redefine the term ‘spiritual’ into an advanced secular meaning referring to the optimum use of the human mind.  This removes the term out of the context of conventional religious usage, and in so doing creates an entirely new paradigm of interpretation.  For the human mind to generate the most advanced and progressive thought available, (i.e. its spirituality), it must first be rescued from the cognitive quagmire of religiosity.  This has interesting implications for non-religious Buddhism, or the core of the Buddhist teachings that are analytical of body and mind processes, and which, as a result, generate insight into the human condition.  This is where a scientific examination of the central practice of Buddhist – i.e. the act of meditation – must be made.

The Buddha lived around the 6th century BCE and was brought up in the Brahmanic traditions extant at that time.  This purely idealistic view of the world was created by a rigid caste system imposed much earlier on the indigenous populace of India by foreign invaders.  The Indian caste system is based entirely upon the social categorisation of the populace into groupings of skin-colour, with the darkest skinned peoples forming the lowest caste, and the lightest skin people forming the highest caste.  With shade of skin colour came political power; from this political power, all other power ensued, be it social, economic, cultural, or religious.  It is believed that this racist system was imposed by light skinned invaders who wanted to maintain and protect their political power and identity from the taint of race-mixing with the indigenous peoples of India.  However, as mixing occurred and off-spring were produced, these people (with differing skin colours) were culturally organised into rigid social groupings and forbidden to mix or marry outside of their caste (i.e. colour).  The light skinned people created the illusion, through their political dominance, that the unjust and racist social system they created and imposed upon the populace of India, was divinely ordained and the product of a theistic entity exercising his will from an unseen heaven, onto the earth.  Any day to day injustice was interpreted as a punishment from a god, and that the only possible response to such punishment was to physically and psychological develop the ability not to resist the social order at the point of contact.  This inversion of reality led to the development of an inwardly directed religiosity that looked for the answers to physical suffering not in the physical conditions themselves, but rather into the fabric of the mind, where it was believed a theistic entity resided.  The manner in which this god could be accessed, so the Brahmanic teachings taught, was to inflict a system of discipline upon the mind and body that actually mimicked and intensified the oppressive nature of outer Brahmanic society.  Far from breaking physically free from social oppression, the Brahmanic holy men used their will power to reduce their mental activity to zero – during which training their imagination gave rise to all kinds of culturally conditioned mystical and divine beings.  The only freedom allowed in this Brahmanic society was the freedom to not resist its injustices entirely through physical inactivity and psychological quietude interpreted as a divine state.  An unjust and ruthless social system – i.e. caste – created the psycho-physical conditions for the development of early meditation.  Turning the attention inward is a form of escaping the physical conditions of suffering by ignoring its presence.  The emphasis is switched from attention to the bodily senses – the conveyors of suffering – and instead toward the functioning processes of the mind itself.  This is not an easy task to perform, because it has not been a natural human activity during the evolutionary process.  Meditation requires a very strong will power to affect a change of attention relocation from an emphasis upon the body (object), to that of clearly perceiving the interior of the mind and the manner in which it functions (subject).

The Buddha was a Kshatriya – or warrior and king.  During his lifetime his caste – the 2nd highest of the racialised order – had begun slowly usurping political power away from the Brahmin, the highest caste.  This process, which led to the forming of republics in North India, was fuelled by the socio-economic power the Kshatriya caste was able to generate.  This creation of material wealth resulted in the Brahmin caste becoming ever more spiritually irrelevant and isolated from direct involvement in political life.  These social changes created a new spiritual literature – the Upanishads – which advised people to abandon the rigidity of a closely controlled Brahmanic society, and seek enlightenment (i.e. oneness with divinity) here and now, rather than as an old person who had already married, successfully raised a family, and made money through work, etc.  The Upanishadic literature was a direct attack upon Brahmin spiritual authority.  As a consequence, hundreds of young men abandoned their families and went into the forest to meditate.  The Buddha, whose father was a regional political leader, (often described as a king), was raised in very affluent conditions, and was well educated within the Brahmanic education system, which involved reading, writing, secular science, yoga, martial arts, and scripture reading, etc.  He was being groomed to one day take his father’s place as political leader.  As a youth he was never allowed to venture outside of his living area – usually described as a sort of walled palace.  As a consequence, he experienced only opulence and well being.  The dramatic psychological shift occurred when he did eventually manage to go outside and was profoundly shocked to see how ordinary people lived.  He was astonished to see ill people, old people, and dead bodies rotting by the roadside.  He also witnessed a spiritual man sat meditating by the roadside, amongst all the suffering – who appeared completely detached and happy amongst the fifth, injustice and misery.  This image served as the developmental doorway for the Buddha to escape the suffering world.  The story says that the Buddha abandoned his luxurious life, his wife and child, and with only the clothes he was wearing, left for the forests – following the Upanishadic trend prevalent in his day.  He was determined to find the essence of human suffering through the act of meditation.  At this point in his story, the Buddha was conforming to the Brahmanic conditioning of his society, and looked within as a means to transcend the externality of human suffering.  What he discovered in this quest, however, differed significantly from the established Brahmanic and Upanishadic traditions.[14]

The story of the Buddha’s evolutionary journey from a state of delusion to that of a state of enlightenment is often presented in Western translation as a matter of mind only, in other words, that it is the mind alone that changes itself through concentrated will-power; and yet the Buddhist suttas clearly explain that the first important aspect of that journey was a change of physical circumstance.  This stark observation places Buddhist mind development firmly in the realm of matter.  The Buddha wilfully changed the physical circumstances of his external lifestyle of opulence whilst living in a small city, for that of a life of abject poverty (and uncertainty), living in the countryside, or forested areas.  These rural areas were considered to be outside of the civilised world, and therefore removed from the trappings of desire associated with human interaction.  The Buddha initially changed his physical circumstance to reduce the amount of external stimuli that had the potential to produce desire and attachment in his mind.  It can be ascertained that the inner terrain of the mind, as the Buddha perceived it to be, was directly reliant upon external circumstance for the frequency of its functioning.  A chaotic, greed orientated outer environment creates the conditions for the inward generation of greed, hatred, and deluded (i.e. muddled thinking) in the mind.  Conversely, if the outer circumstances are free from greed, hatred, and delusion (associated with human society and interaction), then as the external stimuli are diminished and extinguished, so is the likelihood of the arising of the inner psychological consequences usually generated by their presence.  The forest represents a situation that is not perceived to be human society.  The forest, of course, may well be full of uncertainty, danger, and death, but is simultaneously free of the presence of organised human interference in both structure and function.  There was, in the time of the Buddha, no urbanisation within the forested areas, which by and large continued to function as locations of wild existence, unchanged for thousands of years.  This more primitive environment, entered into willingly by the Buddha, is the setting for his mental training and eventual self-enlightenment.  This is a key ingredient within the early Buddhist story.  The Buddha turns his back on developed Indian society, and instead prefers to physically exist in a more natural and undeveloped environment.  The philosophical implication here is that an advanced (enlightened) state of mind is a product of what might be described as existing (i.e. deliberately training) within primitive surroundings.  The urbanised mind of the Buddha contained all the positive aspects of human conscious evolution up to that point in time, and although he rejected the Brahmanic social structure of his day, nevertheless, it provided him (through its sophisticated externality), with an equally progressive and optimally functioning intellect – an intellect that he would use to good effect and see through the externality of the culture he inhabited.  When he left for the primitive forest, the Buddha possessed an already advanced mind; his mind did not, and could not regress to an earlier state of human conscious evolution due to his sudden change of surroundings.  The next step in mental evolution for the Buddha was to transcend the conditioned mindset he possessed by subtly changing the external pressure upon the mind.  This change effectively allowed his mind to function without hindrance, to its fullest capacity, in a state often explained as ‘nirvana’, or the ‘cessation’ of self-limiting ignorance generated by the pressure of external events.

The Buddha relocated his physical body from urban to rural socio-economic conditions, and used exercises known within Brahmanic and yogic teaching that involved focusing the mind’s awareness on a bodily activity, usually the breath.  By focusing the mind in this way, all discursive activity is eventually ‘stilled’ so that the object of meditation becomes all absorbing.  Or the awareness of the activity of breathing becomes so powerful that the ability for thoughts (premised upon the production of words in the mind, or the use of language whilst thinking), can not arise as they would usually do.  Concentration becomes so powerful that only mental awareness remains free of the process of the arising of thought and associated feeling.  The mind becomes ‘empty’ of one kind of mental activity (i.e. discursive thought), but full of another (awareness free of the presence of thought).  By looking into this pure awareness (i.e. contemplating it), eventually the need to follow the breath diminishes and this state of awareness becomes self-sustaining and free of the original stimulus and focus that generated it.  The breath is no longer needed to be followed and sinks into the background of general awareness.  This self-sustaining awareness is the state of samadhi, or spiritual absorption, and has been subdivided by practitioners over the centuries, into various categories and levels, all designed to distinguish between shallow and deep attainment.  Whilst the body is sat in a quiet and safe physical environment, the mind can focus upon its own conscious awareness for extended periods of time – this reality has served as the basis for the development of Buddhist meditation.  The outer physical conditions, if conducive, set the stage for the achievement of the inner conditions of samadhi and not the other way around.  It is true that meditation requires will power and effort, but if the outer conditions are not suitable, then the inner conditions are not correct for the will power to work.  This means that at the beginning of training, there must be, for the Buddhist, some kind of change of circumstance.  This may be a literal change as in the example of the Buddha, or a reorganisation of an existing environment, either way if the outer conditions are not suitable the stream of thought in the mind can not be broken through concentration, as the outer conditions will be continuously strengthening and reinforcing the flow of discursive thought.  Concentration in this situation will only strengthen the flow of thought and not weaken it.  Concentration in the wrong physical situation only adds to the weight of the conditioning factors of externality; this probably explains why the Buddha’s life story acknowledges the need to change the outer circumstance before embarking upon a meditative path of development.  Looking within is pointless for many people who can not change their physical circumstance, or alter the externality in a profound manner.  This is doubly true for those who lack a good formal education and remain on the economic fringes of society.

Thinking only appears to cease in the mind of the meditator who has realised ‘stillness’.  As these people can still talk and interact within society, it is obvious that their discursive mind is still working, but that some thing inherent in their perception of it has changed.  By altering, transforming and strengthening the mind’s ability to focus, a change in perception appears to manifest.  Thoughts are no longer viewed as objects appearing in the mind but occur to the individual as if he is sitting inside the thought itself, rather than perceiving it as a spectator.  The structure of the thought, (i.e. all thought), is now transparent and airy, rather then solid and immovable.  This is why Buddhists speak of reality being empty.  Thought perception of this nature is the direct result of developing a mind of pure awareness – the state of pure awareness is itself also perceived as ‘empty’ because this is its distinguishing feature.  Conscious awareness takes on an ‘empty’ reality that is experienceable by the meditator.  In this state, perception of internal phenomena relating to how the mind and body functions, and perception of objects in the physical environment, does not seem to be different.  This leads the Buddhist to assert that all is a continuum of experience, that is sharing a ‘oneness’ of existence, and that the true nature, or fabric of this continuum is ‘empty’ ——–or ‘non-substantial’.  As reality is obviously present in this analysis, emptiness is not defined as nothingness, but rather an emptiness that includes all things.  As a consequence, thoughts, like physical objects, are perceived to arise from the fabric of this emptiness, manifest in the mind and environment, and then dissolve back into emptiness.  Awareness in the mind now directly equates to the presence of objects in the environment with perception being the conceptual link.  The sensor, that which is sensed, and perception/conception all merge into an all embracing awareness whereby terms such as ‘mind’ and ‘body’, ‘psyche’ and ‘environment’ no longer have any definite, or one sided meaning.

The problem with Buddhist meditation outside of its original Indian cultural milieu is that it can mean virtually any thing to any one.  This has meant that the teachings of the Buddha, as they have spread, have been misunderstood and changed as a result.  Meditation is not about replacing one set of thoughts with another, or using capitalist wealth to build physical environments of tranquillity, accessible only to the privileged few who have the least to worry about within society.   If everyone lived in ideal outer circumstances, then the inner circumstances of their minds would also become ‘ideal’ without recourse to meditation or religiosity.  However, in the West, Buddhist meditation, which is not religion or true idealism, has been co-opted by both these causes.  Much of what passes as meditation in the West has been based on the simplest of perceptual errors.  This is not based upon profound errors of philosophical judgement, or a lack of education; it is far more basic than these issues.  Generally speaking, when a Westerner looks into the mind, they do not possess a culturally conditioned cognitive map that could serve as a guide – the Judeo-Christian tradition has never acknowledged the mind as the doorway to self-development.  This situation is compounded by a poor knowledge of Buddhism, and access to reliable teachers.  As a result religiously inspired imagination has taken the place of Buddhist rationalism.  Meditation becomes an exercise in seeing behind the eyelids, or a matter of accessing imaginative religiosity with the eyes closed.  This is the exact opposite of the path of Buddhist meditation.  Where Eastern Buddhists put an end to thought experienced as ‘object’, Western Buddhists use objective thought itself as a manipulative tool to create further religious imagery in the name of spirituality.  For when Western Buddhists closes their eyes to look within, they are in fact kneeling to pray.  God must show himself to their mind’s eye, and if through intense focus on this task a certain by-product of tranquillity is achieved, then so-called higher states of mind are accessed, but these are not what they seem.  When pure awareness is not generated through the Buddhist method, a calm mind is one simply producing calm thoughts, nothing more.  The mind is not empty and has not transcended dualistic perception.  Meditation of this sort evolves around the physical structure of the eyelid.  This translucent fleshy barrier that protects the eye allows light to varying degrees (depending on how tight or lose it is closed) onto the optic nerve.  Eye consciousness is still aware even in the dark, and can be said to be aware of the presence of light, and through further cognitive assessment, able to ascertain the lack of the presence of light in the environment.  Even in perfect darkness, light is still produced in the eye and brain through electrical impulses travelling along the neural network.  Light coming through the eyelid, and light internally generated, combine with religiously inspired thought processes and create images of vivid religiosity.  Many Western Buddhists look within their minds mistaking natural biological processes as religious awakenings.  The Buddha’s method has not established itself but has become obscured by the presence of historically conditioned Judeo-Christian imagination.

The point is that Buddhism is not, and can never be ‘spiritual’ in the Western sense of the concept.  For the Eastern Buddhist there is no spirit in opposition to matter; whilst for the Western Buddhist, the path of physical discipline (i.e. behaviour modification through following the precepts) becomes a spiritual path full of spiritualised meaning, imagery, and content.  The path to nirvana becomes a quest; a knight’s errant, similar to the search for the mythological religious object.  The Holy Grail ceases to be a cup that holds the blood of Christ, and instead is transformed into a mind that holds all things.  Both are reciprocals for the function of religiosity.  For the Western Buddhist, the ego must ‘die’ so that the ‘wise’ can live, or to put it another way, the flesh must step aside so that a pure mind can prevail.  Something dies so that something else can live – like the saviour upon the cross.  Redemption, absolution, forgiveness, grace, and righteousness are all projected upon a philosophical system that has no direct historical link with the development of the Judeo-Christian church in Europe.  Buddhism, as a form of philosophy, requires that the mind as it functions, be completely understood both subjectively and objectively, and that duality, as a consequence takes on a new form of being.  The Western Buddhist runs the perpetual risk of replacing direct insight with religiosity, and religiously inspired historically generated imagination that exists only in the mind and behind the eyelids.   The Judeo-Christian tradition has been busy creating a materialist spirituality over the centuries.  The church is purely material in its primary focus, as it wants power and influence in the physical world, whilst simultaneously peddling is peculiar brand of spiritual fantasy.  Its adherents have a body firmly trapped within the physical world, and a mind permanently trapped in the inner world of frightening imagination.  It is within this latter world that the ghouls and goblins exist.  Approaching Buddhism with this mindset is not helpful for the aspirant.  Buddha is not god, and can never take the place of such an imagined theistic entity.  The Buddha is a memory of a person ascribed to a teaching method, or way of viewing the mind and body in the world.  In this sense, and in accordance with the thought of Marx, the Buddha’s analysis of perception and conception represents a rational enterprise.  A rational enterprise that runs the perpetual risk of falling into idealism through association with religion, if such an association is not moderated and carefully guided.

The Buddhist path is not a ladder to heaven, or a descent into hell.  It is true that the Buddha acknowledged the religiosity of his day, skilfully weaving in rebirth, karma, and even the existence of polytheistic gods, but he did this in such a way so as to wean those who believed in them, away from reliance on religiosity, and toward a rational assessment of their mind, body, and environment.  In the enlightened state, according to the Buddha, religiosity does not exist.  Whereas Marxism denies the validity of religiosity a priori, the Buddha takes the opposite position of acknowledging its existence, whilst undermining its presence through the use of insight.  Within Mahayana Buddhism, the enlightened state is often likened to a mirror within which all phenomena is perceived and reflected.  Marx writes:

Of course, when the manifestation of consciousness ascribes to nature the mental expression of a pious wish about human affairs, it is self-evident that consciousness will only be the mirror in which nature contemplates itself.[15]  (Karl Marx: The German Ideology) Pages 499 -500)

In other words, for Marx, it is nature that reflects the mind, or consciousness.  It is nature that contains the human mind and not the other way around.  This agrees with the Buddha’s statement that consciousness is not a separate and continuous stratum, but is rather only the product of perception (sensory data), and conception (thought).  Of course, both perception and conception are premised upon having a functioning physical body existing within a material environment.  These ideas are further refined in the Chinese Ch’an School which describes the enlightened state as being the perfect integration of void and form, and beyond the definition of a dualism or a monad.  Just as Marx uses language in a manner that transcends (i.e. deconstructs) regular meaning, the Ch’an School, often known in the West by the Japanese name ‘Zen’, also uses what is known as the language of the uncreate.  This language appears paradoxical to an inverted (or false) mind, and perfectly normal to a correctly perceiving, or enlightened mind – what Marx would refer to as true self-consciousness, or a mind that has returned to itself.  Whereas Marx holds on to linear logic, the language of the uncreate does not even do this:

One day, (Ch’an master Teh Ch’eng), stopped by the river bank and sat idle in his boat. An official (who was passing) asked him: ‘What does the Venerable Sir do?’ The master held up the paddle, saying: ‘Do you understand this?’ The official replied: ‘I do not.’ The master said: ‘I have been rowing and stirring the clear water, but a golden fish is rarely found.[16]  (Charles Luk: Chan and Zen Teaching First Series)

Coming into the West through its Japanese form, Ch’an as Zen has become to represent to the Western mind everything that is peculiar, unusual, and illogical about the mystical East.  Through the Western mind the East has become mystified and therefore illogical.  Like the Judeo-Christian notion of heaven, the East is some where over there, its exact location vague and unknowable; and just like the Old Testament statements apparently from god, but obviously mediated through men, heaven often seems an illogical place, or at least operating through an unfamiliar, but otherwise divine logic.  Zen takes on these attributes as it is encountered by the Western mind conditioned historically by the Judeo-Christian tradition.  The language of the uncreate, a language that dismisses the validity of all statements that precedes it, is misrepresented by a mindset riddled with religious sentiment as ‘illogical’ and indicative of a mysterious culture obscured by incense smoke and logically backward.  This attitude of logical superiority is premised upon the mistaken notions of biological ‘race’, and serves to place the receiving Western mind on a superior level to the incoming mindset of Zen.  In this situation, the Western mindset can relish being both ‘superior’, and thoroughly ‘wrong’ in its understanding of some thing it does not understand, and has no historical reference point to judge correctly.  The tradition of blind faith removes the requirement for sound logic whilst forming this spectacularly wide of the mark assessment.  Ignorance, once it declares itself superior to correct knowing, is quite happy in its natural surrounding.  The Western mind, drunk on its own historical conditioning, even thinks this predicament is actually a truthful representation and understanding of ‘Zen’.  In this regard, Zen becomes a fetish for the middleclass to pursue through paid courses held in idyllic country homes.  The physical circumstance constituting this misrepresentation excludes the majority of Westerners (economically and socially) from participating in its perpetuation.  It is the development of heaven freed from religious servitude and transformed into a fetish that is a plaything for the wealthy and semi-religious.  The language of the bible can not be used to sufficiently understand that which lies beyond its own conditioning. Like the philosophy of Marx, Buddhist philosophy is of a higher order to that of theology.  It is a matter of higher logic versus imagination in the service of religion.  Religion is imagination; an elitist club where logic need not exist or apply.  The apparent illogicality of Zen is the Judeo-Christian heaven freed from its direct biblical interpretation.  As heaven does not require understanding, Zen enlightenment is misconstrued as sitting quietly in heaven whilst immersed in its own divine presence.  Modern Zen, as interpreted in the West, is nothing more than the medieval Christian monastery reborn, where monks, through daily ritual condensed into the act of seated meditation, patiently await to be touched by god’s grace.  The empty vessel versus the empty cup.  Being and thought is reduced to a hollow emptiness, or lack of some thing tangible, rather than the attainment of the ability to ‘see through’ conditionality.  This nihilism is criticised by both Buddha and Marx, but many mistake its presence as the pinnacle of personal development and indicative of a complete mastery over the inner and outer world.  This is not the emptiness associated with Zen, or with Buddhism.  Marx states:

The emptiest, shallowest brain among the philosophers had to “end” philosophy by proclaiming his lack of thought to be the end of philosophy and thus the triumphant entry into “corporeal” life.  His philosophising mental vacuity was already in itself the end of philosophy just as his unspeakable language was the end of all language.[17]  (Karl Marx: The German Ideology)

Thoughtlessness is not thought, nor the end of thought, but merely an idea about the possibility of not thinking.  In the misrepresentation of Buddhism, this idealistic notion aims to reduce all knowing, that is to equate all being, to a state of non-perception.  Non-perception is impossible as long as an individual remains within a functioning body.  Even with regard to paralysis and numbness of body parts, there is awareness of the lack of movement, and some times even a sense of pain.  The distorted Zen of the West seeks non-perception through non-logic, and this is based solely upon an illogical theology that demands blind faith with regard to the occurrence of mythological events.  This is like putting the cart before the horse, before realising the cart does not exist, and has never existed – this is distorted Zen.  The horse is fine just where it is – this is true Zen.

Western society, with its developmental emphasis upon individuality, looks toward Buddhism as yet another ‘ism’, as yet non-descript, as a vehicle to express what it means to be ‘solitary’ amongst the group.  The individualistic Buddha, or so he seemed, rejected the caste system (and religious conventions) of his day, and appeared to walk outside of the physical world, or at least in parallel with it.  In reality, regardless of the philosophical gloss superimposed over a particular worldview, it remain a self-evident fact that no one can leave the world whilst still living within it, regardless of where the conscious mind is placed in relation to perception, conception, and sensory objects.  The physical body can change the environment it inhabits, this is true, and existential environments can be transformed (for better or worse); all this is initiated through correct knowledge in the mind, which is correct knowledge of the world.  Marx states:

3) The materialistic doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that the educator must himself be educated.  This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.[18]  (Karl Marx: Theses on Feuerbach)

The Buddha states:

Thus, O monks, should you train yourselves:  Considering one’s own welfare, this is sufficient to strive untiringly.  Considering the welfare of others, this is sufficient to strive untiringly.  Considering the welfare of both, this is sufficient to strive untiringly.[19]  (The Buddha: Samyutta Nikaya, 12:12)

The irony is that for many, Buddhism in the West has become a vehicle for narcissism, selfishness, and a complete disregard for fellow humanity.  Buddhist converts are often middleclass, and comfortably well-off.  Buddhism is reincarnated into the West through the image of the modern bourgeois.  Whereas the Buddha lived amongst the filth and squalor of ancient India, the new middleclass Buddhists live amongst all the finery that their wealth and privileged social position can provide.  Theirs’ is the Buddhism of the relieving of pseudo-suffering experienced within the luxurious conditions of their socio-economic situation.  These conditions necessarily exclude all non-class members (either directly or indirectly), and can not be said to be in accordance with the Buddha’s original teaching.  Buddhism, as an ‘ism’, has become a commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace of sham spirituality.  Only those with disposable income can afford to buy into its inner teachings, a situation with all the mystique and potential threat of Freemasonry.  The concept of enlightenment becomes a substitute for a belief in heaven, as both are equally unattainable.  The Buddha’s teachings advocate the complete deconstruction of the personal sense of ‘I’ that defines an individual being.  Buddhism is not a vehicle for tranquil living within a situation of bourgeois economic tranquillity that only the rich can afford.  This type of tranquillity – which is entirely dependent upon economics – has nothing to do with Buddhist meditation, as implied by the advertising by meditation retreats held at country estates.  This corruption has spawned Buddhist monks in designer robes, driving sports cars from one venue to the next, charging extortionate amounts of money for what amounts to instructions about how to breathe.  Any one with the appropriate income can create the physical circumstances that generate peace and tranquillity.  Buddhist retreats in the West, by and large, simply rent out, (on a temporary basis), the momentary sharing of this economic success and perpetuate the lie that the pleasant outer circumstances are a product of meditation.  Therefore the lifestyle of the middleclass is not only economically superior to every one else, but the individual members of this class are also considered ‘spiritually’ superior.  This spiritual superiority is believed to manifest from within the mind and mysteriously manifest in the environment through the magic of karma.  This is pure idealism and no different to the notion that a god creates life.  Karma – which simply refers to cause and effect in Asian Buddhism – is expanded into religiosity and takes on the divine form of god’s will in the West.  The privilege attained by the middleclass through exploitation is ignored and replaced with yet another religiously inspired myth, one that affirms Judeo-Christian historicity, whilst simultaneously distorting Buddhism into god’s image.

This image conveys the prolific nature of religiously inspired myths.  These myths are powerful and all consuming.  The Judeo-Christian myth is particularly concerning as it is a religiosity that only pays lip-service to the teachings of its founder, and is designed solely for one purpose and one purpose alone; namely the ruthless acquisition of political (and retainment) of political power based upon the premise of the its own spiritual infallibility.  This infallibility, or so it thinks, is justified through the number of adherents and converts its enforced theology can gain.  The adherents and converts are just numbers for the church, which views their education as being of no concern.  Therefore the church must dominate masses whilst keeping them in a state of perpetual ignorance.  The Judeo-Christian myth offers a powerful fairytale for the masses to subscribe to, whilst removing any need for the evolution of consciousness and the attainment of progressive and advanced thought.  Belief in the Judeo-Christian myth is nothing more than a class ridden, psychological cul de sac, and Karl Marx is absolutely correct in his analysis and criticism of it.  The church serves a small but privileged middleclass which lives in luxury at the expense of the poor.  When Buddhism is interpreted through the cognitive filter of the Judeo-Christian myth, it must be fully exposed to the Marxist critique of the Judeo-Christian tradition, because that is exactly what it has become.  This type of Buddhism is nothing other than Christianity in disguise.  The same can be said for Asian Buddhism that has accrued religious elements over the centuries that are not part of the original Buddhist teachings.  Although not ‘Christian’ as such, nevertheless, many of the religious trappings emerge from exactly the same primitive human psychology as the Judeo-Christian tradition, and may be considered the same in structure.  Asian Buddhism in its non-religious form is deconstructive in nature and may be considered unique in the history of human philosophy.  The Buddha stated that as long as gods are believed to exist – they will appear to exist – but as soon as the delusion in the mind clears and the belief in gods is dissolved, gods will be known not to really exist, or to ever have existed.  Marx, generally speaking, is far more blunt – god does not exist – end of story.  For Westerners to apply Buddhism in its original intention, everything held dear must be jettisoned out of the mind.  Marx demands exactly the same.  Both Marx and Buddha acknowledge greed as the essence of human society and a great motivator to acquire material goods and favourable life circumstances.  Both also advocate the development of the mind to change physical circumstance through advanced thinking and progressive action in the environment.  Buddhism, like Marxism is not an alternative lifestyle choice, but rather a genuine method to change the mind and revolutionise the world.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.

[1] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, (1998), (Page 44).

[2] Husain, Iqbal, Editor, Karl Marx on India, Tulika Publishers, (2011), Pages 246-248.  Marx describes broadly (and briefly) the perceived history of India, mentioning Buddhists – which he spells as ‘Budhists’ – on page 247.  This book presents his articles about India written for the New York Tribune from 1852-1863 which nowhere else mentions the subject of Buddhism.

[3] McLennan, David, Karl Marx – a Biography, (1995), Page 25.

[4] ibid Page 291.

[5] Gabriel, Mary, Love and Capital, Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, Back Bay Books, (2011), Page 188 – explained on Page 625 as reference 62: ‘Liebknecht, Karl Marx, 81.’

[6] Thera, Nyanaponika, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, Rider, (1962), Page 154-155.  Pali Canon S 47,42

[7] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, (1998), (Page 42).

[8] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, (1998): (2) These on Feuerbach Page 569.

[9] Rahula, Walpola, What the Buddha Taught, Gordon Fraser, (1978), Page 24.

[10] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, (1998), Page 562.

[11] Ibid – Page 183.

[12] Kalinin, MI, On Communist Education, Foreign Languages Publishing House, (1953), Page 139.

[13] Tucker, Robert C, The Marx-Engels Reader, Norton, (1978), Page 172.

[14] Schumann, HW, The Historical Buddha, Motilal, (2004) – for a very good historical analysis the Buddha’s biography and his teachings.

[15] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, (1998), Pages 499-500.

[16] Luk, Charles, Ch’an and Zen Teaching First Series, Rider, (1987), Page 123.

[17] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology, Prometheus Books, (1998), Page 476.

[18] Ibid, Pages 569-570.

[19] Thera, Nyanaponika, The Vision of Dhamma, Rider, (1986), Page 242.

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