For those of us suffering from a naive yet unshakable suspicion that Buddhism might have something to offer the world, there is an obligation to actually reality-test that suspicion. For some of us, a survey of the current state of whatever presents itself in popular, religious, or academic material as “Buddhism”, suggests not only that our suspicion is mistaken, but also that, in fact, Buddhism gleefully perpetuates the very aspects of the world that we would like to see changed.
If we wish to perform a reality-test, to see whether there’s a “there there”, there is only one way to actually do that: we must throw Buddhism into the flames of unsympathetic ideological critique and see what, if anything, survives.
Western Buddhist discourse is abysmal. It is trite, circular, cliche, and completely devoid of insight or ideological self-awareness. There are less than a handful of places where serious critical engagement with Buddhism is happening (or has happened). The most notable and extensive one is the site Speculative Non-Buddhism, which should be required reading for any Buddhist who wishes to be honest with themselves and their practice, and is willing to do so even at the potential cost of seriously disruptive disenchantment.
The writing on this blog is in very large part inspired by the work that has been done over at Speculative Non-Buddhism. While I’ve written for SNB, and very much hope and intend to continue doing so in the future—insofar as I can produce content I feel is worthy enough—I still see a use for having my own blog. The purpose of this is for me to feel free to ramble, speculate, or outright word vomit without the accountability that comes from writing for serious publication (which, despite its presumably modest audience relative to the whole of Western Buddhist discourse, I consider SNB to be).
In the interest of full disclosure, though I’ve spent a good deal of time and energy exploring and diving into Buddhist practices of various flavors, I am not a Buddhist scholar, teacher, or apologist. Nor am I interested in justifying any argument by way of trying to dig through scriptures and demonstrating that Buddhist theology, or “what the Buddha said”, supports it. (See: the principle of sufficient Buddhism, item #46 in the linked-to article).
I’m just some guy. A guy who had an unconventional childhood (I was raised in a fundamentalist, and deeply insular, Hasidic Jewish community), which resulted in an unconventional teenagehood, which has now culminated in an attempt to live a semi-conventional adulthood. While this blog was initially intended to serve the documentation of that project itself, much of the writing is likely to be informal speculation on topics surrounding meditation, x/non/Buddhism, and so-called “secular” spirituality more broadly. A big theme I hope to see running through the blog is the intention and effort to avoid committing the atman flinch—the tendency, both of Buddhists and other ideologues, to (often unknowlingly) presuppose the existence of an eternal soul or Self in their worldviews. It’s an incredibly seductive mistake that even very smart materialists often make. I make it all the time. But I want to make it less, and I intend to practice that by pointing it out where I see it, and hoping others will do the same to me.
The name “Failed Buddhist” is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and is meant to convey the disillusionment that comes from wanting to be a good Buddhist and then having one’s initial understanding of Buddhism challenged.
To be clear (not that it matters much), I’m not so sure I’d consider myself to be a Buddhist these days, though I deeply value and appreciate many of its teachings and practices, some of which have saved my life. My engagement with Buddhist thought and practice has played a significant role in my ongoing (and hopefully, never ending) development as a Homo Sapiens ape, both morally and intellectually. Part of that development was learning to let go of the raft.
Whether I’m a failure is still up for debate.
For anyone weird enough to want to talk to me, I can be reached through the contact page of this site, or—if you’re paranoid about sending your information through WordPress—directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m also on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing, though I’ve been spending much less time on it recently, much to the benefit of every mental faculty I care about.