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Illusory Flowers In An Empty Sky


Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Slavoj Zizek Is Right About Buddhists, Wrong About Buddhism

In his book Violence, Slavoj Zizek writes of how belief systems, political or religious, negate
empathy for any person or group identified as other:

It begins to become clear that every ethics may well have to rely on just this gesture of fetishist
disavowal. Even the apparently obvious exception, the Buddhist ethic of solidarity with every
living being, falls into this picture. After all, what Buddhism offers as a solution is a
universalized indifference - a learning of how to withdraw from too much empathy. This is why
Buddhism can so often turn into the very opposite of universal compassion: the advocacy of a
ruthless military attitude, which is what the fate of Zen Buddhism aptly demonstrates.

This is true of many - perhaps most - people who identify as Buddhist, but not true of the ethic
and practice itself.  The awakened heart doesn't learn "to withdraw from too much empathy," but
instead feels undiscriminating empathy without egoic attachment - which is to say, without
taking it personally. Empathy taken personally is not empathy at all, but attachment to self-
centered preference disguised as compassion. Authentic empathy and action are free from the
constraints of dogma.

Posted by Dogo Barry Graham at 1:16 PM


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Labels: books, buddhism, compassion, slavoj zizek, violence, zen

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"The awesome Barry Graham" - American Book Review

Dogo Barry Graham


Author, journalist and Zen teacher. Native of Glasgow, Scotland, now based in Phoenix, Arizona.
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