Thursday 23 September 2021

Remember 2013? My Final Judgement on Buddhism.

This was an email sent to a "professional Buddhist" layperson: someone who is neither a monk nor a scholar, but who has a lifetime of experience organizing events, lectures, etc., and doing fundraising for Buddhist institutions (that would often brutally disappoint her after she'd handed over the money).  She had known me in Toronto, before I departed to start my life in Asia.  This message was sent in 2013, when (as you'll see) I'd given up on Buddhism because I'd given up on Buddhists as people.


> You would know yourself how much closer to love-compassion and
> wisdom your are since you first encountered the teaching…

I disagree:

• Before I encountered Buddhism, I already had an excellent philosophy
that I had pieced together from sources as diverse as ancient Greece
and 19th century Germany.

• Buddhism did not provide me with a new philosophy: Buddhism provided
me with an ancient literature to study, and set of modern (political
and social) problems to study --and the opportunity to try to help with
the poverty of Laos, Cambodia, etc.

• There are fundamental things that the Buddha taught that I do not
believe in (and I do not lie to myself about this).  If someone is
walking in the mountains, and they see ghosts of dead people being
tortured by demons, I think the person is hallucinating.

Hallucinations are real.  I do not believe that ghosts and demons are
things that are real.  I do not believe that a brain can exist without
a stomach; I do not believe there are ghosts and demons floating
around that do not eat food, and yet can think, and see, and hear, and
talk, etc. etc., in a magical form.

Buddhist philosophy is interesting.  Ancient Greek philosophy is also interesting.

My experience with real Buddhists (who are alive today) has been
entirely negative --both with people and with institutions.

Would my experience have been equally negative if I had worked on
Ancient Greek philosophy?  I doubt it.

Modern Buddhists are afraid of what the ancient texts say (even
Richard Gombrich).  They can't study them, they can't debate them,
they can't discuss them openly.  That is very sad.  That is part of
the decline (and death) of Buddhism as a religion in our century.  The
same is not true of Ancient Greek.

Everywhere in the world, Buddhism is in decline:

• Buddhism is in decline in Thailand,

• Buddhism is in decline in Sri Lanka,

• Buddhism is in decline in Taiwan, Japan, Mainland China, Korea, etc. etc.

There was an illusion of a great Buddhist revival at the end of World
War Two (because many countries regained independence, etc.) but it
was only an illusion.  Buddhism, today, is really collapsing --both as
a religion and in every other sense of the word.

In my whole life, I have never met anyone who can actually have a
conversation about original Buddhist philosophical texts with me.  Not
even Leonard Priestley!  Not even Richard Gombrich!  When I offered
simple (but "new") observations about the 12 links, nobody in the
whole world (not even Bhikkhu Bodhi, etc.) could actually have a
conversation about it.

That's the death of Buddhism right there.

> Pali and Cree are extremely specialized fields.

Pali and Buddhist studies are SUPPOSEDLY important to millions of
people (who call themselves Buddhists).

I should be able to meet people who care about these subjects
everywhere --from Bangkok to Taipei-- that people call themselves

Similarly, Hebrew is important everywhere that people call themselves
Christians and Jews.

If you make a list of universities where I can get a serious education
in Hebrew, the list is very (very!) long --and it is not just in
Israel, but in Europe, America, and everywhere.

If you make a list of universities where I can get a serious education
in Pali or Buddhist studies… in my opinion (after many years of
research) the answer is NOWHERE.  That is a serious failure.

Cree is a very different question, that I think we are not debating
here, so I say no more about that subject now.

> You
> must have known that before you decided to study them.

Why don't you ask me questions, instead of making assertions like this?

You know I have written several articles about what my economic
situation was (in Asia) and what my hopes and expectations were.

Please read them (they are short, and not "academic" in tone).

[The other link has disappeared from the internet, but it can be found quoted here, if you search for my name, Eisel Mazard:]

> I understand you have new responsibility now to your family, something you
> didn't have in the early years of your study. I certainly think you can
> reconvene your study in an area that is more in demand by the general
> public, and getting well-paid for it.

I disagree.  I think my life is already over --and the indifference of
people in Buddhist institutions (big and small, even including
yourself) is a large part of what has destroyed my life.

[Note that I never once spoke in terms of the difficulty of "getting paid for it", because I genuinely did not think of the problem this way (and my motivations were not so mercenary!)… whereas she does view the issue in this way, first and foremost.]

> …and your work experience was
> also.

No, Chris, you're wrong: NOBODY looks at my C.V. and is impressed.

THE ONLY PEOPLE who could be impressed are people inside Buddhist
institutions --the same people who have slammed the door in my face
and refused to help me for so many years.  If a dedicated Buddhist
studies department looks at my C.V. and DOES NOT want to help me, who
do you think DOES want to help me?  In what discipline, or in what
type of work, is my C.V. impressive?  It is only impressive to
Buddhists --and Buddhism is a disaster.

I regret --utterly regret-- that I ever became involved with this religion.

The Buddhists I have known (as people) have made me ashamed that I
ever called myself a Buddhist.

> Maybe you want to help a Buddhist
> organization…

Why don't you try to name one Buddhist organization --ANYWHERE IN THE
WORLD-- that would employ me.  The answer is: there isn't one anywhere.

> You can blame "Buddhism" all you like, but it
> won't change anything.

No, Chris, you're wrong: I have changed things.  My absence changes
things.  The number of white men who can read Pali is amazingly close
to zero.  When I quit, it becomes even closer to zero.  Buddhism
desperately needs honest scholars.  By discarding me, it DOES change
things.  Ten good scholars --alive in the same century-- would make a
huge difference.  One scholar quitting does matter (because the total
number is so few).  My presence made a difference when I was present,
and my absence makes a difference now that I'm gone.

The number of white men with combined expertise in Pali, Lao,
Cambodian, the history, the politics, etc. etc. is really zero.

Buddhism lost an asset when it lost me; nobody cared, and (even now)
nobody cares.

I don't blame "Buddhism" for anything it is not guilty of; my
complaints are neither poorly-informed nor spurious.  Sadly, I am an
expert in the things I am reviling.