Romanticism and Buddhism


Mark Lussier | Louise Economides | Timothy Morton | John Rudy | Dennis McCort | Norman Dubie

Mark Lussier, "Enlightenment West and East, or An Introduction to Romanticism and Buddhism"

Buddhism emerged into European consciousness during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a temporal period long associated with Romanticism. The historical conditions leading to this emergence were rather complex, being bound up with both colonialism and orientalism, and the process was quite gradual, actually unfolding across almost two hundred years of encounters and engagements. This emergence was futher complicated by the inability of those at the vanguard of early contact to fully distinguish "Buddhism" from "Hinduism," since the body of thought and practice now termed "Buddhism" had been virtually eradicated from its homeland in northern India and since the textual body of the dharma was dispersed across several languages, primarily Pali, Sanskrit, and Tibetan, but also embedded in several Chinese dialects as well. However, once British colonial authority began to move further north into the transhimalayan regions of Nepal and Tibet, and once the development of linguistic oprientalism was sufficiently well-developed to recognize the importance of the religion of the Buddha, the necessary elements of intellectual information were in place to assure the full flowering of the dharma into western consciousness during the last half of the nineteenth century.

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Louise Economides, "Blake, Heidegger, Buddhism and Deep Ecology"

This article engages with debates regarding Deep Ecology, especially the charge that this branch of environmental philosophy constitutes a dangerously Romantic form of eco-fascism. This study makes a case for the necessity of Deep Ecology's challenge to anthropocentric humanism, while acknowledging the risks of this enterprise from an historical vantage point. Parallels between Deep Ecology and Buddhism are examined in order to illuminate non-occidental sources of thought which influence the DEA (Deep Ecological Approach). Finally, Deep Ecology's endebtedness to Romanticism—specifically to William Blake and Martin Heidegger's phenomenology of poiesis—is also acknowledged, but in a manner that resists a reductive interpretation of what is at stake in these discourses.

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Timothy Morton, "Hegel on Buddhism"

Hegel derived his understanding of Buddhism from a particular sect of Tibetan Buddhism which emphasizes the notion of emptiness. This sect had recently gained political power in Tibet to the exclusion of other legitimate views of the Dharma. This essay demonstrates the signficance of Hegel's misprision of Buddhism for his thought and for Western philosophy in general. In particular, Hegel radically misreads Buddhist meditation as an immersion in "self" ("Insichsein"), and construes Buddhism as a dangerous feminine principle, either too sexual or strangely asexual or autoerotic (as the current Pope has also stated). Using a combination of Buddhist scholarship and philosophy and deconstruction (ways of analyzing that go together quite well), I discover a fatal and phobic fascination with Buddhism in Hegel's thought, a fascination which leads him to develop the idea of "nothingness." "Nothingness" becomes an evocative term which Western philosphy after Hegel will try to include, exclude and police in numerous ways. Most recently, the systematic and shocking (deliberate?) misunderstandings of Buddhism by Slavoj Zizek have been based on this idea of nothingness. "Hegel on Buddhism" shows how this idea is nothing more than a paper tiger, a construct which tells us more about Western philosophy than it does about Buddhism.

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John Rudy, "Shelley's Golden Wind: Zen Harmonics in A Defence of Poetry and "Ode to the West Wind"

Early in his Defence of Poetry, Shelley undertakes to define art in relation to a "principle" of "harmony" that "acts otherwise than in the lyre," the Aeolian image he deploys to explicate his thesis that poetry is "the expression of the Imagination" and that it is "connate with the origin of man." This principle of harmony undermines all notions of perspective in art, all presumptions of there being anything like a separate poetic self or a separate cosmic force creative in itself and inaugural of human productivity. The aesthetic base of this harmony, if it can be said to have a base at all, is meditative unfolding rather than hermeneutic perception. Art for Shelley is a journey from selfhood (a relational mode of subject-object dissociation) to full personhood (an opening process aligned with interdependent origination). The method of this journey is not self-affirmation or self-projection, as the term "expression of the Imagination" may imply, but self-emptying exposure to a prior Buddhistic oneness with all beings, an "origin" dislocated in time and space yet forever emergent in the moment and accessible through poetry as a mode of spiritual practice. This article explores the theoretical features, the practical functions, and the critical implications of this "origin" through a Zen Buddhist reading of A Defence of Poetry and "Ode to the West Wind."

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Dennis McCort, "Kafka and the Coincidence of Opposites"

This study traces the age-old mystical idea of the coincidence of opposites through Kafka's short fiction as well as through his letters and diaries. Its aim is to demonstrate convincingly that Kafka was first and foremost a spiritual writer who composed innumerable variations on the paradox of the One and/in the many in order to spark in his reader insight into the mystery of Being. Along the way, I allude occasionally to the kindred paradoxical wisdom and dark humor of Zen to illuminate Kafka's parables. All in all, the essay constitutes a kind of cautionary argument against current cultural-constructivist interpretations that mean to undermine the view of Kafka's literary sensibility as essentially spiritual.

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Norman Dubie, "Tantric Master, Lord Marpa, Twice Dreamt of the Prophet,
William Blake

This poem, bringing together the two streams of Romanticism and Buddhism, was written at the request of the editor to be included with this volume. It reflects the poet's long-term engagement with Buddhist philosophy, and his practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

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