[Buddha-l] angels

Gad Horowitz horowitz at chass.utoronto.ca
Fri May 27 10:42:08 MDT 2005

I should explain what triggered my Levinasian intervention into Buddhism.
Robert Magliola wrote a book in 1997 called On Deconstructing Life Worlds,in
which he describes how through deep meditation on the devoidness of all
happenings,one can learn how to let "the spectacle of the world go on
without ME,letting go,letting be...observing the rising and cessation of all
things". He refuses to lay claim "to absolute or universalized
truth...except for one conviction,which I insist is binding on all:the
obligation to loving kindness" And I wondered: whence the exception? I wrote
in my essay "Emmanuel, Robert": "Magliola's Buddhism-like Buddhism in
general-does not...account for the ETHICALLY OBLIGATORY quality of the
Boddhisattva vow" Enter Levinas.  Ethical obligation is the prior condition
even of Sakyamuni's enlightenment. The Bodhi tree would also be Jacob's
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dan Lusthaus" <dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu>
To: "Buddhist discussion forum" <buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com>
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2005 3:17 PM
Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] angels

> Richard N.,
> > Levinas's own metaphysical
> > thought (or principled--if tortuously complex--attempt to refuse the
> > metaphysical in favor of the ethical) doesn't fit very comfortably
> > with a metaphysics in which things, such as they are, are dependently
> > arisen -- a view with which most Buddhists are, I'd imagine, pretty
> > comfortable.
> The Levinasian response would be, since ethics is primary to metaphysics,
> that relation of dependence is better understood as an ethical dependence
> (i.e., my responsibility to the face of the other) than as a metaphysical
> one -- as indeed Mahayana Buddhism seems to not only allow but insist
> since the relation of a bodhisattva to other beings is not primarily one
> metaphysical dependence, but a dependence grounded in compassion. The
> greater the compassion (the sense of responsibility one has to the face of
> the other), the "higher" a bodhisattva one is. Merely understanding the
> logic of the metaphysics doesn't get one past the first bodhisattva stage.
> Even more significant, the vow to help all sentient beings *precedes* the
> intellectual unraveling of whatever metaphysics or counter-metaphysics one
> engages in during the stages. So a bodhisattva is a bodhisattva precisely
> because s/he is sandwiched between ethical commitments of compassion,
> inform everything one does in between.
> So perhaps Levinas is not so alien to Buddhism after all.
> Dan Lusthaus
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