[Buddha-l] buddhisness

Scott A. Mitchell buddhaworld at gmail.com
Tue Apr 12 16:17:35 MDT 2011

Hello all,

The phrase "long-time listener, first-time caller" jumps to mind, so, here goes.

I've greatly enjoyed the discussion so far on this issue as it's one I think about not too infrequently. I'd like to point our collective attention to the work of Jeremy Carrette and Richard King in their book "Selling Spirituality" for a critique of religion-as-commodity. I think they have some good points (can't say I agree with everything, but that's sort of always true, no?), one of which is the following: is it possible for a commodity within the capitalist system to actually critique the system of which it is a part? That is, if Buddhism becomes merely a commodity within the capitalist marketplace, will it be able to effectively critique capitalism? I'm personally on the fence on that one -- leaving aside the other question of whether or not one necessarily needs to critique the capitalist enterprise in the first place. But I think this points to the misgivings Franz and Joanna express.

At any rate. Thanks for the discussion.



Scott A. Mitchell
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Editorial Committee, Pacific World
BIE Program Coordinator

On Apr 12, 2011, at 1:44 PM, Timothy Smith wrote:

> Franz wrote
>> But Joanna warned,
>>> I always viewed this trend as a corruption of Buddhist practice
>>> and teachings, another example of how capitalisim commodifies
>>> anything, and tries to commodify everything.
>> I agree with this as well. When Buddhist practices reshape business  
>> practices I am sanguine. But when business practices reshape Buddhist  
>> practices I am intensely disturbed. This is why I come down so hard on  
>> (the now disgraced) Genpo Roshi's Big Mind enterprise, especially in  
>> its 5-5-50 guise. That is a example of, at least to me, blatant  
>> commodification of Buddhism, exactly what Joanna warns against. When  
>> Buddhism is delivered to the people via the mechanisms of  
>> commodification, it loses its ability to critique the structures of  
>> capitalism. Very unskillful.
> There are, at the very least, a number of areas where the buddhist concerns
> with desire/aversion/ignorance are at odds with what I call 'unfettered capitalism'.
> Having said that, capitalism, like any other 'ism' is a human enterprise and can
> benefit from a wise and reflective critique of its methods, beliefs and outcomes.
> I think this is where building awareness comes in.  Its the first step in understanding
> how the excesses of this (or any system) have negative consequences whether they
> be individual, organizational or systemic in character.  Gotta start somewhere. 
>> But, to be candid, I've had my share of critics at author events  
>> taking me to task for what they see as my own contribution to  
>> commodifying the Buddhadharma. They are not entirely wrong.
>> Franz
> Damned if you do, damned if you don't eh Franz....LOL.  BTW, I'd love to see your book,
> can you point me toward it?
> Tks,
> Tim
> Timothy Smith
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