[Buddha-l] Whatever happened to buddha-l?

Richard Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Thu Jun 9 14:50:03 MDT 2011

On 08-06-11 21:16, Gad Horowitz wrote:

> How American!   Poor doggie...

Ah! I see you have sided with the German dominatrix who tried without success to train us to overpower our four-kilogram dog. Yes, our American Quaker sensibilities prevailed, and we chose to treat our puppy as a friend. How American, indeed! The poor pup may indeed be traumatized by our cruel and unusual egalitarianism. She probably craves a pack leader, and we will supply her none. Instead we will sit around in a circle, maintaining silence until the spirit moves one of us to speak. Or bark.

In 1967, when I decided I could no longer bear to live in a country that dropped napalm and agent orange on people whose only crime was wanting not to be colonized by Catholics and capitalists, I somehow found myself in a Quaker community in the Kootenay Valley in British Columbia. Everyone in the settlement was a Quaker. Everything was "owned" communally, so I guess you could say they were also communists. When there was some practical matter to take care of, a meeting would be held. People would speak about it. A decision would be made. No one ever made a motion, and no votes were taken. 

A young woman who was new to the whole thing asked, "Who is the leader here? Who is the authority who approves decisions?" She was told there is no leader and that the whole community approves decisions through discussion. Then she wanted to know who decided which of the things that were said in discussion were valuable and which should be discarded, and she was told that when people say valuable things, others listen. If someone says something that is not practical or relevant, it usually becomes obvious to everyone, even to the person who said it, that it is not a valuable idea at this time, and the discussion moves on. Being new to the process myself, my main question was "Why doesn't the whole world act like this?" Now, 44 years later, I still ask the same question, albeit with a bit more urgency now.

The hierarchical domination-submission culture of bullying prevails in just about every domain of human society. One gets used to it, sort of, even if one does not like it. But there are two domains in which that brutal culture most deeply disappoints me: the academic world and the world of religion. I would love to see an academic setting someday in which there were no academic ranks, no merit increases, no promotions, no tenure, no departmental chairs, no deans and none of the pretentious posturing and bullying that in academic culture as it now exists sets the tone for everything and makes honest inquiry and frank expression all but impossible. And I would love to see a Buddhist organization that has the social culture of the Quakers in the Kootenay valley, rather than a culture based on the behavior of gorillas (or dogs). But I'm watching my breath, not holding it.

It's good to see that buddha-l has remained the same during my long absence. Someone brings up the topic of dogs, and everyone else immediately starts talking about cats and mice. Some things never change. So I guess the Buddha was wrong after all.

Buddha-l was founded in the autumn of 1991. I'm thinking we should celebrate its 20th anniversary this coming October by sending it to parinirvāṇa, or making it a suburb of Fecesbook. My guess is that the world would be no different without it. But that is not my decision to make. It's just an opinion based on no evidence or reasoning whatsoever.

an academic of no rank

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