Saturday, 5 May 2012


The Buddhist tradition recognises:

a beginningless, not recently created, universe;
beginningless greed, hate and delusion, not a prehistoric fall by our first parents;
universal causation without divine interventions;
cause and effect in morality as well as in physics;
endless process and transience, even for gods;
philosophical analysis and understanding as integral to spiritual enquiry;
insights gained through meditation, not given in revelation;
our ability to create new, not just endure past, karma;
many human Buddhas, not one divine Saviour;
food for the poor as a better sacrifice than blood for the gods.

Karma is action. If action and consequence are cause and effect, then new karma not caused by previous actions contradicts universal causation. However, this problem is not unique to Buddhists. We experience both a causally ordered realm and our ability to act anew within it. We may favour determinism but must accept responsibility. Kant's antithesis between theoretical and practical reason paradoxically but accurately expresses our experience as active subjects, not passive objects. Causes affecting us are internally processed and their effects experienced as decisions or actions. Unrestrained and uncoerced actions are free. Thus, we are caused to act freely. Meditation discloses internal processes but first life must motivate us to meditate.

Greek Atomists postulated, and quantum physicists confirm, that some particles change position without causation but such microcosmic indeterminacy does not affect macrocosmic experience. Chaos, unpredictable major changes caused by initially minor events, precludes inflexibly mechanistic determinism.

The Buddha's experimental practice of asceticism and meditation and his philosophical analysis of existing religious concepts were motivated by compassion and spiritual concern. Consequently, he founded a meditative tradition that generated its own, Buddhist, philosophy. The premise of Christianity is neither compassion nor spirituality but a conviction of the believer's salvation. This conviction does not generate philosophical enquiry and can even be hostile to it. When Christians did philosophise about their beliefs, they had to adapt originally pagan Platonism and Aristotelianism. If Christianity had not been imported by missionaries, then imposed by the state, then myths, epics, philosophies, local rituals and mystery religions might have converged as a European equivalent of Hinduism.

The Marxist tradition recognises:

scientific cosmogony and cosmology;
an ascent from animality to humanity through collective labour;
universal causation, including economic determination of social institutions;
social determination of individual psychology;
endless process and transience with gods as myths;
philosophical, historical and economic analysis as integral to political practice;
theory guiding and tested by practice;
that men make their own history though not in circumstances of their own choosing;
the self-emancipation of the working class;
the dispossessed as agents of struggle, not passive recipients of hand outs.


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