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By David R. Loy

A Buddhist interpretation of Western heritage that indicates civilization formed through the self's wish for groundedness.

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Extra info for A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack

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Likely to be presented by persons in a precariously independent, interstitial—or at least exposed and somewhat solitary—position in society . . (Humphreys 92, 112) In India a two-stage process created these conditions. , Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. In Israel the “interstitial” Hebrew prophets, especially Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, developed the ethical monotheism established in the Mosaic covenant by fulminating against the impious people and their rulers.

22 A Buddhist History of the West This point may be made from the other side: the breakdown of hierarchies and lineages allows for the development of more autonomous, self-directed individuals, but it also allows for the creation of the masses. That brings out another disturbing aspect of this paradox: the eagerness with which the plebs have repeatedly embraced their autocratic rulers. ” We are not born free—what freedom we have is the result of complex historical conditions—but Dostoyevsky’s arrow is otherwise right on target: if (as the sense-ofself ’s sense-of-lack implies) freedom makes us anxious, the more free we are the more anxious we will be, and the greater our need to resolve that anxiety one way or another—usually by surrendering it to some father protector or other authority figure.

As many have emphasized, what we need today is not a Declaration of Independence but a Declaration of Interdependence that tempers our understanding of freedom by emphasizing that “complete” freedom is a delusion too dangerous to tolerate anymore. , from our need for greater freedom, which is another way of saying that what we need today is responsibility. None of this denies the importance of freedom, any more than the Buddhist critique of self can be used to rationalize an Egyptian-like hierarchy of clientages.

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