[Buddha-l] Jayarava's raves on self and myself

JKirkpatrick jkirk at spro.net
Sat Sep 5 09:13:43 MDT 2009

It's always fun to see how close one's own ideas are to those of
someone who specialises in the same ideas, in this case Mr
Jayarava. In his essay on self, he emphasises the role of
pleasure-seeking as pseudo-antidote to the alienation of life in
contemporary industrial societies. I'd agree with most of his
essay, with one minor consideration:
I wonder if the pleasure principle isn't the rationale for a
maybe less conscious motivation, distraction (from what? from the
alienation and dukkha of everyday life).  

Consumerism --our major economic mode today--I'd say is based on
the distraction principle, which serves the very economic system
that causes it, in a neatly circular feedback. I find it curious
that so few people seem able to catch on to what's really going
on, as they venture forth to blow more bread on the latest music
CDs and fashions, or remain glued for hours to the telly (even
dining off trays in front of TV programs) or listening to their
CD players, ipods, texting and so on. The latter has led to
increased road accidents, as auto drivers insist on driving while
talking on their cell phones or texting. 
I speak from personal experience, as my compact car's right front
end was simply smashed by some dumb broad (yes I said it) in a
gigantic land cruiser, who was yapping on her cell phone as she
illegally cut through a parking lot in order to beat a red light,
hitting me as I was just entering the lot. She literally did not
see me until a second before collision, even though the way was
clear for at least 100 yards for her to see my car! Distraction,
not pleasure, strikes me as the name of the game. 

And as some of my posts to this list have said before, I
completely agree with Jayarava's essay on "myself vs
identification with others". He quotes Sangharakshita on
identification with the other as the basis for true compassion --
I'd quote Kenneth Burke. Compassion is not possible without
identification: as the old adage says, "there, but for the grace
of god, go I." It's a quaint way of saying the same thing.
Burke's essays on the rhetoric of motives (he doesn't use the
adage, I just happen to find it useful) feature identification in
many interesting ways. He wasn't a Buddhist, but he *was*
brilliant.  Two books by Burke I'd highly recommend to Buddhists
interested in ideas: A Rhetoric of Motives (1962; 1969); and The
Rhetoric of Religion : Studies in Logology (1961, 1970).

Cheers, Joanna

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