I like his admission that “I have never been – nor [do] I plan to be—a practicing Buddhist or a ‘believer’ of any sort, but the encounter with Nāgārjuna’s philosophy was probably the most exciting intellectual encounter of my career.”
There is something wildly exciting about reading Nagarjuna, even if it may be confusing if not accompanied by a reliable guide (and even if accompanied). My own understanding of Nagarjuna comes largely filtered through his more recent anglophone translators and interpreters: Garfield, Westerhoff, and others, and I’m sure Fabio knows his Nagarjuna better than I do. But I wonder if he sells himself short by shying away from being a “‘believer’ of any sort.” I know what he means here, but I would want to raise Deleuze’s “belief in this world” as an option into an otherwise too staid picture of ‘belief.’
Toward the end of his post, Fabio writes:
“Once we change the main existential concerns (the 4 Noble Truths) and replace them with a Greek vocabulary (theoria, eudaimonia, phronesis…) we could ask: was it really any different with western metaphysics? (and I do not only refer to the Ancient/Medieval world: to what extent did Whitehead have pressing soteriological concerns? Or Heidegger for that matter…)”
It’s a great question, and I think it would help if we thought of this soteriological dimension — philosophy as salvation — not in the standard sense of a salvation or liberation from the world (which popular renditions of Buddhism reiterate all too often) but in the sense of a moral commitment toward the world, a salvation of moments by directing them toward their future and not toward a mere dispersion into nothingness. This is the Deleuzian commitment to the world, and to the becoming of every moment, which is rooted in the understanding that it is the only world (and the only moment, for the moment); we’ve just sold it short by not perceiving it adequately. That sounds rather un-Buddhist, but so be it…
Alternatively, it’s not philosophy itself that is salvific, but rather philosophy is a tool toward a practice that is salvific, a practice that transforms, and that does this by transforming our perception of the world. This is where Buddhism has developed some of the sharpest diamond-vajra-sceptre-tools available in the world’s philosophical-soteriological toolbox.
“The fact that ultimately phenomena are devoid of self, is not a reason for negating the world. On the contrary, pratītyasamutpāda, the law of co-dependant origination that regulates it, is possible because of the (conventional) existence of essenceless phenomena. The point here is that this coherence is a purely conventional one: the only possible frame of reference is one that recognizes the dynamic and unstable nature of things. Things, selfhood and words can acquire any meaning at all only if considered as a part of a conventionally existent, groundless, essenceless whole. Every effect refers back—and owes its (conventional) existence—to the totality of its conditions. There is no ultimate reality, no identifiable self-present ego, no absolute word. What exists (conventionally) is what is present, what is present is what is conditioned. There is no possibility to freeze-frame this flow to identify any singularity. Any attempt in this direction is misleading.”
I recommend reading the whole post. I’m off to Spain in a few days and will probably not be able to participate much if this were to flare up into a OO-Buddhist “event” (along the lines of the Derrida “wars” and process-relation debates, etc.). But I suspect it won’t, since Buddhist philosophy just isn’t as well known to the philosoblogosphere. But it should be, and I’m glad to see a few inroads being made here.