Ch15-Border%20Crossings%20in%20Anthropology%20and%20Buddhist%20Philosophy May 12.doc

Ch15-Border%20Crossings%20in%20Anthropology%20and%20Buddhist%20Philosophy May 12.doc
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   Chapter Fifteen Border-Crossings in Anthropology and Buddhist Philosophy  Susantha GoonatilakeThis paper attempts   to locate anthropology historically as to its roots epistemologically, itscritique that occurred after decolonisation and its future, as once again, the centre of gravity of the world's economic axis shifts to Asia. The position taken in this paper is that of standpointtheory namely that all theoretical as well as empirical statements are ound within a socialframework and perspective. !itherto in the discussions on the social construction of knowledge, the canvas had either eenthe small groups within which knowledge is created "for example in the case of natural sciencesin the laoratory or in the case of pulishing, in the peer review group# or sometimes, the larger  perspective of a nation. !ere, $ extend the social framework to the larger civilisational context,noting that anthropology rose out of the %est&s search at the period of its ascendancy for knowledge on what it considered inferior societies. $ also consider the present gloal shift as alsohaving a civilisational aspect, namely that Asian civilisations would increasingly impinge on thedirections of knowledge including those in anthropology. ivilisational order crossings in anthropology from Asia would susume Asian su(ect matter as well as anthropology of )urope and the %est from the standpoint of various Asianepistemological, geographical and cultural locations. The various regions of Asia * although not y any means defining Asia&s total culture * have once had as a running thread a +uddhistcultural overlay through its history "the -ight of Asia in )dwin Arnold&s evocation#.+uddhism is taken here oth as a elief system as well as an epistemological*philosophicalsystem which has dealt with many of the prolems that %estern philosophy also has dealt with. This paper is divided into several sections/ "a# the standpoint of anthropology that was deliveredto the world at the time of decolonisation "# some of the key misinterpretations in theanthropology of Asian societies and Asian philosophical systems taking as an example +uddhistsocieties and +uddhism "c# the false facts and interpretations on +uddhist societies y 0ax%eer, a founder of social science "d# contemporary Sri -ankan anthropology as a paradigmaticexample of the persistence of )urocentricism "e# the present geopolitics of knowledge withrespect to the su(ects and o(ects of anthropology "f# the unsuccessful attempt to incorporateAsian conceptual elements in the form of a so*called onfucian )thic "g# the geopoliticallandscape of knowledge within the current shift to Asia "h# elements of philosophy in +uddhismthat could e used within an anthropological enterprise "i# social attitudes in +uddhism and "(# a+uddhist epistemology. (a) Standpoint of anthropology at the time of decolonisation 1  Anthropology was the study of )urope's 1ther. Some of these attempts go ack to fancifulstories of the ancient Greeks of hyrid humans with animal parts living in the )ast which wereclear adoptions from Sanskrit mythology 1 . -ater the 23 th  century, the $erian thrust across thegloe carried an $nquisition ideology sanctioned y the 4ope and so, a more aggressive andintolerant attitude appeared in descriing the heathen5 1ther. The aton of colonial controlmoved to industrialising +ritain in the 26 th  century as anthropology in its modern form egan toemerge. Although not that interested in the crusader ideology of the $erians, it was still acolonial view from the coloniser. +ritain was more interested in a gloal empire where industrial production occurred at the mother country while raw materials and markets existed in itscolonies. 7nderstanding of the Asian was now required in a more sophisticated manner, ut atthe same time, under an ideology of domination and superiority of the %est. Together withanthropology, now also arose the study of the civilisational heritage of Asia congealed in later years as $ndian or hinese studies.%ith the rise of $ndependence movements and the mortal weakening of the %est in %orld %ar $$, $ndependence was now wrested y the hitherto colonies. Shortly after $ndependence, there egan a foundational questioning of the role of anthropology. $t was now posited that there was aclose link etween colonialism and anthropology and that the latter was largely suffused y acolonial ideology. $t is useful for our purposes here to recount this deate in the 2638s and 2698s to put thegeopolitics of colonial anthropology in place. These discussions considered among others thoseanthropologists were the last frontier of exploitation of Africans: ;  the collapse of the colonialrelationship would challenge colonial assumptions in anthropology < , spoke of the suspicion of,and hostility to anthropology, y the colonised as legitimising colonialism = , that anthropologywas useful ideologically to colonialism and was generally concerned with particular 5primitiveaspects5 of the societies it studied > : anthropology research was used y the $A and the 7Sarmed forces against the very people that it studied 3 , as a su(ect that (ustified colonialdomination 9 , a child of %estern imperialism ? , anthropology's doulespeak, talking with aforked tongue as oth an adviser to and ideologue of the colonial system 6 , the su(ect shouldchange to one exposing the imperial system and helping those primitive 5 groups still around toresist 28 , that the anthropologist was a representative of the very white middle classes engaged inthe colonial enterprise and with the colonial relationship dissolving, anthropology would itself dissolve and a more o(ective field would emerge that would comine history and sociology 22 .This questioning also turned to the conceptual categories of anthropology for examples the keyconcept trie5 does not exist in African societies' views of themselves the ideology of the trie eing created y anthropologists and colonial authorities 2; . The anthropological elief thatkinship and ascription was a determining factor in 5primitive5 societies was to have no automaticcorrelation in reality it was more like an ideology in the same way that words like @democracy&are used in the %estern world 2< . Anthropology reflected the unequal power etween the %estand the non*%estern world 2= . 2  +y the 2698s, this extensive criticism egan to have its effect, and there were calls for a moreuniversal science and the su(ect was attempting to reform, to ecome more universal 2> , ecoming to view the su(ect from the standpoint of those eing studied 23 , who and calls for incorporating the perspective of the su(ect people eing studied 29 . (b) Key misinterpretations in the anthropology of Asian societies and Asian philosophicalsystems Anthropology in its roots was not only governed y colonial attitudes, ut also y the prevailingmacro social theorists who tried to explain the rise of industrialising )urope in comparison withentities elsewhere. %hen the entities were small like those of isolated trial or forest dwellingcommunities, the explanations were rather easy to make. +ut when the entities were larger civilisational ones with long histories who had at one time een ahead of )urope, theexplanations had then to ecome more elaorate.The two founding fathers of the most influential strands of social thought in the %est were arl0arx and 0ax %eer. Bor 0arx, one reason why Asian civilisations were ehind was ecausethey were allegedly governed y an Asiatic 0ode of 4roduction. %e know today that this wasnot true, certain parts of Asia having the requisites of some aspects of industrialism during partsof their history Cadd refD. The second theorist %eer used cultural factors to explain the rise of )urope and for the lagging ehind of Asia, and it is to him that we should now turn 2 .0ax %eer&s ma(or contriution discussed the emergence of capitalism through its associationwith the 4rotestant )thic and in turn, connections of other religions including +uddhism to theeconomy constitute an important part of his social theory. The limited empirical asis of %eer&s views of +uddhism can e seen in the ;= pages hedevotes to what he terms 'Ancient +uddhism& in his The Religions of India: the Sociology of  Hinduism and Buddhism 2? . !is sources are the sources. Apart from one  ,  all his sources are fromthe Sinhalese tradition in the 4ali language which was translated to )uropean languages in thelate 26 th  century and early ;8 th  century. (c) Webers !facts" and interpretations %eer mentions that the designated successor to the +uddha was Ananda his constant companionwhich any +uddhist child knows to e false 26  . %eer mentions, 4rince Siddhartha, the +uddha*to*e, leaving his palace to ecome an ascetic as the founding of +uddhism  ;8 . The +uddhistdoctrine its monastic 1rder, however, was estalished only after the attainment of the +uddha&s 1 The following details on Max Weber and Buddhism is taken from a joint paper by the present authorand Hema Goonalake a Buddhist s!holar tled " Max Weber#s $o!ial %onstru!on of Buddhism" &  )nlightenment. %eer mentions that @Eirvana& was 5doutlessly identified with asoluteannihilation5 ;2  directly contradicting the +uddha who stated that nirvana was not annihilation utinsight into the reality of things ;; . The +uddha also descried a fourfold category of what Eirvana is not including not annihilation ' (  %eer further asserts that +uddhism seeks theeverlasting tranquility of deathF@satiety& with @death& ;< , again a complete misunderstanding of +uddhist asics ;= . +uddhism %eer states knows of no consistent concept of 5conscience and cannot know it ecause of the @karma& doctrine.5 ;>  $n +uddhism, the concept closest to conscience in thehristian sense includes the intention, as well as, the consequence of an action a moresophisticated level than hristianity&s ommandments ;3 . %eer claims that +uddhism lacked 5amethodical lay morality5 ;9  ignoring the fact that +uddhism was not restricted to monks utincluded laypersons with several discourses y the +uddha, specifically dealing with laymorality. Sila  is referred to y %eer as the ethic of non*action ;?  ut, every  sila  has negative and positive aspects, actions to e avoided and actions to e pursued 29 . %eer says that the +uddhist monastic community 5lacked all firm organiation5 <8 . The +uddhistmonastic community, however, is one of the oldest formal organisations. $ts set of formal anddetailed rules the Vinaya  constitutes one of the three parts of the +uddhist cannon, and governsactivities of individuals and communities, with a formal hierarchy in which training wascompulsory and a system of seniority*ased promotions . Ehere were also different areas of specialiation among monks. The monks' order thus had many characteristics that %eer sawin his ideal types that define a ureaucratic organisation. %eer says whether propaganda and teaching was srcinally regarded as a peculiar 5duty for themonks may remain an open question, though it is rather improale <2 , (ust the opposite of historical facts. The +uddha&s extorted his first sixty monks to Go forth monks for the good of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good... -et not two go y one way. 4reach 10onks the dhamma , oth in the spirit and in the letter5 <; . 1ne of the greatest misunderstandings that %eer wrought was that +uddhism was an unworldlyreligion, a 5specifically unpolitical and an anti*political status religion. << . The +uddha, althoughhe discouraged the involvement of the monks in kingly sciences however, on several occasionsspoke on political and socio*economic affairs and also gave instructions to kings to govern properly. The +uddha admonished that even a 7niversal 0onarch who ruled the entire earth should dounder the guidance and the authority of the dhamma 34 . The ideal +uddhist ruler maintains political staility and ensures amongst others, rights such as the right to life and to property. The+uddha maintained that social in(ustices, erosion of moral values, divisions and wars rise frommaldistriution of goods <> . The est way to end turmoil and disunity and ensure peace and prosperity in a country the +uddha said is y developing the economy through provision of full '  employment <3 . )lsewhere, he says that when the ruler follows certain prescriptions, oth theruled and the rulers could e happy 5the king&s revenue will go up: the country will e quiet andat peace, and the populace will e pleased with one another and happy, dancing their children intheir arms, will dwell with open doors5 <9 . The +uddha had defined positions on social and political life which he articulated. %eer asserts that there is no ethical position in +uddhism against the use of luxuries <?  , ignoringthat the re(ection of a luxurious life is a component of the +uddhist way of life, part of the twoextremes to e avoided * excessive self*indulgence and self*mortification. The 0iddle 4ath wasthe only path to lieration. Burther constructing +uddhism as otherworldly, %eer claims that 5+uddhism has no tie withany sort of social movement... had estalished no @social*political goal&5 <6  . The +uddha was ama(or critic of the slave and caste systems and introduced new social and political arguments =8 speaking forcefully against the existing system with its inequalities and caste discrimination. )valuating %eer's knowledge of +uddhism there are twelve significant empirical errors of avery asic kind in the (ust ;= pages of %eer&s knowledge of +uddhism in this text "errors in key iographical data of the +uddha, key tenets of the doctrine and of its relation to society#. Thesecondary sources that %eer used do not make these errors and are generally sympathetic to+uddhism. 0ax %eer was writing on +uddhism and +uddhist societies in a far away country. +ut recently,there has een an entire school in anthropology on one predominantly +uddhist society namelySinhalese +uddhist society that has distorted social reality far more than any %eer could have. (d) Sri #an$an Anthropology Studies  wereSri -ankan studies took an 5anthropology turn5 over a generation ago, and these studies * largely y foreigners and expatriates and predominantly on Sinhalese +uddhists * are the dominantsocial science discourse pulished on Sri -anka. $n %estern scholarly quarters, this literaturereplaced the predominant place hitherto taken in the 26 th  and ;8 th  century y the study of 4ali andSinhalese texts on +uddhism and +uddhist societies. The factual, theoretical and methodological shortcomings of these studies are not difficult totrace as $ have done in a ook and a series of articles =2 . -et me riefly recount their key errors,taking a few of the ma(or writers in the genre.Gananath 1eyesekera of Sinhalese origin ut working in the %est invented a so*called4rotestant +uddhism to explain current Sinhalese society: 54rotestant5 for 1eyesekera was oth protest and of imitating 4rotestantism =; . This theme of 4rotestant +uddhism has led to a chainof citations in the international literature legitimiing its validity "thus +ond 26??, +row 2663, )
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