About this Blog
An alternative, more specfic strapline to this blog might have been ‘A Buddhist inspired critique of neoliberal society’ – I say more specific because I think the mission of ‘committed sociology’ encompasses such a critique.
I’ve been into Buddhism for more than 20 years now, and I honestly believe that the Buddha was really onto something REALLY IMPORTANT! – I really think he got the ‘meaning of life’ – and he actually managed to translate his enlightened views into a formula that, if reflected and acted on, can help people to be genuinly happy.
The key to happiness in Buddhism is to follow something called the noble eightfold path – and this essentially boils down to the following eight principles – this isn’t a full interpretation of what’s involved in following Buddhism but these are some of its core principles – (the tenets as named in the path are in brackets)
- Knowing yourself and your ‘true nature’ (‘right understanding’)
- Developing compassion (‘right thought’)
- Residing in the truth (‘right speech’)
- Renouncing material goods (‘right action’ – NB there is a lot more to this, but this is key!)
- Doing worthwhile and ethical work (‘right livelihood’)
- Leading a disciplined, routine life (‘right effort’)
- Being aware of what you are doing and not being carried away by passionate emotions (‘right concentration’)
- Meditating (‘right meditation’)
The Buddhist view of happiness compared to the Western view of happiness
It is striking how the means whereby so many of us are encouraged to achieve happiness in the West is the complete antithesis of how to achieve happiness (defined more accurately as peace of mind) in Buddhism – to contrast to the 8 fold path above – it is not unusual to see people suggesting that one does any number of the following to be happy -
- Constructing and expressing your self – i.e. your self-identity – through consuming products, constructing a narrative of the self on Facebook, and our obsession with biography and celebrity all suggests we see this as crucial to happiness
- Putting yourself, or at least your family first and acting out of self-interest – rather than devoting yourself to the service of others (ok so a lot of people give to charity, but this is after one’s sorted oneself out)
- Acting/ concealing aspects of the truth or just downright lying – ok I’ll admit that lying is generally frowned upon, but our obsession with privacy maybe suggests we like to conceal the fullness of ourselves from the world – and isn’t acting out social roles really just lying about who we really rather than being fully open and honest?
- Accumulating stuff and attaching yourself to particular people and values – this is obvious – and it includes our obsession with romantic love and children.
- Doing a job primarily for the money rather than the social good – ok once again there are plenty of people who choose to do socially useful jobs, but many who see work as just a means to an end.
- Being free to pick and choose, being freedom from routine, trying new things, striving to constantly reinvent yourself – this speaks for itself
- When at work – switching off – again – this should ring true with many
- Always doing rather than sitting still – one of my pet hates – we tend to think the happiest people are the busiest – not necessarily true.
As to the Neoliberalism angle – I also believe that all of the above flawed happiness strategies become more likely (without being exlusive to) within nation states that put into practice neoliberal policies, because such policies call upon us to be more selfish and less caring, simply as a means to get by.
As this blog develops, it will become increasingly dedicated to critiquing, from a Buddhist perspective, what I see as the mistaken strategies for happiness which we adopt in the west.
Oh, and there may be the odd piece of sociology for A level students thrown in too!