Good critiques of Buddhism?
January 3, 2017 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend good critiques of Buddhism as a religion, particularly in print form? (There are some online, but I am looking for something more comprehensive and deeper than a short-form article.)
posted by Grinder to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Which Buddhism? There are a number of different theologies out there...
posted by My Dad at 1:10 PM on January 3, 2017

"Critique" and "Buddhism" are almost unusably broad terms. For example, Bernard Faure has a solid body of work applying the tools of critical and gender theory to Zen/Chan buddhist traditions.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:22 PM on January 3, 2017

To flesh out my previous answer: are you looking specifically for critiques of Buddhist practices in the contemporary northern, western hemisphere? Buddhist practices in another place or time? Or of Buddhist philosophy? Buddhist soteriology? If so, which? There are many, many tributaries. For any critical analysis worth consideration, you'll likely need to narrow your scope.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:01 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

This book is a pretty interesting compare and contrast from an Orthodox Jewish point of view.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:06 PM on January 3, 2017

I've also just been reading Lin Yutang "The Importance of Living" and the early chapters have some nice observations about Buddhism vs Daoism vs Confucianism in China (Lin was a lapsed Christian at that point).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:09 PM on January 3, 2017

I am looking for writing on aspects of Buddhist thinking that have negative impacts on individuals and societies, such as its treatment of women; contradictory or confused doctrine; and commentary on how Buddhism has been mis-communicated and mis-applied in contemporary Western society. I am interested in all types of Buddhism, but (as the vague question implies) don't have a detailed grounding in the differences, so more beginner-friendly reading would be preferable.
posted by Grinder at 2:36 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Shoes Outside a the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center by Michael Downing closely examines the arrival of Zen Buddhism in the US. It explores the transmission of authority from one spiritual teacher to another as well as the excesses possible when a religion is transplanted without its social context. Very well-written, and the author is a practicing Catholic who understands the mysteries of faith while still recognizing the grievous errors that can be caused by clerical power.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:41 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in Prisoners of Shangri-La. I don't really agree with all of Lopez' conclusions, and some of his ideas are dated, but it's interesting.
posted by selfnoise at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2017

Buddhism is very different in Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Tibet, for example. It's like the difference between the Society of Friends and the Roman Catholic Church. My suggestion is to pick one country or culture, and start from there.
posted by My Dad at 6:19 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Actually, as mentioned above, taking a look at the San Francisco Zen Center is also a good place to start. While Zen is not representative of all Buddhist practice, either in Japan or elsewhere, the case of the SF Zen Center is a really interesting one: the so-called "emperor structure", where the abbot, who transmits the knowledge of the patriarch, is all-powerful, and how that power can be abused. It's also interesting in that the American approach to Zen is a lot different than the Japanese approach. Americans, I have been told by a senior Zen practitioner, are encouraged to hold opinions, as well as likes and dislikes. So American approach to Zen Buddhism (and Zen, as transmitted from Japan, is just one denomination, and is very different from, say, Jodo Shin in America) is also worth exploring.
posted by My Dad at 6:23 PM on January 3, 2017

You might be interested in David Chapman's work. He has a large body of writing spread over several websites, but if you take a look at the linked page you should be able to orient yourself. The links in the header to 'Buddhist ethics' and 'Consensus Buddhism' are probably good starting points for you.
posted by daisyk at 6:50 AM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

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