“Nazi Buddhists: An Introduction to the Spiritual Right”
Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job. —Somerset Maugham [times have changed though, so that most hypocrites can be wildly inconsistent without, at least, being called out by their own side]
When people talk, they lay lines on each other, do a lot of role playing, sidestep, shilly-shally and engage in all manner of vagueness and innuendo. We do this and expect others to do it, yet at the same time we profess to long for the plain truth, for people to say what they mean, simple as that. Such hypocrisy is a human universal. —Steven Pinker
Not long ago my attention was directed to a peculiar little essay on Substack entitled, as this one is, “Nazi Buddhists: An Introduction to the Spiritual Right.” The first illustration was an old photo of my good friend Brian Ruhe, back when he was sporting the hairstyle and mustache of possibly the most maligned man in modern history. The author is Harry Shukman, whose Twitter page is indicative of his general orientation: most of his latest tweets, at the time I looked at his page, were vigorously defending Drag Queen Story Time for small children, or rather bashing those who oppose the very idea of it. He appears to be a gay Englishperson whose Twitter feed, at least, displays no mention of Buddhism or Dharma. Yet he wrote at least one peculiar little essay on the subject, from a hard leftist perspective, of course. This little essay of my own may be considered a commentary on his. So let’s get on with it. It’s a dirty job, but somebody ought to do it.
First of all I would like to point out that “far-right” is a term that Shukman tosses around without, it seems, really understanding what it means. What is “far right”? He clearly tosses German National Socialism into that category, despite the name “Socialism” in the name of the party. This is a common phenomenon that I have written about before: People use the term “far right,” or some synonym of that, without bothering to understand what it means. (Then again, nowadays they use the term “woman” similarly.) The Far Right, if it is the political opposite of the Far Left, which is uncontroversially Communism (generally of a Marxist variety), would endorse nationalism, the family, traditional values, class stratification, private property, minimal central government (yeah, I know, communists claim that “perfect” communism would be anarchistic, but a century of totalitarianism has demonstrated otherwise), among other things; and this would best be described as something like anarcho-capitalism, or maybe a medieval-style feudalism. It certainly isn’t very similar to Nazism or Italian fascism, though of course there is a certain amount of overlap. Nazism and Italian Fascism have been called “radical centrism” by people who actually know the difference between left and right. But let us continue with Shukman’s essay.
The essay begins with some rather unflattering discussion of Brian Ruhe. This is in part, I assume, because Brian is rather an eccentric fellow with some odd ideas and is indeed an admirer of Adolf Hitler, in addition to being a much more conscientious Buddhist than most if not all of the people Shukman champions. This, along with the title, leaves all other right-wing Buddhists and members of the Spiritual Right guilty of Nazism by association. But as I have pointed out before, Brian is a sincere and knowledgeable Buddhist who does not endorse violence. He sincerely believes that the Führer did not endorse violence either.
With regard to Ruhe, the author says, “How could anyone in the Western far-right also be a practitioner of Buddhism? It doesn’t fit with our understanding of what the far-right is: racist, xenophobic, anti-democratic, chauvinist.” The guy obviously doesn’t consider for one moment that the problem may be with his “understanding of what the far-right is.” He pretty clearly doesn’t know what the actual far-right is, and I presume that he doesn’t want to know.
About a third of the way down the article he says this:
Far-right Buddhists are by no means a large group, nor are they growing to the point where you could expect your local skinhead gang to chant the Buddhabhivadana before going out to hassle immigrants. Still, there are enough people involved in the Spiritual Right, as some of them call it, that it’s worth exploring what their deal is. I found a world of clumsy mental gymnastics that aim to justify hate, violence, and in some cases, genocide.
With regard to this, I would point out that this is an outright lie with regard to the overwhelming majority of conservative or right-wing western Buddhists. I think most readers of this blog would agree that clumsy mental gymnastics have become a veritable specialty of the left, though of course the entire social and political spectrum has its share in this phenomenon, because we are, after all, deluded humans. But the justifiers of hate, violence, and genocide are such a non-Buddhist fringe element that most Buddhists that I associate with would keep a safe distance from them also.
Some years ago I was involved in the formation of a subreddit called “Alt-Buddhism,” briefly mentioned in Shukman’s essay, because I was asked to be a kind of technical consultant, seeing that Buddhism is not misrepresented on the site. But the whole thing started devolving into essentially a militant fascistic “Buddhist” site favoring, for example, Japanese Samurai ethical codes and the anti-Muslim movement in Burma/Myanmar. Consequently I distanced myself from it—not because of a concern for optics (which I generally lack anyway), but because I do not condone the conflation of militaristic violence with genuine Dharma. There may be a place and time for militaristic violence in a violent, secular world, but real Buddhism has virtually no part in that at all. Unlike leftist quasi-Buddhists, I really do not want to misrepresent Buddhism; and if I disagree with some aspect of orthodox tradition I generally specify that, rather than disguising my own views as ancient orthodox tradition.
The middle of the essay bashes the Right Wing Dharma Squad, but I am unfamiliar with that particular Squad, and so I pass over that part. It does seem to me, though, that any offhand comment that anyone makes on their podcast is dutifully turned into a kind of foundational precept of the group by our indoctrinated gay lefty propagandist.
But right after addressing the RWDS, he includes a paragraph that is classic leftist semi-honest crap from start to finish, and which I quote here in full:
This is how it kicked off. Ann Gleig and Brenna Grace Artinger, two religious scholars, describe how after the election of Donald Trump, Buddhist centres, like many organisations, started to grapple with a frightening new presidency. How should Western Buddhists, who are predominantly white and well-educated, respond to the Muslim ban? The “very fine people” at Charlottesville? The baseless accusations of voter fraud?
First off, to call these two lesbian leftist activists “religious scholars” is just laughable. One of them reportedly specializes in Queer Theory in Buddhism. Also he cannot forbear to slip in the hackneyed and FALSE talking points of a “Muslim ban” (Trump stopped immigration from the top terrorist-exporting nations, most of which just happened to be Islamic), the “very fine people” lie, and the outrageous propaganda that claims of a rigged election in 2020 were “baseless.” Shake my head. I’m willing to give this fellow the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not deliberately lying in this case, but in that case he is carelessly regurgitating someone else’s lies, which is almost as reprehensible. But lying is all right, supposedly, so long as one is lying for the benefit of the leftist cause of social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and stopping all carbon emissions because of the “climate crisis” that we are claimed to be in. Nowadays the left say that truth is just a cultural construct anyway—which means they can change it to suit themselves, but of course nobody else must do such a thing.
Shortly after that gem of a paragraph the author brings up another little project with which I have been involved, the Spiritual Right. He even included among his illustrations a screenshot from one of our early videos (with a rather unflattering pic of me, I must say). He mainly accuses us of contradicting ourselves, because we are pointing out that most western Dharma centers have been essentially subverted by leftist politics. This, according to him is problematic in two ways. First, we are talking politics by calling out the western Dharma teachers talking politics instead of Dharma inside their own Dharma halls. Second, he accuses us of promoting reactionary far-right politics ourselves and trying to inject them into actual Buddhism. With regard to that second point, he is simply wrong. By claiming that non-leftist western Buddhists like me are “bringing far-right politics into Buddhism” he is just confused by his own indoctrination. Most “right wing” Buddhists are traditionalists, wanting Buddhism to STAY Buddhist, and not become just another flavor of cultural Marxist rainbow leftism. Then again, someone wanting to conserve the way things have been for 25 centuries is practically by definition a reactionary, and thus far-right. It is true that I and others like me bash the left occasionally while discussing Buddhism, but mainly it is because the left is doing its worst to destroy Buddhism—and that is no exaggeration, even if most of them do not realize that they have thrown the Dharmic basketball clear over the backboard and out of bounds. They just redefine “Buddhism,” like they redefine any other concept that they wish to take over and control.
The last section of the essay is entitled “Exploring Compassion,” which is fundamental to the leftist view (Buddhist or otherwise), and also grossly misleading. It is true that traditional Buddhism endorses compassion. Theravada does not emphasize it as much as Mahayana does, but still it is a fundamental virtue, and the Buddha himself went to the trouble of becoming a spiritual leader out of compassion for all beings, according to the Pali texts. This is why most western Buddhists, including far-right ones, do not condone violence, or hate, or mob hysteria. But I would go farther and point out that, aside from a few fascistic types trying to refashion Buddhism along fascist lines, in a way not so different from the lefties refashioning it into ultraliberal touchy-feely anti-white crap (and I say again that traditional fascism is NOT “far-right”), conservative traditionalists are more consistent in their compassion. It has become painfully obvious that the far left (a term that is NOT controversial) endorse compassion only for their own side, and endorse violence also, but only for their own side. Rioting, for example, is defended, because poor repressed victims are finding their voice against oppression by burning down buildings, killing police, and stealing television sets.
Of course the essay also includes the standard, pretty much mandatory bogus trope that anyone on the right is opposed to Democracy, when of course the evidence indicates that the left is opposed to it so long as they don’t get what they want through it. I personally am fine with democracy so long as responsible citizens who are able to make informed decisions about politics are doing the voting in an honest system; a rabble of people on the government dole voting for free stuff, with or without mail-in ballots, is the downfall of democracy, but of course indoctrinated lefties don’t care about that sort of thing. The American founding fathers did care…but then again they were slave-owning white supremacists, just another reason why the US Constitution should be overthrown. According to some very loud voices on the far-left.
It is interesting that the following sentence found its way into the essay: “Nowhere, it seems, is safe from the culture wars, and now a front has opened up in Western Buddhism.” The front was opened up by the Social Justice crowd themselves when they began an all-out assault on what ancient Buddhism actually teaches. (They have done the same with pretty much every spiritual system found in the west, not just Buddhism.) Those on the right, aside from a small extremist fringe that the author wants to equate with ALL western Buddhist traditionalists, are simply trying to defend authentic Buddhism against hysteria, lies, feminism, and Marxist revisionism.
On the bright side, the article ends with a statement that is only slightly controversial:
And as Buddha said: “Hatred is never appeased by hatred. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal truth.”
It is slightly controversial because it is from the Dhammapada, probably the most well-known Pali text, which, however, was composed long after the time of the Buddha, and so the authenticity of the quote is questionable. But I think most “far-right” Buddhists, even some militant fascist ones, would agree with the message. I certainly agree, which is why I consider it best just to point out the truth about such silly people, and poke a little fun at them. They’re silly.
Another bright side to this peculiar little essay is the comments section: It appears that nobody explicitly agrees with the guy. Most people who commented, myself included, were pointing out the weakness and/or falseness of his arguments, and the rest were making neutral observations, one or two of them having practically nothing to do with the essay itself.
In conclusion, I feel the customary obligation to clarify here that, unlike the caricature portrayed in the essay, I am really NOT a Nazi, a Fascist, or even particularly far-right. I probably come closest to a classical liberal, along the lines of John Stuart Mill. I am very much in agreement with the founding fathers of the USA, except for the slavery part—though of course they were all “far-right.” Not to mention slave-owning white supremacists.
|See? I really don't care about optics (it's a JOKE)|