Outing an Ideological Vandal
I am very grateful to a certain Rahula #80 on Yahoo! for pointing out something to me: there is a guy/gal operating under many aliases–A.E. Hollingsworth, Kenneth L. Wheeler, Denise Anderson, AncientBuddhism, Shakya Aryanatta, Ven. Shakya Ariyana, Aryasatvan, and the Neoplatonic Platonist–whose chief purpose in life (online, at least) is to go around bashing (i.e. giving one star) any book whose writer does not propagate his/her particular brand of Buddhism. This “brand” is what he or she (I’m going to assume it’s a he) calls “Aryan Buddhism”, and he manages a blog by that name.
Now it is quite fine if you want to give a book one star on Amazon or wherever, but it is cheap to do so purely because you do not agree with the author’s opinions. It is double cheap–indeed, a form of literary vandalism–if you log in
under a variety of names and give multiple one star reviews to those you dislike. This, apparently, is what the blogger at Aryan Buddhism has done.
Specifically, what Aryan Buddhist (as I shall call him) is perpetuating is the notion that the Buddha really taught a soul/self/atman behind the changing, suffering phenomena of the temporal self we all experience. He does this by citing quotes from the Pali suttas where he gratuitously translates any instance of the word atta as referring to a Self (with a capital S of course–a signification not found in the texts), soul etc. Here is an example (from his review of Selfless Persons by Steven Collins):
“Therefore, Ananda, stay as those who have the Self (attaa) as island, as those who have the Self as refuge, as those who have no other refuge; as those who have Dhamma as island, as those who have Dhamma as refuge, as those who have no other refuge.” – Mahaparinibbana Sutta
A more intelligent rendering of the passage is as follows:
Therefore, Ananda, you should live as islands [or “lamps”–the wording is ambiguous] unto yourselves, being your own refuge, with no one else as your refuge, with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge (D.16.2.26, trans. by Maurice Walshe).
Clearly the Buddha here is enjoining self-reliance and intellectual independence; the passage is not at all a metaphysical pronouncement. For the simple fact is that the word atta is no more ontological than the English word “self.” Usually it is a reflexive or indefinite pronoun, such as in “talking to myself,” or “take care of yourself” etc. Imagine if one went through Shakespeare and began capitalizing every self-reference, taking each as a metaphysical postulate. Consider Polonius’ famous advice to his son: “To thine own Self be true…” By such legerdemain we could transform Shakespeare from the Bard into the Oracle! This is exactly what Aryan Buddhist (and his ilk) are doing. (As far as the claim of Shakyamuni teaching a True Self goes: Sabbe dhamma anatta (Dhammapada 279)–“All phenomena are not-self.” Dhamma here covers both mundane and supramundane phenomena, meaning nothing–not even nibbana–can be considered as Self or soul. If you don’t believe me, take a three-month course of vipassana meditation and you’ll know this directly–no need to read about it.)
As a side note: readers should be aware that the misspelling of atta in Aryan Buddhist’s quote above is typical of his lack of attention to punctuation, grammar, spelling, or anything else to do with literary craftsmanship. Read a few blog posts, or the vitriol that he leaves on Amazon (examples are in my review of Selfless Persons), and you’ll see one ungrammatical phrase and misspelled or missing word after another. And yet, this is apparently the same person who, on his blogger profile, describes himself as “a Pali translator… author of books & articles on Buddhism,” who “has spent countless thousands of hours and many years directed at the research of earliest Buddhism before either Theravada & Mahayana existed” etc. Oddly, he also describes himself as a “Neoplatonic Platonist” (they’re called Neoplatonists, for Christ’s sake) and says “that to call oneself a ‘buddhist’ is self-degrading and implies superficial nihilistic Humanism.” (In a comment on Aryan Buddhist’s snappily titled post “Cross-examination of Typical Scumbag “buddhists”. Or, Claims, Conjectures, and Feelings, but no Logic” luke.jmo makes a reasonable request: “You claim to be a published author on the subject of Buddhism, as well as getting paid to lecture on Buddhism. I’m very curious to know where you lecture, and where I could purchase your books.” No comment in response is found.)
Needless to say, it is hard to read any of this with a straight face. I find it disturbing though when I go to a website allegedly devoted to the Buddha’s teaching (even if wildly distorted in its interpretations) and find it sprinkled with Nazi swastikas (see left) and a picture of Julius Evola, a twentieth century Italian philosopher sympathetic to the kind of occultic, racialistic, anti-egalitarian drivel promulgated by the Nazis and Italian fascists. (Harold Musson, aka Ñanavira Thera, about whom I’ve written extensively on this blog, translated one of Evola’s books on Buddhism, though later wrote of the work “I cannot now recommend [it]…without considerable reserves.” For the full story, see my first post on Ñanavira here.) Readers who meet up with Aryan Buddhist’s hostile reviews (one star), under whatever alias, should ignore them for the claptrap they are. To date, I’ve found them on Amazon attacking these books:
- What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula
- Selfless Persons by Steven Collins
- The Selfless Mind by Peter Harvey
- An Introduction to Buddhism by Peter Harvey
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
- Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
- Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steven Hagen
- The Mind In Early Buddhism by Thich Minh Thanh
- Going Beyond Buddha by Dae-gak
On the other hand, our friendly neighborhood Buddhologist does like some things (five stars). For example:
- The Trouble With Textbooks by Gary Tobin (which apparently attacks “the hard left-wing agenda”)
- MLF II Black Infantry Knife (in the review for which he says “I hate everything, but this knife gets 5 STARS”)
- Arguing With Idiots by Glenn Beck
I think this last one pretty much tells you the story.
(12/27/2011) I have now been the honored recipient of three vitriolic screeds totalling almost six thousand words from none other than “Aryan Buddhist.” (By comparison, my original post above was just over one thousand words. Clearly he does not believe in measured responses.) Moreover, he has apparently garnered yet another alias: “Kelly den Adel.” Further updates will follow as events unfold…
(3/21/2012) Aryan Buddhist has a new moniker! Ulf Hansrimehr. Below is his latest shot across my bow, posted on my “About Me” page:
Your blog is superficial twaddle and smacks of existentialist crypto-nihilism. In short, you’re a materialistic demon
I’m leaving this post here for its entertainment value. This is, I have no doubt, the work of Aryasattvan, a sort of neo-fascist so-called Buddhist non-Buddhist whose chief work in life (or at least on the web) is running around trashing other people. I am, for the second time now, the honored recipient of his vile and invective. See my (very popular!) post “Outing an Ideological Vandal” at https://buddhistbooksblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/outing-an-ideological-vandal/ to get the full, juicy scoop on this rather sad, strange person.