Apramāda

Buddhist perspectives on society and culture

Apramāda

Buddhist perspectives on
society and culture

Apramāda’s Second Anniversary

A Message from the Editorial Board

Posted in: Buddhism

It all started with a group of friends, and a shared sense that something was amiss, both in the wider culture and in the Buddhist movement to which we belong, and which is so dear to our hearts. The world, it seemed, was going mad, and we could do little except watch aghast.

Then, at some point in 2020, the idea arose for a new online Buddhist magazine, a forum in which we could explore the connection between the Dharma and contemporary cultural issues in the spirit of apramāda (vigilance), free from the groupthink and collective hysteria that characterises so much online debate. Fortune seemed to smile upon us. Between us we had skills in writing, editing, website maintenance and sound engineering. In May of 2021, the idea became a reality, and Apramāda was launched.

Why did we start Apramāda? What problem were we aiming to address? There are several, though they are connected. We were witnessing a tendency to downplay the importance of our teacher, Sangharakshita, and to bowdlerize his teaching of anything not in tune with the zeitgeist. Connected with this we noticed the insidious creep of certain views, which seemed to correspond to what Sangharakshita referred to as ‘pseudo-liberalism’. This he defined as ‘the belief that fairness can be achieved by unfair means’.1He also identified ‘political correctness’ as the ‘extreme form’ of pseudo-liberalism, and denounced it as ‘one of the most pernicious tendencies of our time’.[ii]2

The same phenomenon — indeed, a still more extreme form of it — is now more commonly known as ‘Social Justice’. While there are undoubtedly many issues in society that require redress, many people who are sincerely concerned about social justice have little idea how completely the public conversation on the subject has been taken over by a very particular ideology, which not only has nothing to do with the Dharma, but which fosters confusion and deepens divisions wherever it takes a hold on public policy. And yet, these views have walked not only into western culture but into the Triratna Buddhist Community virtually unopposed. Despite Sangharakshita’s warning, pseudo-liberalism is in some places, especially as regards our online presence, all but the public face of Triratna. It needed challenging, directly and openly.

This we have been doing consistently in Apramāda. In the last year we have published articles on the ineffectiveness of Unconscious Bias Training; on the questionable claims about police ‘genocide’ of black people in America; on the reasons for scepticism around the narrative of catastrophic climate change; and on the application of the Dharma to policy making (using the global response to covid as an example). We have also welcomed our first non-Buddhist writer, William Collins, whose book The Destructivists — chapters from which we are publishing as articles — attempts to explain how society deteriorated to its current parlous state. This is alongside more explicitly Dharmic content, including Ratnaguna’s series ‘Thus Have I Heard: Brief Essays on Buddhism’; the continuation of Vidyaruchi’s ‘Themes from A Survey of Buddhism; and a superb guest contribution by Subhuti, ‘The Aesthetic Moment’, based on his celebrated ‘Eros and Beauty’ talks.

Thus, we are gradually building up a portfolio of material that brings much-needed alternative perspectives on some important and thorny issues. But while we have written about some of the manifestations of ‘Social Justice’, until now we have not given an account of the ideology itself. Vidyaruchi has now filled this gap with his article ‘A Short History of ‘Social Justice’’.

It remains to be seen whether that article, or any of Apramāda’s efforts, will be effective in pushing back against pseudo-liberalism, or any of the views that distort the teaching of Buddhism in the West, whether held by those without or within the nominally Buddhist fold. If Apramāda has any success in this regard, we will regard its founding two years ago as having been justified. Then perhaps we can focus on the more enjoyable task of practising and explicating the Dharma in as pure a form as possible. But wrong views, whether of the pseudo-liberal or any other kinds, have a habit of creeping back in. Vigilance, or apramāda, will always be needed.

Meanwhile, we, the Apramāda editorial board, would like to thank our readers, subscribers and supporters, without whose engagement our efforts would be entirely wasted. We hope you all continue to enjoy our output.

Footnotes

  1. Sangharakshita, A Stream of Stars
  2. Ibid
Vidyaruchi

Vidyaruchi has been a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order since 2009, from which time until 2013 he was personal assistant to its founder, Urgyen Sangharakshita. Since then he has been a freelance Buddhist. When not engaged in teaching or travelling he mainly lives in a shed in his parents' garden.

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