Several themes in Buddhism are echoed by modern psychological therapy practices, for example, the value of being mindful of one’s emotions, developing the skill of concentration, for example on the breath, as a means of relaxation and dealing with anxiety.
But since the heyday of Buddhist Sutra writing, a lot has happened. There is now a literature of para-Buddhist literature and techniques that are remarkably similar to the Buddhist project.
Anyhow, I’m thinking I should focus some of my reading on that and see about creating a Buddhism that is
1/4 early Buddhism, but not it’s right wing socially conservative agenda
1/4 Mahayana Precepts, Vows, ethics & view of the self and other, ideals and goals. But the karma & hells, I could care less about.
1/4 European Enlightenment and Progressive politics
1/4 Science, para-Buddhist psychology and para-Buddhist modern philosophy.
Anyhow, if I manage to follow through, I’ll post a suitable reading list for the last 1/4. It will be a tricky reading list to compile because these books rarely call out their Buddhist inspiration or include the B-word in their title or description.
So is there a better way to remove the myth? What are the options?
1) Stick to history. Demythologizing is about keeping it real. History is pretty real. The history, though, has been tampered with. And limiting yourself to just the pali cannon is a type of fundamentalism that you wouldn’t expect to see among the sort of people who would reject myth.
2) Re-map existing models. For example, we could take something missing in Buddhism, like a progressive view on economics. As far as a I could tell, the Buddha didn’t think much about economics, not in Adam Smith style nor Marx style. So if the myth is missing economics, we could map concepts from Marx or Adam Smith onto ancient myths. But this is all rather cumbersome. The historical Buddha didn’t think much about economics other than he realized that there was a way for the sangha to exist if part of the economic became a gift economy (dana for merit). He didn’t *really* have anything to say about free markets or alienation or exploitation or capital. Maybe it would make more sense to just have a copy of your favorite economists works next to your sutras.
3) Make new myths. I think this is the best option of all, but who wants to be the first to consciously put new words into the mouth of the Buddha? I saw a lecture where a scholar said some of the Mahayana writers said they got their material from meditative visions. A demythologizing author, would probably have to just fess up to writing fiction.
4) Salvage. Keep the myths more or less the same, but remove the junk. Like removing the sexist vow from the Medicine Buddha’s 10 vows or replacing it with one that isn’t so misogynistic.