Religion
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God50 Voices of DisbeliefA Companion to Buddhist PhilosophyA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Frightening LoveA People's History of ChristianityAdieu to GodAn Ethics for TodayAristotle's ChildrenAugustine's "Confessions"Bad FaithBehind the GospelsBig DreamsBig GodsBody Piercing Saved My LifeBrains, Buddhas, and BelievingBrief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and FaithBuddhism and ScienceBuddhist Boot CampConfucianismConfucianismConfucius and ConfucianismContemplative ScienceCorporal Punishment, Religion, and United States Public SchoolsCourage to SurrenderCross and KhoraDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin, God and the Meaning of LifeDeath and the AfterlifeDebating DesignDeeper Than DarwinDivinity of DoubtEmbracing MindEncountering the DharmaEngaging BuddhismEsalenEscape Your Own PrisonEvidence for PsiEvilEvolution and ReligionExplorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and ReligionFaithFaith and Wisdom in ScienceFingerprints of GodFor The Bible Tells Me SoForgivenessFrom Shame to SinGod & TherapyGod Is Not GreatGod Is Not OneGod: The Failed HypothesisHereticHidden DimensionsHooked!Hours with the MysticsHow to See Yourself As You Really AreHow Would Buddha Act?Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInto Great SilenceIslam and the Future of Tolerance: A DialogueJewish DharmaLife After FaithLiving DeeplyLiving with a Wild GodLiving with DarwinMaking Chastity SexyMedicine and Health Care in Early ChristianityMedicine and ReligionMedicine of the PersonMysticism & SpaceNature and the Human SoulNothingOn Life After DeathPanpsychism and the Religious AttitudePathways to SpiritualityPeaceful Death, Joyful RebirthPhilosophers without GodsPhilosophical Myths of the FallPorn UniversityPray the Gay AwayPsychotherapy without the SelfRadical GraceReason, Faith, and RevolutionRecruiting Young LoveReligion without GodReligious and Spiritual Issues in Psychiatric DiagnosisSaving GodScience and NonbeliefScience and Religion at the CrossroadsScience and SpiritualityScience vs. ReligionSecular Philosophy and the Religious TemperamentSelf Hypnosis for Cosmic ConsciousnessSelf, No Self?Sex and the Soul, Updated EditionSmile of the BuddhaSpirit, Mind, and BrainSuperstitionTen Lectures on Psychotherapy and SpiritualityThe Accidental MindThe Belief InstinctThe Bodhisattva's BrainThe Cambridge Companion to AtheismThe Cambridge Companion to Science and ReligionThe Case for GodThe Chosen OneThe Dao of NeuroscienceThe Dark Night of the SoulThe Delight of Being OrdinaryThe Fundamentalist MindsetThe God DebatesThe God GeneThe Hero with a Thousand FacesThe Improbability of GodThe Joy of SecularismThe Language God TalksThe Language of GodThe MiracleThe New AtheismThe New Religious IntoleranceThe Philosophy of ReligionThe Power of FaithThe Power of ForgivenessThe Power of Religion in the Public SphereThe Psychology of Religious FundamentalismThe Psychology of SpiritualityThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Secular OutlookThe Sense of SelfThe Spirit of the BuddhaThe Spirit of Tibetan BuddhismThe Tibetan Book of the DeadThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe Watkins Dictionary of Religions and Secular FaithsThe Watkins Dictionary of SymbolsTheology, Psychology and the Plural SelfThoughts Without A ThinkerTop SecretUnifying HinduismWays of KnowingWhat Is Buddhist Enlightenment?What Should I Believe?When the Impossible HappensWhy I Left, Why I StayedWilliam James on Ethics and FaithWriting as a Sacred PathYoga, Karma, and RebirthZealot

Related Topics
Hooked!Review - Hooked!
Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
by Stephanie Kaza (Editor)
Shambhala, 2005
Review by Anirban Mukherjee
Apr 24th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 17)

Hooked: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire and the Urge to Consume edited by Stephanie Kaza is just what its sub-heading promises it to be. It is an exciting collection of papers expressing the concerns of the contemporary practicing Buddhists regarding issues of consumerism. It deals with the way in which the culture of consumption is affecting society and individual identities in general as well as that of the Buddhist community. Most of the papers also try to explore the possibilities of negotiating them in terms of Buddhist principles.

Kaza's introduction to the volume sets the agenda for the papers to come. She points out that the current rates of consumption in the developed countries are not sustainable as it has significant irreversible ill effects on the state of the natural condition of our planet. Moreover, the market economy displaces the ecological identity with the consumer identity of individuals, where they get marked in terms of their brand preferences and material possessions. She characterizes a consumerist society as one in which people use their leisure time to spend money and belief that owning things is the primary means to happiness. Everyone needs to consume but consumption becomes problematic only when it becomes an end in itself. She also provides a peep into the history of the development of the present consumerist world order and into the thoughts of those with an unsympathetic reading of economic globalization. Understanding the ego-centric and desire-satisfaction oriented consumerist economic and socio-cultural situation to be undesirable, she goes on present the volume as an exploration into the Buddhist alternative.

Joseph Goldstein in his paper 'Desire, Delusion and DVDs' comments that 'wanting to want' is a disease of the present , something which goes against the Buddhist way of life. The driving force behind consumerism is greed fed by 'delusion of a separate, independently existing self'. Buddhists believe in the impermanence of things desired as well as of the one who desires. This realization of the impermanence of being might help one to overcome the desire to possess. Hence the freedom sought from addiction to food, television and consumption itself is internal. One may live in a palace and be free of desire, he points out. The practice of generosity and non-harming may be helpful in achieving this freedom.

Pema Chödrön in her paper 'How We Get Hooked, How We Get Unhooked' claims that attachment is something that we develop to things from a feeling of insecurity about the changing nature of the world. We feel secure in clinging to things and understanding ourselves in terms of those. Yet this understanding of ourselves is limiting and false. So what we need to give up is attachment or clinging and not the things that we are usually attached to like food, or relationships. The procedure she suggests is to recognize the clinging and then not to act on it.

Ruben L. F. Habito in 'The Inner Pursuit of Happiness' understands the constant desire to have more as arising from a deep sense of lack. Yet the desire to have more always keeps us dissatisfied. He suggests replacing the acquisitive with the contemplative mode of being. Sumi Loundon in her 'Young Buddhists in shopping Shangri-la' recounts her experiences of growing up in an anti-consumerist Buddhist Zen commune and uses that to address the issues in question. She brings in a classification among the Buddhists as non-consumerist, at-ease and conscious consumerists and says that the young Buddhists are shifting towards conscious consumerism. She also talks about 'boutique' Buddhism which comprises buying and selling of dharma beads and so on. Thubten Chödrön in 'Marketing the Dharma' deals with the issue of negotiating consumerism affecting the Buddhist community: its members and practices and the commoditization of Buddhism itself. The students and teachers carry their consumerist sensibilities with them when they start practicing Dharma.  As consumers the students want things to be easily available and the teachers if they want to have students may feel obligated to compromise the length of the spiritual practices. He also deals with the dilemma of dana or gift and the questionable motivations behind it which may be that of buying status or of paying back for the service received. Diana Winston in 'You are What You Download' tries to tackle the issues relating to the internet and its evolution into a 'time-wasting, greed-inducing, glorified shopping channel'. She cautions that every tiny bit that enters our mind affects us. As we feed our minds so shall we reap from it.

Judith Simmer-Brown in 'Cultivating the Wisdom Gaze' analyses the external and internal causes of the phenomenon of globalization and lays stress on the importance of practicing 'engaged Buddhism' as a way of countering it. Every phenomenon depends on various causes for its emergence, according to Buddhism. Hence it is significant to understand those causes in order to change the nature of the phenomena. Pracha Hutanuwatr and Jane Rasbash in 'No River Bigger than Tanha' deal with the rise of consumerism in Thailand based on the works of Ven. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Ajahn Sulak Sivaraksa. They say that 'for most Thai these shopping malls are the new temples…' (p.105). Consumerism is based on the amplification of craving and the urge towards its satisfaction. These feeling of tanha or craving is real. Happiness can be achieved by 'satisfying tanha more often or by reducing tanha itself' (p.110). Buddhism argues that craving is the root cause of suffering and pain. According to it, craving can never be satisfied and hence one should explore ways of getting rid of it rather than trying to satisfy it. They propose a Buddhist alternative model of development based on primacy of self-respect as opposed to the consumerist model which is based on a personal sense of lack. They also document the work of some Thai Buddhist NGOs in this regard in providing an alternative in education and community practices. Sunyana Graef in her 'Taming the “I Want” Mind' talks about consumerism as an addiction as well as how to counter the challenges that it provides to parenting and family life with the help of sangha principles. Stephanie Kaza in her paper 'Penetrating the tangle' investigates how Buddhism can contribute to the existing critiques of consumerism. The Buddhist critiques, she points out, focus on the undesirable effects of consumerism in terms of personal identity formation (“I am what I have”), rationalization of harming ( deforestation, pollution, worker rights abuse) and promotion of dissatisfaction.

Rita M. Gross in her 'Form and Elegance with Just enough' brings to the fore the Buddhist stress on the phrase “not too little”. She says that self-denial is also to be forsaken along with self-indulgence. One should make 'the beauty and delightfulness of the phenomenal world …an ally' (p. 165) in the search for enlightenment. What is required is to have a real understanding of how to do deal with the phenomenal world.

David Loy and Linda Goodhew's paper 'Consuming Time' is about the commoditization of time. Following Nagarjuna's philosophy he presents the notion of objective time as a social construction. According to the Buddhist principles one needs to realize that 'I am not in time, because I am time' (p. 173). Such realization would free one from the limitations that time imposes on one's being.

Ajahn Amaro in 'Three Robes Is Enough' relates the monastic life style and its principles to that of the common man today. He presents in the concluding section a set of simple principles that may be followed by any one; those of putting in persistent effort to better oneself at ones craft, valuing good friendship, leading a balanced life and so on. Santikaro in 'Practicing Generosity in a Consumer World' explores the dynamics of dana as a Buddhist practice and examine its role in undermining consumerism. Dana is one of the meritorious activities (punnakiriyavatthu) according to Buddhism. Norman Fischer in 'Wash Your Bowls' sheds light on the Zen stress on the mundane, pragmatic aspects of life. The answers to most of the profound questions are often not propositional. By giving utmost attention to every action one performs and treating the bowls and the spoons as if they were sacred objects, it is possible to develop a more meaningful relation with the material objects. Duncan Ryuken Williams in his paper 'Green Power in Contemporary Japan' explains Buddhist environmentalism that focuses on mottanai, “not wasting”. With examples he illustrates how the alternative models suggested by engaged Buddhism have worked for creating ethical consumerism in Japan. David W. Chappell in 'Mutual Correction: Seeing the Pain of Others' offers five principles for a Buddhist ethic of consumption which include open disclosure of the sources of production, an atmosphere of mutual correction where the media may play a crucial role, including in decision making those to be affected by those decisions, preserving the local cultures and modes of production as far as possible and connecting with the suffering.

 

© 2007 Anirban Mukherjee

 

Anirban Mukherjee is a PhD student at the Department of Philosophy, University of Reading,UK and Lecturer in Philosophy, University of North Bengal, India


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716