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Buddhist History of the West, A

Studies in Lack

David R. Loy

Publication Year: 2002

Buddhism teaches that to become happy, greed, ill-will, and delusion must be transformed into their positive counterparts: generosity, compassion, and wisdom. The history of the West, like all histories, has been plagued by the consequences of greed, ill-will, and delusion. A Buddhist History of the West investigates how individuals have tried to ground themselves to make themselves feel more real. To be self-conscious is to experience ungroundedness as a sense of lack, but what is lacking has been understood differently in different historical periods. Author David R. Loy examines how the understanding of lack changes at historical junctures and shows how those junctures were so crucial in the development of the West.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: Toward a Buddhist Perspective

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pp. 1-16

If our sense of self is a construct, as Buddhism and contemporary psychology agree, it is also ungrounded. This book is about the ways we have tried to ground ourselves, to make ourselves feel more real. To be self-conscious is to experience our ungroundedness as a sense of lack, but what we are lacking has been understood differently in different historical periods. The...

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One. The Lack of Freedom

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pp. 17-40

The growth of freedom has been the central theme of history, Lord Acton believed, because it represents God’s plan for humanity. One does not need such a Whiggish view of history to notice that the history of the West, at least, has indeed been a story of the development of freedom, whether actualized or idealized. We trace the origins of...

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Two. The Lack of Progress

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pp. 41-64

The more we learn about other civilizations, the more anomalous the West seems. If we resist the presumption that Western culture is the growing tip of social evolution, to be contrasted with the stagnation of most non-Western ones, what becomes highlighted is its dynamism, for better and worse. Rather than trying to account for the “undevelopment”...

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Three. The Renaissance of Lack

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pp. 65-85

If history is a nightmare from which we are trying to awaken, as James Joyce’s Daedalus put it, what gives that nightmare its power over us? Perhaps it began as a daydream more attractive than the pain of being human—until the dream took on a life of its own and we became trapped in our own objectifications. Then the key to this puzzle is why we prefer...

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Four. The Lack of Modernity

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pp. 87-124

Our economic system promotes and requires greed in at least two ways: desire for profit is necessary to fuel the engine of economic growth, and consumers must be insatiable in order to maintain markets for what can be produced. Although justified as raising standards of living worldwide, economic globalization seems rather to be increasing...

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Five. The Lack of Civil Society

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pp. 125-170

Civil society has become an urgent topic, unfortunately. We do not usually notice things until they are broken, and the increasing attention of public leaders and scholars1 is a sign that ours is in trouble. Everyone seems to agree that a strong civil society is essential for healthy democracy, which would be unremarkable except (as we shall see) there is no...

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Six. Preparing for Something That Never Happens

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pp. 171-195

Yeats died in 1939. Today in Japan, where I write this book, toddlers take entrance exams to get into the “best” kindergartens, because the best kindergartens help you get into the best primary schools, which help you get into the best middle schools, which help you get into the best high schools, which help you get into the best universities, which...

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Seven. The Religion of the Market

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pp. 197-210

Religion is notoriously difficult to define. If, however, we adopt a functionalist view and understand religion as what grounds us by teaching us what this world is, and what our role in the world is, then it becomes evident that traditional religions are fulfilling this role less and less, because that function is being supplanted by other belief system...

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Afterword: The Future of Lack

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pp. 211-215

Freedom, progress, fame, romance, money, the nation-state, corporate capitalism, mechanistic science, civil society, consumerism: hardly new themes, but this inquiry into the origins of our preoccupation with them casts them in a different light. My lack approach has not attempted a “balanced” evaluation that weighs the positive against the...


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pp. 217-222


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pp. 223-228


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pp. 229-244

E-ISBN-13: 9780791489123
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791452592
Print-ISBN-10: 079145259X

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 53226295
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Buddhist History of the West, A

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Identity (Psychology).
  • Self-consciousness (Awareness).
  • Civilization, Western -- Psychological aspects.
  • Civilization, Western -- Philosophy.
  • Civilization, Western -- Classical influences.
  • Buddhist philosophy.
  • Buddhism -- Doctrines.
  • Self (Philosophy).
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