RE: virus: Buddhism

Robin Faichney (
Sun, 19 Oct 1997 19:30:10 +0100

> From: Eric Boyd[]
> Hi all
> Here is the current draft version of my <Buddhism> essay. Please
> comment freely. It is officially *due* on Oct 28, 1997, and I'd like
> all the input I can get before then so that I can improve the essay.
I suspect you may regret that request. However...

> Now, memetics is more
> complicated than simple biological evolution because in addition to
> survival of the fittest, there is also artificial selection by humans.
It may be more complicated, but not for that reason.
The natural/artificial distinction means nothing here.
After all, isn't *all* of culture artificial in one sense?
But this simplifies things for you -- I think, not
having read further yet...

> Memetics also rests on a proper understanding of the Intentional
> Stance[2]
Arrrgh!! No way. Dawkins says neither memes nor
genes are really selfish. You can keep that can of
worms safely closed, taking the stance that intention
is used metaphorically in these contexts. But again,
that should simplify things for you.

> First, I will deal with the "natural selection" of <Buddhism>...
This seems to be based on the assumption that Buddhism
is a conventional religion -- which I, for one, would not
agree with. On the other hand, of course, many would,
and I guess your prof is very likely one of them. And, in
fact, for many varieties of Buddhism, it's effectively true.

> With <Buddhism>, faith is ensured by the taking of the "Three Jewels":
I think the more common expression is "Taking Refuge",
with "in the 3 Jewels" being added in the long form.

> Finally, <evangelism> is ensured by the Cardinal Virtue of Compassion.
... And thus the most powerful force in the universe - self
> propagation - is harnessed to <Buddhism>'s advantage.
There's a fair amount of truth in that.

....Ascribing words to the Buddha makes it much easier to get
those words
> accepted.
True, although again not all varieties of Buddhism lean
very heavily on this.

... for normally slitting of a religion undermines...

Ha! Freudian slit, oops, slip?

Such splits are conventionally called "schisms", and
those who cause them, "schismatics", though, as you
point out, this is slightly different from what tends to
happen in other religions, where that's generally seen
as a *very* bad thing.

> As the "Greater Vehicle", monks believed (rightly) that
> it appealed to more people and so would 'save' more of them.
That's a new one on me. I always heard the difference
was not that it appealed to more people, but that the
intention on the part of the practitioner was to share it

> Of course, much of the success of Buddhism can be explained without
> memetics at all.
I think you either use memetics or you don't. If you do,
every cultural phenomenon can be explained in terms of

> It is interesting to note as well, because of the basic structure of
> the
> Sangha, Buddhism is in need of state support:
Too generalised -- what state support does it get in the West?
This is Therevada, in the East, isn't it?

> It's reliance on the state, then, was not only useful for it's spread,
Delete those "'"s!

> but also necessary from a discipline standpoint. One is forced to
> wonder if the necessity of reliance actually helped Buddhism - since
> then it ensured state support.
It could just have done without it, and withered,
couldn't it? Need doesn't always get.

> Any and all comments welcome;
> ERiC
Interesting, but needs further work. :-)

You may not want to get into this at this stage,
but a very direct link between Buddhism and
memetics was made by Susan Blackmore,
who said something like, Buddhism is
essentially in accord with memetics, it's main
aim being the realization that the self is just
a concept, or meme. (Of course, that's the
same paper I already mentioned.)