Advertisement

Making Sense of Suffering: Insights from Buddhism and Critical Social Science

  • Ruben Flores
Chapter
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 56)

Abstract

In order to enrich our analytical framework for the study and alleviation of suffering, this chapter argues that there are good reasons to encourage a dialogue between Buddhism and critical social science (CSS). Although both traditions hold the reduction of suffering as fundamental, they provide different causal understandings of and recommendations for healing suffering. CSS is good at criticizing social sources of suffering, but arguably requires a constant engagement with a variety of normative discourses in order to regain clarity as to its motivations and purposes. On the other hand, although Buddhism stresses personal liberation and provides tools for addressing existential suffering, it has nevertheless historically neglected social causes of suffering. Thus, there are spaces for mutual enrichment and synthesis, as well as areas of disagreement that could potentially spur further dialogue, critique, self-critique, and reflexivity.

Keywords

Ethics Ontology Reflexivity Buddhism Suffering 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank Ron Anderson, Patrick Brown, Katja Bruisch, Ryan Burg, Letta Wren Page, Lili Di Puppo, and Sandy Ross for very useful comments and criticism. All the shortcomings of the text are entirely the author’s responsibility.

References

  1. Abbott, A. (2004). Methods of discovery: Heuristics for the social sciences. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, R. E. (2014). Human suffering and quality of life-conceptualizing stories and statistics. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barenboim, D. (2010). Everything is connected: The power of music. London: Orion.Google Scholar
  4. Batchelor, S. (1998). Buddhism without beliefs: A contemporary guide to awakening. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
  5. Bellah, R. (2006). Max Weber and world-denying love: A look at the historical sociology of religion. In R. Bellah & S. M. Tipton (Eds.), The Robert Bellah reader (pp. 123–149). Durham/London: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bellah, R. N., & Joas, H. (2012). The axial age and its consequences. Cambridge/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  8. Bresnan, P. S. (1999). Awakenings: An introduction to the history of Eastern thought. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  9. Buswell, R. E., Jr., & Lopez, D. S., Jr. (2014). The Princeton dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Callinicos, A. (2006). The resources of critique. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  11. Conze, E. (1951). Buddhism: Its essence and development. New York: Philosophical Library.Google Scholar
  12. Dalai Lama. (1996). Beyond dogma: Dialogues & discourses. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Dalai Lama. (1999, September 27). Long trek to exile for Tibet’s apostle. Time Magazine. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2053819,00.html. Accessed 20 May 2014.
  14. Dussel, E. (1998). Ética de la liberación en la edad de la globalización y la exclusion. Madrid: Trotta. English edition: Dussel, E. (2013). Ethics of liberation: In the age of globalization and exclusion (E. Mendieta, C. Pérez Bustillo, Y. Angulo, & N. Maldonado-Torres, Trans.). Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Eagleton, T. (2011). Why Marx was right. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Farr, A. (2008). The task of dialectical thinking in the age of one-dimensionality (book review). Human Studies, 31(2), 233–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feagin, J. R., & Vera, H. (2008). Liberation sociology. Boulder/London: Paradigm.Google Scholar
  18. Feldman, C., & Kuyken, W. (2011). Compassion in the landscape of suffering. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 143–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Flanagan, O. (2011). The Bodhisattva’s brain. Cambridge/London: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  20. Flores, R. (2014). From personal troubles to public compassion: Charity shop volunteering as a practice of care. The Sociological Review, 62(2), 383–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fraser, A. (Ed.). (2013). The healing power meditation: Leading experts on Buddhism, psychology, and medicine explore the health benefits of contemplative practice. Boston/London: Shambhala Publications.Google Scholar
  22. Jay, M. (1996). The dialectical imagination: A history of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923–1950. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Levine, N. (2007). Against the stream. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  24. Loy, D. R. (2002). A Buddhist history of the west: Studies in lack. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  25. Malkin, J. (2003, July). In engaged Buddhism, peace begins with you. Shambhala Sun. http://www.shambhalasun.com. Accessed 21 Mar 2014.
  26. McClure, R. (2013). Sustaining compassion in health care, The Greater Good Science Center. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/sustaining_compassion_in_health_care. Accessed 4 Mar 2013.
  27. Namgyal, T. (2011, June 8). Dalai Lama: “I Am a Marxist, But Not a Leninist”. Religion Dispatches. University of Southern California.http://religiondispatches.org/dalai-lama-i-am-a-marxist-but-not-a-leninist/. Accessed 20 May 2014.
  28. Paz, O. (1990). Pequeña crónica de grandes días. México: FCE.Google Scholar
  29. Queen, C. S. (Ed.). (2000). Engaged Buddhism in the west. Somerville: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  30. Revel, J., & Ricard, M. (1998). The monk and the philosopher: A father and son discuss the meaning of life. London: Thorsons.Google Scholar
  31. Ricard, M. (2003). Plaidoyer pour le bonheur. Paris: NiL éditions. English edition: Ricard, M. (2008). Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill (J. Browner, Trans.). New York: Hachette Digital.Google Scholar
  32. Safran, J. D. (Ed.). (2003). Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: An unfolding dialogue. Sommerville: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  33. Sayer, A. (1997). Critical realism and the limits to critical social science. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 27(4), 473–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sayer, A. (2009). Who’s afraid of critical social science? Current Sociology, 57(6), 767–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sayer, A. (2011). Why things matter to people: Social science, values and ethical life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21(6), 581–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shapiro, S. L., Austin, J. A., Bishop, S. R., & Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: Results from a randomized trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(2), 164–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smithers, S. (2012). Occupy Buddhism. Or why the Dalai Lama is a Marxist. Tricycle. http://www.tricycle.com/web-exclusive/occupy-buddhism/. Accessed 3 Feb 2014.
  39. Taylor, C. (2011). What was the axial revolution? In R. Bellah & H. Joas (Eds.), The axial age and its consequences (pp. 30–46). Cambridge/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Turner, M. (2014). Our blender brain: How mixing ideas made us human. New Scientist, Issue 2957. Google Scholar
  42. Van Arnam, B. (2013, August 8). Buddhism and Marxism. PaxMarxista: A radical forum for Marxist theory and revolutionary thought. http://paxmarxista.org/buddhism-and-marxism
  43. Vera, H. (2013). Norbert Elias and Émile Durkheim: Seeds of a historical sociology of knowledge. In F. Dépelteau & T. S. Landini (Eds.), Norbert Elias and social theory (pp. 127–142). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  44. Wallace, B. A. (2006). Contemplative science: Where Buddhism and neuroscience converge. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Wallace, B. A. (2011). Minding closely: The four applications of mindfulness. Boston and London: Snow Lion Publications.Google Scholar
  46. Watts, A. (1999). Buddhism the religion of no-religion. Tokyo/Rutland/Singapore: Tuttle Publishing.Google Scholar
  47. Wilkinson, I. (2005). Suffering: A sociological introduction. Indianapolis: PolityGoogle Scholar
  48. Žižek, S. (2001, Spring). From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism. Cabinet Magazine, Issue 2. http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/2/western.php. Accessed 29 Oct 2013.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social SciencesNational Research University – Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussian Federation

Personalised recommendations