Radical Buddhism and the Paradox of Acceptance

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(originally on The Huffington Post 8/20/10) Critical theorist Slavoj Zizek has an interestingly harsh critique of Western Buddhism and the meditation tools it employs. Framing his critique in Marxist terms, he argues that Buddhism is the perfect spiritual tradition to be co-opted by our self-absorbed, destructive, and consumeristic society. For him, Buddhism represents the perfect ideology for passive acquiescence to the world as it is, a panacea of inner peace that fits neatly into an advertising culture where, by now, "be present" could just as well be the slogan of a credit card company as an instruction from a meditation teacher. Zizek writes, "[Western Buddhism allows us to] fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game, while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it, that you are well aware how worthless the spectacle is -- what really matters to you is the peace of the inner self to