All generations from the ‘Traditionalists’ (born 1945 and before), Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born 1965 to 1976), Millennials (born 1977 to 1995 which are Nielsen Media Research figures), and, presently, Gen Z (born 1996 and later) share one thing in common, i.e., they are born and reared into a culture which, on the outside, appears to be changing yet despite the change has maintained a remarkable stability and adaptiveness if one bothers to look below the surface.
From a broader perspective, stability and adaptiveness emerge from a core of religion, philosophy, law and science to name the important elements of this older cultural core which lies below the surface. To a certain extent this is a continuation of Greek and Roman culture. We still have a deep understanding of these ancient cultures because the core of our culture is still connected with these older cultures. Nor are they that far away from Indian culture—not as far as we would like to imagine (I would recommend taking a look at Thomas McEvillery’s book, The Shape of Ancient Thought).
If there is anything in modernity that is designed to destroy this ancient core it is ideology. To begin, an ideology is an assemblage of beliefs, conceptual abstractions and symbols, set into a narrative structure that vaguely implies key connections in such a way that it serves to recontextualize and reinterpret social reality and motivate political action. In this regard, ideology is also a system of power, although entirely negative. Two notable ideologies that come to mind are Islam and Communism the latter includes cultural Marxism.
Both Islam and Communism set their sights on world domination and I would add, world terror. In the main, both are nothing more than anti-cultures which eventually collapse upon themselves without new conquests. The life of Muhammad is that of a warlord who plunders the cultures around him. Islam has nothing to do with religion. It is a false religion insofar as it is spiritually empty. Islam is a cult of personality and terror but so is Communism with its history of mass murder in the USSR estimated to be somewhere around 56 to 62 million between 1928 and 1954.
Knowing all this, I see signs of ideology trying to enter into Buddhism. The most notable example of an ‘ideologicalized text’ is Stephen Batchelor’s book, Buddhism Without Beliefs. By making subtle shifts which serve to recontextualize Buddhism, Batchelor is able to produce a new interpretation if not a new Buddhism. Batchelor observes:
The Buddha was not a mystic. His awakening was not a shattering insight into a transcendent Truth that revealed to him the mysteries of God (p. 5).
The Buddha made no mention of a creator god except to condemn such an idea. But it can be argued with good evidence that the Buddha was, in fact, a mystic. His awakening was a shattering insight into paramarthasatya or transcendent truth!
Batchelor appears to be telling us a new story of Buddhism, one which fits perfectly well with what I said earlier about ideology being set into a narrative structure—a descriptive story—which makes Batchelor an ideologue (Napoleon called ideologues, “dangerous dreamers”). The fact that Batchelor’s narrative of Buddhism reduces nirvana to almost an ignoble status is certainly a red flag as to what is really going on. We further learn from Batchelor that Buddhism was transformed into a religion when “in fact it might well have more in common with Godless secularism than with the bastions of religion.” And maybe this is the truth of Batchelor’s project, to turn Buddhism into his personal vision but more, to destroy the religious content of Buddhism.
It matters not what generation we were born into, our deep cultural core is sufficient to find the truth and defend it. This does not mean a struggle with ideology will not take place—it certainly will and as done so in the past for well over a hundred years. This struggle reminds me of the battle in the Vedas between the gods and the Asuras who are said to know wisdom but on the whole are mischievous evil powers.