This chapter will focus on the philosophy of Buddhism, specifically Zen, and Anarchy, specifically Agorism. Zen is the Japanese pronunciation for Chan or Dhyana, which translates roughly to “meditation”. It is also the name for the school of Mahayana Buddhism that began in China and spread to the south and east around the 6th century of the current era.
Although certain sects of Buddhism have promoted obedience and been used as state religion, Zen Buddhism was actually a rejection of certain ritualized Buddhist practices and philosophy that had become more rigid since the death of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama.
Siddhartha is believed to have been born a prince in the subcontinent of India about five centuries before the current era. His parents did their best to shelter him. However, the story says that at age twenty-nine, Siddhartha made several trips outside of his pampered palace and witnessed human suffering for the first time in his life in the form of a sick elderly man, and a dead body. Siddhartha decided to abandon his privileged life and begin a spiritual quest.
After trying out extremes of deep, dedicated meditation and fasting to the point of starvation, the former prince discovered The Middle Way, a path of balance and moderation. At age thirty-five, while meditating under the Bodhi tree, he achieved enlightenment as he touched the Earth, declaring his victory over Mara, a demon that represents temptation. From then until the time of his death in his eighties, The Buddha taught his philosophy of compassion, non-violence, meditation and non-attachment.
Around twelve centuries after the Buddha’s life, an Indian monk named Bodhidharma was credited with bringing Buddhism to China and popularizing the importance of Zazen, or sitting meditation. He taught that the path to enlightenment would not come from reciting the Buddha’s words or lighting a certain amount of candles, but rather by doing what the Buddha was doing when he achieved enlightenment – meditating.
The Buddha’s victory over Mara underneath the Bodhi tree is the reason Zen stresses the importance of Zazen. Through Zazen we better understand the nature of reality as we achieve self-realization by recognizing the truth that there is nothing but the present moment.
Zen and the Agora: Anarchy, Agora, Action and Awareness
As we noted earlier, Agorism is the branch of Anarchy that focuses on self-sufficiency, the idea of counter economics, black and grey markets and on creating alternatives to state institutions. Our desire for Anarchy comes from a desire for collective liberation. Our interest in Agorism comes from a demand for actions that create solutions in this life in attempt to create a better world.
While Agorism calls for action in the physical realm by creating alternative currencies, self-sufficiency and barter networks, Zen calls for action in the mental realm. Zen is the action of the mind. In Zen, the greatest action you can take is to sit, still your mind and be with yourself. You must silence the noise and detach. It is about connecting with your mind and recognizing the ultimate truth of reality and freedom beyond words.
Both these philosophies call for action. One calls for action in the physical world, the other in the internal world, but both are about taking action. Meditation is a completely personal and direct experience. It “requires” letting go of fears, insecurities and ego. Whatever you find in your own mind– nobody can take that away from you. In terms of anarchy, we see meditation as our direct connection to being sovereign, free humans with no authority over us.We are not pretending that this (or anything in this book) is a one size fits all solution, because obviously those don’t work. Rather, we are providing another option– what we believe is a further evolvement of anarchy.
“there is no one way, one straight line graph to liberty to be sure, but there is a family of graphs that will take the libertarian to his goal of a free society and that space can be described.”
We believe another solution is having a sense of spirituality and an understanding of self-reflection, coupled with a philosophical understanding of anarchy and the role of government.
It is not enough to simply understand the nature of government and the immorality of force. If we do not learn about ourselves and conquer our inner demons in attempt to get to the root causes of statism, statism will live on. We may be able to beat the current government, but until we explore the root of the issue, a new type of statism will exist every couple hundred years or so.
“a lot more than statism would need to be eliminated from individual consciousness for this society to exist. Most damaging of all to this perfectly free society is its lack of a mechanism of correction. All it takes is a handful of practitioners of coercion who enjoy their illgotten plunder in enough company to sustain them – and freedom is dead. Even if all are living free, one “bite of the apple,” one throwback, reading old history or rediscovering evil on his own, will “unfree” the perfect society,” (page 25)
It will take more than the elimination of Statism to create a free society. We can spread the ideas of liberty, anarchy, self-rule, an understanding the immorality of force and the like, but until we as individuals deeply examine our own inconsistencies, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and create a new form of Statism. Humanity must pursue an understanding of the self and the motivation behind violence, theft, and fear. If free people continue to be bound by fear, we will keep creating the same situation.
In Buddhism, the endless cycle of life and death, which students of the Middle Path seek to end, is known as Samsara. Until you gain a level of balance and tacit awareness through meditation, chanting, prayer or ritual (depending on the sect of Buddhism) you will continue the cycle of Samsara. As a species we find ourselves stuck in State Samsara, an endless cycle of attempting to fix the world and manage humanity’s problems by allowing a small group to maintain a monopoly on force and violence. It doesn’t work. We will continue this cycle until every individual makes a choice to go within and stop feeding the state.
When Konkin introduced Agorism, he also introduced the three A’s. These include the Agora, Anarchy and Action. “Agora”, meaning the marketplace, the exchange – humans interacting freely without interference. “Anarchy” or self-rule, and “Action”, or what’s needed to move these things forward. Equally powerful as the three A’s are the Buddhist sentiments of wisdom, compassion and action.
If you have wisdom, you possess knowledge and know how to use it. You have a solid understanding of the physical world around you. With wisdom but no compassion for your fellow human being you are all mind and no heart. However if you are all compassion, being lead solely by your heart and possessing no wisdom, then you might find yourself being taken advantage of and lead astray. Even if you have wisdom and compassion for yourself and the community around you, nothing gets done without action. It is with this in mind that we propose a fourth A for the spiritual Agorist.
We believe that “Awareness” should be a part of the Agorist path– Awareness of self, so you can better know yourself and better “rule” yourself. How can we know what freedom means to us if we do not know ourselves? This is also considered mindful awareness or mindfulness– Mindfulness with our interactions with the community, in the market and in our actions.
When we apply the same understanding and awareness to our individual paths and our place in the universe, we are furthering our understanding of what it truly means to be free. It is time for us to slow down, be conscious and become more aware of our own thoughts, words and actions. From this balanced standpoint we can begin to build alternative institutions that will rival the state and allow freedom to flourish.
Consistency from Samuel Konkin III to Siddhartha Gautama
Throughout our lives we encounter individuals who profess certain ideas or principles, whether political or otherwise, yet display behavior quite the opposite of their words. After repeatedly witnessing such hypocrisy, one learns not to trust the words of such a person. If we cannot be held accountable for our actions and words, why bother taking anyone seriously?
In the “New Libertarian Manifesto”, Samuel Konkin III speaks of the importance of consistency. He writes:
“The basic principle which leads a libertarian from statism to his free society is the same which the founders of libertarianism used to discover the theory itself. That principle is consistency. Thus, the consistent application of the theory of libertarianism to every action the individual libertarian takes creates the libertarian society.
Many thinkers have expressed the need for consistency between means and ends and not all were libertarians. Ironically, many statists have claimed inconsistency between laudable ends and contemptible means; yet when their true ends of greater power and oppression were understood, their means are found to be quite consistent. It is part of the statist mystique to confuse the necessity of ends-means consistency; it is thus the most crucial activity of the libertarian theorist to expose inconsistencies,” (Page 23).
Konkin understood the importance of consistency when it comes to libertarian/anarchist philosophy and we can take it even further. Remove the strictly libertarian mindset from the sentences and we see they remain applicable to any individual regardless of their political or philosophical association.
“The application of consistency to every action the individual takes creates a more consistent society.”
Obviously, as Konkin states, Statists are quite inconsistent as well. They may claim to stand for certain principles, yet their actions show their true nature and intentions. One can assume the Statists in power are either completely unaware of their actions or are in fact total and complete liars.
Siddhartha Gautama also spoke about the importance of consistency: The Buddha believed mindfulness and self-awareness were the two keys to eliminating suffering. He believed one could attain a new understanding of self and move past the dualistic understanding of reality by turning the focus inside and meditating.
With a consistent application of compassion and self-reflection, the Buddhist sees a way to free the people from themselves and thus create a more free society. We see the importance of consistency in this quote attributed to the Buddha:
“Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mindwrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow,” (“The Pairs”, Dhammapada,).
What you create in thought form becomes your words. After repeatedly listening to your words, your actions begin to reflect your thinking. So if you are of the Statist mindset, you speak from a Statist perspective and your actions and character reflect your Statist position. On the other hand if you are pursuing ideas of compassion, the Non-Aggression Principle, self-rule and reflection, it follows that your thoughts, words and actions will reflect the same.
This is in line with Voluntaryist philosophy. Author Albert Jay Nock said it best–
“Ages of experience testify that the only way society can be improved is by the individualist method…that is, the method of each ‘one’ doing his very best to improve ‘one’. Voluntaryists believe that this is the quiet, peaceful, patient way of changing society because it concentrates on bettering the character of men and women as individuals. The voluntaryist hope is that as the individual units change, the improvement of society will take care of itself. In other words, “if one take care of the means, the end will take care of itself,” (Memoirs of a Superfluous Man).
Once again the ideas of introspection and self-governance align. We see great value in a path that includes an autonomous, sovereign practice of Zen meditation, compassion and non-violence that also respects the principles of self-governance and determination.