Glimpses of a Metamodern Buddhism
Ironic Sincerity and the Fertile Void
This is a daughter article of Trickster Buddhism: the Dawn of the Hahayana which you can read here.
Having dragged Buddhism through both the absolutism of modernism and the deconstruction of postmodernism, the only viable way forward is to synthesise the two: to fuse the sincerity and idealism of modernism with the self-criticality of postmodernism.
The result is the hallmark of the metamodern attitude known as ironic sincerity.
As Hanzi Freinacht illuminates us:
“The aim of this [postmodern] irony has been to relate critically to our commercialized world, full of sales pitches and promises. It creates a distance between us, the critically minded people, and the hysterically pursued ideologies of the 20th century. By being ironic, we can stay safe. And we can avoid the ridicule of others.This irony helps us reveal things: it shows that everything is dependent on the context, that humor can be more powerful than the faith of the “true believers”, that we are always relating to surfaces that others have created for us to see, that we are continuously being manipulated by one another, that people and their aspirations are always more trivial, more banal, than they’d like to admit.
The problem with irony is that it always leaves you at a distance. You can keep going your whole life, always being the smart dude who said the clever thing and avoided being the sucker. But does that really make us free? We still have things we believe in, after all, things worth fighting for. The solution that metamodernism offers is to keep the postmodern irony, keep the distance, but to create a new sincerity and self-consciously naive belief on top of it.”
This is where the trickster bodhisattvas come in. Holy fools that they are, they stare the infinite void of meaninglessness in the face and do not blink.
Instead, they wink!
One eye open, one eye closed.
Kinky devils that they are, these cosmic bunny-bandits now start flirting with the void. After a courtship lasting countless lifetimes, their passion finally rises to a point where they decide to make love with the void, fusing with her so thoroughly as to dissolve their own self into their infinite selfless void.
This fusion of form and emptiness transcends all separation and duality between the two, revealing the true nature of all forms — and all beings — as divine buddha deities of the infinite imaginal realm!
Coming home to our original nature, we are thrust into the freedom of the selfless self: free to behold and creatively contribute to the ever-unfolding beauty of the world of form, and to bask in the infinite openness of perfect emptiness.
Form and formlessness re-unite in ecstatic blissful union to produce something utterly new: the hieros gamos, or divine marriage. What follows is the birth of the divine child: the living, conscious cosmos. The universe is seen and experienced for what she is: “a single unified organism [a living being!] of extraordinary complexity and subtlety reflecting a vast creative intelligence.” (Christopher Bache). All we have ever known is her play and exploration. And her play is our play, because we are her, unfolding in and through these bodies, minds and hearts…
They stare their own utter non-reality in the face and realise: this doesn’t mean that I am trapped. It means I am free!
Nice try, universe! Now I see that you are me and I am you and we can exist only in relationship!
The fact that everything has been thoroughly deconstructed, criticised and revealed to be relative (not-absolute), and socially and culturally conditioned, is what enables the trickisattvas to charge forward with crazy naivety, idealism and shining utopian vision — laughing, weeping, dancing, filling the void with imaginal dream petals and twirling their way through a dreamscape of impossible proportions, longing for the liberation of all dream-beings into realisation of their utterly empty, utterly free, utterly open nature.
Yet they are now woke enough to check themselves, to laugh at their own fantasies of grandeur and self-importance, to be acutely aware of their capacity for silencing and oppressing others through their ignorance. Far from shutting them down into shame and self-berating, that self-criticality opens them up into ever-deeper humour and compassion for all other beings who are locked into their own painful ego-tunnels.
Trickster Buddhism is therefore the wild and wonderful lovechild of the metamodern marriage of “extreme irony with a deep, unyielding sincerity”.
As Freinacht writes: “These two sides are in superposition to one another. The sincerity makes the irony much more effective, because it becomes genuinely ambiguous; the irony, because it is all-encompassing, creates room for an unapologetic, even religious, sincerity of emotions, hopes and aspirations. Without the irony and sarcasm, my sincerity would simply be too much; it would awaken severe suspicions, and for good reason too.”
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche summarises it wonderfully (in his book Shambhala):
The bombastic bodhisattvas of the Ha!Ha!Yana!(TM) know themselves to be totally empty and totally divine: ecstatic magical plays of embodied perception conducted for the delight of all onlooking interlocking interpenetrating beings, themselves free-and-easy buddhas of the great open sky of emptiness.
They know that all of this — washing machines, forks, tables, seagulls, ice cream — is a play and a revelation of the divine creative imagination.
The waters of form float freely… imaginal clouds in the infinite expanse. And the two — form and emptiness, clouds and sky — are as inseparable as lovers.
Beneath, the sea. Above, the void, womb of the fire gods.
Star buddhas — ecstatic emanations of the clear and empty light. Winking, and beckoning:
Jesters of the vajra way!
Fabricate freely —
Traverse every realm!
Arrive at the buddhafields!
Infinite possibility awaits!
Infinite possibility unfolds — every moment!
That which you already are!
That which you already aren’t!
Divine play of the boundless heart!
O humble earth life!
Bug and beetles!
Tea and cake!
No stopping us now!
Freedom is ours
And we belong only to her!
Ha Ha Ha Ha