Xavier Magazine

Extra Credit: David Loy

A self-described “Navy brat,” David Loy was born in Panama and “lived a little bit of everywhere” growing up. He attended Carlton College in Minnesota before moving to Hawaii where he began practicing Zen Buddhism. He received a master’s degree in Asian philosophy from the University of Hawaii in 1975. His dedication to Zen study led him to Singapore, where he received his doctorate in philosophy from the National University of Singapore in 1985. He began teaching full time in 1990 and is a tenured member of the faculty of international studies at Bunkyo University in Japan. In Spring 2006, Loy arrived at Xavier as the Besl Family Chair of Ethics/Religion and Society. His thoughts: “I think in the last few years, Jesuit universities have made a real priority—it’s a very important part of the Jesuit mission—to engage in inter-religious dialogue. Who was the theologian who said, ‘No peace between nations until peace between religions, and no peace between religions until there is dialogue?’ I think that’s what I’m observing at Xavier. It’s made a big push to dialogue with Islam and more recently with Judaism. I think Xavier is doing a very fine job with that.”

“Buddhism provides a different perspective and an alternative to a consumerist lifestyle. Buddhism says we suffer because of our greed, and of course, consumerism encourages that. In a way, consumerism is always telling us that if we want to be happy, buy more. And Buddhism points a way out of that trap: The only way you can become happy is to realize how your life is and transform it.” “It’s estimated that there are as many as four million American Buddhists, and as many as 26 million people say they have been influenced by Buddhism. I think Buddhism is becoming a significant force in American culture, but it is sort of slowly evolving.”

“Within the Abrahamic tradition, the struggle between good and evil is the major issue. Buddhism doesn’t have much to say about evil. It has a great deal to say about the causes of evil, which are greed, ill will and delusion. Our fundamental delusion is the sense that I’m inside and you’re outside, that we’re separate, and we have to realize how to get through that.”

“American Buddhism has a bit of a tendency to be appropriated by American consumerism. So one of my main concerns is speaking to the Buddhist community and trying to develop the implications of social theory. Buddhism is really about becoming more aware of other people and more aware of other social issues.”

“I’ve been very involved with Ernest Becker, a cultural anthropologist and psychologist, famously known for the book Denial of Death, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. He talks about how religion is one of the cultural ways that we try to deny death. In one way we don’t have to worry—just believe and it will be all right. But religion is also the main cultural institution that forces us to face death and sort of look it in the eye.”

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