This essay considers the postmodern engagement with Buddhism as a philosophy and a practice through the lens of Severo Sarduy’s Cobra (1972). It argues that a closer alignment of contemporary Buddhist studies with literary criticism can help us to better understand both contemporary writing in general and particular works of fiction. Sarduy’s Cobra and the criticism around it manifest the potential benefits of such a cross-disciplinary engagement. Although most critics have taken the novel to embody “Buddhist” themes, few have critically engaged the literature on Buddhism to see what this might actually mean. By placing Cobra alongside some contemporary work in Buddhist studies, I argue that the novel both understands and laments its own Orientalism. Cobra thus closes with a call for a future philosophy of global engagement—a call, I argue, that is still relevant for literary criticism today.

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