This morning, Hariod Brawn and I exchanged these ideas sparked by a remark I made in the post Living the Love of Wisdom: Spirals of Transformation.
I think this is worth sharing as an example of “dialogue” in its literal sense. The word does not refer to a conversation between two people. The prefix “dia” means “through” as in diaphanous or diagram. “Logue” comes from Logos, that has many meanings in Greek, but it generally refers to the process of thought. So “dialogue” could perhaps be best understood as “Thinking something through together,” whether between two people or among thirty. In the following brief exchange, we are working together toward a deeper common understanding of cultural and philosophical trends that we both care about. Rather than “answering questions,” we are probing possibilities, and sharing insights and experiences. Parker Palmer has defined Philosophy as “the eternal conversation about things that truly matter.” I think the blogosphere has become a marvelous forum for enlivening this eternal conversation, and it is my hope that the following might be seen as a brief verse in the song of wisdom.
You speak here of the need for intentional practices, or as you say, ‘Sadhana’ in Eastern traditions. The rise in a contemporary (and also corrupted) take on classical Advaita, wherein considerations such as ethical behaviour and formal practices of mental culture are deemed superfluous, seems to me to reflect the laziness of Western consumer culture, [i.e. choice is paramount] and might be seen as a pernicious trend.
May I ask of you whether you sense a similar movement from where you stand; or do you see the Westernisation of Eastern ontologies/doctrines as being in good and ever-maturing fettle? The picture here in England seems rather mixed to me.
Thank you once again.
Dear Hariod, I am excited by your provocative (in the best sense) insights. I see three levels to your remarks that I can only begin to explore. The first is the general question of whether Eastern ontologies and ethics can find an authentic home in a Western soul. I have only a vague idea of what to say about this right now. I think you have inspired a new blog essay. The second point seems more clear to me, and that is the pernicious trend of the commercialization of spirituality in the western world (and frankly, in the East as well). This has led, I think, to very self-involved “gurus” and to seekers who want to take a road to maturity that is, if not lazy, at least easy. Your third point is, in my experience, nuanced. Granted that many people are in a rather undisciplined pop-culture phase, but many of my international students in Japan were clearly luminous souls who gave themselves unstintingly to understanding and absorbing Eastern cultural values and world views. I was deeply moved by their dedication, and felt there was hope for the future despite the raging hatred and violence in so much of the world. There are also meditation centers here in the US, such as Spirit Rock and the Zen Mountain Center, where people from every walk of life follow traditional Eastern practices with sincere zeal. As I think about it, I would add that even those folks who seem to be dabbling–reading a couple of books and meditating once in a while–have a sweetness to their seeking, and one never knows when and if their life’s agenda will kick into high gear. “There is more in Heaven and Earth…”