July 24, 2007
In the complex stew of Asian political Buddhism, I'll offer this essay and then a comment on the essay. I don't know what to think, really. This is relevant to Western Buddhists not really on a Buddhist practice basis, but more as a geopolitical awareness issue. It's more about the role of Religion in Society rather than the role of Buddhism in your life. This argument also brings up the bewhiskered Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion argument. More on the sticky subject of spirituality versus what is practical / useful / free of things-that-make-us-uncomfortable below.
Here's a breezy pop-culture essay on using your commute as meditation from the Chicago Sun-Times. (It has nothing to do with the image at right, which I pulled off Wikipedia.) And here's a GNIF Brain Blogger post saying that meditation is not a tool for stressed-out commuters to casually use -- it's nothing less than a profound transcendental and spiritual activity that pop culture is trying to commodify. Remember that thing a while back where a church was teaching yoga in Sunday school and then a bunch of concerned parents said satanism was being taught to their kids? I thought the whole debate was silly, and my facts / memory may be faulty, but there's room for discussion on whether meditation (and yoga) can be drained of its spiritual content and used as just a fitness or relaxation tool. I guess it beats having a couple of martinis when you get home from work (but didn't William James say even being drunk was spiritual somewhere in The Varieties of Religious Experience?) Whenever a Hollywood star (most recently Jennifer Aniston) says she's into yoga, the Indian papers are all over it. For them this debate is a little more alive than here where it's all about what tools are available to us in our goal of Something. This article about a meditation camp outside Cincinnati seems to fall about midway between the Sun Times and Brain Blogger:
"We're really doing this because we've heard a demand from the community," Lama said. "The future generations are the ones who will carry good into the world and into the future. We want to give them the tools to calm their minds and be more compassionate and godly people."
The program is more spiritual than religious, Lama said. It will include teachings on meditation and yoga and a film about the life of Buddha. Participants are asked to wear comfortable clothes.
"Lama" above refers to Jamyang Lama, who runs the program. If that is his real name. Note the language: They are providing "tools" for being better ("godly") people in a "more spiritual than religious" program. Someone once told me that the test of whether something is right or not is if it is about or partakes of wisdom and compassion. Which means this blog is probably wrong speech ("idle chatter, spoken with no purposeful intent at all.")
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