Monday, November 30, 2015

Spirituality - Healthy or Unhealthy?

     “The pursuit of spiritual goals can be a useful excuse to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved trauma, and limited professional development. But prioritizing transcendence over relationships becomes a way to be self-centered while appearing to be concerned for the benefit of other people. 
     So psychologists … apply a simple test to spiritual statements: Do the beliefs and practices take the person closer to a functional and helpful existence, or away from one?”
        Scott Carney. "A Death on Diamond Mountain. A True Story of Obsession, Madness, and the Path to Enlightenment." Gotham Books, 2015.
       The message: don't join cults, especially if you have undiagnosed & untreated psychiatric conditions - perfectly reasonable!
       But then the author warns against serious spiritual pursuits in general, travel to foreign countries with different cultures, and the power of evil spells, - all of these endangering sanity & life - ????

     Futile attempts to escape psychosocial dysfunction through religion / spirituality is called spiritual bypassing. See: 
     When unfortunate, marginalized individuals get trapped in spiritual bypassing, usually after intensive brainwashing by sociopathic handlers, instead of finding heaven, they "unleash hell on earth", primarily for their own families. Such psychosocial illness has nothing to do with legitimate humanistic / religious / spiritual aspirations. 
     Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an increasingly common humanistic pathway towards greater depth of meaning:!Meditations-Potential/c17jj/565b14520cf221f2a7a5e228

     Examples of legitimate Buddhist aspirations are expressed by Dogen:
     "Just practice good, do good for others, without thinking of making yourself known so that you may gain reward. Really bring benefit to others, gaining nothing for yourself. This is the primary requisite for breaking free of attachments to the self."
     and the Bodhisattva vow: 

Buddha statue

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Depth of Interest & Quality of Transformation

     “The Son tradition originated in seventh-century Tang China as a reaction against the overly metaphysical concerns of the established Buddhist schools. It sought to recover the simplicity of early Buddhism by following Gotama’s example of sitting still beneath a tree in an uncompromising engagement with the primordial questions of what it means to be born, get sick, grow old, and die. The Son masters realized that the very way in which you posed these questions would determine the kind of ‘enlightenment’ you might gain. A famous aphorism encapsulates this realization:

Great doubt – great awakening;

Little doubt – little awakening;

No doubt – no awakening.

     The quality of your ‘doubt’ – of the questions you ask – is directly correlated to the quality of your insight. To ask such questions viscerally will engender a correspondingly visceral awakening. To pose them intellectually, with ‘little doubt,’ will lead only to intellectual understanding. For those who are not stirred by existential questions at all, awakening is not even conceivable.”

     Stephen Batchelor. “After Buddhism. Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age." Yale University Press, New Haven, 2015.

Tree with superficial roots blown down by wind.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Spirituality & Social Activism

     “In this era, to become a spiritual inquirer without social consciousness is a luxury that we can ill afford, and to be a social activist without a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the mind is the worst folly. Neither approach in isolation has had any significant success. There is no question now that an inquirer will have to make an effort to be socially conscious or that an activist will have to be persuaded of the moral crisis in the human psyche, the significance of being attentive to the inner life. The challenge awaiting us is to go much deeper as human beings, to abandon superficial prejudices and preferences, to expand understanding to a global scale, integrating the totality of living, and to become aware of the wholeness of which we are a manifestation.”

       Vimala Thakar (1921-2009) Indian social activist and spiritual teacher