(modern nitwit = Brahman) ?

Greg Goode goode at DPW.COM
Wed Oct 29 09:32:29 CST 1997

At 01:22 AM 10/29/97 -0500, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

>> Believe it or not, my personal interest includes my concern for the
>> spiritual rootlessness of my fellow man (and women too of course) and
>> I would not be bothering to participate here if I did not think Advaita
>> Vedanta had the "real goods" to offer. I am aware of the necessity of
>> preserving the original tradition in some form in order to provide the
>> rest of us with a benchmark. I am aware the "baby could get thrown out
>> with the bathwater" if only part of a tradition is transposed in the
>> wrong way. I was trying to assess the possibilities, that's all.
>It's a noble aim but it's doomed to failure for the same reason all other
>previous attempts have failed: These are not your roots.  Western cultures
>have their roots but you (collectively) have made a decision to reject
>them.  That's what it means to be modern.  Modernity  has many benefits
>but has exacted a psychic price.  I don't think the exoticism of a foreign
>culture is going to help.

Acceptance, rejection, exotic cultures, psychic prices.  It's not always
that simple.  Let me explain.  In my case, my upbringing was totally
American, model 1950's/60's child, but there was not the slightest trace of
religion or religious instruction in my family, no matter how many
generations I look back.  I don't feel any more identified with one
religion than with another.

You make an interesting point about "the exoticism of a foreign culture."
Speaking (unsolicitedly) for Americans now, let me say:

Admittedly there are many people who take up exotic foreign forms of
spirituality mostly for the exoticism.  I've seen it with Americans taking
up Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, even Zen.  These seekers take on all visible
aspects of these traditions.  They wear mala made from colorful plastic
beads, they wear the Om Namah Shivaya prayer shawls as skirts, they eat
vegetarian and die their T-shirts ochre, they take up Japanese arts, they
give themselves Hindu or Tibetan names, they decorate their homes with the
expensive Tibetan wall hangings along with having the Nataraj and Saraswati
statues on thier altars, they visit India lots, and agitate for Tibetan
independence.  Their main sadhana tends to be hatha yoga or chanting.
We've all seen folks like this.  Many of my seeker-friends are this way.

What are they doing, you might ask.  For a large part, they are escaping
the mental/emotional baggage left by their Jewish or Christian upbringing.
To continue in these traditions would bring on too much guilt and pain.
They now have a clean start, and tend to approach the new religion the same
way they approached the old one.  Instead of worshipping Jesus, they'll
worship Shiva.  Instead of studying Judaism, they'll study Tibetan
Buddhism.  Often, they gain a greater understanding of spirituality in
general and GO BACK to their native tradition!  This happened to one of my
friends (former Sai Baba devotee), and the bookstores have several books in
the Easter Religion section by Jews who returned to Judaism after delving
into Buddhism.

But Vedanta is different.  Fewer Americans are attracted to it for its
foreign exoticism.  Most Americans into Vedanta whom I've met are sincerely
attracted to its non-dualistic aspect.  It's pure, simple, profound.  There
are fewer cultural trappings (figurines, sounds, music, etc.) in Vedanta
than with other forms of Hinduism available in the U.S.  It's a bit less
accessible, harder to find, harder to understand.  Most of the seekers are

There are lots of Western teachers travelling, giving talks in what is
essentially a very watered-down form of Advaita Vedanta.  Basically, they
teach the main ideas ("You are infinite consciousness, so be your true
Self") with no texts, scriptures or religious context.  And they do it in a
way that lacks foreign cultural overlay, other than an occasional mention
of the Ganges River, or an Indian guru, or the words "Om" or "Namaste.")
Just this last 3 months in fact, New York City has had 8 or 9 of these
teachers visiting.  Never happened before.  And the teachers claim that
people are waking up, becoming enlightened around them.

In the West, this is a flourishing phenomenon, and for many people I've
seen, the psychic benefits are much greater than the psychic costs.


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