Sunday, December 07, 2008

New Dimensions

From time to time I listen to New Dimensions, a program on New Age teachings hosted by Michael Thoms. I discovered it on the Australian Broadcasting Company, which is where I usually listen to it. This program gives me an introduction to many of the current popular meditation teachers in the West.

Today I am listening to More love, more compassion, more joy with Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist psychologist.

The reason I am blogging this is what this program is making me reflect on the differences between Vaishnavism and this new realm of popular New Age spirituality. It is also making me reflect on what I am doing here in this ashram? These thoughts are also connected to those in the post I made on Thanksgiving.

As Kornfield demonstrates in the beginning of this program, these people take pains to distinguish their activities from religion--it is a philosophy, it is practical psychology, it is a process of self-improvement, etc., anything but a religion.

This is that "scientific" way of talking that even Prabhupada adopted in coming to the West. This is an experimental process. You try the process, and you are sure to find it works, etc., etc.

Publicly, Swami Veda Bharati fits right into this world of modern new ageism. But he has not compromised his own vision. That is OK, there is little to compromise there. But he has a great deal of wisdom. In that post where I said that Mayavada has some aspects of maturity that kanistha bhaktas don't have, that is what I meant.

I am also so strictly religious. I don't think I will ever compromise, but if we want to make it popular or meaningful to other people, we have to make it practical in these kinds of things--the cultivation of human qualities. This is what that psychologist who was criticizing me for promoting infatuation, etc.

I don't ever want to compromise the essential truth of GV. That is why I go straight to the meaning of Radha Krishna. What this is is really a different approach to spiritual life. But it has to be in contact with the other realizations that are inherent in Buddhism and Advaita-vada. Before people want to love God, they want to be better human beings. And if, as is so often the case, religion somehow seems to diminish us, then people ask, what is the point?

That is the real danger of the api cet sudurācāro verse. It makes us think that our trivial service to God is somehow more important than the offering of our being.

What is it about our psychology that makes this approach so much more intuitive?

They just showed a film on meditation that was partly made here for Dutch TV. This continues on from that letter I sent you about the Buddhist meditation, etc. All this scientific brainwave testing, etc. That was what this film was about. Basically, Swami Veda, who was interviewed a lot in the film, says that people want these "tangible" proofs that something works. But if people do meditation for all these other reasons--relief of stress, lowering blood-pressure, conquering anger, etc., they will derive more lasting spiritual benefits in the end.

Can we do anything like that? I guess Dhira Govinda did some kinds of studies along this line. And of course there are so many studies showing that (1) belonging to a church group, (2) having faith in something, (3) having a loving partner, etc., all lead to better quality and longer life. But like Swami Veda says, those are all secondary results. You can't really show the benefits of these things externally, the real benefit is a change in character. That can be intuited through the personality of the teacher.

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