Thursday, April 23, 2009

Secular extrapolation

The Hindu orthodox schools of thought have always been geared to strict adherents. Back in the day, you had people who studied this stuff for the sake of studying it and they devoted their lives to it. You didn't dabble in it from time to time, and you certainly didn't separate it from its elements. I think it's pretty apparent that things don't work that way, especially now. It's not so practical for people to completely devote themselves to learning yoga, or saaMkhya, or taantra yoga or something. But, that doesn't mean we can't still benefit from it.

In the past century, you have a large influx of "Eastern thought" and most of that has been adapted in some secular form. "yoga" conjures up images of crazy body positions and breathing exercises, not of traditional meditation or the austere ascetic lifestyle. On the one hand, you lose some of the original meaning. This may or may not be a problem for you. On the other hand, you gain a lot of benefits, like healthier life choices. This may or may not be a plus to you. Bottom line is that this secular extrapolation and development provides many avenues for many different people. For those "soccer moms" and "serious atheletes" who love haTha yoga (deva: हठ योग), they can perform their postures. For those "intellectual students" and "introspectives" you can find plenty of meditation centers for raaja yoga (deva: राज योग).

One of the larger problems that occur with this is that many unique concepts lose their distinction. If you look at the migration of Buddhism into the US over the past sixty years or so, you can see that in many cases entire schools of Buddhism are misinterpreted. You have Zen/Chan Buddhism mixed up with Taoism, and Vipassana Buddhism often losing its core methods of meditation. Words and concepts get mixed up and infused with entirely different meanings (partially leading to my four part post on karma). You lose distinctions that are important in the context of specific schools, and while they may not be important to the people who are frequenting the monastery, it is important in the larger scheme of things. This is because as students progress, they reach important teachings which have a context. Having no context, or having the student relearn concepts integral to that context, provides a steep incline for the learning process.

It may be that for this reason, we should think of a tiered system. One tier for concepts common to all schools, and the next diverging into branches based on concepts. Not unlike how high school, college, grad school, etc. form a tiered educational system.

I'll post more on this another day. I just really feel that things need to be reorganized, or at least thought out in a better way. Secularization is not new, and it's fairly inevitable, especially with the way trends are going now. But, if we put some thought into things, we can shape it in a way that makes much more sense. If we can avoid something like this, then why not?

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