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Schopenhauer and the New Age

May 7th, 2010 · 2 Comments

MBFM comment on Karmapa

MBFM raises the issue of the right ‘Buddhist dharma’ to pursue in the modern world. Original Buddhism is so elegant and simple that the steps would seem transparent, but they are not. Westerners rarely succeed at meditation, while Indians seem to know it all first hand. Deepak Chopra talks a good game, but he knows he is an idiot, and, running scared, gets up to meditate two hours a day in fine Indian style. I don’t recommend that or anything one way or the other, you can’t imitate such people, you are not an Indian, but consider the confusion of the situation.
The tradition as received is not really accurate history anymore, and the techniques may fail on a modern body type. I have seen one person from the New Age who spent five years trying to learn to sit in full lotus, and failing in disgust, to abandon sadhana forever. Rare is the westerner who can do that. Who cares. Sit with legs loose on in half lotus or nothing. Don’t be distracted by such nonsense. That’s a good example of the way the obvious will fail, when it is so ancient. Yet Buddhism has a truly modern tone to its core. What a pity. Many Buddhists have understood this and the prophesy of the new Buddha have been many, only to result in a thorgoughly hopeless idiocy of pretenders. Many ancients Buddhists, and Tibetans, saw the new age effect, but their solution isn’t destined to succeed.
I should note that Schopenhauer produced a good part of the answer to translating the issues into modern thought two centuries ago at the dawn of the New Age movement, which he witnessed. It is a reminder that few really understand ancient sutras, even those born in Tibet or India. As the sufis say, the tradition is not reborn in time, but beyond time, verbiage with a point, in their sugary mystical language. But be wary of Schopenhauer: it was not his intention to create a religion or a spiritual path. You can also get hung up on his metaphysical slant. He, and Kant, simply clarified the language of spirituality, lost to most traditionalists, and certainly to most, all!, Christians, who try to get sustenance from religious propaganda of the late Roman empire.

I should note that James, a earlier frequent commenter here, was often prone to links to various Buddhist groups from Thailand, the Hinayana stronghold.
I can’t really advise anyone here, save to note that the pitfalls pointed to at The Gurdjieff Con are horrific. But that way is vital and still alive. Almost.

The answer to these questions is comically simple: the Hinduism/Buddhism/Jainism of the Axial Age were already recreations of ancient lost teachings, and got many things wrong. But they did succeed in producing a new cycle. Modernity can do the same. But it is not a question of New Age reactionaries destroying modernity.

Modern man is a different body type. Try this: if you are allergic to meditation try meditating five minutes or so a day for two years. An absurd exercise, but if the alternative is nothing, then… And the alternative is almost always nothing for Westerners. Five minutes a day is a steady reminder that you are not meditating, or are you? It forces the issue of what mediation is. Don’t discuss it with people. This is also good if you are busy in modernity. You can’t graft meditation onto modernity armed with New Age cliches. You don’t have an hour a day to spare from the prison of the modern economy. Take five minutes a day, something that can succeed, to reflect on you situation in a sitting posture. One day the right way to proceed will appear to you, willy nilly. There are many variants to this procedure. Five minutes is hardly meditation, whatever that is, but what is, and this is a ‘good question’, as they say, in you existence, one that is absent from many of the fashionable New Age meditation retreats that make a mechanical hodgepodge of meditation.
That five minutes will remain a good question, spare you wasted time on psedo meditative gymastics, and induce a slowly rising panic that your life has been a waste, so long sucker. Then you can hopefully proceed to something real. As real, maybe, as meditating five minutes a day.

After that you can order a five ton Shiva Lingam like the kind in Jain temples for your back yard from India. With its economy booming the way it is you can probably have one shipped UPS. Cash or creditcard, maybe even via the Internet. It can be a real come on for your Tantrik path, the successor to your five minute good question phase.

A far better starting point is to reflect on the self-consciousness behind your ordinary consciousness. That is the real point, along with the arduous task of coming to understand your human software, a very difficult thing to do. It is sad but we usually spend 90% of our life trying to understand our human software, and then barely succeed. But it need not be hard. It is not however a puzzle you can solve by thinking about it.
You cannot get it from current scientific psychology, and you cannot get it from Christianizing religion, and you cannot easily get it from the sutras of antiquity, but the odds improve. That’s often the key to meditation, don’t know, just sit and wait.
All you can do is reflect on consciousness, will, and the power of attention, and look at the way that Nature in its strange wisdom has planted a spiritiual (bad word, wrong word) path dead center in modernity, built around the question of your self-consciousness, an evanescent state momentarily real in the act of attention. That’s it, the whole sutra.

A Sufi myth: Fourth Ways,…and The Great Freedom Sutra

I am not a guru, and don’t propose anything, but the ground of self-consciousness is the universal ground of human evolution, an invariant at all times and places, and religions have no monopoly on it, if they have any connection to it at all. Ancient men at the dawn of human speciation must have had the first taste of it, perhaps even stronger that what is common in modern men. In that sense man as man is what he always was, strangely stuck between two worlds, with a mysterious software that has flowered in uncommon times and places. Alfred Wallace came to understand something of this and quite briskly trotted away from his original view of evolutiion (which Darwin plagiarized).
In the issue of self-consciousness secularism is the ground for a truer higher religious non-religion of the future.

Tags: Kant · New Age · Schopenhauer

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