For all intents and purposes, TNH’s version of the dharma makes one into a “good citizen.” His vision of “the Buddha’s teaching” produces socially non-reactive, non-discriminating subjects. A Buddhist, in this respect, does not seek political freedom but spiritual emancipation from “non-Buddhist” emotions such as anger and despair.
The Buddha, in the mind of TNH, dreamed, as Foucault would say, of “the utopia of the perfectly governed city.” (198) A city populated by citizens who spend their time moderating their emotions and behavior (self-regulating). Social freedom is an afterthought. Of course this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is also definitely an ideology that produces a particular type of Buddhist person with a particular set of Buddhist desires, habits, and behaviors (free of anger and jealousy while filled with peace and calm).
Matthias Steingass said
October 24, 2012 at 13:24
Tom, #92, etc.
“we all already know that Madison Avenue is trying to delude us”
We know “that” but not “how”, or we know it only partly. Already there are techniques like “neuromarketing”. Although these might be, at this point in time, not really working, it is evident that marketing will use all about cognitive and evolutionary psychology what they can lay their hand on. Promising psychologists are oftentimes headhunted directly from university into the laboratories and marketing departments of the big players – and their research results stay there.
They will use also everything from meditation, breathing exercises to yoga in all its variants to get more knowledge about how the consumer can put himself into a state of relaxed well being – all for regenerating his workforce – while at the same time knowledge about ideology and its genealogy remains in the dark. We know that it happens. But we can put more emphasis on how it happens.
Shyam discribes that in section four of his text in Foucaultian terms. Buddhism seems to be in fact a very well functioning panopticon. Today there are no more asylums or military barracks like in the “societies of disciplin”. Today in “society of norm/control” the structure of the panopticon became invisible – the act of disciplining itself becomes invisible.
I would ad to this that TNH isn’t aware of being something like a puppet on an string. The norm today of being a self regulating, well being, good looking, smart and successful consumer citizen is transmitted also through him. Here comes in (Weber’s) “charismatic personality” and its possible roots in the phylogenetic-biological realm. People literally fall in love with their guru, regardless of him/her being meat loaf or truly holy (e.g. Kumaré).
"Deepak Chopra recently spent a little time with some Buddhist monks in a monastery and was impressed by how serene they were.
'But Buddhist monasteries are set up for serenity. They are designed to create an environment that is protected from the usual day to day troubles we all have to deal with. The monks’ needs are all taken care of so that they can devote themselves to deep inquiry without distraction.....
"Put those same monks in a big time crunch in an Enterprise Rent-a-Car place with a born-again Christian who wants to give them a hard time and see what happens to all that serenity.
Chris Chandler, on January 3, 2014 at 7:32 pm said:
The U.S. and Europe could learn a lot from the Taiwanese, who have had a long connection Chan Buddhism and were not so easy to fool. Chan Buddhism , by the way, is where the stream of Dzochen actually came from, before it was corrupted by Lamaism. and is now being used by the Lamas, such as Tsoknyi R and Sogyal R and many other Lamas who claim to be teaching Dzogchen only to trap people into Vajarayana Tantric Guru-worshipping Lamaism. Many educated people are fooled by this one of many deceptions, used by Tibetan Lamas to ensare people into their fold.
Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodernism, Science, and Hindu Nationalism
Delhi,India: Permanent Black (publisher of 2006 paperback edition)
Hardback edition 2004
ISBN 81 7824 153 6
308 pages, paperback
Review by Joe Szimhart, 2008
Every now and then we pick up a book that brings into focus issues that concern us very much. Nanda Meera did that for me in Prophets Facing Backward. The author was trained in microbiology but later took up a career in science writing and journalism. She begins the Preface with: “This is a book I had to write. I had no choice in the matter.” On the last page of her Conclusion, she writes, “Without secularization on this level of ontology and epistemology, Indian people will always remain at the mercy of false prophets.” This is a demanding book as it not only requires the reader to recognize social and political forces that could ruin the future of the human race but also demands that we recognize essential realities that can save us. Nanda compels us to revisit the benefits of the Enlightenment and the “scientific temper” necessary to keep human kind grounded in real progress. She takes issues with post-Kuhnian and postmodernist efforts to validate all cultural realities as “true” or symmetrically valid as “science.” She sees an unholy marriage between postmodern deconstruction of modernist values and the pseudo-sciences of nationalistic fundamentalist religion.
Nanda’s perspective recognizes that the lessons of science have yet to find universal acceptance. Indeed, there has been a cultural reaction to what has been labeled ‘positivism’ by conservative religious types (with the support of postmodernist activism and ecofeminism from the left) in Indiaand around the world since the 19th century. She argues that India’s now dominant Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, reflects the populist Hindutva assertion that Vedic science is “secular”. In this view, Vedic or scriptural truth is the basis of all reality including the sciences. Examples of Hindutva (Hindu-ness) propaganda appear within the teachings of Swami Bhaktivendanta in his Hare Krishna or ISKCON movement and in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation or TM. The Hare Krishnas taught, for example, that the first moon landing was faked by American film studios because their Vedas say the “moon” is unreachable. TM’s claim to ‘scientifically’ alter weather and crime through levitating during meditation or chanting a mantra is another example of pseudo-science based on scripture. This parallels fundamentalist Christian Bible-based claims for Intelligent Design and with radical Muslims using the Koran as the basis for scientific truth both thus denying thatDarwin’s evolutionary theory is true. “What is happening inIndia is not unique at all. Such reactionary modernism lies at the heart of radical Islam in most of theMiddle East as well” (262).
Taking a label from Professor Agehananda Bharati, Nanda calls the pseudo-secularization inIndiaa “pizza effect.” Bharati noted that “any traditional Indian idea, however obscure or irrational” gets honored as science if it barely or remotely resembles modern inventions like jet planes or research in quantum mechanics. During the Second World War the common pizza in Italian village homes found favor among American soldiers. The Pizza Pie soon developed inAmericaas a popular restaurant item with a variety of garnishes subsequently emerging inItalyas ‘native’ haute cuisine. “Thus obscure references in the Vedas get reinterpreted as referring to nuclear physics…It was always claimed in India’s wisdom anyway” (72).
Despite democratization since 1948, the traditional values of caste and male chauvinism remain strong within the Hindutva culture. For this reason Nanda criticizes what she calls ecofeminism that tends to uphold traditional village life as an antidote to Eurocentric values. In the process of upholding the native culture, ecofeminism argues that a “Western” paradigm of science (citing Thomas Kuhn) is unsuited for Indian culture.
Nanda cites Partha Chatterjee, an Indian intellectual of the left: “Women were not the only or even the main targets. Rather, epistemic violence which works ‘not by military might or industrial strength, but by thought itself,’” lies at the heart of all colonialism (151).
In other words, India’s anti-Eurocentric intellectuals claim that the Brits were trying to brainwash the Indians not only with their culture but their science also. Nanda argues that this mistaken notion of the value and essence of science is hurting India’s low caste women and mankind in general.
Science in this view has nothing to do with Western or Eastern Kuhnian paradigms. The poor inIndia do not feel or admire the “exalted” ecologically sound status that armchair postmodernists bequeath on them.
Nanda is not dismissive of religion as religion or its real value to any culture that finds in religion a way to cope with the mysteries of life as well as address important functions regarding marriage, death, birth and transcendent feelings. Her mission is to preserve the freedom of science as a universal category. She argues for the freedom to explore things with well established scientific methods without enchanting science or subsuming it to non-testable transcendental beliefs.
Lemaître protested. Even as a priest he saw that it was dangerous to equate scientific theory with scriptural revelation. The former can change with new evidence whereas the latter is “sacred” and fixed.
Nanda’s view also reflects rational approaches in ancient Greek medicine and philosophy. The Greeks at the time of Hippocrates may have been the first to separate practical science from the mystical and supernatural. This is not to say that Greek culture on the streets lacked superstitious tendencies. They did not. The antics of the gods were very real to them. Common Greeks were suspicious of philosophers—Socrates on trial was a case in point. There was also some indication of a similar skepticism in ancient Indiaaround the same time. The Samkya of Indian tradition, most likely the one that influenced the Buddha, posited a separate reality for purusha [inner transcendent self] and prakriti [our physical nature] but this dualism was rejected by the developing Advaita or non-dualism best defined by Shankara in the 8th century. Non-dual approaches tend to monism which dominates most Hindu religions and Western re-interpretations of Vedanta. We all may have heard the New Age saying “We are all one” and postmodern references to “holism” and the interrelatedness or relativity of all things. More to the point, the discussion of Hindu ideas among Western spiritual pundits favors the non-dualist identification of Atman [a soul] with Brahman [Being as such].
Curiously, there is a fascinating sympathy between Fascism and non-dual ideology. Nanda explains it this way:
“But what is deeply troubling is that Hindu nationalists are putting the exact same spin on Vedic monism andvarna[caste/color] as the Nazis did, and the neo-Nazis still do. Rather than interpret monism as a mystical pantheism, which is what it was meant to be, proponents of ‘Vedic science’ insist upon treating monism as a scientific doctrine based upon a uniquely Hindu conception of rationality and congruent supposedly with the most advanced theories of quantum physics, cognitive sciences, and ecology” (16).
In her chapter “Epistemic Charity: Equality of All Ethnosciences” Nanda notes how the Strong Programme, a form of social constructivism or relativism in social study inadvertently erased essential values of science. Citing Ernest Geller’s ‘all cows are grey…everything is like science and science is like everything’ (126) Nanda offers good evidence “to show that the denial of the objectivity and universality of science has political consequences. What looks like a tolerant, non-judgmental, ‘permission to be different’ is in fact an act of condescension towards non-western cultures” 127).
The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the most famous Buddhist text in the West, having sold more than a million copies since it was first published in English in 1927. Carl Jung wrote a commentary on it, Timothy Leary redesigned it as a guidebook for an acid trip, and the Beatles quoted Leary's version in their song "Tomorrow Never Knows." More recently, the book has been adopted by the hospice movement, enshrined by Penguin Classics, and made into an audiobook read by Richard Gere.
Yet, as acclaimed writer and scholar of Buddhism Donald Lopez writes, "The Tibetan Book of the Dead is not really Tibetan, it is not really a book, and it is not really about death." ..
Lopez argues, Evans-Wentz's book is much more American than Tibetan, owing a greater debt to Theosophy and Madame Blavatsky than to the lamas of the Land of Snows. Indeed, Lopez suggests that the book's perennial appeal stems not only from its origins in magical and mysterious Tibet, but also from the way Evans-Wentz translated the text into the language of a very American spirituality.
"What makes Lopez's biography of Evans-Wentz's book not only amusing (as it unfailingly is) but enlightening is that one suspects he too could have 'chosen any Asian text' that had been ripped from its context and composed a similar story of how meanings, willy-nilly, had attached themselves to it. Having read Lopez's book, we will look afresh at the volumes of unmoored wisdom so many in the West have taken to heart."--David Cozy, Japan Times
"The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography is an excellent short introduction to Buddhism, and an intriguing analysis of how ancient texts are used (or invented) to give authority to ideologies."--Heather Shaw, Portland Book Review
For more, read here:
unday, June 19, 2011
Blavatsky and W. Evans-Wentz
This week’s Times Literary Supplement of London carries a review by Mark Vernon, the English writer, journalist, and author, of Donald S. Lopez, Jr’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead, A Biography. Speaking of W. Evans-Wentz’s edition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead published in 1927, Vernon upholds Lopez’s conclusion:
It is the product of the creative editing of Walter Evans-Wentz, a Victorian Theosophist. His literary assembly owes as much to the doctrines of Madame Blavatsky as the purported author, Padmasambhava, the eight century Buddhist saint who is said to have buried a series of ‘treasures’ in the form of teachings to aid future, troubled generations...
Evans-Wentz was able to use the book to vest his version of Theosophy with all the authority of ancient wisdom, newly discovered. Interestingly, Lopez argues, the same pattern of scriptural recovery is manifest in Joseph Smith’s The Book of Mormon. So, although it is undoubtedly the combination of Tibetan esotericism and mortal anxiety that has led to the tremendous success of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, it is better placed within the American millenarian tradition that includes Theosophy, Mormonism and Spiritualism too.
Posted by Jaigurudeva at 4:42 PM
International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis | 2005 | Golse, Bernard | 700+ words | Copyright
In 1936 Otto Isakower published an article on the psychopathology of phenomena associated with falling asleep: "Beitrag zur Pathopsychologie der Einschlafphänomene " (A contribution to the psychopathology of phenomena associated with falling asleep). It dealt with a varied set of phenomena similar to certain hypnogogic states and capable of being observed "in a number of patients suffering from widely different types of psychological disorders and also in some normal persons" (p. 331).
After studying several clinical cases, Isakower observed:
Most striking of all is the blurring of the distinction between quite different regions of the body, e.g. between mouth and skin, and also between what is internal and what is external, the body and the outside world. We note too the amorphous character of the impressions conveyed by the sense-organs. The visual impression is that of something shadowy and indefinite, generally felt to be 'round', which comes nearer and nearer, swells to a gigantic size and threatens to crush the subject. It then gradually becomes smaller and shrinks up to nothing [. . .] The auditory impression is of a humming, rustling, babbling, murmuring, or of an unintelligible monotonous speech. The tactile sensation is of something crumpled, jagged, sandy or dry, and is experienced in the mouth and at the same time on the skin of the whole body. Or else the subject feels enveloped by it or knows that it is close at hand. Sometimes it feels as if there were a soft yielding mass in his mouth, but at the same time he knows that it is outside him (p. 333).
The reference to the breast is obvious but the description is polymorphous. It appeals to the different senses, it is based on a relative confusion of the boundaries between the outside and the inside. It implies difficulty in evaluating distances; the mouth is often the center of these phenomena, that are sometimes played out in an atmosphere of déjà vu and against a background attitude of self-observation in the subject.
Over and above all the neurophysiological factors that are implied in these sort of phenomena, Isakower attempts to conduct a metapsychological analysis that refers back to a set of experiences that were lived through at a very early age, that may be at the origin of the somewhat unexpected success of this description: regression, splitting of the ego, relative indifferentiation of affects—all elements that led the author to conclude "we can observe the regressive revival of ego-attitudes which from the ontogenetic standpoint are primitive" (p. 345).
Such is the Isakower phenomenon, as it opens a window on the very ancient sensory history of the child, particularly the child at the breast if not, indeed, in the uterus. Hence the conclusion of the article: "In dreams and in the phenomenon which is the subject of this paper we have the best authenticated instances of the way in which that function may be renounced in order to conjure up lost objects and submerged worlds" (p. 345). In his own way and in a literary context, Marcel Proust described somewhat comparable phenomena on the verge of sleep.
See also: Dream screen; Isakower, Otto.
Isakower, Otto. (1938). A contribution to the psychopathology of phenomena associated with falling asleep. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 19, 331-345. (Original work published 1936
The Warmth of the CrowdQuote
"It was in such a state of
"altered consciousness" pevaded with a
feeling of oneness and affection for
every member of the crowd, that I waited
for Maharaji to appear.
"While we waited for Maharaji, we sang..the crowd
joined in the refrain at the end of each verse.
(The text sung was that of the Granth Sahib, a
traditional text of the Sikhs)
"on this day and the following days, fantasies that
bubble up to the fore of consciousness as one
sits ensconced in the warmth and closeness of
thousands of bodies. At first there is a sense
of unease as the body, the container of our
individuality and demarcator of our spatial
boundaries is sharply wrenched awy
from its habitual way of experiencing others.
For as we grow up, the touch of others, once
so deliberately courted and responded to with
delight, increasingly becomes ambivalent.
Coming from a loved one, touch is deliciously
welcomed; with strangers, on the other hand,
there is an involuntary shrinking of the body,
their touch taking on the menacing air of invasion
by the Other. But once the fear of touch disappeas
in the fierce press of other bodies, and the
individual lets himself become a part of the
crowd's density, the original apprehension is
gradually transformed into an expansiveness
that stretches to include the others.
Distances and differences, of status, age, and sex,
disappear in an exhilarating feeling (temporary
to be sure) that individual boundaries can be
transcended were perhaps illusory in the first
"Of ourse touch is only one of hte sensual stimuli that
hammers at the gate of individual identity...Phyllis
Greenacre has suggested there are other, more subliminal
exchanges of body heat, muscle tension, and body
rhythms taking place in a crowd..the crowds assault
on the sense of individual identigy appears to be
well nigh irresistable; its invitation to a psychological
regression in which the image of ones body becomes
fluid and increasingly blurred, controls over emotions
are weakened, critical faculties and rational thoughts
abandoned..is extended in a way both forceful and seductive."
"The follower is also engaged in an unconscious struggle
to deepen the processes of idealization and identification
(with the guru)."
"Idealization and identification are certainly not exclusive
to the mystical sects, but avowed or unavowed, are also
present in most psychotherapies. During certain periods
of psychoanalysis, for instance, a patient needs a
temporary idealization and identification with the
analyst in order to take the initial steps toward
self-exploration with are otherwise prohibited by the
archaic and punitive elements of his superego.
"The difference between the two "healing traditions" lies in
the fact that whereas idealization and identification
are tactical and temporary in psychoanalysis, they are
strategic and and intended to be permanent in the Radha
Soami Satsang...group activities such as the Satsang,
its philosophy, its literature, by senior disciples and
the guru himself, all propel idealization to its c
culminating point, where the guru can be experienced
as God, and take the identification to its logical
conclusion, where the disciple has the feeling
of complete unity with the guru. Besides its
specific therapeutic and adaptive aspects the required
daily meditation...with the Masters face as the object
of meditation, further cements the idealization and
internalization of the guru, since he is daily experienced
as the benevolent protector against the anxieties that
arise during the meditative process.
Kaker gave some observations:
"A Satsangi's acceptance of the Masters offer and the
transforming processes of idealization and identification
that follow in its wake have so far been presented as
a more or less abstract portrayal of what I believe
is "happening" inside him. Turning to some aspects of
concrete behavior, my most striking impression of the
Satsangis I met was their relatively greater childlike-
ness that made for easier access to the emotional
treasures of childhood. The spontenaity and trusting
friendliness were charged with a compelling appeal.
"From the clinical viewpoint, however, I have also
felt that at least some of my interviewees seemed to be
striving for some kind of surrender of adulthood.
By "surrender of adulthood" to do not mean
the presence of childlike qualities enumerated above.
These are precious attributes of human beings, of
"I am alluding here more to a hankering after absolute
mental states free of ambiguity and contradiction,
in which the onerousness of responsiblity is renounced
together with the burdens of self criticism and doubt.
Concommittantly, the followers seemed to show an
intolerance for what clinicians would call the
"more adult" integrated mental states that invariably
contain a modicum of conflict and pain.
Then Kakar ponders the hazards for the guru.
"We have, however, still to explore the other side of
the relationship: what happens to the guru who is
the recipient of such flattering projections?
Normally, for most of us, malignant projections
(people swearing at us, etc) are easier to handle
since they cause such severe discomfort, compelling
us to reject them by discriminating inside
between what belongs to us and the alien attributes
that have been projected onto us. This painful
motivation for repelling the invasion of self by
others does not exist when the projections are
narcissistically gratifying, as they invariably
are in the case of the adoring followers. To be
consistently thought greater, more wonderful,
more intelligent than we are is a burden only
in the sense that we may feel impelled to be
greater, more wonderful, and more intelligent.
And indeed there is many a guru, including the
fictional one in R. K. Narayan's The Guide
who has become a guru because of the followers'
ascriptions of gurulike qualities to him.
More often, however, the guru simply accepts
these projections as belonging to himself and
enters into an unconscious collusion with the
followers--"I am uncannily sensitive, infinitely
wise, miraculously powerful: you are not."
--thus making the followers more stupid, more
infantile, and more powerless than they
actually are. Such unconscious transactions
between the Master and the followers are a common
occurrance in most mystical (groups)and were
also conspicuous in the Radhasomi Satsang:
One consequence of these positive idealisations is a loss of touch with the reality of everyday life and the context in which the idealisations are embedded. Under the benefical smile and apparent humility, in the inner world of the godman, there is a steady regression to unconscious feelings of omnipotent grandiosity —“I am great! I am beyond constraints under which other human beings live.”
Moreover, as the godman ages, cut-off parts of the self, often having to do with celibacy and his unlived sexuality, make their claims which he no longer can or wishes to resist. As his omnipotent grandiosity grows, the godman might retreat into promiscuity or sexual perversions leading to the sad but reliable reports about aging godmen who summon their young devotees for secret assignations or become peeping Toms as they arrange, with all the cunning of the voyeur, to spy on their teenaged female disciples undressing for the night in the ashram. And the sadder part is that the intensity of the devotees’ wish to believe in what the godman offers drives them to deny his abuses when they happen.
The devotees, in fact, have deep emotional investment in not seeing the abuses, which completes the cycle of the godman’s grandiosity.
The intellectual contents of Maharaji's discourse
are familiar since they are common to many mystical
traditions, Indian as well as of other societies.
To list some of these repetitive elements: there is
the rerogation of the perceived real world and an
emphasis on its painful withholding nature; there
is the suggestion of mystical withdrawal as the
solution to the individual's psychic needs and life
problems; there is the offer of a system of psycho-
logical and physiological practices by which a person
can deliberately and voluntarily seek detachment from
the everyday, external world, and replace it
with a heightened awareness of inner reality; and,
finally, there is a shared conviction that this
inner world possesses a much greater reality than
the outer world.
Emotionally, to an Indian, the familiarity of the
message, repeated often enough since the beginning
of childhood, constitutes its greatest strength
and attraction. Once again, the men and women
were transported to the time when, their small
hands clutched in those of older family members
they had sat up late into the night, sleepily
(Corboy note: when sleepy, our boundaries become
porous, adding to the receptivity of childhood
itself)..listening to wandering religiosi
expound the mysteries of life...(page 136)
After hearing the guru's lecture, Dr Kakar
reflected on implications.
"My unease" Dr. Kakar continued, "had more to
do with the repeated assertion of Maharaji
(and of his predecessors)that a "seeker" should
not only endure but cheerfully and actively
accept (Kakar's italics) the iron law
of karma. Saints, he says, perhaps rightly,
are not social reformers who have come to
change the world...(But) To recommend,
however, a joyous acceptance of the existing
social order with its economic, social and
sexual inequities--as the perquisite
(Kakar's italics) for a state of mind
that leads to the highest mystical truths,
to advise women to cheerfully conform to the
meek subservient roles laid out for them
by a repressive patriarchy, does go against
the grain of modern identity, even if
Maharaji considers them to be absolutely
essential for progress on the mystical
(A cynic, pointing to the fact that Maharaji
himself is a rich landowner who is allied
by kinship and marriage to some of the
wealthiest families in northern India,
may observe the curious coincidence that the
will of God and the "eternal law of nature"
seem to be identical to the economic and
political interest of a feudal elite and
the convenience of a patriarchal order. This,
however, would be doing Maharaji an injustice,
since his position on the law of karma and
its individual and social consequences is not
idiosyncractic but is shared by a vast majority
of his countrymen and lies unexceptionably within
the mainstream of Indian religiousity."