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We were discussing with a friend how there has been a generous number of self-initiates coming onboard TDB forum recently. I feel it's as if some Daoist flavored talismans and writings have accidentally fallen to earth across the globe from air cargo and now there is a lot confusion and crazy ideas about what these weird artifacts might mean. Aren't they interesting like babies' rattle toys? Oo-o ga-ga. I blamed it on the astrological constellations, but maybe someone else could give more likely answers? Generally we seem to have different and distinct flavors of self-initiates. 1. The Exotist: People who approach Oriental traditions, usually either Mahayana Buddhism or Daoism, like if it was sentimental religiosity in vein what the Protestant Christian ministers are doing in ad hoc fashion when they try to create a personal connection to a spiritual tradition on their own terms. This is not often only embarrassing cultural appropriation and self-promotion, but it completely misses the entire mindset that differentiates the Oriental spiritual views from the Western. Here spiritual practice is primarily revolving around technology and methodology; whereas the Christian tradition shunned these explorations in favor of an all-consuming Theistic relationship to a tantric Guru. Some people (ab)use these spiritual methods for rather mundane health and bliss seeking purposes, but the serious minded will soon find out that the rabbit hole leads next through a thorny bush which mercilessly stings and tears all those ego layers that we have used to shield and cover our naked awareness. It's not usually the fun and gentle ride for mommy's little sweetie pies. 2. The Professional Newbie: People who think they are ready for everything, experienced enough, and wise to see what is gold and what shit. It takes on many forms, but the salient feature is how they put their expertise and rather superficial authoritative standards on the pedestal as if it was a golden calf ready to be given sacrifices. They never tire of reminding how their idols are so great, much better and more powerful than yours, so that it resembles a gang of tough kids wanting to challenge you to a dramatic showdown, e.g. anime or Pokemon fight, that seem to be in perpetual fashion in teen entertainment. The more they huff and puff platitudes, the less there is reason to believe they have anything else going on except a very limited understanding of self-transformation, which is always witnessed by the telltale signs of immature temper or narrow-mindedness how things should be according to their whims. 3. The Conspitard: People who have lost (some of) their tethers to reality and seek outlandish explanations to explain human suffering. It's the reptilians, communists, banksters, the Jews, the white people, the SWJs, the non-heteronormative, or whatever sweeping and conclusive accusation they can conveniently cast as their "gotcha!" rule to identify causes of suffering. The signs are always there when they look deep and hard enough, often shamefully in the context of spiritual traditions, and this paranoid investigation is what they actively keep doing and promoting. Personally, I think they should put a lot less sugar in their breakfast cereals and skip the energy drinks for a good while. Life is too good to be wasted on speculation and apocalyptic self-important masturbation. None of the types like to be told they are wrong or unwise in uncertain terms, and when given enough quarter to demonstrate real humility in context of respect and love of life, they steadfastly refuse even gentle humiliation as a useful reminder and measure how far we actually have progressed in getting over ourselves and how we relate to the human condition. It's got nothing and everything to do with you. Figure it out!
As I've mentioned in another post, I've been meditating for a long time in a particular tradition and am now exploring other paths. It's a bit overwhelming to see just how many teachers and traditions there are out there, each with it's own take on spiritual development. One big distinction seems to be the (apparent?) Theravada/Mahayana divide, which I think represents a much more general categorization than is found just within Buddhism: On the one hand there is self-reliance and seemingly "down-to-Earth" practices which don't involve much cognitive dissonance for the average western-atheistic-mainstream-scientific worldview. On the other, there is reliance on blessings, transmission and lineage, and all manner of phenomena that are generally beyond the pale of the mainstream western mentality, such as psychic events and suspension of the usual behavior of the "laws" of physics. I’m curious to hear which path some of you have chosen, and why. Or perhaps some of you make use of elements from both approaches, and this works for you too? I ask to help meet my needs for learning, exploration and sharing.