At the time of the Buddha the gospel describes many people as awakening. I would describe the 60s and early 70s as a time of awakening. I could imagine there would be times in other countries when awakening would be on the increase such as the times of Nagarjuna in India or Tshongkapa in Tibet. In the time I have been alive there have been people such as Eckhart Tolle who have encouraged “enlightenment”. Theosophists might argue that since the formation of their society in the 19th century there has been increased progress to “enlightenment”. But are these times indicative of a trend – of progress? In terms of absolute progress I would suggest a harmonic “progress” with peaks and troughs but no increase or decrease towards general enlightenment.
I suspect many in the West would disagree with this. And many who discuss progress writing in the English language would also disagree. But here we have a progress of different sorts. Throughout the history of the world there have been centres of learning eg Athens, Timbuktu, Nalanda (wiki – Ancient Higher Learning Institutions). Many might say Harvard or Oxbridge were now centres of learning. But this apparent progress needs some analysis first. Education especially now requires financial input, research cannot continue without funding. And this funding is an offshoot of accumulation, the more money there is in society the more can exist for funding. When business requires new technology to market, they expect the universities to provide that technology and provide funding for such. Rejection of education or recognition of miseducation can lead to awakening – as I have described in my case. There are others who have written about awakenings in a similar vein – Eckhart Tolle is famous for such; my awakening was extremely important to me but genuine humility is not making a comparison with Tolle only that we are talking of awakenings. Because funding and people are now focussed on western education centres I would expect an increase in awakenings or an interest in awakenings in the West. Without this analysis one might consider there to be absolute progress but if considered globally such progress is not evident. Having said that the hippy trail lay eastwards, would that be an indication of progress to the absolute in the East?
We also have improved communication. People all over the world know of the Buddha now, 2500 years ago would they have known of him. And there is now developing a use of English as global “business language”, many westerners are English-speaking and so there is a tendency to identify the increased awareness written in the English language as a global trend. There is what might be described as a cultural egocentricity focussing on the West and the language of English, and a tendency from those within to describe this as progress. This is a relative progress and not for the best of reasons.