TREATISE ON ZANDTAO
Another great source of protection is tradition, but what I really mean is being guided by experience and for western people this is something that few accept. It was true of the generation I grew up in. The hippie movement that I was on the fringes of rejected much of history, what I have called Victorians (as did Pirsig). In retrospect one could consider this movement as looking back historically, seeing what was happening, rejecting it, and saying "All you need is love". Whilst spiritually this is true, but what happened to the hippies? Did they all become enlightened? Because if they lived in love all their lives that would be the case. No, most stopped being hippies and rejoined the rat-race.
I feel that is true of a number of spiritual travellers I have met. Typical was a guy I met in Africa. As a young man (20s) he had joined a commune in South-West England, and spent a number of years seeing enlightenment. He described his disillusionment with his life (when I met him he was in his 50s) saying that what he wanted was enlightenment or nothing - he seemed to have this kind of notion that enlightenment would have given him some awesome power of supercharged happiness every minute of the day. In truth he didn't want to discuss it much as he was drowning his dissatisfaction in booze whilst taking care of his African partner and her children, but I remember using the internet with him to search for the people on this commune and when we found mention of them I could see his fondness for the time. My approach of "doing the best you can" at the time bringing you happiness did not have the strength of experience to attract him, he wanted too much - more than was on offer.
I feel he was misled by offers of enlightenment, ascension, or whatever this commune was into. Generally I was reasonably happy, but I was still working then. Whilst my choice as being a teacher was a choice I have never regretted, teaching has been so corrupted by the needs of big business and a genuine teacher will always find themselves in conflict with the careerists and profiteers that abound the profession out of frustration and greed - see (Matriellez). He could have been reasonably happy as well - without resorting to the booze, but he was living as if he had missed out.
He was misguided by the all or nothing approach of the commune, and who was guiding them? I surmise no-one because that is the way of young western people. Their education brings them up to believe that they can find answers on their own, that is so dangerous. For me there is much that is dangerous in the western approach to spirituality. I am not talking about Christianity, but about the alternative Paths that generally call themselves spirituality. In the West we have theosophy, ascension, a course in miracles, Neale Donald Walsch, all based on spiritual approaches where people have spoken with Ascended Masters. That sounds to me so egotistical, it sounds like people want to be so important that they can talk with Masters. When a person writes genuinely their creativity can connect them with True Nature, isn't that enough? That is the purpose of creativity. Such people present their creativity, and others judge. Why call on supposed higher powers, Ascended Masters? And then say that people need to believe. There is great Wisdom in the spiritual books these approaches offer, but how many people have attained enlightenment through them? Now compare that with some of the Eastern religions, how many people have attained enlightenment through Buddhism? At least one, and from what I understand many more. These people have a tradition to follow, they have morality and discipline, there are not too many wondrous claims, and there is happiness.
Now Buddhism is not for all especially in the way some teachers approach it - in a manner that can be inimical to western upbringing. It sometimes appears to me that some teachers choose to stifle all that is beneficial in a western upbringing - "make westerners eastern" and then they can learn. Personally I do not accept this, but what is better? And the problem is that what is "established" in the West is dangerous. There is almost an "establishment" of these surrogate spiritual approaches which promote enlightenment, ascension, etc., and yet none have years of experience of people who have become enlightened and during their lives described how they have reached enlightenment and provided teachings therein. This is the tradition that is in the East, where is it in the West? So many go eastwards looking for answers, and equally there are many eastern teachers who have gone westwards. But in the West where is the tradition?
Young western people baulk at experience, they know better; this is not their fault - this arrogance is a by-product of the business-inspired education system they have grown up in. But spiritual teachers in the West need to examine this arrogance for what it is, an intended product of a system geared towards the rich and profit-makers. But within this arrogance not all is lost. People who are seeking have rejected the norm, the norm of the business model. This rejection is of great value, this spirituality has arisen as a product of adversity - it is a spirituality that Nature has inspired. Where in the East do you see the strength that comes from such adversity? And the minds that question, where is that seen? But such qualities are of little use if that arrogance cannot be tamed by morality and discipline, and that the students/disciples are not taught to lose the egos the system fosters in them.
Spiritual charlatans in the West abound, there is a need for tradition to temper this. But imposing a tradition that does not respect the learning western people have already received is both wasteful and repressive. Morality and discipline are qualities lacking in western education - bring those into the teaching, but respect the inquiring mind - many people in the East see this as a dearth in their education and seek it in the West.