ThisDinosaur wrote: ↑
Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:41 am
You can invent a religion de novo if you want (i.e., scientology), but if you expect it to last a thousand years or more, it better be connected to existing tried-and-true ones.
One can design and build any number of different kinds of computers by selecting from a vast range of components, including disk drives, screens, operating software, memory, printers, and so on. Each type of component is available from multiple vendors offering different features, e.g., there are many kinds of screens available. So there is a myriad of possible ways to configure perfectly legitimate systems depending on the combination of components one selects. And yet they all have certain common standards and architectural principles. This is why one can mix and match a screen from one manufacturer with a keyboard from another, for instance.
Some sophisticated consumers are the do-it-yourself types who can select and build a system from the components. Others prefer to rely on a pre-packaged system supplied by a credible supplier – known as a 'systems integrator' – who selects the components best suited for the client and puts the whole system together.
The systems integrator is the intermediary who simplifies the enormous complexity of choices and trade-offs for his target clientele. His role is threefold:
(i) to select, configure and put the whole system together, (ii) to install the system, and
(iii) to give it identity as a brand name.
The Hindu 'sampradaya', or an individual guru, is the systems integrator who chooses the various components which constitute a 'total system solution' for the spiritual life of a particular client. He installs this through initiation and training and provides ongoing support. Many sampradayas are like brand names in that they are characterized by, or identified with, certain symbols, manner of dress, and so on. Using this model, dharma may be seen as:
• An open architecture for the spiritual quest as well as guidance for one's mundane living – many choices and more choices being added over time by new suppliers.
• A variety of components that fit into the architecture based on individual choice. One can choose one's own ishta-devata and other devatas, rituals, day of the week to fast (if at all), pilgrimage sites, festivals, sacred texts, cosmological worldview, and so forth. The diversity of components that can fit into this architecture provides pluralism, and many of the components are constructed for each social context and period.
• Pre-packaged religious systems available from sampradayas each of which provides a total-life solution. This is for the consumer who does not want to, or simply cannot, put together his or her own spiritual path from the options available.
• A do-it-yourself option for the sophisticated practitioner which bypasses all suppliers. This practitioner has to be advanced in sadhana in order to be able to work with this option.
• Various ongoing R&D houses (individuals or sampradayas) which periodically come out with novel ideas and practices and introduce these into the marketplace. Many innovations fail, while others succeed.
• Like the Internet, this dharma has no centre, no owner, no founder, and alternative offerings are always subject to argumentation and change. There is no singular authority that has ever decided for all dharmic consumers what is 'right'. Nobody has been able to destroy the other options. There is no history of destroying rejected components (cf. burning books); they simply fade away when newer ones get adopted by consumers. The marketplace of consumers and suppliers has always been dynamic and nothing is resolved by the use of absolute force by theocratic rulers.
• To participate successfully using this open architectural system does not require one to study the history of the system itself, i.e., who created the Internet, and other trivia about its beginnings.
Such a culture is a constant reworking based on numerous innovations which emerge in unpredictable ways and places. The system is self-correcting, adaptive and avoids the problems of long-term exclusivity and fixations on a specific history. The spirit of openness toward the multiplicity of possible answers to complex questions is why pluralism is deeply embedded in the notion of dharma.
The Judeo-Christian religions lack the fundamental R&D to be able to change to the same extent and to be able to offer the same choices and openness. As we have seen, they do not believe that the first principles of truth can be discovered by humans on their own; hence, their obsession with claiming historically unique events.
This closed-mindedness leads them to insist that nothing is legitimate except their own product – a monopolistic practice. They lack the tools and technologies that the dharma traditions have developed over several millennia. Whereas the dharma traditions resemble Silicon Valley innovation and freedom, the Judeo-Christian religions come across like controlled, state-supplied, monopolistic products. Like the Soviets who believed in allowing only one airline, one brand of car, one toothpaste, etc. (despite the fact that consumers have many needs), most Christians believe in allowing only one approach to religion; many in the Jewish tradition do likewise. Just as Christian institutions have discouraged or outright banned mystics (the R&D labs to discover new approaches and challenge old ones), the Soviets did not allow entrepreneurship as it threatened their monopoly.
Flexibility comes with serious challenges. There is not just one Hindu book or one Buddhist book but many, and each may offer a different solution to the same question. The following question arises: Since there is no single institutional authority to mediate such issues and provide command, on what basis is a practitioner to determine the right book to choose, the right course of action to take? The answer is that there are at least three approaches whereby a practitioner may determine the ethics for a particular instance: scripture, lineage (sampradaya, or guru), and personally achieving a higher state of consciousness. There are no canonized ethics, as such, that can be applied blindly as 'universal'.
It is important to establish this contextual basis of Hindu ethics (a very postmodern idea), because the main criticism levied by Christian proselytizers is that Hinduism suffers from moral relativism. This charge of relativism is often expressed in ways that could be misunderstood as positive – millions of gods, lots of scriptures, many gurus, total freedom, and so on. The contextual nature of dharma has been discussed in Chapter 4.
~Appendix B: A Systems Model of Dharma and Abrahamic Traditions of the book
Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism
Sampraday - unbroken chain of disciplic succession
Guru - spiritual master
Ishta-devata- presiding deity : your favourite personal God