Month: March 2017

Against the spiritual

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Spiritual

adj.

  1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not material; supernatural: spiritual power.
  2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
  3. Not concerned with material or worldly things.
  4. Of or belonging to a religion.
  5. Having a mind or emotions of a high and delicately refined quality.
Synonyms: religious, unearthly, apparitional, ghostlike, ghostly, phantasmal, spectral

When you say the word spiritual, what do you actually mean? What is it that you are referring to in the world or in yourself? If you can define it in other terms, what does calling it spiritual add?

Look at the definition of the word spiritual above. Now ask yourself how much of this should have a place in Buddhism and Buddhist meditation. Is meditation itself really a form of spiritual practice? If so, I personally may no longer be interested in it. I believe that the language we continue to use to talk about Buddhism and meditation in the West is bound too closely to the original baby boomer Buddhists who took their strong Judaeo-Christian cultural roots to the once exotic East and mixed them together with Hinduism and a rather romantic interpretation of Buddhism to produce a muddled hybrid. We are still caught up in their experiences and understanding of Buddhism and this stickiness has been further complicated by the infiltration into western Buddhist discourse of language and concepts that gained prominent usage in the New-Age of the 80s and 90s. Surely it is time we moved on! Surely we can find a better term than spiritual to describe what we are doing when we dedicate a sufficient part of our existence to an examined life, informed at a significant level by some form of Buddhism, whether traditional or post-traditional.

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