Shallow exploration

My main problem with how people in the US explore Asian philosophical/religious traditions is how shallowly they usually go about it.

Buddhism, for example, is from India (not China or Japan, as many Americans seem to think), is over 2,560 years old, has a canon the size of a bookcase (because the Buddha taught for 50 years, compared with Jesus’ 3 years), has many sects/traditions, and has thousands of years of commentaries and history as well as hundreds of millions of followers in many countries. But all one really sees of it in the US mainstream are misunderstandings (e.g., that nirvana=heaven, which it doesn’t, or that those fatuous Budai statues one sees everywhere are the Buddha, which they aren’t) and things from more than 1,000 years after the Buddha lived, like: Japanese Zen architecture and koans that people take as pithy aphorisms, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan prayer flags, householders (not monastics) teaching “Vipassana” or “Mindfulness” mixed with either New Age things or psychotherapy, and often-decapitated Buddha statues being used randomly as exotic artwork.

Similarly, Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world, with about 4,000 years of history and many different varieties. But all one really sees of it in the US mainstream is many-armed statues and Yoga, which people here do mostly for either exercise or sexual exhibitionism in spandex pants, ignoring its spiritual and lifestyle aspects.


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