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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 89 role of society, history, and culture in shap- ing what it is to be human, and how we are human today. When Harvard profes- sor Robert Putnam demonstrates a sharp decline in community involvement in the United States in the last few decades, there is no reason to look for a change in our bi- ology to understand this shift. Consumer- ism, advertising, greed, and socio-political forces play much more important roles in making the global crises we face today than “ancient survival-based patterns.” These patterns have been here throughout human history, and yet some societies and cultures have taught and learned gentle- ness and compassion. Clearly this cultural training in aggression or non-aggression makes all the difference. Likewise, consider approaching the hor- rors of the ongoing political struggles in the Middle East, or the recent narrowly averted civil war in Kenya, with the news that “an ethical sense is a biological feature of our species.” As we have seen, successful media- tion depends on skillful negotiation, per- suading opposing sides to see each other’s point of view, moving toward “win-win” scenarios. It does not seem helpful or rel- evant to locate altruism in our biology. Our real difficulties are on the level of society invading society, group mistreating group, selfish indifference to the suffering of others. Culture—not biology—seems the key here. Tolle seems more attuned to this level when he reminds us of the slaughterhouse of human history, that in the twentieth century alone, more than one hundred million humans died violent deaths at the hands of other human beings. As well, he notes the “unprecedented violence that humans are inflicting on other life-forms and the planet itself—the destruction of oxygen-producing forests and other plant and animal life; ill-treatment of animals in factory farms; and poisoning of rivers, oceans, and air. Driven by greed, ignorant of their connectedness to the whole, hu- mans persist in behavior that, if contin- ued unchecked, can only result in their destruction.” These are all collective man- ifestations of what he calls the greed of the ego, noting that huge corporations are egoic entities competing with each other. “[W]hat keeps the so-called consumer so- ciety going is the fact that trying to find yourself through things doesn’t work: the ego satisfaction is short-lived and so you keep looking for more, keep buying, keep consuming.” Just as individual bad dreams arise from a dreaming mind, our collective nightmare of materialism is a product of our mentality. Ye t A New Earth also has blindnesses served up with its insights. The last chap- ter of The Joy of Living contains a simple statement: “You need a teacher.” Mingyur Rinpoche quotes from a meditation mas- ter of his own spiritual lineage, the ninth Karmapa, in support: “You must be guided by an authentic spiritual mentor.” It may be a part of Tolle’s widespread appeal that he has no lineage, no tradition, allowing him to quote from a Zen teacher or a Sufi saint as easily as the Tao Te Ching. Spirituality of- ten claims to present the essence of all re- ligions—a rather immodest proposal. Dis- trust of commitment is part of the mind- set of our time. Ego loves to believe that it can do it “my way.” The downside is that there are no checks and balances to correct distortions or biases that can easily creep into any articulation of what is “beyond words.” What’s missing here is a teaching lineage, an authenticated body of teach- ings, and a community of practitioners gathered to realize their inner meaning. Mingyur Rinpoche’s journey begins in the wisdom traditions of Asia and expands to include insights from Western science. Eckhart Tolle’s journey moves in the opposite direction—from the secular West to an inclusive spiritual vision. Rancho La Puerta proudly hosts a yoga ashram with Swami Veda Bharati and his highly acclaimed international faculty. Imagine being in our beautiful setting and sharing the pathways through nature with other guests from around the world: a glimpse of saffron robed scholars walking beneath the oaks...the long, vibrating tone of brass singing bowls... As a Ranch guest, you will have the option of attending Swami Vedaʼs lectures and some of the yoga classes taught by his outstanding faculty, including our well-known long-time Ranch guest yoga instructor Mehrad Nezari. Please join us...at our regular prices—there will be no extra charges for the several “Himalayan Tradition” lectures and classes each day that are specifically open to all guests—if you choose to partake. All of the Ranchʼs other classes and activities are in full swing, making this the perfect mind/body/spirit fitness vacation. For more on Swami Veda’s worldwide reputation, please visit www.swamiveda.org. The year ’round fitness resort and spa JULY 78-99.indd 89 JULY 78-99.indd 89 4/25/08 12:05:25 PM 4/25/08 12:05:25 PM