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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 90 For example, Tolle tells us that we are moving to a time beyond religion, beyond spiritual ideology and mythology. “We are coming to the end not only of mythologies but also of ideologies and belief systems.” Ye t A New Earth includes the invention of a new mythological entity he calls “the pain- body.” “If that sounds to you like a psychic parasite,” he says, “you are right. That’s ex- actly what it is.” Media and the entertain- ment industry often feed the pain-body. Active pain-bodies can even explain many traffic accidents: “When two drivers with active pain-bodies arrive at an intersection at the same time, the likelihood of an ac- cident is many times greater than under normal circumstances. Unconsciously they both want the accident to happen.” A teaching lineage might be helpful in clari- fying the accuracy of this concept—testing it against other authoritative pronounce- ments and verifying the elaborations of the insight as authentic or not. Most distressing is a momentary lapse into racialism: we are told that there are “collective racial pain-bodies.” Most mod- ern social scientists understand “race” as a powerful cultural construction. Our social categories of “race” have no valid genetic basis, hence the inherently unscientific nature of racism. When tragedies such as the genocide of Native Americans or the Holocaust or African-American slavery are being discussed, these are the histori- cal, cultural experiences of particular eth- nic groups. There is no need to stray into solidifying this as a “racial” heritage, as though tragedy is carried in the genes. The path presented in A New Earth is primarily a change in attitude. The crucial question is: how are we to make the shift to a more enlightened attitude? Reading the words of the book is said to have trans- formative power—if, as with any spiritual teaching, we truly take to heart these teach- ings on surrendering to what is. In contrast to Mingyur Rinpoche’s carefully detailed meditation instructions, there is but one passing mention of the power of being aware of the breath. This leads to a further exposition of inner body awareness, first introduced in The Power of Now. Yet for all the discussion of a mass awakening, there is little mention of life in communities— either spiritual communities or neighbor- hoods in general. This is a peculiarly indi- vidualistic story of moving beyond ego. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of the university where I teach, envisioned Naropa as a place where “East meets West and sparks will fly.” Placing these two books side by side, we glimpse some of the many possible sidetracks in cross-cultural pollination—how we can solidify each other’s traditions, or extract only a portion of what needs the whole- ness of living context. Yet in the end, I am grateful for both these books. Mingyur Rinpoche’s cheer- ful appreciation of the diligence and precision of the scientific community is heartening. The Joy of Living also displays the enduring profundity and present-day practicality of the buddhadharma. The point of this historic meeting of East and West is clear: “How lucky we are to be alive at this unique moment in human history, when the collaboration between Western and Buddhist scientists is poised to offer all humanity the possibility of achieving a level of well-being that defies imagina- tion!” Tolle reminds us not only that a new consciousness is possible, but that the means to this transformation—our own bodies, breathing, and minds—are close at hand. Moreover, he emphasizes the ur- gency of personal and social transforma- tion; the survival of the planet depends on it. These two books remind us that the overall purpose of a spiritual journey is the collective well-being of all beings, East and West, North and South. ♦ The path presented in A New Earth is primarily a change in attitude. The crucial question is: how are we to make the shift to a more enlightened attitude? 335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498 845.679.5906 x 10