today’s practice :: check yourself


I spent 15 minutes looking for a photog credit, but couldn’t find. :-/

Last time I gave a very brief rundown on Catholic/Tibetan Buddhist comparative religious history, as explained by Donald Lopez, Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, in Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. I learned, again, that you don’t care much for history. And I offended some, which wasn’t my intent. I did not write it from the outside. Anyone deeply involved with yoga or Buddhism is at some risk of romanticizing or appropriating culture ways that may be offensive, myself included. What offends varies. Anglicizing names of Sanskrit asana (or even yoga as practiced in the US) is considered by some to be colonizing yoga, while others find using Sanskrit an appropriation of culture. I don’t proclaim what is right or wrong, or condemn anyone’s practice, but I do suggest we take a look at what we do and why we do it.

It’s offensive to disregard the context of living religions and cultures, take out elements that appeal to us, and use them as abstract symbols onto which we project our own spiritual, psychological, or professional needs.* Ripped out of context, these symbols don’t carry the baggage that our own religion of origin may, but they very well might hold their own equivalent baggage in the context of the religion as fully practiced in, say, India or Tibet.

By taking a look at this, we can learn something about the religion we so respect. And maybe a little something about ourselves, as well.

Next time I turn the critical lens on the academic, who would also do well to check himself.

* “PRISONERS OF SHANGRI-LA.” Kirkus Reviews.6 (1998).

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