re: religous singularity?

From: Brian Phillips (
Date: Thu Oct 04 2001 - 15:25:02 MDT

Greg Birch wrote..
<Amara, with respect, I think you're falling prey to what I used to call
fallacy of the best" when I was spending a lot of time studying Buddhism and
also pursuing a formal course of East Asian studies in the 1970s. I'm sure
folks of my generation recall the flood of books about Buddhism available to
curious Western students during the 1960s and 70s. I've got a bookshelf
full of them, both of the popular variety (Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, Babba
Ram Das/Richard Alpert etc.) and of the more scholarly kind (a couple by
Bhikshu Sangharakshita being among my favorites from the time, I see from
the well-thumbed and marked-up pages). What I discovered as I read these
kinds of books, while at the same time studying the over-all history of East
Asia and specifically the reality "on the ground" in particular places, was
a significant disparity between what I found in the books about Buddhism
available to Western students -- and the kinds of people who were going
about the work of explaining Buddhism in the West -- on the one hand, and
the actual practice and perception of Buddhism in East Asia on the other.>

I would echo this sentiment. You find this in virtually every sort of
spiritual phenomena that's written up in Western lit. Shamanism is very
similar. In theory it's a marvelous snapshot of the motivations and
timeless beliefs of preliteracy world over. In practice you sortof get
this vague feeling that maybe Catholocism is not so bad by comparison
to gibbering atavistic savagery. "Fallacy of the best"..that's a very well-
turned phrase!


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