Over the course of the last half-century, eastern spirituality (and spirituality in general) has been hijacked and deformed by various New Age movements. Consequently, an element of pseudoscience and mumbo-jumbo has been injected into what is otherwise a worthwhile intellectual pursuit. The taint is such that eastern spiritual principles (zen, meditation, etc) are ridiculed on the spot, or dismissed outright, simply due to the negative cultural reputation around the subjects. To exacerbate the situation, because these principles are so misunderstood and so quickly mocked, a rational discussion cannot be had about them; at least not without the risk of sounding like a crystal-loving, age of Aquarius anticipating hippie.
Now, my aim is not to deride "crystal-loving" hippies, or any other spiritual group. Instead my aim is to show rational, scientifically minded people the benefits of a spiritual lifestyle, and more importantly that rational, scientifically minded people can have spiritual lifestyles. To do so, I will on occasion have to cut the pseudoscientific fat away from the real, spiritual meat of some philosophies. And by doing so, I hope to make accessible what has for a while been opaque and relatively mystifying to the uninitiated person (things like zen and meditation immediately come to mind).
However, this is a good time to pause and state that while spirituality is an important aspect of my life, it's not the only aspect of it. In this weblog, I hope to examine in careful detail my current lifestyle and my ideal lifestyle, and hopefully convince you why they are excellent choices for SOME.
In my next post, I will introduce some key features of Zen Buddhism while wrestling with the merits and demerits of self-improvement as a human activity. First I will show that through a shallow understanding of Buddhism, self-improvement seems like an empty pursuit, but towards the end I will hopefully convince you that some forms of self-improvement are easily justified within a Zen Buddhist context.