I recently read this article about how the Dalai Lama is brainwashing us.
I know, that statement alone is enough to make you balk a bit isn't it? (I couldn't help it, I had to use the photo for a little bit of fun)!
The argument, in a nutshell, is that Buddhism teaches us renunciation of the material world because the material world is bad, instead of teaching us to deal with temptation and our darker sides. All in all, I think the article is ridiculously simplistic and clearly shows a lack of analytic thinking that goes beyond reaction. I actually think the article is quite juvenile in it's depth of analysis or understanding of the tenets of Buddhism. In fact, it speaks a lot to the issues I had with Buddhism when I first learned about it at 18 and didn't really understand it.
But the tenets of Buddhism, flaws or otherwise, aren't really my subject of the day. In fact, I sort of the article as a perfect microcosm example of the point and reaction that I want to try to articulate.
The writer is reacting to his own perception of something, just as I initially reacted to his criticisms of Buddhism. When he first started talking about brainwashing etc, I felt my back go up. I didn't want to read further. Instead, I want to yell at him and tell him he was wrong without even finishing the article.
I had to stop and think about why I was reacting that way. I had to stop and realize that my reaction was meaningful and important to my own spiritual development. And that even while I don't agree with his analysis of Buddhism, I do agree with something he is inferring: that we don't turn the same critical eye towards "exotic" spiritual practices that we do to "local" practices. So for example, I can give you a long list of the flaws I see in Christianity (especially Catholicism) but I might not be as open or aware of the flaws inherent in other traditions like Buddhism or I might have a very simplistic view of the flaws, like I do for Hinduism and it's ideals of the feminine.
And there might be a problem with that.
If I, and others, want to create piecemeal systems of spirituality, do we need to be aware of the problems that arise in said traditions?
I follow a Wiccan path that is heavily informed by Qabala, Hermetics, and Buddhism and yet, I find flaws in each of those traditions (I even find flaws in Wicca). So what does that mean to my overall spirituality?
Honestly, I don't have an answer. And I don't know that I ever will. But I do think he raises a good point (or maybe he doesn't raise it... but my reaction led to me inferring it): how critical are we (and not necessarily negatively critical) when we look at other paths? Do we give all paths a fair shake or are we more defensive/reactive towards certain paths? And do I need to let go of such reactions in order to really see the goddess at work in it all?