Spiritual experiences and the need of a guru
#1
Spiritual experiences are a subset of the most deepest and profound experiences the human brain can have. I say a subset because no one experience can be classified as being the definite life altering experience as is usually implied by spirituality. Spiritual experiences are just memes that have played one of the grandest cons in known history - that meaning of life can be found in only certain ways.

A perfect analogy would be music. At certain point in my life I was subjected to opinions that had utter disdain and contempt for any music that didn't have the approval of "sohpistication" (ex: dappanguthu). I used to chide some of my friends for having such "lowly" tastes. (That has now taught me to not laugh at people who like Justin Beiber. More power to whatever stimulates the profound centers of their brains.)

And that is why a guru so important in spirituality. You can't just play classical music to someone who grew up with dappanguthu and expect them to sway with the music. A guru will know the right buttons to press to wean away the student from such "lowly" expecatations and set the student on the "right" path - an "infinte" lane highway leading to "infinite" profoundity and "eternal" bliss.
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#2
Critics of religiously inspired art who are unconvinced about claims of its singularly sublime character, as well as advocates of unorthodox preferences, are all too often accused of either 'anything-goes' Postmodernism or 'art-doesn't-matter' philistinism. The cultural pluralist position is mischaracterized both by purists who see pluralism as adulteration and by iconoclasts who see pluralism as lingering institutionalization.

Cultural pluralism is really only a natural application of universally recognized principles of self-determination and civil liberties in the cultural sphere, according to which every group of individuals is at liberty to adopt and dignify as culture the composite of shared symbolism and modes of artistic expression which best offer meaning and identity to them as a group. To dignify as canonical and definitive only those cultural aspects that are state-sponsored or ratified by a majority and to demean as primitive and mongrelized variants the culture of non-dominant groups, as has historically often been the state of affairs, amounts to the prevalence of cultural hegemony.

Cultural hegemony is sustained via narratives operating within and perpetuating a conceptual hierarchy where 'classical art' is perched on top, with 'folk art' accorded little more than a cursory footnote. The other prevalent dichotomy in cultural narratives, namely that between the 'mainstream' and the 'parallel' is a distinction that is more lateral than hierarchical. However, one thing that is true about all such narratives is that a great deal of human artistic endeavour, notably those characterized as 'folk' or 'parallel', ends up relegated to indifference almost bordering on ridicule, with tangible consequences in terms of coverage and patronage. The choice of performances in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games of 2010, ostensibly meant to showcase 'Indian culture' is a case in point about how state patronage can reinforce prevailing cultural hegemony and further obscure less known cultural expressions. It may similarly be argued that Bollywood, an industry seen as a leveller and as having appeal across class barriers, also perpetuates a more contemporary sort of cultural hegemony.

The religious mind, susceptible to a parochialism according to which a chosen people are cosmically privileged to pronounce upon the value of art and all else, finds it difficult to embrace a position of cultural pluralism for the same reason that it finds it difficult to accord to 'folk religion' the same degree of respect that it reserves for its own brand of organized religion. Some vocal advocates of the Vedantic viewpoint who ostensibly disavow parochialism, nevertheless end up claiming that theirs is the one wordlview that is all-embracing and therefore has a monopoly of catholicity. Such advocates are delightfully oblivious to the irony in this stance, by which supposed universalism is used to argue for exceptionalism!

Arguments that Art flourishes under Religion ignore the fact that while the religious establishment can harness an artist's medium and labours to proclaim its own message, a free artist's motivation has an exploratory, interrogative and even subversive character to which much human progress is owed, and for which no religious establishment can claim credit or be absolved of hindering. The art which the religious establishment or orthodox cultural establishment encourage, is intentionally of a tame sort, furthered by traditions like gharanas having obvious connotations of domestication and submission to shepherding, which by design is modeled on clerical authority. Art might at times lend itself to religious themes of homage and supplication, but its more intrepid and triumphant manifestations occur in spite of rather than because of religion.
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#3
Thanks Arvind, for the emphasis on the fact that unorthodox preferences does not mean a post-modernist acceptance of anything goes. The way I see it, there are facts about the Universe (like jump off a building, you will fall down) and then there are the range of experiences that the human brain is capable of. Spirituality/religion narrows that range, dogmatically imposing concepts like Brahman or Jesus when not all human minds can have that same experience. But the mind can have equally profound experiences in the most worldly manner.
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#4
This recently published TED talk by Jonathan Haidt enlists the many means through which people have experienced what might be called 'self-transcendence', of which very few are even remotely religious.

Also relevant maybe this recently published article on the Neurologica blog on the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR, or 'braingasm' in a manner of speaking), which might offer clues as to why the unlikeliest of experiences maybe found compelling and even profound by us.
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#5
(11-Mar-2012, 12:35 PM)Lije Wrote: Spiritual experiences are a subset of the most deepest and profound experiences the human brain can have. I say a subset because no one experience can be classified as being the definite life altering experience as is usually implied by spirituality. Spiritual experiences are just memes that have played one of the grandest cons in known history - that meaning of life can be found in only certain ways.

A perfect analogy would be music. At certain point in my life I was subjected to opinions that had utter disdain and contempt for any music that didn't have the approval of "sohpistication" (ex: dappanguthu). I used to chide some of my friends for having such "lowly" tastes. (That has now taught me to not laugh at people who like Justin Beiber. More power to whatever stimulates the profound centers of their brains.)

And that is why a guru so important in spirituality. You can't just play classical music to someone who grew up with dappanguthu and expect them to sway with the music. A guru will know the right buttons to press to wean away the student from such "lowly" expecatations and set the student on the "right" path - an "infinte" lane highway leading to "infinite" profoundity and "eternal" bliss.
spiritual thing give peace at that movement .I think god is an imagain of people which is rembered by them if something is wrong happen with them
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#6
More on 'divine music' and 'earthly music', archived from a Facebook comment on the Nirmukta Facebook group

Claims made for positive effects of music on say, mental health or cognitive performance, though numerous of late, are noticeably parochial. Cases in point are the so-called Mozart Effect (and claims that classical Baroque music somehow especially boosts test scores of student listening to them) and occasional claims of Quranic chanting remedying depression. Doesn't it seem remarkably convenient that every society discovers miraculous healing properties in especially its native forms of music?

That's something to be borne in mind while examining similar claims about Carnatic music, which, contrary to the revisionist perspective, is a fairly recent phenomenon with the bulk of the canonical compositions dating back to the early nineteenth century (though a much more hoary ancestry is claimed).

Some questions of interest are:

(i) If indeed there are demonstrable positive effects, are they attributable to peculiar regional features of a particular genre or does this work because they all happen to engage common neural mechanisms? (Studies like those investigating meditation effects, such as those linked here may offer cues regarding what caveats must be borne in mind while designing such studies for music) In short, what are the 'active ingredients' that impart the purported healing properties to any music?

(ii) Speaking of 'controls' for experiments of effectiveness of a particular classical genre of music, 'background noise' placebos must figure. Besides, a fair shot should be given to forms of folk music which so often get short shrift both in terms of patronage and scholarly coverage, so that their effect too is compared in a level playing field with the more glorified, often deified, genres of music. In short, are 'healing properties' the exclusive preserve of certain forms of music or can they be found in humbler variants as well?

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#7
US based filmmaker Vikram Gandhi, having met several religious leaders, decided to cast himself as one, to see whether a false prophet could elicit genuine religious experiences in individuals blind to his falsity. The result of the experiment was “Kumare”, a documentary on the true story of a false prophet and an SXSW Film festival award winner.

Here Vikram gandhi talks on the secrets on how to start your own religion.



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#8
(12-Mar-2012, 03:05 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Some vocal advocates of the Vedantic viewpoint who ostensibly disavow parochialism, nevertheless end up claiming that theirs is the one wordlview that is all-embracing and therefore has a monopoly of catholicity. Such advocates are delightfully oblivious to the irony in this stance, by which supposed universalism is used to argue for exceptionalism!

The thesis of this recent book, Cosmic Love and Human Apathy: Swami Vivekananda's Restatement of Religion, is that it is during Vivekananda's ministry in the West that we find the historical origin of the monopoly of catholicity selling-point. Vivekananda, author Jyotirmaya Sharma argues, reworks the ecumenical teaching of his master Ramakrishna's that was free of notions of civilizational supremacy and historical inevitability, into a revisionist evangelical message. Outlook has published some book excerpts in the following article:
Dharma for the State?

Here are some excerpts of the book excerpts:

On Vivekananda's 'grading' reformulation of Ramakrishna's ecumenism and positioning of Hinduism at the pinnacle:

Quote:Just as after learning about Islam and Christianity, Vivekananda’s Ramakrishna comes to the conclusion that these faiths led to the same goal that Ramakrishna had already reached. Similarly, Vivekananda learnt from his Master that all religions in the world were phases of one eternal religion. Notice the dexterity with which the word ‘phases’ has been added and introduced. What was the parity and equality of all faiths becomes “phases” of one “eternal religion” in the hands of Vivekananda. In the last part of the lecture, Vivekananda would claim that Ramakrishna did not want to disturb the faith of any individual, not even a sect like the Muslims whom “we always regard as the most exclusive”. Again, Muslims and Islam are reduced to a sect and condemned as “exclusive”. But more crucially, and perhaps ironically, the idea that without disturbing a man’s faith, one needs to “get hold of a man where he stands and give him a push upwards” is attributed to Ramakrishna. It also requires no great leap of imagination to know that “eternal religion” translates as ‘Sanatana Dharma’. Indeed, in the subsequent part of his lecture, the inference drawn becomes abundantly clear when Vivekananda argues that India was the soil to preach religion and the Hindus accept religion with effortless ease. The conflating of India, its soil and Hindu religiosity is accomplished with a flourish, something that would become part and parcel of Vivekananda’s politically charged conception of Hinduism.

On Vivekananda's own clashing civilizations doctrine:

Quote:In 1896, Vivekananda gave two lectures in America and England on Ramakrishna. At the outset, he confesses that he speaks on behalf of his Master, but the errors in interpreting the message are entirely his own. The bare bones of Ramakrishna’s message are all there, beginning with renunciation, devotion, love, and ending with Ramakrishna’s love of all sects and religions. But the moment one unravels the details, a very carefully doctored picture emerges. The first thing that strikes any reader of these lectures is that they are placed entirely in the context of the glorious spiritual traditions of India as contrasted with the materialism of the West. Further, and, more importantly, they are placed within the context of the spiritual greatness of Hinduism. There are frequent references to Hinduism’s capacity to withstand external shocks, including the coming of materialism in the guise of the West and the flashing of the Islamic sword. Despite all this, the national ideals remained intact because they were Hindu ideals. In turn, Hindu ideals are always painted as a deep quest for spirituality and the celebration of holiness.
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