Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Examining Eastern Systems

excerpt from Changing Human Behavior by John Mann (1965):

Some Techniques of Eastern Religions 

    Certain preliminary generalizations can... be made before examining any particular system of Eastern religion. 

First, to achieve any substantial development, a tremendous amount of work is necessary. There is apparently no shortcut to paradise. The story of the great 12th century Tibetan saint, Milarepa, is typical. He was told by his teacher to build a house. After many months he was finished. His teacher then told him to take it down. When that was done, he was told to build it up again. This cycle was repeated several times. In this way, his teacher tested the firmness of his resolution and brought his work to a pitch of intensity that enabled him to attain the growth that he desired. 

 Second, work by oneself without the guidance of a person who has in fact himself extended his faculties is not productive. A teacher is necessary. It is not only the ignorance of the aspirant that will prevent his success when working alone, though certain kinds of knowledge are viewed as essential. Of even greater importance is the need for guidance from an impartial but benevolent source who can detect just those areas and issues that the individual would avoid. 

 Third, the nature of the work, whatever its specific content, is difficult and painful in the sense that it goes against natural tendencies of the person. The individual grows by opposing himself. The teacher functions in part to create the right kind of obstacles or to show how the ones that already exist can be attacked. 

Fourth, at some point complete surrender of individual effort is required. He must recognize his own helplessness and ask for guidance from his teacher or from some great spiritual source. 

Fifth, the process of work is gradual, though the rate of development at different times may vary greatly. After successive stages are past, new methods may be required: what is useful during one stage may be harmful at another. 

These five principles are sharply reminiscent of many of the psychological processes with with which we have dealt. Certain modern insight psychotherapies stress the need for difficult work under the guidance of a healer who helps the person to face those situations and aspects of his self he seeks to avoid. It is not surprising that the same principles seem to hold in very general form, since the process of growth must have certain common denominators regardless of the point from which one starts.

-- from Changing Human Behavior, p. 149-150.

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