"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sages: Paul Brunton on the East and West

"When the iron bird flies, and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will  be scattered like ants across the World, and the Dharma will come to the land of red-faced people."
-- Padma Sambhava --
[Eighth-century Indian guru; founder
of Tibet's first Buddhist monastery]
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Paul Brunton (1892-1981)

From age to age, and on all continents that were occupied by humankind, there have been great sages bearing messages of radical non-duality. Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisagardatta were two such sages from our modern era, and the relatively little-known philosopher Paul Brunton, a student of both, was another.

In speaking of the world's great sages (see the attached video, below), Brunton wrote:
"The world should be more grateful for the presence of such men. The good they do is mostly indirect, however, through intermediaries, or mostly hidden because psychological, so it escapes the world's notice.
Further, in speaking of the interplay between Eastern spiritual traditions and the "materialistic" West, Brunton wrote:
"We Westerners ought to be humbler than we usually are in confessing that we need to borrow some spiritual bread from the Orient today, as we did long ago. We ought also to be humble enough to confess those defects in our civilization and culture which arise from our emphasis on the quest for material wealth or livelihood. But, this said, let us firmly reject the absurd exaggerations of those Orientals who accuse us of a materialism so gross that we are unable to respond to spiritual urges at all. This is nonsense. It is true that the Oriental's basic instinct moves toward religion. But, in this modern era, this instinct is being overlaid with those same urges which have made the West what it is today. The same process overtook medieval Europe. Let us all, then, face the truth about what is really happening to us, both here and there, to all races alike. For make no mistake: it is a universal phenomenon."

"When the era of science overtook the West, the era or reason applied to mechanical development and external institutions, the push towards it was so great, the rewards so attractive, that we lost much of our balance. The East is being drawn in the same direction, the chief difference being that it has started later in time, and same push is beginning to appear all over the East. Will it not lead ultimately to the same defects? Not quite, for the Easterner has the spectacle of our own lopsidedness to warn him whereas we had no living example to provide us with such a lesson. What is the meaning behind this universal process? For we cannot believe it to be accidental in a divinely ordered world?"

"Philosophy answers that it is a fated evolution that man everywhere is intended to develop his intelligence and refine his feelings in all directions. If it is not materialism to attend to physical matters, to work for one's livelihood, to seek the comforts and conveniences of applied science or even the beautiful homes of applied art. Man is a growing creature: his reasoned thinking demands that he seek the one, and his aesthetic feeling demands that he seek the other. The materialism enters when to get these things, we forget the daily need of prayer and meditation, of listening for the voice of moral conscience and heeding the laws of spiritual balance."
["The Notebooks of Paul Brunton," vol. 10, "The Orient," pp. 16-17]
 Noting the then already-evident Western interest in Eastern wisdom traditions, Brunton writes:
"There is wider general interest in these subtle Oriental ideas than ever before but there is not much evidence of wider general willingness to practice with fervour the goodwill, the forbearance, and the compassion without which those ideas are half-dead, bereft of their best values."
["The Notebooks of Paul Brunton," vol. 10, "The Orient," p. 35]
And, on the convergence of the Western scientific vision, with Eastern metaphysical traditions, Brunton observes:
"When the scientific wisdom of the West unites with the mystic wisdom of the East, we shall arrive at truth."
["The Notebooks of Paul Brunton," vol. 10, "The Orient," p. 57]

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