Traditional lineages and the age of secrecy
Centuries ago, the first spiritual lineages depended exclusively on ‘mouth-to-ear’ teachings. By not writing ANYTHING down, teachers and students maintained secrecy around their practice, which was fundamental for their survival (think of the Inquisition, for instance).
Besides protecting their physical integrity, this way of transmitting the knowledge also ensured the integrity of the teaching itself. With only a few students per teacher, the dilution of the knowledge was relatively under control, (with emphasis on ‘relatively’, because even the most ancient of lineages have branched off!) and the core wisdom remained.
Nowadays, the story is VERY different. With the rise of the Information Age, there’s nothing hidden under the Sun.
Blowing off the doors of the temple
The spark that lit the proliferation of teachings around the globe was the disruption of Tibet; Monks and families were evacuated and took with them whatever teachings they could. Spreading all around the world, these monks were no longer under monastic care and had to survive in the marketplace: without Dana, they had to find ways of making ends meet.
With many of them turning into writing, the teachings that were guarded into monasteries for centuries, all of the sudden flooded the marketplace.
What happens when all this knowledge becomes available to the masses?
The Buddha once talked about an age where Dharma would no longer exist – and many thought it meant the destruction of knowledge. In the age of the internet, this is simply impossible. However, the dilution of the knowledge is totally possible, and it’s happening.
Nowadays, there are thousands of fragmented teachings out there, released by those who found and learned portions of this stuff on their own, disconnected from a proper lineage.
In this sea of knowledge, how can one find the right stuff?
The sword of discernment.
In the current era, it can be challenging to find authentic teachers teaching authentic teachings. Faced with the disruption of secrecy and the consequential transformation of knowledge, many people have found in ancestry a false idol to worship, only accepting those teachings with century-old lineages behind them.
While ancestry is a fairly good measure of authenticity, relying solely on ancestry can dampen the fires of evolution. In the worst of cases, the cult of tradition leads to sterile spiritual conservatism, where practices are endorsed just because they have been done for years before, no questions asked.
When spiritual conservatism erodes the sword of discernment, not only teachers and students are hurt: the teaching itself limps.
The truth is, the times have changed, and so should the technologies we use to awake. As the traps and conditions of the modern world evolve, shouldn’t we aim for better ways to reach The Great Work?
We are no longer living in isolated monasteries!
In ‘Is This The End Of Dharma?’, the brand new episode of The Alchemize Your Life podcast, we’ll go over how spiritual conservatism and the dilution of teachings are hindering the path of spirituality. To better understand the evolving nature of teachings, we’ll go from the multiple lineages of Buddhism to the new emerging, modern branches of Zen.
In this episode, you’ll learn how to use your sword of discernment to make your way through the marketplace, spot false prophets, and find the seed of truth hidden in both ancient and modern teachings!
We really hope this episode empowers the curiosity in you, lightbender!
Love, wisdom, and a ray of light,
Sophie, Cian & The Prysm Team