Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why Slow?

Now that this blog contains over fifty posts, it is probably worth addressing the topic of Slow advaita. What is it anyway?

The basic idea is the result of observing that many advaita presentations in the West go to the extremes of being either overtly traditional, on the one hand, or, on the other, of being unwisely dismissive of tradition.

I am a person who is wired to go Slow. So I propose applying the relative wisdom of Slowness to the current unfolding of advaita in the West.


Overt traditionalists often immerse themselves unreservedly in a tradition, down to the details. While they are potentially following the wisdom being offered, they may also be adopting the Hindu diet (no meat, fish or eggs) and giving themselves an Indian name. Although these things are not deleterious in and of themselves, not building and exercising one's capacity for critical thinking can be.

To spend time obsessing over extraneous details also draws one's attention way from what is essential.

It is out of concern to avoid this sort of blind following that some risk falling into the other extreme of completely throwing out tradition. This is not prudent since tradition, at heart, is a deep-level dialogue. It is tragic to throw out the baby of time-honored wisdom with the bathwater of culture-specific details.


In relation to these extremes, Slow advaita is an opportunity to explore a pragmatic middle ground. One wants to keep the baby and only toss the extraneous.

For example, the upaniShad-s are typically dialogues between earnest, would-be disciples and wise forest RRiShi-s. The answers given by the RRiShi-s are not all that is important in these dialogues. The questions are important too; since it is often the case that earnest, would-be seekers do not often know what questions they would like to ask. So these model dialogues provide a two-fold example of what questions are worth asking and how to respond - in general.

I say "in general" because the strength of a given wisdom tradition is essentially in the way in which it provides a mean. Once a disciple has been accepted by the guru, and once the orienting generalizations of the mean have been introduced by the guru to the disciple, then there is a starting point for considering matters that were not addressed in the teaching.


These teachings are immensely valuable to both the guru and the disciple. To put it simply, they have an already-proven inherent perfection (relatively speaking), which is similar to the 'roundness' of a wheel. While it may be possible to improve on this quality of roundness, the possibility seems so remote upon looking at a wheel, that nobody is tripping over anyone else trying to re-invent the wheel.


Slow advaita is an opportunity for those of us who do not wish to be drawn in by the extremes - however acceptable these may seem to be in our fast-paced, instant-everything culture.

Rather we wish to pause and reflect, taking in what is valuable, as we see that value for ourselves, but leaving behind the husks of the non-essential.

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