Like trite New Agey feel-good generalizations! Me neither! An encouragement to read deeper.*

Via elephant journal
on Jul 30, 2010
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A friend of mine just tweeted this:

“Love all with love that none have felt, and brave the battle of life with strength unchained.” ~ Yogananda

As Oprah said (can’t believe I’m quoting Oprah) it’s not about what we should do. We all know doing the right thing is the right thing to do. It’s about how to do the right thing. Very few of us know how to do the above, let alone lose five pounds, or be happy, or like ourselves, or be better parents, or anything.

* This reaction is offered with all due respect, and there’s a lot of respect due, to Yogananda: genuine teachers deserve more respect than having their wisdom bottled and pruned into sound bytes that we tweet out via our smart speed phones.

Yogananda taught extensively about “how” we might love all sentient beings with a full, genuine sort of love, and brave the often difficult trials and tribulations with unceasing exertion. But the above quote risks “coffee book wisdom”…skimming only from the top of a mountain of wisdom can turn the real thing into trite, unhelpful, nice-sounding fortunes, and little more.

To actually learn something about Yogananda’s teachings, click over to our longtime colleagues and friends at Self-Realization Fellowship. Click here to see video and my photos of SRF itself.


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49 Responses to “Like trite New Agey feel-good generalizations! Me neither! An encouragement to read deeper.*”

  1. ???

    What's this all about. Please explain. Did I miss something? Whose "trite New Age Generalizations"?

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. Yeah, Waylon. I'm still baffled by this.

    I'm not sure this is the place and time, but I suggest Elephant rethink its whole derisive treatment of the term "New Age". The derision is right there on every Elephant page in the fourth item on the header menu, "NON-NEW AGEY SPIRITUALITY" (although nothing shows up when one clicks on it.)

    Before I end up writing a whole blog on this in a comment, I'll try to keep this very brief. Then, if you and others are puzzled, I'll write more.

    1) Many, many fine people and movements are generally called "New Age" today, including some, like Chopra, whom I know you admire.

    2) Some of your current authors enjoy and relate to some of these movements.

    3) I challenge you to listen objectively to your own recent interview with John Friend and tell me how his responses, and your own statements, differ in any way from "NEW AGEY SPIRITUALITY". Whether one thinks it's profoundity or fluff, it's definitely the same kind of stuff. (Now I'm starting to sound like Muhammad Ali–the rhymes just pop out without me even trying.)

    Enough said for now. My simple suggestion, drop the negative slant on the term "New Age", which contains a lot of good and a lot of bad and everything in between, just like Yoga, Christianity, and yes, even Buddhism.

    Aren't you glad I decided to take a little break from Gita Talk and check in on a few blogs?

    Bob Weisenberg

  3. I agree with you, YfC. I'm not against satire or making fun of New Age, God Knows. (My former wife, who was a classical pianist, used to refer to all New Age music as "mystical mush". That still makes me laugh.)

    I'm just against any serious knee-jerk stereotyping of any kind, but particularly when, as you point out, the term is so broad.

    Bob Weisenberg

  4. ARCreated says:

    sometimes an appetizer is needed…I find it just as offensive for "spiritual" people to be "offended" by others connections.
    so what if it isn't as deep as YOU think it should be…what if that one line leads many people to research yogananda?
    what is wrong with people seeking aphorisms to get through their day? What's wrong with a little light heartedness?
    Who are YOU to judge?
    I say bring on the trite coffee table books and let those that are ready to seek, seek as they see fit. A little here a little there…it sinks in…I'll take a yogananda tweet over a Gaga tweet any day… Use the modern media to break through the cracks.

    I'll take my new agey, affirmation spouting, enya listening, aphorism touting, tye-dye wearing friends that don't think they are better than anyone over those that think they are "deeper" "more advanced" or some other ego ridden version of spirituality any day.

  5. ARCreated says:

    Hey – I am guilty of it too and I thank you for the reminder — when I get all high and mighty that people who only do asana don't get how "deep" yoga really is…I'm going to kick my own pretentious ass…everyone is where they need to be…get over ourselves and we can go to the next level.

  6. Linda-Sama says:

    new age, shnew age. I never burned my Hippie Card.

  7. Hey Waylon and Bob,

    You all asked me to take part in this discussion and here I am.

    My take on the whole new age thing is that I think many people claim to be spiritual because it is fashionable to be spiritual.

    The way I see it, there are people who are truly on the path. And then there are those who throw around terms like karma without really knowing what the heck they are talking about.

    Sometimes I see people who claim to be all spiritual and yet they have no clue about Eastern thought or what is meditation. Then I have known people who never utter a spiritual term and yet they are truly on the path.

    When I lived in India, I saw the whole gamut of spiritual seekers. One of the big lessons I learned over there is that you never can tell the intensity of one's dedication because you just never know.

    Labels mean nothing. How we live is more important than the labels we place on ourselves. Action speaks louder than words. That said, someone can utter trite generalizations and truly be on the path. It all depends on the individual and how they have chosen to live their life.

    So I guess the best thing to do is to not assume and to just suspend judgment. To each their own.

  8. Zoe says:

    Hey All!
    I agree with a lot that has been said and I just wanted to add my two cents. Looking back at the article when it said "…risks “coffee book wisdom”…skimming only from the top of a mountain of wisdom can turn the real thing into trite, unhelpful, nice-sounding fortunes, and little more" yes it does "risk" it. Saying anything is a risk. Its a risk because one can't control what someone else will do with it when it is read and that's okay. It shouldn't stop people from saying and quoting things.

    Like ARCreated Wellness said, a little here and there and it sinks in, hopefully. If something about love couldn't be said or shared unless it was in a larger and more controlled context, then people would be missing out on a lot of little leads and thoughts that guide them to something more. People are loved in different ways, one of those ways is through words (hello mantras!) and having quick reminders about something in the form of quotes or music is a great companion on the path. I know that there have been times when I was feeling off kilter and saw a quote that helped me get back perspective.

    I wonder if the uncomfortable feeling around potential shallowness comes from wanting to share what is dear and near to the heart and feeling a disconnect from others with a different experience which can be lonely. It bites to want to share something with someone and they just don't seem to get it or a person sees someone else spouting off and explaining or doing it "wrong." I think that means its a time to take a step back, nurture one's self with one's own community, teachers, own practice, whatever is centering and makes one feel connected again. Then, if so moved, share, share, and share some more your own deep insights and experiences, write a book, tell people to go to India, whatever. Focus on what is important, share that & then who cares what others do with it. Or don't share and let others figure it out for themselves.

    As for the term "new age", I don't think we will actually know if anything "new agey", like a real new age, for at least 1-2 hundred years when we can look back and see if anything seemed to make a huge shift worthy of the title. But it is a label that is used often, it scares some people and makes others feel at home. I think its something that most people have their own definitions. I don't use it to describe anything really, it doesn't seem definitive enough. Perhaps a different term would work better, something such as… Well actually I can't think of anything right now, do you have any ideas? I think that perhaps part of the problem is that to me, like I said before, none of it seems "new agey." It just seems like the experiences of people, religions and various spiritual practices have changed somewhat and innovated for the time, mashing up old and new, which seems to me like normal growth. It also seems like a normal thing for a person to wade through it all finding what speaks to them the most. Does this make sense?

    So to recap what I'm trying to say is, 1. annoyance with someone's seeming or real shallowness I think comes from feeling frustrated with seeming like an experience can't be shared which leads to feeling lonely & disconnected. And those feelings can easily be nurtured back to feeling grounded. 2. Who in the world came up with the term "new age"? It doesn't seem to mean much. Ok thats my 2 or 4 cents.

  9. Cheryl says:

    This is the journalistic/blog equivalent to a group of teenaged girls gossiping about another group of teenaged girls behind their backs; in really poor taste. The author's views could have been expressed much more intelligently and meaningfully than be referring to a friend's facebook status, followed by publicly judging this person. Reads like an amateur writer's knee jerk emotional reaction – lower consciousness stuff. Lost a lot of respect for EJ with this one, less likely to continue as a reader.

  10. greateacher says:

    well, the article is NOT an article!

    The emperor has NO clothe!!!

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