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May 04, 2014

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Thanks Methexis for that insightful post.

During my short visit to China I got the impression that the Chinese were taking Western materialism to a new level. The construction of shoddy buildings,roads, and smog which blocks out sun on most days are the products of "progress." The Communist gov. had constructed numerous temples, but the people (and monks) seemed concerned only with material success; luxury cars were common donations to the sangha.

It's a good thing some authors in the West, like the Zennist and Charles Luk, have captured the essence of what made Chinese Buddhism so grand and planted seeds for future scholars and practitioners to work from. I am thus quite confident that the tradition of esoteric Buddhism will continue to flourish like a lotus (tathagatagarbha) which emerges from the mud (of the skandhas)without stain.

"The crux of the matter is that unlike the Chinese, the West has little or no sense of the mystical nor even a willingness to correct the problem."

21st century Chinese are more materialist than the average Californian. Recent polls have shown that China has the highest percentage of people who define their worth by the things they own:

"71 percent of Chinese said they gauge their success by the things they own significantly higher than any other nation in the world, a new survey found."

This is what communism does to a nation. It completely obliterates the culture and its spiritual core. Ex-communist countries are the worst and most brutally capitalist today, Russia, China, etc. This is what "Cultural Revolution" will do to a nation.

"The U.S. has no such longstanding developed religious culture like China’s. The same goes for Europe."

It's surprising that you would say that, because you're widely read in Western philosophy. What about the Eleusinian Mysteries?

"the Athenians, while initiating people into the Eleusinian rites, likewise display to those who are being admitted to the highest grade at these mysteries, the mighty, and marvellous, and most perfect secret suitable for one initiated into the highest mystic truths: an ear of corn in silence reaped."

It's clear from the writings of Heraclitus and Parmenides and later Plotinus that the West had a profound mystical tradition.

I will agree though, that the Greek stuff ultimately doesn't compare with the Zhuangzi. It's the single best book I've ever read, by far. Can't believe I haven't studied it earlier! There's nothing like it.

May I recommend the new translation by Brook Ziporyn. Ziproyn is the foremost living philosopher focusing on Asian thought if you ask me, and his translations are top notch.

This edition contains commentaries at the end, by the most important Chinese commentators (like Guo Xiang).

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