By Joel S. Kahn

Asia, Modernity, and the Pursuit of the Sacred examines numerous Europeans who, upset with western tradition and faith after international warfare I, and watching for the non secular seekers of the counterculture, became to the non secular traditions of Asia for suggestion.

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Extra info for Asia, Modernity, and the Pursuit of the Sacred: Gnostics, Scholars, Mystics, and Reformers

Sample text

Reactions have ranged from puzzlement to outright hostility. Despite the popularity of Eastern religions in the West, the widespread influence of philosophies, religious traditions, and practices drawn from those traditions; the admiration for Asian thought expressed by a large number of Western intellectuals, scientists, and artists over the whole of the modern period, and the plethora of personal accounts by Westerners of “mystical” experience while engaged in Asian spiritual practice, there appears to be a fairly general consensus at least among contemporary liberal, progressive, and left-leaning media commentators, scientists, academics, and intellectuals that there is something embarrassing, laughable—or even sinister—about any manifestation of the Eastern turn in Western thought and culture.

Radcliffe-Brown, Bronislaw Malinowski, and Marcel Mauss breaking with the triumphalist social evolutionism of the nineteenth century and establishing a discipline that sought to engage with other cultures and societies in their own terms as it were—should not be surprising. And one has only to think of Max Weber’s work on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam to see that the broad comparisons with the non-West that continue to inform our approach to the emergence of Western modernity in the social sciences were also part of this turn to non-Western cultures and societies in the period between the two world wars.

First, there is the distinction it makes between the Absolute and Relativity, a distinction rendered in English as one between Godhead and God. Second, there 32 ASIA, MODERNITY, AND THE PURSUIT OF THE SACRED is the doctrine of a world (samsara) that consists not just of one but of an “endless chain of innumerable worlds which have been manifested, and of which the universe consists” (Lings 2009: xxi). Third, there is the fact that the essence of the Hinduism of the Vedanta and the Bhagavad GƯtƗ (although not necessarily of the rest of the MahƗbhƗrata) is seen as divinely revealed, there being in these texts a clear distinction between revelation (sruti) and inspiration (smriti).

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