The Culture of the
Culture appears to be
a purely outward thing, the various changing codes and customs of
different peoples, times and countries. If we look at the different
peoples of the world, we see every sort of cultural variation in
terms of language, clothes, diet, art, religion and so on. The
spiritual path as something timeless and universal should be beyond
culture and to begin only when we set cultural prejudices aside.
Yet culture has
another meaning. The spiritual life is a form of cultivation. To
flower in truth we must cultivate our nature, we must create a field
for the soul to grow that pervades our whole life, both individual
and collective. Dharma as a way of life is a culture as well.
Culture thus ultimately refers to how we live. Our culture is the
field that we create by the circumstances and modalities of our
lives. Naturally this should have a certain harmony to it, not a
rigid order but an organic development like a plant.
Many modern spiritual
teachers, particularly coming from India, have tried to purify their
teachings of extraneous cultural factors. They have provided
teachings and practices that can be applied irrespective of cultural
context. This allows people to apply various meditation approaches
without having to consider the more transient and outward side of
the teachings, like rituals. They can adapt meditation practices
without having to change jobs, residence or relationship. They don't
have to become Hindus but can adapt its insights in a way that
enhances their lives as they are already developing from our own
background. Even in India the spiritual teachings have become more
distant from their cultural matrix.