Traditional culture goes by a lot of names these days. Every region has their own ancient practice. The Americas have their shamans connecting man to nature and the cosmos thru fire and smoke rituals, chanting, and vision questing. China followed the Doa and yin yang with the precise awareness of balance that found expression in herbalism that implies a strong connection to the land. In India the Tantrics watched the inter-play of Shiva and Shakti dance in every molecule. Europe had the pagans worshiping the bounty of nature with gods of various sorts living in every tree limb. There is no difference between any of these paths.
In those days, people followed the Dao because they had to. By todays standard, they were no more than animals living in the forest; such was their connection to the forest.
But then, of course, cities began to rise up and civic life style began to take whole generations of people away from the land. The city has become a problem because they have dominion over land they have no connection to. Cities are about commerce and security, and cities can be very selfish in this way. Cities are areas with a dense population of numerous communities mixed about in a broth. In “successful” cities, these communities get along and co-mingle, while the less successful cities get no peace. But most cities at some time or other break in their own way. This is fate: as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, every city will have its fall. Not the surest argument to be sure, but sound none-the-less.
As for the tantrics the tribals, and the pagans, they too will fall (just as their ways have fallen to the weigh-side), but they will have more peace and fuller enjoyment along the way. With life comes death and suffering. What we call life is only animated matter. But we are not merely animated matter, we are higher than that; higher even than the life we treasure so much. Traditional practice and the perspective it offers allows us to connect in that higher manner and, as some would say, act as witness to the fate of the animated matter while remaining aloof.
When we speak in terms of tradition practice, we are forced to speak in broad terms, thus the body and mind become matter. When we speak in terms of the city, we speak in specific ways of the specialist who know a lot about one thing but nothing of the whole. It’s nothing new that the times we live in is dominated by narrow vision, we are dominated also by the city.
This is why there arose fresh spiritual masters to help navigate the city perception in a civil way. We were warned about the merchants and the militaristic way of thinking by Christ who sought to create a modern community that held to higher values even within the context of cities. Cities found a way to use Christ’s message to sway people away from paganism and into monotheism. Monotheism is like city worship. No one can argue against it because everyone agrees that there is only one god, but that one god is not separate from you or me or anything else in this world. Cities separated this modern god perspective just like they separate themselves form the land, but these modern god perspectives (there are many more than the one offered by Christ) were never meant to separate one from god but unit. There has been a war of sorts raging over this topic ever since.
These days there seems to be a revival of the traditional ways. The funny thing is that these traditional ways are now considered to be the alternative while the practices of the city, which, as I’ve mentioned earlier are narrow and self-serving, bask in the murky light of the mainstream. The healing arts of the shamans and medicine men and women of tradition are slowly being cut and pruned to fit city perspective. Old medicine is perhaps finding a new face, or loosing face altogether. Some days it’s hard to tell.
Om namah shivaya