Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

It's aparigraha week here at Raw Rach, and as such, the perfect time to revisit this excellent article from Tricycle Magazine. "Shopping the Dharma" asks how we reconcile our roles as consumers with our spiritual selves; it takes a ruthlessly self-aware look at the ways in which our consumer mindsets, ingrained as they are in our very being after swimming in the waters of an acquisitive culture all our lives, inform the way we practice as spiritual seekers:
Consumer culture is modeled on instant gratification. We say we want a close relationship with a spiritual mentor, but when that mentor’s guidance challenges our desires or pushes our ego’s buttons too much, we stop seeking it. At the beginning of our practice, we profess to be earnest spiritual seekers, aiming for enlightenment. But after the practice has remedied our immediate problem—the emotional fallout of a divorce, grief at the loss of a loved one, or life’s myriad setbacks—our spiritual interest fades, and we once again seek happiness in possessions, romantic relationships, technology, and career.
So what does it mean, then, to stay? What does it look like to stop shopping, to cease searching, to sit with and watch that urge to continually upgrade, move on, get a bigger and better model? Most of us see examples of this in and amongst one another: the wealthy businessman who constantly trades up for a younger and more surgically-enhanced trophy wife; the young kid who works three jobs to pay for a tricked-out car he doesn't need, because he thinks it'll bring him happiness and social status; the yoga student who constantly bounces from studio to studio, just when her practice hits a plateau and the revelations stop coming so effortlessly.

I always think of David Loy at this time of year; he of the Buddhist scholarship on Lack and American consumerism, he of the brilliant observation that capitalism is in fact our primary contemporary religion, he who challenges us to shift from seeking sustenance, meaning, joy, fulfillment in the shopping mall, the car lot, the McMansion, the football game to a sense of already-present abundance, to give in to a wild sense of affluence, the outlaw certainty of having, being, abandoning that source of suffering that is the desire for more, bigger, better.

That's the practice for us here, now, always, of course, but especially now.

So challenge yourselves to uncover the ways in which the consumer mentality functions in your own spiritual practice. It's there, as much as we'd like to pretend spirituality is free of acquisitiveness and craving:
We must become aware of how the consumer mentality functions in us and in our spiritual communities and institutions. We need to revive appreciation for the traditional model of a practitioner who lives a life of simplicity and humility, sincerity and endeavor, kindness and compassion. We must choose teachers with these qualities, cultivate these qualities in ourselves, and guide our students in developing them. We must remember that the purpose of a spiritual institution is not to preserve itself, but to facilitate the teaching and practice of a spiritual tradition. We should have only as much institutional structure as needed to do that, no more. This is essential to maintain the vitality of our spiritual traditions and to prevent them from becoming empty shells.
Yes, yes, and yes.

Shopping the Dharma (Tricycle)


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