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  1. I’ve been relatively new to meditation, but over the last year I’ve found that I myself leaning toward the Valley approach. Mainly because it speaks to me more than the alternatives so far, but what’s the journey if not for the thrill & discoveries in the exploration?

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  3. Well said Tom.

    The valley approach to spirituality is the one that works for me. In the following I am going off on a tangent, having expressed my complete sympathy with your central point.

    There are two different moral outlooks underlying the valley and the mountain approach to spirituality. The mountain one does not work for me because to me it seems like a form of denial, a denial of human responsibility. . A challenge for me is that the valley approach can also involve denial.

    I find that the idea that I can do “net good” or that I can behave “coherently good” is fraught with complications and inconsistencies.

    We see this problem highlighted in the U. S. intervention in Afghanistan. Women were nearly, if not completely, slaves under the Taliban. But now women stay at home out of fear of being raped, robbed or killed. Drugs are now in mass production. The social fabric of the country has been torn apart. Bribery is rampant. The number of violent deaths caused by both Afghan and U.S. Forces is vastly increased from the violent death rate when the Taliban were in charge.

    And so I think it is difficult to maintain our psycho-spiritual integrity when we dogmatically judge (as we must for practical reasons) something to be good or bad action. It might not be plausible to know with certainty whether or not we can clearly “do what we can to work to change chauvinistic systems that oppress others in the name of some higher power.” When we do take action, it is possible that we become part of another chauvinistic power system.

    It is not that we should not do anything, but I find it useful to reflect on the ramifications of my good deeds.

    Zhuangzi points out the problem of trying to maintain ethical consistency: “Steal a horse and we will put you in jail. Steal a country and we will make you king.”

    He is not saying “don’t be a hypocrite.” He is saying is is best to realize that all morality is intrinsically fraught with hypocrisy. He recognizes that to maintain social order we need rules which will necessarily entail hypocrisy. He recognizes that stable minds and stable societies cannot thrive without this necessary rule-making moral hypocrisy. But at least if we are aware of that, we are less likely to call some saints and others sinners. We are less likely to despise anyone, even if we find it useful to imprison them.

    When we put someone in jail we are best to also remember Attar’s words: “Who sold Joseph into slavery? I say we all do.”

    As I have said before, it seems that the best I can do is to be as kind as possible to everyone I help and also to everyone who is hurt by my action and inaction.

  4. I am from the San Fernando Valley, so you can guess where this is going ….

    — valley girl

  5. I like this very much indeed, Tom. Not because I judge the valley way superior to the mountain way. Fortunately I don’t have to make that judgement. I choose which suits me best, as you have done, and it sounds like we choose similarly.

    If I discovered that I had inadvertently set myself up as a meditation teacher, I would dissociate myself from that as far as possible and give an honest answer to questions about Karma, Taliban and Palin: “I don’t know”.

    I’m trying to make up a question about Sarah Palin. Perhaps “Is her possible presidential candidature in the same category as Taliban ideas of justice?” I could legitimately answer “no”, on the grounds that I don’t believe in categories. But I would prefer to answer with one of those sticks that Zen meditation teachers use to chastise their students.

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