Warning: cynical post follows...
So today, having nothing pressing to do (it's a holiday here in France), I browsed the web, looking at dharma sites. This is something I don't do often, but I had an urge to see what's new out there. I've always been leery of the supermarket of spirituality, but today's foray through the ether just confirmed my opinions that there's not much of worth out there; or rather that there's so much, that it's just like trying to choose a breakfast cereal.
First, I posted here asking if there were any good dharma podcasts. I looked myself on iTunes, and found many, including one called Buddhist Geeks, which featured an interview, in one episode, with our fearless leader. I listened to several (half-) episodes, and was pretty shocked by the vapidity of the questions, and the general tone of "let's discuss the latest thing/trend/idea/book". Then I looked at a couple of blogs, web sites of magazines, etc. What strikes me is how much they all try and get people to consume, whereas the dharma generally cures us of consumption.
In addition, so much of the content of the websites, magazines, etc, is more "personal growth" than dharma. I know that things like love and anger are important, but some of the content I'm seeing seems to focus on "emotions" and other things that one would find in any self-help magazine or website.
I'm in the book and magazine business myself (I write) so it's no surprise seeing - especially on the magazine web sites - how much link there is between books-as-events and articles/reviews in these magazines. (To be fair, there are only a couple of magazines.) I realize that being a Buddhist publisher is no different from publishing other books - you need to get something New, something that Sells, then move on to the next New Thing. But it is striking, when you think about it, just how much these publishers resemble other book publishers, and how much these magazines depend on books for content, reviews, and, presumably, advertising.
To be fair, I buy a lot of books (though not many dharma books any more) and I can relate with people wanting to buy them. But the sheer number of dharma books published these days is quite stunning.
As for the rest, a glance at the Shambala Sun, for example, shows just how much of a supermarket there is. Articles covering the broadest possible range to attract as many people as possible, dealing with different, sometimes conflicting traditions and ideas, that don't fit together in any way. Attributions such as "X is one of the most prominent women teachers of Buddhism", as if that makes a difference. (I'm sure that the Tricycle site, if it weren't broken, would say the same things.)
Don't get me wrong, this may be good for some, but I find it overwhelming. It is Mara incarnate, but masquerading as righteousness. My day's journey over, I think I'll just go sit and let all of this pass.
Do forgive me if this is a bit disjointed; I just wanted to say a few things, and I realize, after writing it, that I might have spent a bit more time making it coherent. But real life calls, and it's dinner time. ;-)