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R. Kranenborg: Zelfverwerkelijking

Zelfverwerkelijking, Oosterse religies binnen een westerse subkultur.
J. H. Kok, Kampen (ISBN 90 242 0389 9)


This study deals with a number of Eastern religious groups which are presently finding a following among certain segments of the younger generation in The Netherlands.

The introductory chapter sets out to describe and circumscribe the subject of investigation It became apparent that a very large number of Eastern religious groups are operating in the West, which made it necessary to place definite limits on the number of groups dealt with. Apart from one exception, this study is restricted, therefore1 to a number of religious groups originating in India - one for each of the main streams of Hinduism. This first chapter also seeks to determine which type of youth feels especially attracted to Hinduism: It appears to be that segment of the Western youth subculture which is oriented towards the Amsterdam meditation center "De Kosmos"; this group uses LSD and Marihuana, but no other drugs. Finally, the Introduction describes the method employed in the systematization and writing-up of this investigation; each chapter consists of three sections: (a) a description of teachings, (b) a report of interviews and conversations with adherents, (c) further historico-religious information and a summary.

Chapter II begins with a brief historical survey of the development of East-West contacts from the 17th century onward. This is followed by an overview of the origins and growth of the youth subculture in the United States and The Netherlands, and, finally, a description of the activities and goals of the Amsterdam meditation center "De Kosmos".

Chapter III deals specifically with "psychedelic religion" as advocated and developed by T. F. Leary. The inclusion of the chapter was necessary because it became apparent that it is impossible to understand the explosive growth of Eastern religions among young people apart from a consideration of their use of narcotics, such as marihuana, hashish, LSD, and mescaline. The psychedelic experience caused by these narcotics are felt by many to be religious in nature. Suitable interpretation of these experiences was/is sought in the East. It appears that many young people go through a "psychedelic phase" prior to joining an Eastern Group.

Chapter IV investigates the macrobiotic movement, which originated in Japan. Though at first glance this movement does not seem to be particularly religious, upon further investigation it must be so termed, for the founder G. Ohsawa places his philosophy (having to do with the proper way of eating, drinking and living) within a definitely religious framework. For him macrobiotics lead to enlightenment, satori. It became apparent from the interviews that three-fourths of those who adhere to the macrobiotic life-style are not aware of its religious background.

Chapter V deals with two different forms of yoga. The first form investigated is Hatha yoga as propagated in the Netherlands by the "Stichting Yoga Nederland". Although denied by its followers, Hatha yoga always stands within a definite religious context, usually that of the Advaita Vedanta. The second form dealt with is Kundalini yoga as taught by the "Healthy-Happy-Holy Organization" (3H0), a Sikh group within which Karma yoga, too, plays a large role. Both these forms of yoga share the conviction that control of body and breathing can lead one to enlightenment, to samadhi.

Chapter VI describes that form of transcendent meditation which stems from the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who gained world fame through the Beatles. Though this movement stoutly maintains that it represents nothing more than a technique and that it is purely scientific, a careful study of Maharishi's pronouncements clearly indicates that it is grounded in the Hindu conviction that in their deepest essence God and man are identical: Brahman is equal to Atman: While this religious aspect was repeatedly denied in the interviews with the adherents of this movement, there was a remarkable measure of agreement among them in their view of "the religions".

Chapter VII is devoted to a discussion of the Hare Krishna movement, in which Bhakti - loving resignation of oneself to God - stands in central position. This movement, under the leadership of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, appears to be strictly Indian, i.e., appears not to have adjusted itself in any way to the West. The way to salvation is found through a constant singing of the holy Mantra, which consists of the names of the highest God; since God and his name are identical, when one sings this name, one literally sings God.

The last chapter seeks to throw light upon a number of elements which the movements investigated have in common. In the first place we mention the emphasis upon selfrealisation. Man is not helplessly dependant upon divine powers but can realize his own salvation because he contains the divine. The great interest in and need for experience, is also worth noting: this is definitely one of the things which characterizes all of these movements. In connection with this we mention the shared conviction among these groups that man possesses more possibilities, than he is aware of, and that he must learn to exploit these potentialities. This chapter also shows the close connection between one's interest in Eastern groups, on the one hand, and his views of Western society and Christianity, on the other. Remarkably, while most of the adherents of these groups profess great distaste for religion, they themselves are intensely religiously involved. The problem here is in understanding what religion is. For most young people "religion" connotes often static, dogmatic, impersonal, cold form of Christianity they have experienced in the Church. As far as they are concerned, the Eastern religions are completely different; that is why they view them as sciences. But for these young people criticism of Christianity does not in any way imply criticism of Jesus Christ: they have only great respect for Him.

Since this study falls within the discipline of the History and Phenomenology of Religion, and particularly since it consciously aims as being descriptive (and not prescriptive), one will search it in vain for any sort of theological evaluation - still, because it is a dissertation written by a theologian for a theological faculty, it raises a whole series of questions which could perhaps be dealt with in a strictly theological way.