kinds of "Christian meditation" described above are only the
beginning; in general, it may be said that the influence of Eastern religious
ideas and practices upon the once-Christian West has reached astonishing
proportions in the decade of the 1970's — In particular America, which barely
two decades ago was still religiously "provincial" (save in a few
large cities), its spiritual horizon largely limited to Protestantism and Roman
Catholicism — has seen a dazzling proliferation of Eastern (and pseudo-Eastern)
religious cults and movements.
The history of this proliferation can be traced
from the restless disillusionment of the post-World War II generation, which
first manifested itself in the 1950's in the empty protest and moral
libertinism of the "beat generation," whose interest in Eastern
religions was at first rather academic and mainly a sign of dissatisfaction
with "Christianity." There followed a second generation, that of the
"hippies" of the 1960's with its "rock" music and
psychodelic drugs and search for "increased awareness" at any cost;
now young Americans plunged wholeheartedly into political protest movements
(notably against the war in Vietnam) on the one hand, and the fervent practice
of Eastern religions on the other. Indian gurus, Tibetan lamas, Japanese Zen
masters, and other Eastern "sages" came to the West and found a host
of ready disciples who made them successful beyond the dreams of the
westernized swamis of preceding generations; and young people travelled to the
ends of the world, even to the heights of the Himalayas, to find the wisdom or
the teacher or the drug that would bring them the "peace" and
"freedom" they sought.
In the 1970's a third generation has succeeded the
"hippies." Outwardly quieter, with fewer "demonstrations"
and generally less flamboyant behavior, this generation has gone more deeply
into Eastern religions, whose influence now has become much more pervasive than
ever before. For many of this newer generation the religious "search"
has ended: they have found an Eastern religion to their liking and are now
seriously occupied in practicing it. A number of Eastern religious movements
have already become "native" to the West, especially in America: there are now Buddhist monasteries composed entirely of
Western converts, and for the first time there have
appeared American and other Western gurus and Zen masters.
Let us look at just a few pictures — descriptions of actual events in the early and mid-1970's
which illustrate the dominance of Eastern ideas and practices among many young
Americans (who are only the "avant-garde" of the youth of the whole
world). The first two pictures show a more superficial involvement with Eastern
religions, and are perhaps only a leftover from the generation of the 1960's;
the last two reveal the deeper involvement characteristic of the 1970's.
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