Reincarnation, a New Age fad? (was: Gymnosophists)

y.r.rani at y.r.rani at
Tue May 7 06:11:32 UTC 1996

Lars Martin Fosse wrote:

>New Age in my opinion still has the status of a fad, and I think that
>people may lose
>interest in such things as karma and yoga in some years. But it is
>interesting to notice that as much as 30 percent of the Norwegians these
>days believe in reincarnation. Reincarnation is an appealing idea, and it
>is possible that it may have come to stay.

I personally do not think that you can classify people as "New Age" who
have embraced beliefs from the East and who, though Western by birth, have
incorporated philosophies and practices from Hinduism and/or Buddhism into
their lives.  This is not New Age, which is somehow a shallow, negative
moniker.  I suppose her contemporaries thought Annie Bessant and the
Theosophy gang was a fad.  There seems to be a persistence of this
reoccurring "fad."   Fads do come and go, but belief in the Dharma is not a
fad.  Even though outside of the occi-centric frame of reference, these
ideas are here to stay among a globalized audience.  The world has changed
since the days of the Gymnosophists and the Theosophists;  in this
deconstructed world individuals can absorb and infuse religious teaching
from various sources into their philosophy of life, without a rupture.

There are serious scholars, historical and contemporary, who have
internalized the teachings that they study in an academic setting.  It
certainly doesn't seem faddish to me to spend decades studying and reading
about Hinduism and Buddhism and to be personally changed by these ideas.  I
find it remarkable that some scholars can study these ideas and *not* be
profoundly influenced by their experiences.  I also find it odd that many
scholars at traditional Western academic institutions, who do have personal
beliefs centered in or associated with Eastern religions, often feel
compelled to hide that fact, and not make it known to their Asian Studies
colleagues, primarily  because they are afraid of ridicule.  Many such
non-New Agers have believed in karma and reincarnation, and other ideas
from the East, since they first heard about them, because to them, these
ideas explained reality more adequately than say, the nuns at the convent
school with their Jesus is the only way message.  This type of
intellectual, does not only study such religions as Hinduism and Tibetan
Buddhism, but recognizes some of the ideas as integral to his or her way of
thinking.  These people are passing their beliefs on to their children who
grow up familiar with these concepts; they do not believe in eternal
damnation, one savior, one holy book, etc.  This is certainly not a New Age
fad in which they will soon lose interest.

Why is it that there are so many scholars who do not come out of the
spiritual closet?  Why is it also that many people who study Indology,
etc., look at religion under a microscope and often disparage those who see
a broader application of the ideas in their lives?


BTW, the likes of Pat Robertson undoubtedly think that reincarnation and
karma, and beliefs central to many Indic religions, are New Age fads
(designed by Satan!) and that Hinduism is an evil cult bent on mind

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