Sam Harris is one of the icons of the atheist trend.
I haven’t read any of his books, but I generally favor rationality over blind faith. That part is good; but it has also seemed to me that the atheist trend, from what I know about it, seems like a religion in itself. It is a belief against something.
In any case, I was surprised to find out that Sam Harris is into and has been for into traditional spirituality for many years.
“Given this change in my perception of the world, I understand the attractions of traditional spirituality. I also recognize the needless confusion and harm that inevitably arise from the doctrines of faith-based religion. I did not have to believe anything irrational about the universe, or about my place within it, to learn the practice of Dzogchen.”
Sam Harris has written a new book call Waking Up. I look forward to it; it’s about awakening from a rationalist’s point of view. He describes it as “Eckhart Tolle for smart people.” Here’s a sample chapter: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/chapter-one.
Here’s an interesting conversation between Sam Harris and Dan Harris: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/taming-the-mind. A bit gossipy–they’re both mildly bashing Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle.
I see Deepak Chopra as populist. I haven’t read any of his books and I don’t have much use for him, but I do acknowledge that he has raised interest in meditation and awakening.
I share in the criticism of Eckhart Tolle. The guy has made enough money. One of his stated purposes is to save humanity; and I would suggest to Eckhart Tolle that he now personally doesn’t need any more money.
But I still recommend his Power of Now book as a good place to start. In that book, he covers most of the basics of awakening very well, in simple and clear language. He covers consciousness as prior to everything else, the obstacle of identification with thought, thought, emotion, conditioning, pain-body and so on. He doesn’t cover fear and self-inquiry adequately. He seems to over-demonize the mind and the ego. I like the practice of observation but I didn’t think the practice of presence, which is central to the book, was effective. But again, I still recommend the book as a wonderful place to start.
Also, here’s a relevant article by Sam Harris: http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/an-atheists-guide-to-spirituality.
“The whole of Advaita reduces to a series of very simple and testable assertions: Consciousness is the prior condition of every experience; the self or ego is an illusory appearance within it; look closely for what you are calling “I,” and the feeling of being a separate self will disappear; what remains, as a matter of experience, is a field of consciousness—free, undivided, and intrinsically uncontaminated by its ever-changing contents.”
That’s good. It makes me think what are the very simple and testable and rational assertions of awakening?
- Consciousness is prior to everything else. Consciousness is all there is. I-am is the only certainty.
- The self/ego/”I” do not exist
- The biggest obstacle to clear seeing is fear
- The universe is entirely subjective. Time, space and physicality occur in consciousness, not the other way around.
- Suffering is optional
- The present is the only moment of experience.