The Twilight of Expertise (part 8: spiritual experts)

“Religion is extremely important to the Tibetans,” says Wikipedia, but what does that mean? The Tibetan Buddhism entry is no help. Last night at dinner, however, I did learn what it means, at least in part. Tibetans spend a vast amount of time on religious observances — what the observer (Bryan Ng, a Berkeley engineer) called a “religion tax.” One example was a well-observed month-long annual religious festival. Another was a sensationally slow method of travel: Take a step or two, bow down, lie down on the ground, get up, take another step, bow down, and so on. This method is used to cover long distances, such as 20 miles or more. The extremely devout do this along highways.

The Chinese government wants to reduce the influence of religion, he said. Goods imported into Tibet from China via the new railway should increase commerce, for example. The power of the Chinese government makes it likely they will succeed.

2 Responses to “The Twilight of Expertise (part 8: spiritual experts)”

  1. Janet Says:

    If this Tibetan practice is widely followed, wouldn’t it qualify as a folk practice rather than expert-driven practice?

    An example of twilight of expertise in religion is the rise of clergy-less places of worship. I’m most familiar with Jewish case: the chavurah (a type of clergyless prayer group) movement is a few decades old, and recently the most dynamic parts of Judaism are arising from non-denominational independent traditional prayer groups which have sprung up starting with Hadar in Manhattan, and subsequently in most urban centers. Of course, many of these groups were started by skilled lay leaders who attended a couple of Ivy League colleges, so maybe it is just a different type of expertise.

    Someone who has a finger on the pulse of Christian movements can comment on that. My sense is that the rise of non-denominational evangelical Christianity has brought greater opportunities for substantial lay leadership. The few street ministries that I know of were started by people who don’t have any particular credential except experience in witnessing, and they perpetuate it by training lay people.

  2. seth Says:

    Those are good examples, thanks.

    The Tibetan practices I mentioned were prescribed and sustained by the spiritual experts: the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism.