Moodle, lurking, the Gita, rhetorics and credibility. And Blogs.

I woke up early, with a word in my head. Counter-intuitive. It just stuck there and didn’t leave me alone until I got up, opened up Evernote and started trying to get this down. Let me rewind a bit. I had a chat with my guru last night. Some of you will know I have a history of being spiritually minded, my guru has been part of my life for the last 20 years. This relationship has undergone some evolution during that time, from very sentimental to very formulaic to very distant to very searching to a place where we are now quite open with each other … well I know that that’s what I would like it to be, however a good relationship needs the pupil asking the right questions. I’m working on that bit.

Krishna driving Arjuna\’s chariot

In any case. My guru has been working as a university lecturer for the last 6 years, in places like Oxford, Hong Kong, Gainsville… He has used moodle as part of his work and has now started a moodle group for discussing the Gita with his disciples and friends. The discussions so far are following a model of rhetorical discussion which I’ve never been comfortable with, not just when it was about Sanskrit literature but I find the same thing now – why discuss any subject academically, when we can dive in and do something practical? (Funny that I had the same discussion with a professor studying Social Media in my home university in Rostock, who doesn’t use twitter. He finally gave in and did say I knew what I was talking about, after reading my German blog.) Maybe, especially when discussing high-level spiritual literature, I want to know how the people I listen to live their lives. I need to see some credibility before I listen to anyone. I’ve seen plenty of people being very good at looking really clever, learning Sanskrit verses and throwing learned words around, while being complete arses (excuse my French) in their spare time. I’m sorry, that’s just not good enough anymore. So in our discussion with my guru yesterday I said to him, I was the first person to join the moodle group but I am not likely to join the rhetorical discussions. He replied (obviously, he has known me for a while) that that’s fine, and I wouldn’t need to contribute. I must have been ruminating on that all night because it seemed counter-intuitive. Why join a forum and not be expected to contribute? I’m not a lurker by nature! I AM interested in people. What they have been up to, how they are living their lives. Not least because that shows me how they really understand the Gita with their hearts, not just their brains. Hiding away in a temple because you’re scared of confrontation doesn’t mean you understand anything. So. Here’s a new concept. Can we encourage people to speak about themselves, rather than throw learned words around? Can we get people to use the blog part of the moodle platform?


4 responses to “Moodle, lurking, the Gita, rhetorics and credibility. And Blogs.

  1. So, what you’re saying is, you will only listen to someone who lives the lifestyle they’re advocating?

    That is, you’d ignore someone who provides what could be the best advice, bur because they don’t follow their own advice, that invalidates what they offer?

    For instance. A key celebrity is portrayed as having multiple (successful) ongoing relationships but were they to suggest to you that you may be better in a monogamous one then you’d ignore them? Because they’re not living that lifestyle?

    I think that misses the point about us all being rational individuals. We may not agree with something as being right or proper for ourselves, but can suggest it for others?

    Or did I miss something?

    • Very good point. One thing I should have made said more clearly – I want to hear about people’s lives not only for reasons of credibility, but for the simple reason that I want to know how they are doing. Credibility comes after that.

      But more to the point you make, Rob – there is always a dimension of “people won’t follow what you say, but what you do.” There are different areas of life where this is of varying importance, but it’s never completely dismissable. I know one of my musician friends who tries to tell his listeners to “use condom” when everyone knows he’s making babies left and right. People just laugh. How’s a smoker going to tell you to stop smoking, or an overweight person going to help you to diet?

      I think in a “spiritual” community it’s probably even more important than in any other field. People are supposed to be leading by example. It’s not a theoretical study of the scriptures, but a very practical one. (A bit too practical where the principles you are trying to live by are too restrictive for leading a “normal” life.)

      Anyways that’s my 2 pennies – any other opinions?

  2. Hm,Interesting post and discussion.

    After reading those, I have 2 voices in my head at this moment.

    On one hand, I agree that actions definitely speak louder than words. As an entrepreneur, I deeply feel that I’ve learned much more from running my start-up and learning mistakes than my time in business school.
    Also, I come across so many “consultants” or “experts” who are so good at Talking but not Doing. I think I will look for “credibility” and the credibility is coming from actions, not words.

    On the other hand, I have my own experiences that I can get good advice from the person without “credibility”. I have a mate. He is so good at helping me to analyse my dilemma in work or life and then make a right decision. However, he is very crap at dealing with his own stuff. When he is the third party, he has sharp eyes and objective view to solve the problem. But, when that is his own problem, he loses the capability to keep the objectivity.
    Will I still go for him next time when I have an issue? My answer is a definitely a Yes.

    So, do you think a over-weight person cannot give you good advice on diet? Probably he can and he is able to give you the best advice through his failures.

    I think, probably it is not possible to find a black and white answer. You observe, you absorb and you digest. You make your own judgment and get the best bit for yourself.
    If things work for you, you do not need assurance from others. What you can get from others is just for “observation”, for reference.

    That is also my attitude to spirituality or religions. I think and I make the judgments if things make sense to me. We all have heard so many stories how people are manipulated through religious power. Why? Because many people do not “think” or “question” when it comes to religions.

    My 2cents. Hope they are relevant or making sense. 🙂


  3. Though I can see the value in Rob’s comment, I think that we need to clarify the context.

    Yes, you can learn very well on the mistakes of other people, and they can instruct you what NOT to do, as they have ‘failed’ by doing the wrong thing.

    However, if you want to develop yourself as a person, you need the guidance of someone who is successful. Example always speaks louder than words, and experience leading to the success is a real treasure. I’m not convinced how can someone who clearly could not make it himself can tell you what to do to get there.

    Of course, he can give you a good direction which should not be ignored, but a guidance from somebody who actually walks the talk is much more valuable and convincing. Especially so in the case of metaphysical or spiritual development.

    For example, one of my favorite books was The God Delusion by Dawkins. Yet I’m a staunch believer. The reason I liked the book is because he so nicely illustrated all the major weaknesses in religious and spiritual institutions and movements, and their followers. His premise is simple: if the goal of religion is to make you a better person and religious people go to heaven, then why there is so much hatred and violence among all the religions? How can heaven then be a nice place to go to?

    I have many times visualised myself having a debate with him (I’m a chronic debate junkie), but every time I have ‘seen’ my self fail on the bottom line argument – prove that spiritual practice makes better people. There just isn’t a sufficiently big and convincing showcase.

    For many years as a member of Hare Krishna movement I thought that we have a great case and a showcase, but gradually came to a painful realisation that we dont – though preaching high spiritual values our leadership failed so miserably on even basic moral principles that even someone like Dawkins can stick to. The movement has only 20% member retention rate which then seriously begs the question – if it’s that good, why do 80% of people leave?

    Now, just to make it clear, I have no doubt in the process and philosophy of Bhagavad Gita and Vedic scriptures propagated by the Hare Krishna Movement (based on my personal practice and results). Based on my observation and 20 years of experience I think that a combination of dogmatic approach and application of the teachings and the lack of role models have brought the movement down to dust. The movement that once had a huge potential of benefiting large masses of people. Which is sad.

    I’m in marketing business, and I can talk all the sweet talk I want, but if want my client to part with a decent sum of money for my consultancy fees, I have to show him/her the concrete and tangible results that I have achieved with previous clients.

    Results are the bottom line, me thinks. 🙂

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