Open Source Spirituality
BY: SUN STAFF
Sep 14, USA (SUN) Is Open Source Spirituality the Next Evolutionary Step Beyond the Interafith Movement?
In a recent press release, a group calling itself "Integrative Spirituality" announced the emergence of a new movement in spirituality. Named after a similar group dynamic in the software world called 'open source', the new Open Source Spirituality movement is attempting to guide spirituality into the realms of openness, accessibility, and transparency.
The open source software movement depends upon the willingness of software engineers, testers and end users to take advantage of having free access to the software in exchange for committing to improve it, share it, and keep it free for all to use. The open source software revolution has, with a doubt, resulted in great bursts of creativity from the engineering world and has helped end users by pushing the Internet as a vehicle for the free flow of information and democratization. This dynamic has been particularly obvious in the field of software encryption, where open source codes have allowed users in strictly controlled Communist and third world countries to get secure access to, and ability to deliver across the Net, previously controlled information.
According to Mary Cosgrove, spokesperson for Integrative Spirituality, "the emergence of the Open Source Spirituality movement is an inevitable development in the evolution of spirituality, religion, and the next step beyond interfaith", and "it is helping to cross-pollinate humanity's spiritual wisdom within an expanding global spiritual commons".
Cosgrove sets forth the Open Source Spirituality movement's mission, as follows:
"For its "source code" the open source spirituality movement uses all the available sources from humanity's great heritage of spiritual wisdom. It collects and organizes this wisdom with the intention of performing the most vital spiritual tasks as effectively as possible. (Specifically, helping the individual expand their direct experience of the Ever Present Origin, improving their balanced practice of the virtues and achieving spiritual completeness.)
This assembled heritage of spiritual wisdom is then made open, accessible, transparent, and free in various online data bases for all individuals and organizations to use and further improve.
All originators or collectors of this spiritual source material share their spiritual wisdom additions or improvements in this open source spirituality collaboration and thereby help co-create and expand a new type of global spiritual commons. (This collaboration for expanding the global spiritual commons is greatly aided by the fact that there is no requirement of allegiance to some particular religious or cultural "ism" or particular religious authority to use it, add to it or improve it.)
Just as open source software is continually being upgraded with new improvements or capacities, the open source spirituality process is also in a process of never ending upgrades."
Without a doubt, the mood of sharing spirituality is laudable. Working together to increase our knowledge, advance our self-realization and improve our ability and desire to engage in devotional service is a great thing. To the degree that an "open source" influence is brought to bear in ways that accomplish these things, it will have lasting benefit for humanity.
The self-stated mission of this new spiritual movement, unfortunately, gives us pause to consider how effective it might be. Thanks to the pure knowledge delivered by our Sampradaya's Acaryas, we can understand the obvious limitations of juxtaposing spirituality with an "open source" delivery model.
The Absolute Truth, when instructed by the Lord's pure devotees, needs no further upgrade or improvement. It is inherently perfect, and the only way for Absolute Truth to become less than perfect is for the unenlightened jivatmas to attempt to change it. This is fundamental to the concept of parampara.
The Open Source Spirituality movement wishes to make spiritual wisdom accessible so that everyone can "further improve" upon it. As we learn in Krsna Consciousness, improving sadhana is very different from changing the philosophy. Similarly, how an 'open source' model is employed by neophyte spiritualists and religionists will determine whether or not it has value.
We can look to the software world's experience with open source for other indications of how Open Source Spirituality might work. For example, while open source software licenses are written by lawyers, they can be very problematic to enforce. A court in the United States will be likely to interpret legal statements very differently than, say, a court in Timbuktu.
Perhaps a better metaphor is to compare the absence of technical support associated with open source software. Since the software isn't being purchased, no organization is responsible to provider customer support or assistance with technical problems. Similarly, 'open source' spiritual philosophy will likely encourage the distribution of spiritual instructions that need to come down through qualified teachers - disciplic succession. Instead, the Open Source Spirituality movement is likely to encourage just the opposite: bits and pieces of spiritual 'technology' taken out of context, and mis-applied in ways they would not be if properly and methodically passed down by bona fide instructors.
The idea of an open source spiritual database, searchable and interpretable by any and all, is akin to a neophyte sitting down at the Vedabase and searching for answers when the questions have not yet been properly formulated. The result can be a mish-mash that does more harm than good. Open Source Spirituality appears to be just such a mish-mash. As we read in the website's keyword title:
"Integrative Spirituality :: God, Buddha, open source spirituality & spirit-based free online dating"
Open Source Spirituality