I visited my local Barnes and Noble the other day, and I made a couple of observations on a situation I have been monitoring over the last couple of years. First, they continue to shelve things inconsistently/incorrectly. Judaism, Islam and Mormonism are not “Eastern Religions” but at B&N they keep shifting in and out of this category. I think they think that anything that is not Christianity is “Other” and therefore “Eastern.” Either that or, “wherever there’s room, toss it any-ol’-where.”
And second, speaking of Eastern religions, this section (while padded by the numerous erroneously shelved tomes) continues to shrink. Oddly, it is not shrinking to make room for more Christian books. No, the invaders are from the ever-expanding “New Age” or “New Thought” section. If you are not familiar with this concept, those who would fit into this category are various. Everything from astrology, to psychics (Sylvia Browne), to self-help (Deepak Chopra), countless quasi-Ayurvedic knock-offs, to the modern classic “The Secret”. Etcetera ad infinitum.
The funny thing is, many of these types of books draw heavily on the Vedic wisdom of the Hindu scriptures. For example, when I finally broke down and decided to watch a DVD of “The Secret” I recognized within 10 minutes that it was an extremely diluted/derivative version of what I had already learned from Paramahansa Yogananda, and I turned it off. Yogananda drew from direct knowledge of the scriptures, direct understanding gained from deep, sincere meditation, and Wisdom directly imparted from his Guru-ji, Sriyukteswar Giri. I understand what the New Thought movement is all about, and respect it. It is a modern take – more digestible to modern readers – on ancient, eternal truths. The Sanatana Dharma, The Eternal Path. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot assume that practitioners of the New Thought movement are not drawing from a Divine source. But I still would rather go straight to the original source. I just wish Barnes and Noble would enlighten its patronage with more of the real thing.