In my work, I have spent a good part of the past ten years grappling with the philosophical premise that the relationship between the signifier and signified is an arbitrary one, that language is constituted in and reproduces a network of hierarchy of power relations, and more than occasionally I have felt like tearing my hair out over aphoristic arguments such as: 'I say the yes
not the word 'yes' for there can be yes
without the word, which is precisely our problem... What is it that is spoken, written, what occurs, with yes
This is just a convoluted way of saying that I am well aware of the slipperiness of words/language, of the nebulousness of a term like 'spirituality', of how a word like that can be imbued with political imperatives. But thank you for your repeated efforts at pointing this out, Wizard and everyone else who has raised similar points. It is encouraging to see that such issues are recognised outside institutional research settings.
In any case, when the dust has settled from all this word slinging and tweaking--and if the issue of 'spirituality' is indeed of genuine concern and not just a means to pat ourselves on our Buddhists backs for knowing better than those 'common people' who are drawn to this so-called meaningless thing that is 'spirituality'--then, for anyone who is interested may I suggest the book Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion
The book begins by showing how 'spirituality' is a nebulous, 'humpty dumpty'
word. It then examines how 'spirituality' has been co-opted for capitalist/consumerist purposes (there is a chapter on Asian wisdom traditions that includes Buddhism), before concluding with argument that what we need in contemporary times are 'spiritual atheisms'.
As you can see, the book echoes many of the arguments made here. But if its conclusion about 'spiritual atheisms' intrigues you or annoys you, don't argue with me or speculate on what it means here--check out the book yourself and see what you make of it. It is a short book, written in an easy style, but thought-provoking in analysis.
Well, I've written a lot, so I'll leave it here. For those who decide to read Selling Spirituality
, I hope it helps you better understand, as it has helped me, the shared conceptual genealogy of contemporary Buddhism and 'spirituality', and what we can do to improve the relationship between the two as well as to encourage more wholesome applications of 'spirituality'.