There are many articles on this site and on the web in general about how to use meditation as a tool for self-knowledge and knowledge of the way reality is manifesting itself right now. Thinking about the traditions involved in bringing the meditation techniques to the present also got me thinking about man's role in the many groups that he is a member of. We're for a large part social creatures. Whatever the group we're involved in does, we're affected. How come we don't use meditation to reflect on these processes?
Taking a systems perspective, groups are just aggregates of the individuals that make up that group. Social psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology and well... life and history have suggested that this perspective is incomplete. The same traditions that have so jealously guarded the meditation techniques purportedly taught by the Buddha have seemed unable to keep from breaking up into sometimes warring factions. The country that invented the eminently buddhist concept of gross national happiness, Bhutan, is suppressing a minority group - the Lotshampha's - who incidentally don't share their beliefs. It appears that ethnic Nepalese are not guaranteed a happy co-existence with the Bhutanese either. Burma, the country that has the greatest number of monks relative to the population is not beyond suppressing the minorities at the boundaries of its state. Within Tibetan buddhism, many traditions denounce eachother's articles of faith, sometimes taking their arguments with them when their doctrines catch on in the West.
Zimbardo's experiment has showed that people quite naturally take up the roles that their environments call upon them to perform. Observe American politics for just a short time and one gets a sense of how systematic constraints (such as a two-party-system) influence the options not just of groups themselves but of the individual members of those groups as well. I remember reading about how inter-group conflict instills polarisation, pulling apart the centre. I remember George W. Bush saying to the world: "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists." This is a fine example of in-group out-group thinking. You, who are part of our group, trade certain responsibilities for certain rights. You, who are not part of our group, are by definition without rights and risk being dehumanised. Many books have been written about the progression and unpredictability of such dynamics.
I would be interested to see how individuals with training in meditation respond to such dynamics; how their meditation affects their shaping events or decision-making. Does it leave them powerless? Are they sucked in by the dynamics?