Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 25 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/2/21

Is Zen Enlightenment Real?

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   3 comments
Become a Premium Member Would you like to know how many people have read this article? Or how reputable the author is? Simply sign up for a Advocate premium membership and you'll automatically see this data on every article. Plus a lot more, too.
Author 514931
Message James A. Haught
Become a Fan
  (1 fan)

This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

I'm intrigued by Zen meditation as a supposed path to enlightenment. I've tried repeatedly - lying silent in bed, blanking out my mind, hearing nothing but the rhythm of my breath, seeing nothing but dark blurs behind my eyelids. But all it does is put me to sleep. In the end, I never get a smidgeon of enlightenment. I'm still just the same old me.

I wonder whether anyone finds enlightenment - or whether the quest is self-deceptive, a fantasy leading nowhere?

I never knew any meditator who seemed enlightened - did you? Did you ever see amazing insights or remarkable creative output by an enlightenee?

American Buddhism is a billion-dollar field with many gurus. It's followed by intellectuals such as brilliant atheist Sam Harris. Researcher John Horgan says:

The number of Buddhist centers in the United States has more than doubled to well over 1,000. As many as four million Americans now practice Buddhism, surpassing the total of Episcopalians. Of these Buddhists, half have post-graduate degrees.

Horgan wrote in Slate that he plunged ardently into the exotic pursuit, but -

Eventually, and regretfully, I concluded that Buddhism is not much more rational than the Catholicism I lapsed from in my youth. Buddhism's moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science - or more generally, with modern humanistic values.

Buddhism's insistence that suffering is an illusion theoretically could make followers less concerned when bigoted white police kill unarmed black men, or women are victimized by male predators, or other outrages occur.

Horgan added that supposedly enlightened gurus can be unappetizing: "Chogyam Trungpa, who helped introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the United States in the 1970s, was a promiscuous drunk and bully, and he died of alcohol-related illness in 1987."

Another guru, Bhagwan Rajneesh, created an Oregon commune that committed the worst bioterror attack in American history. Trying to control a local election, Rajneesh followers cultured salmonella in a lab and sprinkled it in salad bars at ten restaurants in The Dalles in 1984, hoping to make townspeople too sick to vote. It worked, and 750 became ill. Forty-five were hospitalized, but none died. Two women leaders of the commune were convicted, and Rajneesh was deported to India, where he died in 1990.

Dr. Robert Fuller, former president of Oberlin College, made an intense study of meditation gurus and their adoring followers. Writing in Psychology Today, he summed up:

Getting a close look at several individuals who were advertised as enlightened led me to conclude that there's a lot of hype and hypocrisy in the business. A good many of them, not unlike a fair number of academics I'd known, seemed to be in it primarily for the lifestyle. Many gurus are treated like deities and hold absolute power over their devotees. As 'enlightened beings,' they're accountable to no one, and their foibles, appetites and excesses are given a pass.

He continued:

Fraud is a stranger to neither science nor religion. Its presence invalidates neither, but its ubiquity warrants skepticism... The language of enlightenment tended to be esoteric, obscurantist and elitist, and the teachings attracted more credulous dabblers than credible seekers... In my quest, I did not come across anyone who could be said to dwell in a state of permanent enlightenment.

Writers shouldn't pontificate about subjects they don't understand. I truly don't understand meditation and enlightenment - but I wonder whether anyone does. This essay can serve as an invitation for some Ph.D. Buddhist like Sam Harris to write a rebuttal saying how ignorant and shallow I am to ask whether meditation is a trip to nowhere.

(Free Inquiry, Feb-March 2021)

 

Rate It | View Ratings

James A. Haught Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Megachurch Mess

Feeding 7.7 Billion

Religion-Tinged Politics

deadly labor struggles

The Dreams that Stuff is Made Of

Coal Mine Wars

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: