Buddhist Meditation is NOT a Science of the Mind

Buddhist meditation.
People always want to make exceptions to the rule when the subject comes to Buddhist meditation.
People always want to make statements without having done any reading,
without providing any footnotes or any sources, Buddhist meditation is certainly a subject
that everyone feels that they’re an expert on, even more than, say, Yoga.
At least people go to some kind of school or quote some book, when they make a claim
about Hindu Yoga. Plenty of that is bullshit too, don’t get
me wrong, but wow, modern, western people will make
up anything about Buddhist meditation, and, of course, East Asia has been racing
to catch up in the Bullshit Olympics. And Why? Because there’s money involved!
I’ve heard many atheists say on Youtube that the ultimate scam in the world is to convince
people that they have to pay you money so that you can run a church, on behalf of an
invisible god. No, I beg to differ. Running a church and
doing all the things a church does, that’s a lot of work, that costs a lot of money.
If you can get people to line up and pay you money so they can sit in silence, that’s the
ultimate scam. Oh, wait, to compete with it, what if people pay you just to learn how to
breathe? Yes, “breathing meditation”. [In] Buddhism
we have some of the most lucrative scams in the game, as far as religion goes. When atheists, uh, get animated about creationism… Creationism, for those of you who don’t know, is an example I’m drawing from modern, Protestant Christianity (maybe some Catholics are interested [in it], too). Creationism is the idea that we can scientifically
prove that god created the world, and that the biblical account of, the biblical description
of the origin of the world, is totally incompatible with the theory of evolution, and with geology
and other findings of modern science. Creationism: what makes it so embarrassing?
So difficult to listen to? What makes you wince and feel uncomfortable,
when people are giving apologies for, explanations of, creationism?
It’s not that they’re wrong about particular facts. Being wrong is something that happens
to human beings, and, y’know, we’re all infinitely ignorant.
It’s easy to sympathize with someone who’s just factually wrong, and it isn’t even that
they’re wrong ethically or morally… …although, obviously, there’s a lot wrong
[ethically] with their position [too]… What makes it hard to even listen to a creationist
argument is that they’re trying so hard to use the bible to answer questions that are
neither asked nor answered in the bible. I remember a video that was posted by James
Randi (a magician, who later became a kind of cheerleader for skepticism and atheism),
and he was asked a question from the audience by a woman who was quite offended by his atheism.
This woman demanded of him, from her position as a Christian creationist, “Well, how do
you explain gravity? How do you explain time?” And, actually, James Randi, he got flustered,
he didn’t give a very good reply. But, what makes it so absurd for the creationist
to attack modern science isn’t that their particular answers are wrong. This woman,
for example, in attacking James Randi, she thought of the bible as a book that did have
an answer to the question, “What is gravity?” [and] “What is time?” Those questions are
neither asked nor answered in the Bible! If you think modern science doesn’t answer
them sufficiently, well, at least you can go to a bookshelf and get out a book (or any
number of books) that are titled, “What is gravity?”, “What is time?”, [written] from
various perspectives and disciplines, asking these questions philosophically, in terms
of theoretical phyiscs, all kinds of material on that.
And it’s totally lacking in the bible! The bible doesn’t give you an answer one way or
the other, y’know, [e.g.] the famous trial of Galileo Galilei, well, y’know, the bible
doesn’t really contain a doctrine about the earth rotating around the sun or the sun rotating
[around the earth]. It’s not important, from the perspective of the bible, although a few
little quotations were brought together [in the trial] and the fear of Heliocentrism [was
a factor], obviously, there’s a long story there, some of you will now, some of you don’t.
But it’s painful to see Christians getting upset over something that they should really
be indifferent to. There shouldn’t be a conflict over the geological
age of the earth. Obviously, [that’s] my opinion, but the whole enterprise of creationism is
based on this ludacris need for the bible to answer questions it doesn’t even ask.
This is a video about Buddhist meditation. Let me tell you, when modern, western people
look for “meditation” in the ancient sutras, they’re asking questions that aren’t even
there. Their idea of what the word meditation is,
what it means, has nothing to do with anything dealt with in the canon.
I’ve seen so many claims that Buddhist meditation is, “a science of the mind”, that it is equivalent
to modern C.B.T., cognitive behavioral therapy, another great way to make money, let me tell
you, [there’s] no scientific basis to it, but hey. Y’know, the idea that Buddhism is
psychotherapy, that Buddhist meditation has some kind of medical function for the mind,
comparable to the wildest fantasies of eary Freudians, when they were devising psychotherapy
–fantasies they later gave up on, of course, because their pseudoscience never got the
results [they] hoped for. Um, y’know, you’re asking questions that are
totally irrelevant to the interests of the ancient texts and the ancient religion.
This video, I’m going to keep it short, I could do a long series, but that would probably
be depressing for everyone involved. What happens when you really do meditate,
when you achieve jhána, the sequence of jhánas, set out in the Pali canon?
Do you get in touch with your inner child? Or feel better about your bourgeois life,
or some shit like this? Do you get the outcomes of modern psychotherapy? Of the modern science
of the mind? The desiderata of cognitive behavioral therapy? No.
It is an experience that makes it impossible for you to live in society. You must renounce
all your worldly possessions, you must give up sex for the rest of your life, and your
transformation isn’t merely mental, it’s also supernatural.
You gain the ability to walk through walls, and fly through the air like Superman.
And, just in case some of you are tempted to believe that this, also, is science, like,
“Well, hey, c’mon, maybe some people in ancient India really had the ability to fly through
the air like Superman”, the original, ancient descriptions of what that’s like themselves
make it impossible to believe that anyone ever did this.
We all know that if these people could fly through the air like Superman, the first thing
they’d be complaining about is getting the wind in their eyes, and how hard it is to
see anything, and a number of other practical factors, [such as] freezing in the upper atmostphere,
but no, we get poetic descriptions of the joy of flying through the air, and feeling
the surface of the sun with your fingertips. This is an ancient, magical view of the world,
that presumed the sun [to be] much smaller than we know it is, in terms of modern science,
that the sun was much closer to the earth than we know it is, according to modern science,
and that the sun isn’t nearly as hot, as we know it is,
because that’s the vision, it’s a vision any child could come up with in their dreams,
but it’s obviously not a vision that reflects [the experience of] someone who actually achieved
this superpower through meditation. Let me tell you, no matter how hard you meditate,
you’re neither going to get the phony, pseudo-medical results, claimed by modern snake-oil salesmen,
cynically, in the name of Buddhism, nor are you going to get the results promised
by the ancient texts, which are magical, which are supernatural in their nature,
and which, frankly, deserve respect –deserve to be studied– like any ancient religion,
whether it’s Socrates, Aristotle, or the Han dynasty philosophers of ancient China,
but this should not be regarded as science. In a sense, it’s disrespectful both to us
as a modern audience, and [to] the ancient texts to evaluate them in that way.
Appreciate what is ancient as ancient, and let’s appreciate what’s modern and scientific
as modern.

Jerry Heath

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *