DN 16 PTS: D ii 72 (chapters 1-6)
Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha translated from the Pali by
Sister Vajira & Francis Story
Alternate translation: Thanissaro (chapters 5-6)
WHo is the Japanese scholar who fell asleep and to whom Thurman allegedly referred? When I had to write and defend a masters thesis, I had to account for all my statements and give sources--specific ones.
The Buddha had no selfish thoughts of gaining honor, fame or the adulation of many followers. He did not mingle with people as a socialite.
He approached beings with the sole intention of pointing out the correct way to them so that they could be enlightened to the extent of their capacities. This was his great compassion.
When he had finished this duty, the Buddha would retire to a secluded part of the forest. He did not stay among the crowds, bantering and mixing freely like a common person.
He did not introduce his pupils to each other, saying, "Here's my disciple the wealthy merchant; here's the great professor." It is not easy to live a solitary and secluded life. No ordinary worldling can enjoy total seclusion. But then, the Buddha was not ordinary.
Robert Thurman gave a series of lectures at CIIS in 1995. These lectures presented a sweeping historical perspective on Buddhism. Thurman based his lectures on other lectures, which he had heard twenty years before given by a Japanese Buddhist scholar. He described how the scholar gave a historical account of Buddhism and its four major historical high points or peaks.
These four peaks were: the initial spread of Buddhism that occurred through the direct teachings of the Buddha and his immediate disciples; the Mahayana teachings which developed out of the work of Nagarjuna; the development in India of Tantric Buddhism; and the blossoming of Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism. Thurman hinted that everyone was asleep during the Japanese scholar's lecture including the lecturer himself. Then the scholar said that the fifth peak of Buddhism had not occurred yet and might not occur at all; but if it were to occur, the fifth peak of Buddhism would occur in the United States. Everybody including the scholar, on hearing this amazing concept, woke up.
It would be very difficult to fall asleep during one of Robert Thurman's lectures. He combines the rare qualities of a refined and captivating scholarly speaker with the knee-slapping, side-splitting, gut-busting, rim-shot timing and delivery of great stand-up comedic talent. Thurman is indeed the great stand-up Buddhist of our day. He closed his lecture by explaining his idea of Fifth-Peak Buddhism in the United States as Buddhism that occurs as a spontaneous revelation and unfolding of the Dharma outside of any pre-existent Buddhist stream or school. In Thurman's view Fifth-Peak Buddhism will not even recognize itself as Buddhism
Thurman goes on to describe Buddhism as a therapy for demented human beings, but he elaborates that it was a therapy designed to cope with selfishness, with the Four Noble Truths serving as a "therapeutic recipe."
He then recounts a story about the visit of the famous Buddhologist Gadjin Nagao to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center about twenty years previous, noting that Nagao titled his talk "The Five Peaks," but only mentioned four such peaks in Buddhist history. Finally, Nagao says, "There will be no fifth peak, unless it happens here in America. This is the only place where there could be a fifth peak in the history of Buddhism, a fifth great renaissance in Buddhism, and it can only be created by you" page 460 of:
Buddhism in America: Proceedings of the First Buddhism in America ConferenceBuddhism in America: Compiled By Al Rapaport. Edited By Brian D. Hotchkiss. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1998, xv + 568 pages, ISBN 0-8048-3152-1(p. 460
Fifth-Peak Buddhism - The Official Site for The Work of Byron KatieThurman hinted that everyone was asleep during the Japanese scholar's lecture
including the lecturer himself. Then the scholar said that the fifth peak of ...
[www.thework.com] - 41k - Cached - Similar pages
Journal of Buddhist EthicsNonetheless, much of Thurman's chapter explains how to achieve that "fifth peak"
in Buddhist history. And, lest he not live up to Jeffrey Hopkins's ...
[www.buddhistethics.org] - 26k - Cached - Similar pages
Volume 5 1998
A Review of Buddhism in America: Proceedings of the First Buddhism in America ConferenceBuddhism in America: Compiled By Al Rapaport. Edited By Brian D. Hotchkiss. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1998, xv + 568 pages, ISBN 0-8048-3152-1, $29.95
Reviewed By Charles S. Prebish
Religious Studies Program
Pennsylvania State University
The front cover of Buddhism in America carries the subtitle Proceedings of the First Buddhism in America Conference. Considering that a similar conference entitled "The Flowering of Buddhism in America" was held at Syracuse University in April 1977, I am afraid this claim is both overly ambitious and incorrect.
In addition, on the back inside cover of the small "Program Guide" distributed at the conference from which this volume emerged, the publisher's advertisement for its forthcoming book on the proceedings of that conference boasts that "this book is destined to be considered a classic in Buddhist publishing."
I think this claim, too, will prove overly ambitious and incorrect!
Buddhism in America purports to be a written account of a conference held in Boston on January 17-19, 1997. Edited volumes that are distilled from conference proceedings are almost always extremely difficult to produce, and this book must have been especially difficult for the conference organizer, who also served as "compiler" of the published account.
Part of the dilemma stems from the fact that, to some extent, the conference tried to be too many things to too many people and traditions. In the process,it created some confusion about what it was, and what it wasn't. The initial brochures describing the conference identified it as "Buddhism in America: A Landmark Conference on the Future of Buddhist Meditative Practices in the West!" However restrictive the title might appear to some, the brochure left little doubt about the focus of the conference.
However, by the time of the actual event, held at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, the "Program Guide" simply listed the conference title as "Buddhism in America," omitting the previous subtitle, and the introductory program note modestly says "Welcome to the Buddhism in America Conference."
This may seem like a small and insignificant shift in emphasis to note, but it isn't.
Al Rapaport notes in his Introduction that "this was not meant to be an academic discussion, as many conferences are, but rather an experiential journey through many of the aspects of Buddhism that have been transmitted from East to West" (p. xiii).
The above quotation makes it clear that the conference's organizer did not consider the substantial and growing number of scholar-practitioners to be useful participants in his enterprise (with Robert Thurman and Miranda Shaw being exceptions in this case), or even a significant category on the American Buddhist landscape.
In fact, in his opening "Welcome Address" to the attendees, Rapaport mentioned that among the many inquiries he had received about the conference, one had been an e-mail message from a professor who wondered why there were so very few scholars participating in the conference.
Amidst the instant, collective laugh from the audience of about 800 attendees, he went on to explain that this was a conference for practitioners. The additional implication was clear: by practitioners, he really meant, exclusively, meditators. He thus acknowledged having risked much potential attendance, and significant book purchases, by the many North American Buddhists who were not meditators--and these non-meditators (most Asian ethnic Buddhists as well as members of Soka Gakkai) are conclusively the vast majority of North American Buddhists.
On the other hand, despite the underlying focus of the conference and the volume, they were, after all, commercial enterprises, and it now appears that the book, at least, has been marketed in a fashion that might attract potential sales from the several million North American Buddhists for whom the conference, and its accompanying volume, were clearly not intended.
The above notwithstanding, there were many valuable presentations at the conference which were included in the book, but it would be wrong, I think, to presume that the majority of the presentations were exclusively about Buddhist meditative practices in the West. In many cases, the meditational element was peripheral to the major ingredients in the presentation.
Additionally, the carnival-like atmosphere of the conference weekend, in which one could purchase everything from Buddha statues to meditation harnesses from the many exhibitors, was necessarily and fortunately eliminated from the printed volume.
Following a series of "Pre-Conference Workshops," the conference itself was organized into an interesting mix of keynote presentations, lectures, and workshops. These were not thematically planned -- which provided the conference attendees with a rich and diverse series of choices, but created an editor's dilemma in structuring the book.
For the published version, the book was organized into five major sections: (1) "Then and Now: Buddhism Today as Informed by Ancient Asian Practices"; (2) "The Practice: Schools of Buddhism, Methods of Meditation, Monasticism"; (3) "The Path: Buddhist Thought and Practice in Day-to-Day Living and Dying"; (4) "Mindfulness and Compassion: Socially Engaged Buddhism in the West"; and (5) "Buddhism in America." Each presentation included in the book is only a short, edited fragment of the complete lecture given by each participant.
For a complete version of each lecture, Sounds True Recordings offered audio-cassette tapes of each presentation, available two hours after the actual presentation itself. Considering that these tapes ranged in price from $9.00 to $54.00, the$29.95 book is quite a bargain for this nearly 600-page volume.
It would probably be inappropriate to offer an evaluation of each short presentation included in the book, especially since the short portion included in the book often does not do full justice to the on-site exposition. Experienced Buddhist practitioners will probably find the little chapters on Vipassana, Zen, Dzogchen, Shikantaza, Ch'an, and so forth engaging and interesting, often reflective of the insight and wit of the presenter, but with little material that is new or especially engaging.
For beginners and curiosity-seekers, there is much that might be enthralling in these pages -- material that could provoke serious additional searching in books and in practice.
My own investigation of American Buddhism focuses on five major issues: ethnicity, practice, democratization, engagement, and adaptation (or acculturation). The chapters therefore that impressed me most in this volume were ones which confronted aspects of those issues as they struggle to find meaningful application to the American Buddhist situation.
Questions of Buddhist lifestyle in America were deftly examined in Dai-en Bennage Roshi's "Watering from the Deep Well: Looking at Perceptions of Monasticism" and Tsultrim Allione's "Relationship and Intimacy as Path," the latter of which was not only kind, honest, and insightful, but brilliantly applicable to questions all American Buddhists confront regularly whether they acknowledge it or not! Mu Soeng's chapter on "Buddhist Wisdom in the Light of Quantum Theory" is a lucid exposition on the application of Buddhist principles to a world dominated by science and deconstruction. Joan Halifax's chapter on "Being with Dying" is profoundly appropriate and necessary reading for the large portion of the American Buddhist population which discovered Buddhism in the 1960s and 1970s, and now finds an immediacy in confronting the end of life.
It is this reviewer's opinion that there are chapters in this volume which, because the printed word can never capture the mood and temperament of the oral presentation, distort the sense of what actually transpired during some of the conference presentations. The results are not always positive.
Glassman Roshi's chapter, "Instructions to the Cook: Zen Lessons in Living a Life that Matters," reads far better than it seemed to me as a member of the live audience. Without questioning the marvelously important work Glassman Roshi has done in his projects of social engagement, I felt that little of the program's description of his lecture had been delivered, and that he was inexplicably rude and evasive to many members of his audience in a way that went far beyond even a roshi's sometimes seemingly odd behavior. No doubt his disciples thought he was brilliant, but there were equally as many listeners who found him profoundly disappointing.
For me, the most important chapters in the book are Robert Thurman's "Toward an American Buddhism" and Lama Surya Das's "Emergent Trends in Western Dharma." They are important because they confront the issue of where American Buddhism stands at the turn of the millennium and speculate creatively about the shape that American Buddhism might take in the next century.
With his usual flair, even from the outset, Thurman doesn't equivocate:(p. 451)Quote
First let me give a preview of my overall thesis here. I worked on this subject and did four lectures in San Francisco early last year, which is where I first got to the thought, and I startled myself in the middle of that series of lectures because I came to the idea that Buddhism will not actually be able to succeed in its mission here in America, unless it is able to perform that mission without being Buddhism. That's sort of the short form; that's a preview of my thesis. In other words, Buddhism has to go beyond being Buddhism in order to do the work that Buddhism wants to do wherever it is. Okay, so it's Buddhism without Buddhism. That's my title. Very Zen, don't you think?"
(Corboy ventures a laypersons opinion: No, Roberto, this is not 'Very Zen', it insults Zen by linking it with a flippant attitude and lack of scholarly and Dharma precision
Zen practitioners live according to the Mahayana Buddhist ethical precepts. Without those you dont have Zen, you just have something sloppy that can be appropriated by anyone)
Thurman goes on to describe Buddhism as a therapy for demented human beings, but he elaborates that it was a therapy designed to cope with selfishness, with the Four Noble Truths serving as a "therapeutic recipe."
****(asterisks inserted here by Corboy for emphasis)
He then recounts a story about the visit of the famous Buddhologist Gadjin Nagao to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center about twenty years previous, noting that Nagao titled his talk "The Five Peaks," but only mentioned four such peaks in Buddhist history. Finally, Nagao says, "There will be no fifth peak, unless it happens here in America. This is the only place where there could be a fifth peak in the history of Buddhism, a fifth great renaissance in Buddhism, and it can only be created by you" (p. 460).
To counterbalance the obvious optimism of this statement, Thurman cautions against taking Buddhism for granted, noting that it can also disappear, just as it has in the land of its birth. Nonetheless, much of Thurman's chapter explains how to achieve that "fifth peak" in Buddhist history.
And, lest he not live up to Jeffrey Hopkins's suggestion that he is "the Red Skelton of Tibetan Buddhism," Thurman concludes by saying,Quote
"I'm very honored to have addressed you, as you go out and accumulate another million hours of meditation time and rack it up on your rosary or your scoreboard or wherever you keep it -- and you should keep score, by the way" (p. 468).
Surya Das's chapter appropriately concludes the volume, just as it did the Boston conference. More than any of the other participants, Surya Das is explicit in defining ten trends in the American Buddhism he sees in the next century:
1. dharma without dogma;
2. a lay-oriented sangha;
3. a meditation-based and experiential tradition;
4. gender equality;
5. a non-sectarian, eclectic, ecumenical tradition;
6. an essentialized and simplified tradition;
7. an egalitarian, democratic, and non-hierarchical tradition;
8. a psychologically astute and rational tradition;
9. an experimental, innovating, inquiry-based tradition;
10. a socially informed and engaged tradition.
Each of these ten trends is explained in some detail. The text of Surya Das's chapter concludes with the chant Om Mani Padme Hum. The volume ends with a brief glossary and wholly incomplete list of selected readings.
Buddhism in America is not a book for scholars and it doesn't try to be.
It will never be like the other books on American Buddhism to emerge from conferences, such as The Faces of Buddhism in America from the 1994 conference at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, or American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship from the 1997 Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum, but this doesn't minimize its importance or usefulness as a vehicle which provides meaningful dialogue about the American Buddhism that is developing at the end of this century. It also happens to be a fun book to read.
It doesn't employ esoteric vocabulary, and isn't loaded with footnotes. It races from beginning to end, with nary a slack moment, and despite its length, leaves the reader eager for more. One would presume that more will indeed be forthcoming, too.
The second Buddhism in America Conference, with an equally engaging cast of American Buddhist superstars, was recently held in San Diego, California. A quick perusal of publications like Tricycle: The Buddhist Review suggests that other programs and conferences like this one are on the rise.
My only fear is that soon this enterprise will become its own cottage industry, a "Pro Tour" for Buddhists, as it were.
My only fear is that soon this enterprise will become its own cottage industry, a "Pro Tour" for Buddhists, as it were.
It would be very difficult to fall asleep during one of Robert Thurman's lectures. He combines the rare qualities of a refined and captivating scholarly speaker with the knee-slapping, side-splitting, gut-busting, rim-shot timing and delivery of great stand-up comedic talent. Thurman is indeed the great stand-up Buddhist of our day.
To counterbalance the obvious optimism of this statement, Thurman cautions against taking Buddhism for granted, noting that it can also disappear, just as it has in the land of its birth. Nonetheless, much of Thurman's chapter explains how to achieve that "fifth peak" in Buddhist history. And, lest he not live up to Jeffrey Hopkins's suggestion that he is "the Red Skelton of Tibetan Buddhism," Thurman concludes by saying, "I'm very honored to have addressed you, as you go out and accumulate another million hours of meditation time and rack it up on your rosary or your scoreboard or wherever you keep it -- and you should keep score, by the way" (p. 468).
In San Francisco recently, he talked four hours straight over lunch until a vacuum cleaner made it clear that the restaurant was completely empty. We then raced across town in his rented red Mustang, and he spoke for another three hours on dharma, the Buddhist teachings, at the California Institute for Integral Studies. His lectures are multivocal psychodramas. Prof. P. Jeffrey Hopkins of the University of Virginia, Thurman's colleague and fellow translator, calls him "the Red Skelton of Tibetan Buddhism."
Reception and criticism
The ideas Toynbee promoted enjoyed some vogue (he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1947). They may have been early casualties of the Cold War's intellectual climate.
Toynbee has been severely criticised by other historians. In general, the critique has been levelled at his use of myths and metaphors as being of comparable value to factual data, and at the soundness of his general argument about the rise and fall of civilisations, which may rely too much on a view of religion as a regenerative force.
Many critics complained that the conclusions he reached were those of a Christian moralist rather than of a historian. Hugh Trevor-Roper, described Toynbee's work as a "Philosophy of Mish-Mash" - Peter Geyl described Toynbee's ideological approach as "metaphysical speculations dressed up as history" .
His work, however, has been praised as a stimulating answer to the specialising tendency of modern historical research. (Clockwise from upper left) Time magazine covers from May 7, 1945; July 25, 1969; December 31, 1999; September 14, 2001; and April 21, 2003. ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... Hugh Redwald Trevor-Roper, Baron Dacre of Glanton (January 15, 1914 â€“ January 26, 2003) was a notable historian of Early Modern Britain and Nazi Germany. ...
Rightly or not, critics attacked Toynbee's theory for emphasizing religion over other aspects of life when assessing the big pictures of civilizations. In this respect, the debate resembled the contemporary one over Samuel Huntington's theory of the so-called "clash of civilizations". For Toynbee's ideas in context, see development of religion. Because he took Judaism, Christianity, Islam and communism as a related group, and opposed them to Buddhism, his analysis was very different. Toynbee said - Walter Arnold Kaufmann (July 1, 1921 - September 4, 1980) was a 20th-century Jewish German philosopher, scholar, and poet. ... This article does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Cover of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, that peoples cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. ... There are a number of models regarding the ways in which religions come into being and develop. ...
"The coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event of the Twentieth Century."
6. Michael Radich - May 9, 2008
This puts me in mind of the famous “Toynbee” quote:
” Buddhism has transformed every culture it has entered, and Buddhism has been transformed by its entry into that culture . . . . The coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event of the Twentieth Century.”
Do you know if this attribution is genuine? I have only been able to find authors quoting it from other authors (rather than Toynbee himself); certainly no reference to an actual locus in a published Toynbee work.
7. mike - May 12, 2008
There is a book with dialogue between Toynbee and Buddhist lay leader Daisaku Ikeda. Quite brilliant discussion. Maybe it came from that. I think its called Choose Life or something like that.
8. David Brooks on “neural Buddhism” « Tricycle Editors’ Blog - May 13, 2008
[...] seems to be the “Buddhism is the religion of the future” meme [...]
'And it all rested upon serfdom. The opening up of the desert, the (Prince of Bahawalpur's) harem, the more expensive English wives, the jewels from London, the home in Surrey (to which the prince retired in England, in his old age--and Surrey was and remains a very expensive place to live in--you need to be rich), the Rolls-Royces rotting in the palace garage, the pictures of English country scenes: they all represented the acumulated tribute, penny upon penny, like the termite droppings, from the poorest of the poor. The people in the villages belonged to their landlord, and his power over them was almost as absolute as the Nawab's over his subjects. These people could be whipped at will; thier daughters and women abused at will. The serf knew he was not to turn his back upon his master. He backed away from him or heve moved sideways past him. Generations of servitude lay in that instinctive crab like dance, disconcerting at first to the visitor.
'Bahawalpur had only been a British protectorate, the British had never imposed their laws here. The sharia (Islamic law) always ruled; and an antique cruelty--hidden away in the rags and the huts of the countryside, and looking only like poverty--had survived the century of British presence. The stories here could be like the stories from the Caribbean plantations or from Russia in the early 19th century. Even in the Nawab's time, and the Nawab was always watchful for this kind of abuse--the wife of one of his officials had whipped a twelve year old boy to death.'
"This woman was a Baluch. She ahd been a serf and had been literally bought by this feudal landlord when she was ten. She ahd been his mistress, his son's mistress, and finally when his grandson wanted to possess her, she ran away with her lover and sought refuge on our farm. We were also feudals. She ran from one feudal (the word means landlord) to another. There was a lot of heat on us to return her. I knew what if we returned her they would punish her in the most bestial manner. This feudal (the tyrant the woman was fleeing from) raped women, humiliated them when they disobeyed, killed them sometimes, destroyed their bodies. He humiliated them by tying them in the pens like animals having them sodomized and making them eat excrement. He was in his sixties.
'I knew that if we returned this woman to him they would cut her nose and hamstrings. And she knew this. She begged us not to send her back . During negotiations with this landlord, who was politically very powerful, and ironically, belonged to the liberal party, they said she had to give up her six year old son. They said "It is a matter of honor for us. If you don't give him the woman, you give us the boy."
" I had to persuade the woman to send the boy back. She started crying, She grabbed my feet, and said, 'You are powerful. You can get my son back.' I told her I could'nt.
"She gave that boy away. It was unbelievable how she dressed this little boy. And two total strangers came for him. SHe dressed him up, and said to him, that he had to go with them, and that she would follow, and that he mustnt be afraid. Whenever he cried, she said she as going to follow. They were tall, with their lungis (turbans) and with thier big mustaches. She said, 'Go with them, I wll be right behind you. You are going to meet your father's family.'
(Corboy, this little boy, whom his mother loved and cried for, had come into this world because his mother had been raped by the tyrant who bought her and thus was this childs father.)
'The boy was scared. He kept looking back. She was impassive. No tears. She said, 'God, I'm coming, ' until the boy disappeared. Then she started screaming. They were not going to kill the boy. They would let him grow up on the farm. He would grow up as another serf.'
Lots of love, lots of love, lots of love, I’ve never ever gone though such deep replies because whenever I asked anyone they replied but most of that was related to philosophy. And I rather didn’t understand Sakeel, Urdu, or Persian or difficult things. Blessings to you and her.
Besides some of these Gurus, along with being manipulators, could have also had small strokes or other brain lesions at some point, which they and their handlers then try to reframe into "enlightenment".
Soon the "bus hits" were happening frequently, and by the end of
the summer Suzanne realized that she was physically exhausted
and would have to withdrew from public life temporarily to recuperate.
The doctors she consulted concurred that her vital energy had been
depleted and prescribed hormones and other supplements to help
restore her. Around this same time, she also noticed that the fear,
which had disappeared several years before, had returned.
Suzanne precipitously ended all of her groups and public appearances,
except for the therapists' group, which she continued for an additional
month. To some in the group it seemed that she had lost touch with
the vastness, and that her presence had noticeably diminished. At
one point she got out of her chair and joined the others who sat on
the floor, symbolically abdicating her role as a guide and source of
insight. Where she had been easily accessible to her friends for
chats on the phone or walks on the beach, she cut off almost
everyone and withdrew into virtual seclusion.
Throughout the fall she spent most of her time at home, alone and
with her family, taking regular walks by the ocean and sitting on her
patio looking out at the Bolinas Lagoon in Stinson Beach, California,
where she lived. During this period she recovered memories of
childhood abuse, which seemed to explain some of the fear she
had experienced during her 10 lonely years of being no one before
realizing that she was everything. When I suggested that perhaps
the fear originated from a part of herself that was split off or
dissociated from conscious awareness, she immediately agreed.
At one point she excitedly called me to describe her recent discovery
that she did in fact exist—land insisted that all the spiritual teachers
who taught the non-existence of an abiding self were mistaken. I spent
an hour on the phone with her explaining the difference between having
no self and not existing.
During this period Suzanne seemed to drift in and out of experiencing
herself as the vastness. At times she talked about God, and once, during
a walk on the beach, she described seeing angels. At a certain point she
acknowledged that she had used the vastness as a defense to protect her
from her feelings and from the painful process of coming to terms with
In the first few months of 1997 Suzanne felt less and less connected
with the vastness—and more and more disoriented, apparently because
of all the new insights she was having. "This human life thing is really
something, isn't it?" she often mused, almost to herself. Those of us
who were close to her now looked forward to a prolonged integration
process, in which she gradually learned to be someone as well as no one.
But her health would not allow this to occur.
By late February Suzanne had difficulty holding a pen, remembering
familiar names, or standing on her own without feeling dizzy. At the
urging of her chiropractor, she entered the hospital on February 27,
and X rays revealed that she had a brain tumor. She elected to have it
removed but chose not to undergo radiation or chemotherapy. When the
surgeons operated on her one week later, they found that the tumor was
too widespread to eliminate completely. On March 8 she returned home,
and on March 10 she and her fianceé, Steve Kruszynski, were married at a
small ceremony at her home. Shortly thereafter they traveled to Oklahoma
to seek out alternative treatment. But when Suzanne relapsed, the trip
was cut short, and it became clear that she had come home to die.
Several days after returning from her trip, Suzanne lapsed into a coma. (The rest of the article describes her death and memorial ceremonies)
In my case, I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy as a youth and
years later delusively believed myself to be making "spiritual" and
meditative "progress" when all my weird "mystical" experiences started (as
a result of intensive and protracted meditation practice). To this very
day, these experiences are always with me, in varying degrees and forms,
and never cease. I do wish, however, that they would stop, forever, and
never plague me again.
In the case of a good friend of mine (a highly religious and committed
priest) who has had some of these "realizations" and mystical experiences,
he, too, was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was younger.
I too have had these experiences and come to far different
conclusions than yourself regarding the same. These phenomena are NOT
anything "supernaturally mystical", intimations of SELF or MIND, a timeless
and unmediated intuition of the Bradleyan Absolute, or anything of the
sort. From what I can gather from my neurological research, ALL these
phenomena have a wholly mundane neurobiological etiology. For instance,
the sustained "white light" experience, or "entering into the light"
through meditation, is a form of what neuroscientists call cortex
disinhibition -- the random firing of neurons in the brain. This random
firing, in turn, stimulates the visual cortex producing these lights and
luminosity's fanatical mystics and zealous meditators talk about.
Moreover, the greater the number of neurons firing, the greater is the
intensity of the white light. Quantitatively put, with few neurons
randomly firing, all one sees during meditation is a small circle of white,
to bluish-white, light. With a moderate number of neurons randomly firing,
one sees, during meditation, a moderately large circle of light. With all
or most of the neurons randomly firing, one sees a circle of light so
large, brilliant, and luminous that it literally engulfs the field of
vision during the meditation session. The mistake, here, of mystics,
meditators, spiritual "masters", and Near Death Experiencers is to identify
the "neural noise" or "white light experience" for God, Self, Mind,
"mystical realization", satori, etc.
Other so-called "mystical" and/or "satori" experiences have explanations
just as non-magical, non-mystical, prosaic, materialistic, and