I believe that meditation can offer a person valuable skills and insights. But I don’t believe meditation can turn anyone into a god or anything god-like. Many meditators claim that they or their masters have “the ability to see reality as it truly is”. They make the claim so broad as to virtually claim to have the ‘Mind of God’. And with their new god-like brilliant insight, their new “global enlightenment”, they claim global enlightenment:
- Health Enlightenment: they understand the real causes of disease and how to cure them
- Psychological Enlightenment: they can see the thoughts and motivations of others — they become psychic healers
- Political Enlightenment: they know the correct political policies needed to fix the world
- Life Guide Enlightenment: they can help you know the right job, the right spouse, the right hobbies
- Physics Enlightenment: many make miracle claims that defy the laws of nature
Wow, that is a lot to get from meditation! I have heard identical claims among charismatic Christian leaders, great Yogis in Hinduism and among admired teachers of Islam. Such claims are generic. These claims come in many subtle disguises. Otherwise skeptic Western readers may let these claims slip by because they are impressed with the charisma of their teachers, the beauty of their new found community or even the life altering experiences they had in their faith. But if you read that last sentence again, you can see how it could apply to both Christian or Buddhist enthralled believers. This naivete bothered me when I was a Christian and I see it also in many Buddhist circles. The Global-Enlightenment Myth is a universal trait.
I am inspired to write about it now because I am seeing it in an otherwise insightful book called “The Crystal and the Way of Light” by a well-known Tibetan Vajrayāna teacher called Namkhai Norbu. Norbu claims that Dzogchen (his meditation practice) allows one to not only see, but also enter into ‘the Primordial State’ where duality does not exist [enlightenment]. He claims duality blinds us. OK, I confess, I am Buddhist-enough that I actually agree with some of that but when he goes on to hint that such enlightenment confers far-reaching global miraculous powers then I start to doubt even the true things he may be saying. He claims:
- “Certain illnesses, such as cancer, are caused by disturbances of the energy, and cannot be cured simply by surgery or medication.” pg 32
- He describes a miraculous virgin birth of the founder of Dzogchen (Garab Dorje) but says that understanding this miracle “seems impossible from the limited point of view of dualistic vision”. pg 40
- Of Garab Dorje he says, “He developed the capacity to transform himself into any form he chose, as well as all the other ‘siddhis‘, or powers that arise when the dualistic condition is overthrown.” pg 56
You get the point. I have seen this thinking among Zen Buddhist practitioners and others. The “Global-Enlightenment Myth” is pretty pervasive — not just in Buddhism but in other religions too. Heck, science-lovers quote Einstein’s views on religion and politics like it mattered in some mystical way. People think that movie stars have special insight on how to run our countries. Just because someone has an amazing talent in one field, does not confer them magical insight into all other fields. We are suckers for charisma. We are suckers for heroes. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t think Global Enlightenment exists.