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  • SALVATION BY EXTINCTION: MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
  • SALVATION BY EXTINCTION: MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

    Posted in ,
    June 5, 2020

    Since the 1970s, Mindfulness Meditation has been promoted as a therapeutic technique to treat PTSD, stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain. Used by Fortune 500 companies, medical clinics, hospitals, the military, and prisons, it has become a billion dollar-a-year industry. Attributed with the power to transform anxiety, negative thinking and behavior into peace, compassion, and lovingkindness, many public schools are adopting Mindfulness-based educational programs to help children self-regulate their behavior and cope with the pressures of life. 

    REDEFINING REALITY

    Though Mindfulness has been given therapeutic and scientific status for application across the broad spectrum of psychological and physiological health and wellness needs, it is actually a Buddhist meditative technique that changes one’s perception of reality. By focusing meditative attention intensely on one’s breath while concentrating on nothing but the present moment, one enters an altered state of nondual consciousness[1] that becomes the new interpretive grid for living. The goal is to train the mind to move through every aspect of life with the intentional focus and consciousness of Mindfulness while suspending all interpretation and judgment of experiences and events. Perception of the past and the future dissolves into the nondual nothingness of the present moment.[2]

    Instead of the benefits promised by Mindfulness, the practice actually creates a sense of detachment from reality that deadens the conscience by suspending moral evaluation of ideas and events as being either right or wrong. So, it works as a brain-washing mechanism, leaving the mind open and receptive to the Buddhist view of reality,[3] which has become so popular in the West. The Buddhist worldview is based on The Four Noble Truths[4] and the Noble Eightfold Path[5] to Nirvana, a state of blissful transcendence over self-existence. Mindfulness is the seventh step of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path.[6]

    THE NONEXISTENCE OF GOD AND MAN

    In order to understand how Mindfulness works and what it is designed to do, it is essential to understand the Buddhist doctrines of God and of man. Foundational to the Buddhist dharma (doctrine/teaching) is the outright denial of God as the personal Creator of the universe and everything in it. Instead, Buddhism teaches the concept of “dependent origination,”[7] a theory similar to evolution, asserting that everything in the universe is interconnected, interdependent and therefore causal, classically stated as “This is because that is.”[8] Everything exists by “interdependent co-origination”[9] and is bound up in the wheel of fatalistic determinism called samsara (reincarnation), which is ruled by karma. The karma of past incarnations determines the present. The karma of present incarnations determines the future. The concepts of past and future are then collapsed into the present moment through single-pointed meditative focus as everything is ultimately realized as the universe.[10]

    With its denial of the Creator who is personal and distinct from creation, Buddhism naturally denies the individual personhood of human beings. In fact, the highest goal of Buddhism is realization of its doctrine of anatta (no-soul), which denies the existence of the soul. This is because the law of karma binds people to endless rebirths as captives on the wheel of reincarnation. Since one might be reborn as a man, a woman, a spirit, an animal or an insect (depending on karma), Buddhism does not recognize the integral nature of individual persons with their souls.[11] Rather, Buddhism’s doctrine of “dependent origination,” reduces human beings to impersonal, interconnected, interdependent components of the impersonal, universal whole—a very Oneist view of reality. Mindfulness Meditation is therefore designed to transform consciousness from the illusion of the separated self to the enlightenment of universal interconnectedness in non-existence, a state of mind in which personal boundaries dissolve as consciousness is absorbed into the impersonal universe.[12] Thus, Mindfulness essentially facilitates a dangerous psychological process of depersonalization and detachment from reality.

    THE BIBLICAL GLORY OF GOD AND VALUE OF MAN

    Buddhism’s depersonalization of God and man stands in stark contrast to biblical revelation. “In the beginning God,”[13] the personal, triune Creator, who is distinct from creation, lovingly created the world and all that is in it, pronouncing it to be “very good.”[14] God created Adam and Eve in his own image and likeness as individual persons with souls bearing great value and dignity as the crowning jewels of God’s creation.

    While Buddhism blames suffering on karma,[15] the Bible reveals mankind’s Fall into sin as the real cause of suffering in the world. And, while Buddhism teaches an impersonal self-salvation through the meditative enlightenment of non-existence, the Bible reveals the personal, redemptive grace of God in the atoning death of Jesus Christ for sinners. The very creation of Adam and Eve as distinctly male and female prophetically foreshadowed the mystery of marriage as a reflection of Christ and his blood-bought bride, the church,[16] from the very beginning. The Bible presents both God and man as personal, yet distinct, beings, whereas Buddhism ultimately denies the existence of both.

    The Bible also delineates very clear distinctions between good and evil, but Mindfulness tries to dissolve them into a Oneist blur.[17] In Buddhism, the practice of Mindfulness conditions consciousness toward a final meditative trance state believed to liberate one from the endless wheel of reincarnation and from the torments of numerous hell realms where hell wardens inflict just the right tortures until karma is paid in full.[18] The soul, thus liberated from karma, experiences the bliss of Nirvana, as it is finally extinguished just as the flame of a candle is blown out (Buddhism’s salvation by extinction).[19] But, research shows that the depersonalizing effects of Mindfulness, rather than leading upward to bliss, often result in traumatic psychological and spiritual experiences.

    MINDFULNESS NIGHTMARES

    Dr. Willoughby Britton, who directs the Contemplative Studies Initiative[20] at Brown University, has practiced Mindfulness Meditation for more than twenty years and is one of its leading academic proponents. She has also been surprisingly honest about its often-terrifying effects. An article titled The Dark Night of the Soul, recounts one man’s Mindfulness nightmare as told to Britton. He explained, “I started having thoughts like, ‘Let me take you over,’ combined with confusion and tons of terror.” This was accompanied by “… a vision of death with a scythe and a hood, and the thought ‘Kill yourself’ over and over again.”[21]

    Britton was one of five scholars who published a 2017 study called “The Varieties of Contemplative Experience: A Mixed-methods Study of Meditation-related Challenges in Western Buddhists” (called VCE). The study explored the effects of Mindfulness meditation on “30 meditation teachers and 60 practitioners from across Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.”[22] The study acknowledges that although Buddhism promotes Mindfulness in the West as a “secular,” “empirical,” and “scientific” practice that brings “health, happiness, and well-being,” Buddhist traditions report otherwise. Buddhist literature cites meditation experiences ranging from “bliss and visions to intense body pain, physiological disorders, paranoia, sadness, anger and fear.” Zen traditions report that meditation can “lead to a prolonged illness-like condition known as ‘Zen sickness’ or ‘meditation sickness.’” The study further cites clinical and medical literature reporting “meditation-induced psychosis, seizures, depersonalization, mania, changes in worldview, hallucinations, emotional detachment, involuntary body movements and suicidal tendencies.”[23]

    In her presentation of the VCE study results to the Dalai Lama,[24] Britton explained some of the common side effects experienced by the seasoned meditation leaders and practitioners who participated in the study.[25] One common effect was that solid objects seemed to “break up into tiny particles.” Even more disturbing was the perception of meditators that they too were not solid but also breaking up internally, leading to the “loss of an enduring sense of identity.” In other words, Buddhist meditation techniques, far from relieving stress and anxiety, created a frightening sense of internal fragmentation that radically deconstructed the meditator’s sense of self and of identity. Time stood still. There was no past or future: only the intensity of the present moment. People also experienced “a loss of conceptual meaning structures” so that meditators no longer understood the relationship between objects and their designated meaning. Britton illustrated this point with the example of one woman who, after meditating, experienced cognitive dissonance while driving up to a red light. While she recognized that the traffic light was red, the meaning it was supposed to communicate had dropped from her mind. The only reason she didn’t run the red light was that the car ahead of her had stopped and she fortunately retained enough cognition to stop behind that car. Such side effects are not surprising in light of Isaiah’s warning: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20) by suspending cognitive discernment between the two. 

    REAL GOSPEL HOPE

    While Buddhism recognizes the problems of suffering and death that resulted from the Fall, it entirely misses the true balm of healing in the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Rather, Buddhism seeks liberation from reincarnation through the meditative techniques of Mindfulness, which is designed to change one’s perception of reality by depersonalizing the self into the bliss of non-existence in Nirvana. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can give true dignity, hope and peace to those who turn to him for forgiveness of sins. They are the ones who will know eternal joy in the presence of the personal Creator and Redeemer, through faith in the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.


    [1] “Nondual” means “not two” and nondual consciousness is an altered mental state in which all distinctions are collapsed into one. In Hinduism, nonduality refers to realization that the soul (atman) and the divine (Brahman) are one and the same. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism denies the existence of the soul (the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, “no soul”), so Buddhism’s nonduality is attained through meditative techniques to awaken the Buddha consciousness of universal non-existence in the bliss of Nirvana.

    [2] https://vimeo.com/69253042.

    [3] Basic to Buddhism are the Three Universal Truths: 1. Impermanence (everything is impermanent); 2. Suffering (life is suffering); 3. No-Self (the self does not exist because there is no such thing as a permanent soul).

    [4] Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths: 1. Life is suffering; 2. Desire causes suffering; 3. Enlightenment ends the desire that causes suffering; 4. The Noble Eightfold Path awakens enlightenment of non-existence (anatta “no-self”) in the bliss of Nirvana.

    [5] The Noble Eightfold Path: 1. Right Understanding; 2. Right Thought; 3. Right Speech; 4. Right Action; 5. Right Livelihood; 6. Right Effort; 7. Right Mindfulness; 8. Right Concentration. The eight steps are divided into three categories: 1. Wisdom (right understanding of reality, steps 1-2); 2. Ethics (right behavior, steps 3,4,5) and 3. Meditation (right meditative consciousness, steps 6,7,8). https://www.lionsroar.com/what-is-eightfold-path.

    [6] Step 7, Mindfulness, prepares consciousness to enter step 8, Right Concentration, the deep meditative trance state that experiences liberation from the dreaded wheel of reincarnation through realization of non-existence in the bliss of Nirvana.

    [7] https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/dependent-origination.

    [8] https://www.facebook.com/thichnhathanh/posts/this-is-because-that-is/10154183919424635/.

    [9] Barbara Engler, Personality Theories (Seventh Edition), (New York/Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 456.

    [10] Barbara Engler, Personality Theories (Seventh Edition), (New York/Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 458.

    [11] Consider the significant influence this worldview has on the ideas of gender fluidity and species fluidity.

    [12] Barbara Engler, Personality Theories (Seventh Edition), (New York/Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 458. 

    [13] Genesis 1:1.

    [14] Genesis 1:31.

    [15] The debt of karma increases through desire.

    [16] Ephesians 5:32.

    [17] Oneism is another term for monism, the belief that all is one. In the case of Buddhism, all is one in non-existence.

    [18] The Devaduta Sutta, an ancient Buddhist text, records the Buddha’s teaching on the Narakas (hell realms), where karma is slowly paid off through ghastly tortures inflicted by hell wardens over hundreds of millions of years before one can finally be reborn into a higher realm of existence.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.130.than.html.

    [19] Nirvana actually means “blown out,” as the flame of a candle is blown out. 

    [20] The term “contemplative” refers to a number of meditative techniques that produce altered states of consciousness and Mindfulness is one of them.  

    [21] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-dark-knight-of-the-souls/372766/.

    [22] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176239.

    [23] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176239.

    [24] The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the self-styled global ambassador for Mindfulness as the means to spreading compassion and lovingkindness throughout the world.

    [25] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176239.