Top critical review
Some Important Information, but Burdened with Unfounded Buddhist Philosophy
Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2021
I found this book to be of significant interest, but I certainly do not subscribe to all of Buddhist theology/philosophy. I will list some concerns I have about what is presented in this book, even though I greatly value meditation as a powerful aid in efforts to achieve union with the Divine.
I regard it as dubious to claim that merely by focusing on one’s breath, or by merely focusing the mind, one can overcome all human inclinations toward pride, revenge, hatred, prejudice, envy, etc. I find these statements on page 8 to be misleading:
“You don’t have to force anything, struggle, obey rules dictated to you by some authority. It is automatic; you just change.”
Spiritual growth is NOT AUTOMATIC. EFFORT is required. I do not think that preaching a path that precludes struggle is going to get you where you need to go. Struggling will sometimes (oftentimes?) be necessary.
I also have reservations about this proclamation (page 9):
“An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he or she inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love.”
I’m afraid that an “uncritical love” is simply not realistic. Love requires the willingness to criticize where criticism is needed – and needed it sometimes is.
On page 15, I find the following claim:
“Every evil deed, every example of heartlessness in the world, stems directly from this false sense of ‘me’ as distinct from everything else.”
There is a Buddhist dogma that declares that there exists NO SELF that is distinct from the rest of reality. I find this dogma to be quite incoherent. The self has a responsibility for itself that is DISTINCT from any responsibility it has for any other being or any other reality. Although the Divine Self (which the Buddhists deny exists) inheres in every other reality, there are distinctions between the Divine Will and the wills that inhere in creatures. The Divine Will is not responsible for the free choices made by individual creatures – the latter can choose in OPPOSITION to the Divine Will. The no-self philosophy of Buddhism is a lost cause. It cannot stand up to logical scrutiny. Of course, the claim that there exists no UNCHANGING self is valid. The self is forever in flux – it never persists unchanged from one moment to the next. Yet, the fundamental self does exist, and it persists, potentially eternally.
I have serious doubts that a Buddhist monk had achieved spiritual perfection. But on page 43 I read the following:
“Venerable Sariputta was a monk who was 100 percent mindful and had no faults. Since he did not have any pride, he was able to maintain this position.”
I question whether such a monk was, indeed, truly faultless. Human achievement of spiritual perfection MIGHT be possible, but I am convinced that if such perfection is to be achieved, it will be done under the direct inspiration, direction, and empowerment of the Divine – a reality to which Buddhists do not subscribe.
Notwithstanding my criticisms, I emphatically affirm the following claim from pages 42-43:
“Improving ourselves is the unswerving path to the perfection that is the goal in life.”
That statement is so vital and highly valid as to deserve being posted on one’s living room walls. Buddhists teach some wonderful things. Do not ignore them.
But here I resume my criticisms. I find the following on page 53:
“As your mindfulness develops, your resentment for the change, your dislike for unpleasant experiences, your greed for the pleasant experiences, and the notion of selfhood will be replaced by the deeper awareness of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness.”
While denouncing the powerful and incessant craving to elevate the egoistic self is a proper stance, declaring the nonexistence of the self is misguided. The critical factor is to UNITE the self with the Divine – via a bringing of the self into harmony with Ultimate Reality.
I will quote as follows from page 71:
“What you are doing is digging your way deeper and deeper through layers of illusion toward realization of the supreme truth of existence.”
In the margin of my book, I wrote: “WHAT is this ‘supreme truth of existence’???” The answer was not found, to my satisfaction, in this book, nor do I know where to find it within Buddhist theology/philosophy.
A very troubling recipe is provided on page 71, as follows:
“Let your meditation be a complete vacation. Trust yourself, trust your own ability to deal with these issues later, using the energy and freshness of mind that you built up during your meditation. Trust yourself in this way and it will actually occur.”
Trusting the self rather than trusting the Creator is a major tenant of Buddhism. It is INCOMPATIBLE with trusting the Divine, the Creator, in Whom resides all wisdom and all power.
I find the following a bit astonishing:
“Seasoned meditators manage three or four hours of practice a day. They live ordinary lives in the day-to-day world, and they still squeeze it all in. It comes naturally.”
I do not, quite frankly, believe that a person who has achieved humble surrender to the Infinite One is in need of spending three or four hours per day in meditation or prayer. If, however, a person stubbornly insists on achieving “enlightenment” via his/her own efforts and powers and APART FROM Divine empowerment, how much meditation might be needed? Is it a futile endeavor? No dogmatism will be offered here.
I quote from page 83:
“It is a procedure in which the ego will be eradicated by the penetrating gaze of mindfulness.”
My question is this: From where comes this mindfulness? WHAT is the mind that “gazes”?
I have more criticism for comments on page 130:
“You want to get rid of those things because they bother you. It is a good deal harder to apply that same process to mental states that you cherish, like patriotism, or parental protectiveness, or true love. But it is just as necessary. Positive attachments hold you in the mud just as assuredly as negative attachments.”
I believe that Buddhism fails to distinguish properly between profound love for goodness and the love for egoistic values. Love does NOT need to be vanquished. Only love for IMPROPER things, things that lead to hurt and suffering, needs to be vanquished. Love for the Divine is eternally right, good, and worthy of the highest value and honor. To love honest, creative, right achievement is worthy of praise. That kind of love does NOT need to be neutralized, but needs to be sought with humble devotion.
I find the following quotations, from pages 147-148 to be troubling, if not downright diabolical:
“Mindfulness is the essence of patience. Therefore, whatever you see must simply be accepted, acknowledged, and dispassionately observed. This is not easy, but it is utterly necessary. We are ignorant. We are selfish and greedy and boastful. We lust, and we lie. These are facts. Mindfulness means seeing these facts and being patient with ourselves, accepting ourselves as we are. That goes against the grain. We don’t want to accept it. We want to deny it. Or change it, or justify it. But acceptance is the essence of mindfulness. If we want to grow in mindfulness, we must accept what mindfulness finds.”
I strongly disagree with the idea that we should accept our faults without proper efforts to correct and eradicate them. Merely becoming aware of the faults will not necessarily correct them. The aim, even in Buddhism, is the perfection of character. How are we going to achieve it? Does uncritical acceptance of weaknesses and faults automatically alleviate the faults? I fear that it does not. I do wholeheartedly concur that honest acknowledgement of the realities we encounter is vital, but to uncritically acknowledge errors and faults is to fail to properly censure them.
An interesting set of statements is found on page 165:
“This is a simplified, rudimentary awareness that is stripped of all extraneous detail. It is grounded in a living flow of the present, and it is marked by a pronounced sense of reality. You know absolutely that this is real, more real than anything you have ever experienced.”
My questions center on exactly WHAT this reality is that is MORE REAL than anything else ever experienced. I declare that this Reality is none other than Ultimate Reality – the Divine Realm to Whom we can choose to humbly surrender our stubborn human egos and wills. Buddhists fail to acknowledge this Divine. How serious is that omission? Is it spiritually fatal? Let the Creator Himself answer – I am unqualified to dogmatize.
Now for my final quotation from this problematic book:
“You find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them. The house is empty. There is nobody home.”
I declare this to be a GRAVE ERROR in Buddhism. The glorious Divine is anything but “nobody”. The Divine is infinitely aware, and He gives finite awareness to many separate beings. They are separate from, but can be harmonized with, the Divine.