I came to the conclusion that Buddhism was too weak a sauce to rescue a materialist Westerner from his drab, disenchanted worldview. And at the same time, I said, because it is a spiritual practice, the materialist Westerner, having dabbled with it and found it lacking, was likely to come to the conclusion that all spiritual practices are false.
In the process of coming to that conclusion, I realized there are a couple more things I can say about Buddhist practice as I have known it, positive things indeed.
- Buddhist meditation can lead to a spontaneous realization of the inherent moral laws of the universe. I mentioned before how the rules for ethical behavior in Buddhism are considered suggestions and not laws, and I called that a shortcoming. But I’d also like to point out that the experience of discovering the true universality of a moral law can make a strong impression. It’s a sort of window on the Truth, what C. S. Lewis called the Tao in The Abolition of Man.
- I said it before but it bears repeating, Buddhist meditation, pursued with vigor and discipline, really does reveal the ugly nature of the ego. It can be quite a painful thing to see, but ultimately it’s good to do so.
- Meditation can also reveal something like a glowing brightness, a general goodness, that pervades the human being. Essential goodness, one might call it. (This is a dangerous one, because the dilettante can easily mistake it for some sort of godhead originating in one’s own self. Nevertheless, there is essential goodness there, and it’s not bad in and of itself to perceive this.)
Combining the implications of 2 and 3 get us very close to the Christian notion of sin, especially as Pascal lays it out in his Pensées. Man is truly glorious and godlike. Man is wretched and vile. How to reconcile these two facts?
And they are — as diligent meditation can show — irrefutable facts.
And what are we to make of these facts in light of item 1, the universal law?
I don’t have a conclusion here; this is merely an addendum. Food for thought.