by Tara Carreon
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Recently an email arrived informing me that new slanders about Ambu were to be found at Damtsig.org, so I breathlessly made my way there with flying fingers. If You Meet the Buddha on the Web. Jeez-Louise, what a sleaze. Assuming a professional pose, pretending to wield a scalpel instead of his usual hatchet, Arch Stanton has presumed to anatomize me and label me a cancer. While he flaunted his new medical wardrobe, this "patient" experienced merely a disgusting invasion. If Arch Stanton were a doctor, he'd be running a concentration camp infirmary with a love for the final experiment on those too far gone to save. Applying that technique to my case, he autopsied a living being, enjoying the dissecting rather more than is wholesome, all for the benefit of science.
Still, I'll give the Doctor this much -- I'm plenty sick. And he's on the right track when he diagnoses my condition as samaya-sickness. He's right to worry about veering from the Vajrayana path in even the slightest degree. It's very dangerous. You will experience a lot of suffering if you deviate from the path. You may even kill yourself. You may experience a form of PTSD, like recovering cultists experience every day in America, because my situation is not unique. I share it with people who try to back out of Hindu cults, Christian cults, and multi-level-marketing cults. The survivor websites are out there, by the scores. American-Buddha is part of a trend. Not very classy company, but the truth is tough.
The current brand of "believe or die" Vajrayana is a traditional American extremist vehicle that bolsters its claim to legitimacy by digging into the arcane, gothic traditions of medieval Tibetan clerics. As commonly sold in the marketplace, this Vajrayana trades on its veneer of "genuineness," but uses the same psychological enforcement mechanisms as every other fundamentalist belief-cult. "Commit now and forever hold your peace, lest God become wroth and turn his face against you." To Jerry Falwell and Dr. Dodson, homosexuals are sick. To Dr. Stanton, it's people who dare to study Tibetan Buddhism and disagree with him. For both, the real manifestation of sickness is any conduct with which they disagree.
Thousands of Americans wake up daily to experience a crisis of faith. This is because their faiths demand that they adopt doctrines that silence intelligence, deny the obvious, and affirm views contrary to reason. Buddhists try to obliterate dangerous questions by labeling them heresies. The good doktor will cut out this evil growth -- your brain.
Dr. Stanton will show you how sinister this organ is. As the origin of "reasonable doubt," it seems benign, even healthy, but if allowed to overwhelm the organism's restraints, it ripens into the familiar demon -- Rudra. How gothic. Vajrayanists have predilections toward an authoritarian regimen. Choices are starkly drawn and made forever, written in blood. Trouble is all that lies ahead for the "vow breaker." Break out the scare words. Take her to the oncology wards. Her growth is malignant. The treatment cannot be benign. The doctor must amputate. At the neck.
Beware, lest you too end up in this ward, rolling motionless through swinging doors on a gurney. The patient's mistake? Trying to go back, freaking out in free-fall, a nostalgic desire for reason after having opted for the truth of magic. It's sad, but true, says the doktor, studying the charts, blowing a stream of smoke, and smoothing his lab coat -- it's a one way street. Can't go back. But what kind of a truth is this? Maybe it's like cancer and cigarettes -- they just go together.
So on Dr. Stanton's advice, all would-be Vajrayanoids should ask themselves, "Am I ready to commit to success or seppuku? Can I say goodbye to reason forever and make blind faith in robed wise men my only guide? Is it possible I will someday want to do something different? Is it Dewachen or bust?" Because it won't just be shock treatment and thorazine if you change your mind. It's cancer. Of the brain.
Yes, Vajrayana Buddhism has to be handled like fissionable material, because it'll blow you to vajra hell. Too bad the refugee lamas couldn't afford lead coats and clean rooms when they left their mountain installations. They issued suitcase nukes to everyone. And now all the recipients are responsible for their own personally assured destruction. Yep, I've got my own red phone in a psychological bunker. Like Dr. Strangelove, I'm one of the elect. Every cult has its "elect," or it wouldn't be a cult. Nobody joins a cult to be a member of the un-elect. And every fraternity imposes penalties for not playing by the rules, because that gives the whole adventure spice.
Knowledge that comes wrapped in secrecy has a debt of suspicion to dispel. Truths, as the Founding Fathers noted in the Declaration of Independence, have often been thought Self-Evident. Secret rituals, ear-whispered teachings, gold changing hands -- are part of an old system of making something valuable by making it scarce. The beauty of truth that you pay for is that it fulfills all of your desires. It remakes your world in a shape you have requested. With heavens, hells, the elect, the faithful, and the damned.
Remember the bumper sticker? "I have given up the search for reality and am now looking for a good fantasy." While not explicitly declaring the first part, many American Vajra-cult-recruits are working hard on part two of this declaration. Like Dr. Stanton's attending nurse, Nora Cameron, they feel immeasurably enriched by their contact with Tibetan culture -- too thankful for words, really. Nurse Nora feels lucky she can hide in a fantasy dreamed up by people free of the dull impediment of scientific facts. It's a lot easier to believe that people are born from lotuses if you also don't know anything about genetics. Nowadays, things are too well known. Truth is actually so cheap that your parents give it to you free. They feed you, send you to school, teach you that the planet is spherical and the universe is expanding -- ho-hum. So much truth, but "still something missing." What's missing is fantasy, mystery, a good fairy tale.
Enter the cult. Providing the answers, providing the connections. Connections to the truth, the hallowed past, the wisdom of the ancestors, the secrets of the ages. Like those old ads for the Rosicrucians, promising disclosure of the secret mysteries, or the SRF yoga-by-mail arrangement. A lifeline to Lhasa and Shangri La, a chance to hobnob with the wise men from the east. Let's burn frankincense and mhyrr.
Or let's sacrifice some vow breakers in a blood ritual. Imprison them in a triangular box and assault them with a ritual dagger. Clean up the temple and expel the demons. Root out the heretics and purify the faith. Yeah, the old ways! Then we know who's in and who's out, who's faithful and who's in need of an auto da fe. A little session in the dungeon for the good of the soul.
Dr. Stanton's compassion resembles that of a reform school director who requires us, his young charges, to contemplate an electric chair to better our sense of moral values. It might keep us from following evil paths, but then again, it might sour our Cheerios right in our little tummy.
Against Medical Advisement,