Meditation and Mao

A young man, garbed in a bright tunic of orange silk, sat in the classic lotus posture of meditation, eyes closed. The room, filled with the heavy scent of burning incense, was dimly lighted by two large candles. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the young man—a graduate student at one of the well-known universities in the United States and an American—opened his eyes. With ceremonial dignity he lifted his tunic over his head and placed it on the floor.

Breast bare now, he lighted a torch, solemnly applied the flames to his chest, face, eyes, hair. He was not burned. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, he had not even "the smell of fire" Dan. 3:27; on him.

This dramatic incident was the highlight of a Buddhist marriage ceremony performed in San Francisco recently. Both bride and bridegroom were Caucasian, not Oriental. Both came from prominent West Coast families; both were highly intelligent and idealistic young Americans. The episode illustrates an increasing phenomenon of American campus life—the turning away from Christian orthodoxy and the seeking of solace in Oriental religion. "Meditation and Mao" someone called this growing trend, though the two are, of course, antithetical since dialectical materialism, even as interpreted by Chairman Mao, leaves no room for such spiritual values as are embraced by Buddhist or Vedic mysticism. The campuses, shaken by the violence of the new left, are at least as entranced by Hindu gurus and Buddhist Zen masters. Even calisthenics yields to karate. Why? What is this all about?

Role Playing
November 7, 1970

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