Tackling the mysticism question while it is still only pesky

For some time now, Asian mysticism has defied common sense, not to mention a number of international treaties, by attracting vast numbers of adherents here in the West. And not one of them can give you the least idea as to what the fuss is about. “It’s beyond words,” they’ll tell you. “It just is. . . .” At that point they usually go back to banging on a gong, selfishly leaving you as puzzled as ever.

Undoubtedly the most popular of the mystical aberrations besetting society nowadays is Buddhism (a 2,500-year-old fad if ever I’ve seen one). Each year it attracts more practitioners—despite the requirement that those wishing to remain in good standing wear identical, indifferently dyed, and rather itchy ankle-length robes.

Still, for all their exotic origins, Buddhists are not particularly original folks. They join Baptists, Catholics, Hindus, Mormons, Muslims, Quakers, Scientologists, and small but growing numbers of nudists in frowning on serious breaches of etiquette, like bad breath and premeditated murder. As if that weren’t enough, converts to Buddhism must also renounce lying, stealing, having hair, using makeup, cheap romance novels, sex with uncouth people, and even alcohol.

Oh, and converts must also renounce desire. For Buddhists the thing that makes human existence miserable is the act of desiring. The average jaded non-Buddhist in the sophisticated West, on the other hand, generally finds the bad-mouthing of desire to be rather amusing (unless said non-Buddhist has exceeded his or her credit card limit). This curious Buddhist notion about desire may thus be ignored as antiquated and irrelevant, particularly since Buddhists are obviously not allowed to watch even old Meg Ryan movies.

All of which brings us to the crux of the matter: Could anything be less American and therefore more dangerous than Buddhism? (This question is strictly rhetorical except for those advanced readers who have by this point finished their second Scotch.) Of course not. And if something isn’t done soon, Buddhism could easily rob us of, say, our urge to bring democracy to oil-rich dictatorships.

Let us therefore agree that if Buddhism continues to extend its reach in the West (i.e., beyond the range of New Age bookstore incense), technologically advanced peoples must refuse to sit still for it. But here is where we must exercise extreme caution if our children are to thrive and, in turn, be annoyed by their own children in the world we’re bequeathing them. Buddhists, you see, adore sitting still. And meditating. In silence.

If this revelation doesn’t convince you that Buddhism is bent on bringing Western civilization to an excruciatingly boring halt, you may need to re-read the preceding paragraphs. In fact, you’d do well to re-read them until either you become as alarmed as any red-blooded Westerner would, or else you attain enlightenment and at last can give in to your desire to put your designer jeans back on.