A Buddhism Critic Goes on a Silent Buddhist Retreat
Source: Scientific American
Something weird happens to a skeptical science writer during a week of meditation, chanting and skygazing
By John Horgan on August 1, 2018
I’ve been hard on Buddhism over the years (see for example my critique of the recent bestseller Why Buddhism Is True). But I like to think I’m open-minded. So I recently put my skepticism to the test by going on a weeklong silent Buddhist retreat, which my pro-Buddhism friends Lisa and Bob argued was my moral obligation.
The retreat rocked me. I’m still trying to make sense of it, but I’m going to take a stab at describing it, if only for my own sake. As I told Julie, a teacher who advised me not to write during the retreat, I’m not sure what happens to me until I write about it.
The retreat was organized by the Dzogchen Center, a Buddhist organization based in Cambridge, Mass., and took place at the Garrison Institute, a contemplative center on the Hudson River an hour’s drive north of New York City. Coincidentally, I lived in Garrison, the hamlet after which the institute is named, from 1990 until 2009, when my marriage broke up. I taught my son and daughter how to ride bikes on the grounds of the Garrison Institute when it was just an abandoned Catholic monastery, and I swam with my dog, Merlin, in a nearby spot on the Hudson.