You see pictures of Buddha and he’s sitting, reclining, at peace. The Hindus have their twelve-armed elephant god, who also seems so content but not powerless. But leave it to Christians to have a dead and bloody man nailed to a cross.
It is hard to date the beginning of the modern love affair with Eastern spirituality. You can see the seeds of it in Maugham's The Razor's Edge and Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. But the event that really pushed the East into mainstream consciousness was the trip the Beatles took to India to spend time with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. That event made Eastern spirituality cool for the generation of hippies who had grown exhausted of doing drugs and fornicating and wanted something more. Eastern religion offered a new path to Enlightenment and expanded consciousness to these wayward souls.
The India trip turned out to be mostly a fiasco for the Beatles. The guru was less than pleased with the Beatles' penchant for drugs and alcohol while the Beatles and especially John Lennon became a bit disillusioned by Maharishi's desire to bang out Mia Farrow and take a 25% cut of the royalties of their next album as a tithe. This was odd behavior for a man who claimed to be celibate and above material concerns.
I find the episode laughable. The simple fact is that the Western world has always had a path to salvation and fulfillment in the Christian religion and a reliable guide in Jesus Christ. Why reject what works in favor of what doesn't work? Why did the Beatles and all those doped up hippies tap into Transcendental Meditation? Why do people today still look to gurus like Deepak Chopra or the Dalai Lamai or Zen Buddhist practitioners to feed their starving souls?
People reject Christianity for Eastern religion for a simple and stupid reason. Eastern religion offers spirituality without morality. That's it. Unlike Christianity, you can practice Zen, TM, or yoga and still fornicate. In addition, you can feel compassion for others without actually having to do something compassionate like feed them from the ample resources of your Swiss bank account. This is why Eastern religion is so popular among Hollywood celebrities who are given to wealth, hedonism, and self-indulgence. Eastern religion is religion without guilt.
Christianity is too painful and demanding. It requires that you pray to God instead of engaging in the spiritual masturbation known as meditation. Christianity requires that you examine your conscience and acknowledge your sinfulness. It requires that you seek forgiveness and make amends through real works of mercy as opposed to "feeling compassion."
John Lennon may have been shocked to discover that his guru was nothing more than a moneygrubbing charlatan out to make a buck and drain his seminal vesicles into the nubile bodies of young hippy chicks. The reality is that Lennon could have found this by just looking in a mirror. It is hard to sit in judgment of a man guilty of the same sins as yourself.
Atheists like Sam Harris are also getting into the Eastern game with praise and instructions for meditation.The aim of these atheists is no different than it was for those pot smoking fornicating hippies. They seek a spirituality divorced from morality and guilt. They would simply add superstition to the mix. Religion among those who reject religion amounts to something like exercise for the mind. They talk about the benefits of meditation such as stress reduction and. . .er, stress reduction. I'm not sure what benefits there can be for atheists beyond that. With no belief in the supernatural, atheists meditating for elevated consciousness or nirvana is a bit stupid. As for the benefits of meditation, most of the research I have encountered suggests that you would be better off taking a nap during that time period.
All of this spirituality without religion is like scratching an itch that you deny having. The simple fact is that the soul hungers for God and cannot find satisfaction apart from prayer and worship. There is no substitute for Christianity. If anything can be said about these fools in a positive way, they acknowledge that Christianity is a package deal. You can't have a Christianity without morality, the supernatural, guilt, and obedience. Modernist heretics and cafeteria Catholics may try to modify the package to make it a better sell, but it amounts to selling a car without an engine.
Eastern religion is garbage. It does not satisfy. It promises that you can have your spiritual cake and eat it, too. But it can never deliver on these promises. Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the human soul. If you want this satisfaction, you need to toss your yoga mat and your Buddha statue and pick up your cross. You need to get on your knees and pray. You need to come home to the Roman Catholic Church and receive the sacraments. You need to repent of your sins and make a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin. You need to read the Bible and pray the rosary. You need to develop a love for Jesus in the Eucharist. These things will feed your soul, and you will be satisfied. Jesus will fill you. As for the Buddha, he only offers emptiness and the contemplation of that emptiness. You know better than to waste your life on this garbage.