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Pseudo-Buddhism in the form of Scientology
Helle Meldgaard, MA hm@dci.dk
Dialog Center International, Denmark

In the centuries since Lord Buddha preached his Dharma and told about the Buddha of the Future, called Maitreya (sanscrit), also known by the names Metteya (pali), Mi-lo-Fu/Mi-le-Fo (chinese) and Miroku (japanese) many religious and political leaders have claimed to be this Buddha of the Future.

In the modern period - after the second world-war - a large number of new religious movements have appeared, and many of them have leaders who claim to be a manifestation of Maitreya. The famous/notorius guru Bhagwan Rajneesh, called Osho in the last period of his life, understood himself as Maitreya. 1 In one of the most recent movements called "the Rosegarden" or "Shan the Rising Light", its leader Ananda Tara Shan understands herself on the basis of an Maitreya-identification. 2 In the New Age movement "Summit Light House" (which also has a number of other titles) its founding mother Elisabeth Clare Prophet surrounds herself with a number of masters, among whom is found - of course - Lord Maitreya, here only as one of The Great White Brotherhood. There even is a "Maitreya Information Center" and a publication called "Maitreya-News", the founder of which, Benjamin Creme, is a disciple of another famous New Age motherfigure Alice Bailey. According to Creme Maitreya is already there and lives a quiet life in the southern part of London. According to some rumours this Maitreya has appeared in the person of a middle-aged Muslim Pakistani.

It is obvious that "the red thread" in these examples starts from theosophy in its many forms. Already the "Star from the East", promoted by Annie Besant under the name of Krishna-murti was seen as an expression of the Buddha of the future, but amalgamated with the Christian Messiah, a connotation which is also found in these neo-theosophists movements called New Age movements.

One of the most influential and most dubious movements among the manifold New Religious movements is Scientology, also propagated under the term Dianetics. Its founder was called L.Ron Hubbard (1911 - 1986?). He had a very special approach to religion and managed to create a new religion, which externally looks like a combination between a Christian church and a multinational firm, ideologically pretends to be Buddhism in its final form, but esoterically is theosophical and occult.

The organisation Scientology/Dianetics however does not seem to be aware of the Maitreya-fixation of its master in any important way, but that could well be another sort of the double-talk of which this movements is famous. At any rate - the founder and master of the movement L.Ron Hubbard understood himself as Maitreya, and in the following presentation an attempt is made to spell out the nature of this pretention.

L.Ron Hubbard's Maitreya Identification

The basis of the founder of the Scientology movement L. Ron Hubbard's Maitreya identification is the idea that Buddhism "failed" and did not become a full-fledged system. According to Hubbard Gautama Buddha did not possess the necessary insight and knowledge, for he did not incorporate the concept of a soul. The dilemma of this philosophy of Hubbard's is clearly reflected in his understanding of Buddhism for he operates with a soul as well as a faith in God as a Supreme Being!. 3 Whereas Buddhism failed because of insufficient insight in first of all the soul, Hubbard claims to have the necessary alternative insight.

On a tape from 1966 Hubbard puts it as follows: "What is Scientology? How does it fit into the framework of man? Truth of the matter is that you are studying an extension of the work of Gautama Siddhartha, begun about 2,500 years ago. He sought to end the endless cycle of birth and death then birth. And this death/birth cycle led into an effort to show men that they were spirit and did not have to be a body and did not have to go on being clay. ... That's in the Pali Canon. Well, we finished it!" 4

Time after time Hubbard claims that the thing worth noting about Buddha is Buddhas own stressing that his work was unfinished, and therefore a successor should follow: "He predicted it would be completed some time in the future by a successor whom he called Metteya. No figure in Man's history has been more intensely awaited for a longer time than Metteya." 5

According to Hubbard the crucial year of Buddhism was 1950. After the period of 2500 years had gone Buddhism lost its influence in 1950. Hubbard links this understanding up with the fact that the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950. But not just the era of Tibetan Buddhism had come to an end. According to Hubbard the entire "Buddhist era of civilization" had finished: "In fact, so pervasive was his (Buddhas) work that later historians may well regard the 2,500-year period from 550 B.C. to 1950 A.D as essentially a Buddhist era of civilization. By 1950 this era had gone bankrupt and the world lay directionless, poised on the brink of a new age of barbarism". 6

Hubbard entered this "void" in 1950 with his book "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health", and a new Buddhist world epoch based on Scientology might start: "Ironically, in the same year, a book was published which, at last, solved the puzzles and difficulties which had plagued the Tibetan monks for centuries: Dianetics: The modern Science of Mental Health by L.Ron Hubbard," 7 and "It was into this void that Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L.Ron Hubbard was published, beginning a new era of world civilization based on Scientology philosophy. ... In 1950 through the work of L.Ron Hubbard that future had already arrived." 8

By a closer analysis of Hubbard's sources, however, 1950 as the decisive year becomes 1955 or 1956. Here, according to Hubbard, two additional crucial events took place: 1. The Buddhists celebrated in 1955 or 1956 the 2,500th anniversary of Buddha's death, and 2. The book "Hymn of Asia. An Eastern Poem" by Hubbard was created: "Now at last, in the 1046 lines of the poem Hymn of Asia, is the statement that this hope has been achieved - You can be free. This moving hymn was written for a Buddhist Convention in about 1955 or '56, coincident with the celebrations in the Buddhist world of the 2,500th year of the Buddhist era. ... Hymns of Asia concerns the fulfilment of a prophecy made 2,500 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha..." 9

So apparently "Hymn of Asia" was written with regard to a Buddhist convention in 1955/56 on Sri Lanka, which according to Hubbard was to celebrate the 2,500 years anniversary of Buddha's death. Scientologists, however, are in the dark as regards to the exact timing of this convention.

In the Scientology magazine Advance! issue 25, p.5 it says e.g. that the Buddhist convention took place in 1955: "In 1955 Buddhists worldwide celebrated the 2,500 years anniversary of the Buddhist era. These celebrations coincided with the earliest date predicted for the arrival of Metteya, which works out, more or less, to 1950. Dare we hope that Metteya is real and that he has answered the call? He has arrived."

In another place it says that the events took place in the winter of 1955/56: "Appropriately enough this work was composed in the winter of 1955-56 coincident with the world- wide Buddhist celebrations of the 2,500th anniversary of Buddha's birth." 10

The information given above show a characteristic Scientologic casual handling of years, which makes it difficult to verify Hubbard's dates. As an example of how this confusion affects the Scientologists themselves, I may quote a Scientologist, who in a letter in 1984 (to a member of the Dialogcenter), stated that "Hymn of Asia is a PR- book meant to be handed out at a Buddhist congress on Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1967, where the Buddhist monks had come together to await Metteya". The congress is described by the Scientologist as "a-last-chance convention". The meaning was, so the Scientologist says, that the "Hymn of Asia" should be passed on to the Buddhists, who subsequently were to be transferred to Scientology. This explanation is typical of the wild oral tradition inside Scientology.

It has to be stressed that even though the presentation is confusing and textually rests on slender foundations, Hubbard is sure that his "Hymn of Asia" is the completion of Buddha Gautama's prophecy about a new Buddha. This self- knowledge is also reflected in Hubbard's evaluation of "Hymn of Asia" as: "the only major work on Metteyya". 11

Advance! contains a long series of advertisements on "Hymn of Asia", which leaves no doubt about the importance of the book. The book is a historical "turningpoint" and ranks among "...such books as the Suttas (discourses) of Buddha, the Gospels and Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. ... Now with Hymn of Asia. An Eastern Poem, we have another book of the highest magnitude", 12 and "Now, with Hymn of Asia. An Eastern Poem we have the most important book concerning this prophecy since Gautama first announced it. A book which reveals the profound meaning of this prediction for our own age." 13

Maitreya Myths According to Scientology

The textual foundation of Hubbard's Maitreya identification rests on many more or less verifiable dates. E.g. Hubbard refers to the pali scripture Digha Nikaya: "In one passage in the Digha Nikaya wherein Buddha has been describing a world decline he states: "At that period, brethren, there will arise in the World an Exalted one named Metteya, Arahant, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds...". 14

And another excerpt from Digha Nikaya, referred to by Scientology, is "The Book of the Great Decease" 15: "Later, as Buddha prepared for his death, the following prophecy was among his last words: "And Ananda, suppressing his tears, said to the Blessed One: "Who shall teach us when thou art gone?"..."How shall we know him?": The Blessed One said: "The Buddha that will come after me will be known as Maitreya, which means "He whose name is kindness". 16

Moreover a Chinese scripture called "Mi-lo-Hsia-sheng Ching" is quoted. The text deals with the time of Maitreya's arrival: "The first period began with Sakyamuni Buddha and ended five hundred years after his death. ... The second period lasts...for another five hundred years... From the end of the second period and lasting for further two thousand years..." Then Maitreya shall arrive. 17 A calculation based on the information in the text shows that Maitreya will arrive 3,000 years after Buddha Gautama's death. I shall return to these calculations in a moment.

An unspecified Tibetan text is quoted, too, the quintessence being that "he (Maitreya?) shall be seen in the West" and "his hair" are like "flames about his noble head". 18 It is not possible to verify the contents of the text more closely because of insufficient source information.

In addition to that Hubbard used a quite different kind of source data, a travelogue "Altai-Himalaya" from 1930 by the Russian painter and archaeologist Nicholas Roerich (1874- 1947). Roerich spent about five years travelling around Asia, meeting many Buddhists, as well as visiting Buddhist temples. 19 Scientology has made up his version of the Metteya myth as consisting of five points: "Professor Roerich states in Altai-Himalaya, "It is told in the prophecies how the new era shall manifest itself." He states some of these prophecies as follows:

  1. First will begin an unprecedented war of all nations.
  2. Then shall the teachers appear and in all corners of the world shall be heard the true teaching.
  3. To this word of truth shall the people be drawn but those who are filled with darkness and ignorance shall set obstacles ... even those who by accident help the Teachings of (this spiritual king of the world) will receive in return a hundred fold.
  4. And one can already perceive unusual people. Already they (the teachers) open the gates of knowledge, and ripened fruits are falling from the trees. And finally:
  5. Those who accept Him (the Messiah) shall rejoice. And those who deny Him shall tremble ... And the warriors (teachers) shall march under the banner of Maitreya". 20

On the basis of the above-mentioned sources Hubbard pieces together a Maitreya prophecy also consisting of five items: "Thus we find these are the most salient details of the Metteya legend:

  1. He shall appear in the West.
  2. He shall appear at a time when religion shall be waning, when the world is imperiled and convulsed in turmoil.
  3. He will have golden hair or red hair.
  4. He will complete the work of Gautama Buddha and bring in a new golden age of man by making possible the attainment of spiritual freedom by all beings.
  5. Although the date of his advent is variously forecast, the nearest date places it 2,500 years after Gautama Buddha - or roughly 1950 (the date of Gautama's own life being somewhat of an estimate itself)". 21
The textual foundation of Hubbard's Maitreya prophecy is very slender. A lack of source data is especially prominent in item 1, 3 and 5 from the text above.

The Question of the Time of Maitreya's Arrival

Various reference books and works on Buddhism reveal a number of different opinions about Maitreya's arrival, e.g. "5,670 million years" 22 , "30,000 years" 23 and "5000 years" 24 . But as already mentioned Hubbard operates with a period of time of 2,500 years before Maitreya's arrival, a view, however, without any textual foundation in Hubbard's own sources on Maitreya. According to his own source material (i.e. the Chinese text quoted earlier) Maitreya was not supposed to arrive until 500 years more have gone! So the number of 2,500 years is another example of Hubbard's inconsistency. Either he should be true to his source material and thus claim Maitrey's arrival to take place 3,000 years after Buddha Guatama's death, or he must stick to the 2,500 years and thus otherwise try to prove his case.

He is, however consistent about the idea of 2,500 years, which is evident from these quotations: "How a 2500 year old prophecy has come true," and "He predicted that such a technology of the mind and spirit would be developed in the West by a successor some 2,500 years later". 25 There is no doubt about Hubbard's perception of 2,500 years as the period of time from Buddha Gautama's death to Buddha Maitreya's arrival.

The "Hymn of Asia"

Eventhough the book "Hymn of Asia" is set as the culmination of a quest through 2,500 years, and even though the book is said to aim at the Buddhists, still Scientology is doubtful about the precise target audience for the message of the book. The hesitation is manifested in various advertisements on "Hymn of Asia" in "Advance", the Scientology magazine.

In Advance! issue 33 under the headline: "Hymn of Asia - Who it's for" it says: "Hymn of Asia. An Eastern Poem is a very special book. It is for OT's 26 and Scientologists only. It was not intended for the general public. It contains insights and realities only someone advancing on the spiritual road to Clear 27 and OT could truly understand and appreciate. Thus Hymn of Asia was designed and released as a special and exclusive edition to a select readership. As an Advance! magazine reader you are privileged to own this advanced masterpiece of poetry and wisdom. ... Hymn of Asia is now only available through your nearest Advanced! Organisation. It will no longer be offered by any other Churches in recognition of its advanced nature."

In a later issue of Advance! (issue 42) however the book is suddenly put up for sale to "Non-OT-Scientologists". In addition there is a message to be quick about buying the book: "Non-OT Scientologists who want a copy of Hymn of Asia may also order from the AO - but don't delay!"

In another place (Advance! issue 41) Scientology makes no bone about its target. It says loud and clear that "Hymn of Asia" must be regarded as a "poetical message" to "the free thetan" 28: "Hymn of Asia. An Eastern Poem. Here is a poetic message directed toward the thetan as a free being. This vital work will give you a better understanding of Scientology and its heritage as well as provide an encompassing viewpoint of what Scientology is all about."

So the target of "Hymn of Asia" is ambiguous. But there can be no doubt that "Hymn of Asia" is an important manifestation of Scientology's esoteric reality meant originally "for OT-Scientologists only".

From this it follows that "Hymn of Asia" at any rate addresses itself to OT-Scientologists. In "Hymn of Asia" this target audience is referred to as Buddhists: "...You are Buddhists". All Scientology organisations, too, are presented by Hubbard as "temples", which must denote Buddhist temples:

"Everywhere you are
I can be adressed
But in our temples best
Address me and you address
Lord Buddha.
Address Lord Buddha
And you then address
Metteyya."
So a clear identification is manifested in "Hymn of Asia" between Buddhists and Scientologists.

Scientology's Concept of Reality

On the face of it, however, there is no clear Maitreya identifications in the "Hymn of Asia" In order to understand the language structure of "Hymn of Asia", one should be acquainted with the concept of reality in Scientology. Time and again the text mentions "agreement ", e.g.: "Am I white? Do I have Golden hair? Is that what you agree?", "...Agree I am here". And "I speak then, so you can agree."

The expression "agreement" is the key word in Scientology's concept of reality, which in brief is "what we can agree upon is real". So when Hubbard "plays on" the expression in the text above, it is not because his presentation reveals uncertainty, but because the idea behind the statements forms the entire basis of Scientology's concept of what is and what is not reality. If you can agree on Hubbard's statements so the statements are true. Therefore the rhetorical question.

Ambiguity is a salient feature in Hubbard's relationship to Maitreya. He refers to Maitreya in the third person, but at the same time identifies himself with Maitreya in the first person. The same ambiguity may be found among several spiritual masters as e.g. the occult master Aleister Crowley, referring to himself in the third as well as the first person. 29: Here we are dealing with a process of identification, where the master in question assumes an identification proportional to the recognition from his disciples. In "Hymn of Asia" it says e.g.:

"I compliment you all
for him
whom I have met
and who I am"
And this recognition is made possible:
"With your working and your faith"

Without a doubt "the concept of agreement" is here making itself felt. The Maitreya identification may only succeed if the disciples agree with Hubbard that he is Maitreya, however, at the same time he himself must also convince them that he is Maitreya!

Maitreya Shall Appear in the West

As shown in the presentation on the previous pages, Hubbard claims that Maitreya shall be born in the West, and Hubbard claims, too, that the book about the fulfilment of the Maitreyan prophecy shall be composed in the West. The last part is "a must" because, according to Hubbard, "disorder/confusion" has prevailed in the East since Vaishakha 2453":

"These lessons
were composed
in the Western world.
This had to be so
because of the
disorders in the
East since
Vaishakha 2453* (Buddhist date for February 1910) 30
Even your own prophesies
centuries old
said I would appear
In the Western world.
I appeared."

It also becomes clear what Hubbard imagine when talking about Maitreya's arrival. Subsequently a new "Golden Age" will arise, where the Scientologists are the spiritual leaders of the Earth:

"We enter into a
Golden Age.
We are Golden Men.
We are the new Men
The new spiritual
leaders of Earth."
A new great "brotherhood" between East and West will arise:
"We now can build
The Eastern
and the Western worlds
into one great
Brotherhood of Man"
A brotherhood made up of Buddhas:
"...Such Buddhas
as the world has
never seen." 31

OT VIII and Maitreya prophecy

In some material, most probably genuine OT VIII material, which has come into my possession, the following relates to Maitreya(p.3): "As you know, Siddhartha Gautama never claimed to be anything more than a man. Having caught on to this operation, he postulated his own return as Metteyya, part of which prophecy will have been fulfilled upon the passing of L.Ron Hubbard." The text is a typical manifestation of the special language of Scientology. The sentence "will have been fulfilled upon the passing of Hubbard" is written in the future pluperfect and is a clear expression that the Maitreya prophecy will be fulfilled with Hubbard's death. At the same time a little cautiousness can be traced in the concept with his use of "part of". However, Hubbbard sees himself as an important part of the fulfilment of the Maitreya prophecy.

There can thus be no doubt as to Hubbards identification of himself as Maitreya. And his followers agree with this understanding. The front-page illustration of Advance!, issue 25 (commented on p.5) is important in this respect: "The cover of this issue of Advance! vividly express this fact. It shows Metteya standing at the end of a 2,500 year bridge. Buddha can be seen at the other end. ... Metteya has arrived, on schedule. Through him Man now has a complete technology. ... Behold Metteya and the truth!"

The Maitreya-understanding of Scientology - summarized:

  1. There is a clearcut conflict between the source-material which Hubbard refers to and his interpretation of the same material.
  2. The volume "Hymn of Asia" is understood by Scientology as "the only major work on Metteya" and as the crown of the human search during 2500 years.
  3. "Hymn of Asia" is seen as part of Hubbards esoteric illumination of his OT disciples.
  4. "Hymn of Asia" leaves no doubt about Hubbards self- understanding which implies that:
    1. Hubbard is Maitreya, a "confession" based on "agreement".
    2. OT scientologists are Buddhas
    3. Scientology's "orgs", i.e. their organisational centers are buddhist temples.
    4. Scientology represent the New Golden Age.

Millions of people all over the world are being impressed by this propaganda, hundreds of thousands are recruited for this "religion", and are changed into obedient servants of the Scientology organisation. Caricaturing both the Christian and the Buddhist traditions in ways which may well cause strong reactions against those religions, Scientology must be seen and understood as a serious threat to both, unless Scientology's activities are revealed for the general public and thereby made inactive.

Notes

  1. Rajneesh Times vol.2, no.2, 1989
  2. "Fornyelsen af menneskehedens civilisation i Maitreyas tidsalder" 1990 by Asger Lorentsen
  3. About Scientology a lot has been written since its beginning in 1950. The newest and best are the following: Russell Miller's "The Barefaced Messiah", 1987. Bent Corydon and L.Ron Hubbard Jr. "Messiah or Madman?", 1987. I just finished a master-study for the University of Århus called "The religious roots of Scientology", 1990. In this study a detailed examination and description of Hubbard's very special understanding of Buddhism is found.
  4. Advance! issue 25, p.5
  5. Advance! issue 26, p.2 and "Hymn of Asia"1974, introduction, IV
  6. Advance! issue 95, p.11
  7. Advance! issue 62, p.14
  8. Advance! issue 95, p.11
  9. "Hymn of Asia" introduction, I.
  10. Advance! issue 31, p.5
  11. Advance! issue 31, p.5
  12. Advance! issue 26
  13. Advance! issue 31
  14. Hymn of Asia" 1974, introduction IV. The passage corresponds with "Cakkavitti-Sihanada Sutta", which is part of "Digha Nikaya".
  15. Hubbard sometimes refers to the whole text "Digha Nikaya", and sometimes to a part of this text. Probably "The Book of the great Decease" refers to the pali-term "Nibbana Sutta".
  16. "Hymn of Asia", introduction, IV.
  17. "Hymn of Asia", introduction, IV.
  18. "Hymn of Asia", introduction, IV.
  19. It is an open question how reliable Roerich is. The book "Altai Himalaya" is a diary without footnotes and verifications. The book simply refers what he has been told by the local people and what he has personally experienced. The book is reliable if Roerich is reliable.
  20. "Hymn of Asia", introduction, V
  21. "Hymn of Asia", introduction, V
  22. Encyclopedia Britannica, vol.14, p.652
  23. "Østens Religøse Liv" 1922, by K.L. Reichelt, p.46
  24. "Buddhist Scriptures" 1984, by Edward Conze, p.237
  25. Advance! issue 25, frontpage p.4
  26. OT i.e. Operating Thetan. According to Scientology a person is a soul and has a body. OT is - with a few words - a functioning soul or operating thetan, liberated from the limitations of the body. As such the thetan can excercise supernatural powers, the so-called siddhis. Scientology operates with 8 OT levels (a sort of astanga-yoga). OT 8 consequently is the highest stage of human being. Instructions for achieving the different levels are, however, esoteric and kept totally secret. Some ex- scientologists have been able to communicate the major tendencies of this occult system.
  27. Clear is below the OT levels and is the end of the Dianetic part of Scientology. Hubbard compares Clear with Bodhi! In his "The Technical Bulletins of Dianetics and Scientology" vol.III, 1957-59, p.217 he writes: "The state of Bodhi is evidently our "Clear". Later he changes his mind and about 1968 he declares that bodhi corresponds to a lower level than Clear ("The Phoenix Lectures" 1969, p.18).
  28. As mentioned already thetan is the special term within Scientology for soul or spirit. The term is taken from the Greek letter theta.
  29. See fx. "The Book of Thoth" by The Master Therion (Aleister Crowley), 1988 (cop.1944).
  30. Why Hubbard points especially to Vaishakha 2453 cannot be explained. It is also strange that Hubbard maintains that 2453 corresponds to February 1910. One could get the idea that 1910 points to the birth of Hubbard, but that in fact happened in 1911 on the 13th of March.
  31. More about "Hymn of Asia" see "Scientology - Magie des 20.Jahrhunderts" 1982, by Friedrich W. Haack, p.290ff.

 


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