DarkHorse Ministries

Buddha's Hernia

In the Fall of 1996, I attended a Buddhist silent meditation weekend with a local group of Chinese Buddhists. I rode up with a psychotherapist, who provided counseling and mentorship to my current 12-step sponsor. I had never met this therapist or his wife and knew nothing about them. After arriving, He confided with me, that even if there were no God, people would invent one anyway. I thought: 'Oh great, a therapist who doesn't believe in God, and fancies himself wiser than everyone else!' After I shared my growing interest in several ancient spiritual paths, he said, "If you'll stop drilling fifty different 20-foot holes to God, and drill just one 50 feet deep, maybe you'll find what you need." Frank also had a cynical attitude toward even the traditional Buddhist idea of achieving a state of enlightenment.

We all shared dinner and stopped talking at 8 pm on Friday. For the rest of the trip, we alternated multiple half-hour sitting meditations in the chapel, with one outdoor walking meditation. I stood alone beneath the cool, clear, midnight stars and experienced them without the usual sense of infinite distance, but rather as if I knew them with a wondrous sort of closeness. I considered the huge possibility of mortal beings existing out there and was moved to ask: "Do they know what love is?" Immediately a small teardrop formed, and I felt "Yes" from this place of deep connectedness. I simply could not imagine how it would be possible for them to not know love."

By Saturday afternoon, the effect of all the silence on my psyche was such that I knew that I was about to emotionally explode. I stood up from sitting meditation and quickly left the building. I ran out into the field as far as I could before my pain blasted out of me. I spontaneously screamed as loud as I recall ever having done. I was struck by a number of waves of tremendously intense grief. After it completely cleared, I experienced an indescribable peace.

When I arrived back at the chapel entrance, Frank's wife said, "Oh you poor baby!" and she embraced me. Frank them came out to check on me. So, I broke my silence and told him that I was okay. Someone then told me that the head Chinese monk wanted to speak to me. I went to him and he asked why I was so upset. I explained that I had come from an extremely sick and abusive alcoholic family. However, he had no cultural frame of reference with which to understand what I was talking about. He just looked sad and perplexed.

On the ride home, I told Frank that I had struck paydirt, solid gold. When I later began to meditate at home, I felt my lower left abdomen tense up. Not long after, I realized that the grief had been so intense that it had torn my lower intestinal wall. My emotional pain was so great that it had actually caused a hernia!