in Monasticism, Self-Realization Fellowship

I Was A Monk

For 14 years, I lived in the ashrams of a Worldwide Eastern-Religious organization, Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order. Everyday, I practiced silent meditation an average of 4 hours, studied holy scriptures, and followed the ancient traditions of yoga mysticism. I’d never imagined I’d be, but here I was, a Western kid, raised Catholic, a yogi monk!

Br. Scott, in the yellow habit "smock" of Self-Realization Fellowship monk

Br. Scott, in the yellow habit “smock” of Self-Realization Fellowship monk

I was known at the time as Brahmachari Scott and was ordained in the ancient Order of Swamis of India — yellow smocked, celibate, $40 monthly allowance in my pocket and determined to find God, Self, Enlightenment. For reasons that are as complicated as life gets, I realized 14 years later that I really didn’t belong in the monastery (the abbreviated story’s here if you’re interested). That wasn’t the end, though. In the most important ways, my story only started to unfold (or unravel) when I fell back into the world.

To say that I’d given up the purpose why I became a monk in the first place would be false. My quest for knowledge and truth continued, out in the world, in my business, in my relationships with self, others, and the universe. I’m highly skeptical of religious authorities claiming they have or can give us enlightenment, truth, and supernatural experiences. Perhaps, you also may consider that science and the scientific method are the most reliable way of understanding reality. Not perfect, but most reliable. 

I am, today, a nonbeliever. I don’t believe a god exists, but I admit I don’t know this as a fact. But there’s just no convincing evidence, and I’m looking. Gradually I’ve been coming to terms accepting that I was a monk, a believer in the supernatural. I don’t regret my past choices.  But, rarely, if ever, have I talked about my past as a monk or revealed that I turned out a nonbeliever. Perhaps, my silence has been from fear of being judged, shamed, or shunned by friends, family, and coworkers.

One of my favorite quotes is from the 1978 movie, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Gillenormand confesses, “I’ve been a fool”. Compassionately, Jean Valjean responds, “Oh sir, we’re all fools for most of our lives. It’s unavoidable”. That brings us to why I am talking with you now.

Why this blog?

Skeptic Meditations is about climbing over walls and outsmarting gods. It’s about being OK being a fool, about authenticity and honesty, about challenging belief in the supernatural and questioning religious authorities. Ultimately, this blog is about exploring the world — within and without — using hearty reason and the most reliable methods to understand reality — science and critical thinking.

By reading this blog’s weekly posts, you will find provocative views, reviews, humor, and commentary exploring the extraordinary claims of religious mystics, yogi-meditators, and New Age gurus and their religious followers.

This site is where I’ll collect resources for healthy, skeptical examination of supernatural beliefs and claims of the mystical. What do you think? I encourage you to share your comments in this blog and contribute to this conversation.[comment policy

Tell me what you think, or what you’d like to see in this blog by adding your comment below, by sending me an email, or sign up to receive new posts via RSS feed or by email.

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  1. I think your analysis is very kind about the effects of meditation. It can certainly relax someone just as an afternoon swim can, or nice vacation or quiet drink with friends. But honestly healthy living and certainly exercise are MUCH better for a person both physically and mentally. Comparing an hour of honest to goodness cardio vascular exercise to three hours of meditation is really no comparison. Exercise calms the mind and gives you the personal cardio vascular health to be alert, calm and focused all day. We both have friends who still practice and believe in meditation, so I appreciate your kind approach to the subject, but honestly the beneficial effects of meditation are over stated. And unfortunately over stated by some for a purpose.

  2. Mike,
    Thanks for your comments on my post Meditation Not Better than Drugs or Exercise, Study Finds. I agree with you great relaxation comes in many forms or activities. My personal favorite is mountain biking. It’s become my new meditation. When I ride my bike my mind is free, clear, and present. Riding my mountain bike is my “meditation” with adrenaline. Peace and speed all rolled into one. God-speed not necessary. I liked your point that the physical and mental effects of your swims or drink with friends can last hours even days after.

    Having said the above, I do see value in meditation. I just don’t find any scientific or personal evidence that meditation is more effective than other easier to perform activities. Contrary to what the gurus or hyped-up media may put into their headlines to sell product.

    The value of meditation probably is from training or discipling mind and body. But, again, we see similar benefits from disciplined training in sports, martial arts, or mastering video games.

    My beef is against popular belief and yogi new-agers who want us to buy their magical meditation claims. When you strip out the god or supernatural claims, meditation is a hard sell.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting in my blog. Scott