In most cases, people are more susceptible to the influence of cults under the right conditions. Based on research, the majority of individuals are more vulnerable both when they have stress, no family relationship, when they are poor, and when they are weak emotionally (Davis, 2019). In order to gain followers, the cult uses various techniques to attract and retain their members. Some of the typical techniques used by cults include;
Love-bombing is in one way or the other self-explanatory. When a cult identifies an emotionally vulnerable and stressed target, they tend to approach that individual with a lot of validation, love, and flattery (Davis, 2019). The do anything to make the target feel exceptional and exceptional. Besides, they go ahead to fake their emotions to prove to you that you have things in common. This makes it easy to lure the target into the cultic system.
After they have convinced the recruit with many fulfilling promises, they now focus on isolating the individual. Often, the process of isolation takes the form of a ‘Retreat,’ where the freshly recruited individual is bombarded with cultic philosophies. The recruit is not only isolated from family and friends, but they also isolate them from external information (Davis, 2019). TV, the internet, books, and newspapers are reprimanded, making sure that the only reality the recruit is experiencing is that which is presented by the cult.
After they have love-bombed and isolate the recruit, the other step is to make sure that they hang on to the recruit (Davis, 2019). There are numerous techniques which they may use to achieve this, but the usually subject the individuals to love and terror. Through keeping its members off balance using the two emotions, cults have been able to increase the number of followers.
This is a faith that was established in India by Siddhartha Gautama about 2500 years ago. Buddhism is considered one of the world’s prime faiths, with a population of 480 million believers (Fogelin, 2015). The practices of this religion are most popular in Southeast and East Asia, but its influence is slowly invading the West. Mostly, the theologies and ideologies of the Buddhist overlap with the faiths and beliefs of other religions.
In 483 B.C, when Gautama died, his cliques began a spiritual movement. The teachings of Buddha became the base of what would evolve into Buddhism, Ashoka the Great; an Indian Emperor passed a law which made Buddhism a state religion in India. This led to the construction of Buddhist monasteries in the 3rd Century, and Buddhist mission work was encouraged (Fogelin, 2015). Over the subsequent years, the religion of Buddhism began to grow beyond India. The ideologies and beliefs of Buddhism became so diverse, making different people have different interpretations of them. There are three types of Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, which is dominant in Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Cambodia. Second is Tibetan Buddhism, which is prevalent in; North India, Nepal, Russia, Mongolia, and Bhutan. Lastly is Mahayana Buddhism, which is famous in; Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam (Fogelin, 2015).
Love-bombing in Buddhism
Buddhism entails various teachings of love, and this is one of the aspects that have enabled it to have a large number of followers. According to Buddhism, just like the way blood sustains the heart by flowing through it, so does love sustain divine liberty (Fronsdal, 2018). This connection is so strong that Buddhists believe that the path to freedom may be equally denoted to as the belief of affection. Thus Buddhism teaches that love is the path to complete spiritual liberation. Additionally, Buddhists are taught how to convey love to all the phases of existence and to all the persons they come across (Fronsdal, 2018). By showing the acts of love to others, vulnerable people may be easily swayed into joining Buddhism.
Buddhism encourages its followers to isolate themselves from the ordinary world. Their common retreat center is at the Shambhala Mountain Center, and all those who go there have encountered some form of isolation (Rose, 2005). In this process of isolation, the followers seek a meditation experience. Most of the people go into the mountain without actual knowledge of the meditation or the retreat practices.
Retreats, therefore, combine isolation and the process of mediation, where one must begin to discover their mind. What most people realize is that in the meditation retreat, the mind slows, the sense of perception opens, and people find themselves more connected to their life (Rose, 2005). As a result, one experiences solitude genuinely and profoundly.
Buddhism uses influence to keep control of its believers, both new and old ones. The religion uses scriptures with basic rules that were written by the founder. He makes people believe that they have to adhere to the Eight-Fold Path to attain enlightenment (Pathak, 2017). These steps include speech, practice, mindfulness, thoughts, meditation, and views. Hence, Buddhists follow this path to achieve enlightenment. As a final point, the other rule is not to consume toxicants; this forbids them from taking drugs that might intoxicate their minds. This makes them adhere to all the Buddhism religion.
Toxic Effects of Cults
Most cult members are usually brainwashed to believe and think in a particular way. The way the walk, dress, and talk is usually stage-managed by these cultic leaders. These followers end up giving up their families, ways of life, and even their property to follow such cultic religions (Greiser, 2019). The intoxication of the mind with false beliefs turns members into puppets of the cult. The other effect of the cult is that some cults result in the death of members, their families, or people they associate closely with them. Members of destructive cults use their religion to justify the killing of people. One of the significant characteristics of destructive cults is money-making.
Treating Cult Survivors
Cult survivors report various symptoms resulting from the aftermath of cultic experiences. Some of the symptoms include; anxiety, depression, nightmares, self-conviction, nightmares, humiliation, anger, shame, and other stressing emotions (Ross, 2017). One approach to help cult victims recover is educating the victim on cult experiences and offering the survivors strategies to deal with emotional stress. This treatment may last up to one year after the person leaves the cult. The other effective treatment method is Thought Field Therapy (Ross, 2017). This form of treatment can eliminate the trauma indications within minutes.
Compared to other existing cults like destructive or doomsday cults, Buddhism is not that severe. Other than not believing in God, Buddhism contains teachings that are similar to Christian or Islam. Buddhism develops mindfulness, insight, wisdom, ethics, and insight meditation. Similarly, religion explores aspects of relative and ultimate truths. Lastly, religion embraces the importance of love, joy, and equality in all its teaching.
Nevertheless, people need to understand that the issue of cultism is real. Throughout its existence, it has brought more harm than good within the society, causing loss of lives, neglecting families, and even students quit school because of cultic brainwashing. As a final point, the government, together with religious leaders, must fight cultic religion in order to save the lives of many people who are victims of these societies.
- Davis, M. (2019, September 12). 4 psychological techniques cults use to recruit members. Retrieved from https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/four-cult-recruitment-techniques.
- Fronsdal, G. (2018). The Buddha’s Teachings on Love. Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/the-buddhas-teachings-on-love/.
- Greiser, M. M. (2019). Understanding cult membership: beyond “Drinking the Kool-Aid” (Doctoral dissertation).
- Pathak, S. J. (2017). Impact of Buddhism on Sri Lanka: The Indian Influence. In Intercultural Re Fogelin, L. (2015). An archaeological history of Indian Buddhism. Oxford Handbooks.lations and Ethnic Conflict in Asia (pp. 46-67). IGI Global.
- Rose, T. (2005). The Power of Solitude. Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://tricycle.org/magazine/power-solitude/.
- Ross, C. (2017). Treatment strategies for programming and ritual abuse. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 18(3), 454-464.