Reformed Neo Buddhism is religion that was practiced by Pierce Hawthorne and his mother. It mixes science fiction oriented themes and a few orthodox traditions into one belief system. Although his friends in the study group warned him that it was a cult, Pierce remained a devout follower of its teachings. He and his mother both obtained the rank of a Level Five Laser Lotus before they passed away. It is first mentioned in the Season One episode "Comparative Religion" and then explained in more detail in "The Science of Illusion". It is further explored in the Season Two episode "The Psychology of Letting Go".
In the study group's first year at Greendale, Shirley threw a party before Winter break. Mindful of the other members religious beliefs, she strove to make the festivities all inclusive and welcoming of all faiths. Shirley's patience with the other religions was tested when Pierce revealed himself to be a member of the " Reformed Neo Buddhism". While the other members brought items associated with their respective religions, Pierce brought a small Buddha statue which Britta pointed out was actually a bong . After Pierce described a bit of his religions tenets, Britta criticized his faith as being nothing more than a cult. Pierce refused to listen and when an argument broke out amongst the group he simply blew into the Buddha bing he brought ("Comparative Religion").
A few months later Pierce arrived at a study group meeting and made a big deal about a special diet he was on in order to reach the next "Laser Lotus" level of his religion. He told the group if he reached level six he'd get to wear soecial robes, have the power to read minds and also to see the color "blurple". Jeff got Abed to grab a Wizard's robe from the theater department and gave it to Pierce letting him belive it was a robe his religious brethren sent him. Pierce eagerly put it on unaware of how ridiculous he looked. To further the prank, Jeff got him a cookie wand which made him look like a cereal mascot. Pierce not only continued to wear the robe but also kept trying to use his new powers. Pierce eventually admitted he knew that he wasn't really a level six laser lotus but kept up the act so that everyone would think he was cool ("The Science of Illusion").
In the study group's second year at Greendale, Pierce's mom passed away. Pierce took it in stride much to the surprise of his friends and explained to them the Reformed Neo Buddahism stance on death. Pierce believed that his mother's corporeal form was vaporized and her essence was placed inside a container called an "Energon pod". He brought the pod with him to school and showed it to his friends who tried to be accepting of his beliefs. At the time Jeff was unwilling to accept his own mortality and didn't feel like coddling Pierce. To prove his religion was a sham, Jeff drove Pierce to the mourge to see his mother's unvaporized corpse. Along the way, Pierce played a CD his mother made for him that had a message which changed Jeff's mind. It made him realize that despite how ridiculous Pierce's religion was it helped him cope with his mom's death ("The Psychology of Letting Go").
Not long after the study group graduated, Pierce died from dehydration after an exhausting effort to fill several Liquid nitrogen cooled cylinders. Ironically he intended the dewars and its contents to be bestowed to his friends upon his death. In keeping with his beliefs, a special Laser Lotus ceremony was held in his honor. The other study group members attended and wore the ceremonial teal garb. Afterwards they went back to the study room with Pierce's energon pod which they placed on the part of the table he sat. Troy accidentally unscrewed the top of the pod and released some of the "vapors" inside. As part of Pierce's last wishes, the group participated in a polygraph test where at the end they received the cylinders along with personal bequeathals from Pierce ("Cooperative Polygraphy").
Being indoctrinated into the religion requires a "re-birthing" ceremony where the inductee is submerged in water. The members are divided into separate communities called "hives". A promotion system is used to rank each member with numbers corresponding to a level they have attained so far. A ceremony is held annually where prospective members can be promoted to the next level. Those members are required to fast and detoxify before the ceremony. According to Pierce, a Level Six Laser Lotus gains special powers after being promoted including immunity to germs, heightened psychic ability, and improved night vision. Followers wear formal attire consisting of a teal Nehru jacket and matching pants. Members with a level over five are given special robes to wear. The followers await the return of Buddha and believe that when he reappears people will turn into a shimmering ocean of knowledge that tastes like Hawaiian Punch.
Life after corporeal deathEditWhen Pierce's mother dies, he explains to the study group his religion's process of death/rebirth through a chart:
- The first step is becoming a Level 5 Laser Lotus.
- The corporeal body dies.
- It is vaporized in the Temple of Renewal.
- The vapors are stored in an Energon pod.
- Once the technology catches up, the vapors will be restored to human form to live again.
Pierce elaborates that energon cultivated by super bees in a Buddhist meteor crator was used to power the Temple of Renewel which vaporized his mothers remains.
- The religion can be seen as a satire of the popular and similarly sci-fi oriented religion The Church of Scientology founded by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.
- Energon is a reference to the energy/fuel used by The Transformers.
- The belief that the return of Buddha results in humans turning into liquid form is a possible reference to "The End of Evangelion", an alternate ending to the anime series "Neon Genesis Evangelion". In the movie, humanity is returned to the Primordial soup and their souls are merged into one consummate being.