Friday, June 23, 2006

More posts on Wilber, Developmentalism, and Non-dualism

Various recent posts I've made on other sites re non-dualism, mostly in dialog with others:


“...however, like Dzogchen recognition and abidance in rigpa, this doesn't need to exclude other practices that might assist it, and one's wellbeing in general. I mean if it is truly nondual then it can be "not-two" with any activity, right?”

Wrong. The essence of non-dual practice is inactivity, or really, “not doing”. This is why teachers like Papaji are against ALL forms of practice. His recommendation is to do nothing, literally, not even think a thought. Of course, he doesn't consider self-enquiry to be an activity, so that implies how different self-enquiry is from anything else one might “do”. The point is that self-enquiry can't be prepared for or approached by any other means. It's a stepping out of the whole world of ego-activity, even if at first it merely seems to be another activity one “does”. With practice, it becomes clearer, however, that this is simply not the case. But you are right that enquiry can be practiced in the midst of any activity, and is not incompatible with anything. It just isn't compatible with anything either, meaning it doesn't “interface” with any other activity, except perhaps at the level of the witness.

Now of course its true that some practices can be said to assist enquiry. A good diet, basic health practices, etc., but on the other hand none are really necessary. People have become realized with lousy diets and bad health. The point is that such practices are best left to nature. In other words, don't think you have to do ANY of those things in order to be realized, just practice enquiry and surrender. The thing is, if you practice enquiry and surrender, you will find yourself naturally moved to do all kinds of sensible and appropriate things that assist your practice of enquiry. But that's exactly the point, you don't “do” those things, the enquiry moves you to do them spontaneously. A natural integrity begins to come over you, a natural functionality, and you start doing appropriate things without thinking about it, without making systems about it, without some agenda in mind. In the absence of enquiry, all those things have to be organized into a system, an institution, a “tradition”, which is really a way of making the secondary features of true practice the primary activity of religion, and relegating what is at the core to the periphery, even eliminating it altogether. So you end up with all kinds of rules for the things you would naturally do if you practiced simple enquiry, and none of the enquiry. In fact, you usually end up with all kinds of things on your list of practices that you never would have done if you'd actually been practicing enquiry, but somehow the mind began to imagine that these thngs would “help”. Most such help is actually detrimental, and so spiritual traditions are filled with rules and practices that are actually detrimental to the core approach that would have made the way true.

“Perhaps a better analogy than the bungy cord is that of a vessel, a boat. If we want to ride the ocean of life, we need a seaworthy vessel. Even if we realize that we aren't ultimately the boat it will still sink if it has leaks, so at the very least relative world practices provide one with a stronger bodymind vessel. A healthier "me." We are both the ocean and the boat; absolute and relative.”

No, we are not both. We are the ocean. There is no boat. The body-mind is not a boat, it's just a wave in the ocean, not in the least bit apart from it. There is no “wave” as an entity, there is just the ocean in motion, which creates the illusion of a separate wave. But there is no point at which the wave ever becomes a thing, an vessel floating on the ocean that we could call a “boat”. The idea that we need a boat to get “there”, is the primary illusion to be overcome. And that is exactly the point. The building of better boats actually increases one's deluded idea that one is a boat, that one needs a boat, and that we have to study all the details of boat-building in order to reach the other side of the ocean. In fact, we need to stop dreaming that we are boats, realize that we are waves of ocean, completely inseparable from the ocean, and that there is no other side to the ocean to get to. All we are trying to “get to” is our real nature, and the boat-illusion is actually the primary obstruction to seeing our real nature, which is a wave of ocean. So there is no “relative” world. The relative world that thinks we are boats on the ocean is simply a fantasy world. The wave is not “relative” to the ocean, it is the ocean. And the boat is not the ocean, it doesn't even exist. There is no boat, only an ocean in motion.

“Furthermore, leaks are distracting to say the least; following Maslow's basic hierarchy of needs, the higher needs don't become relevant until the lower needs are adequately met, or least come to terms with. For example, if you're hungry you generally don't care about self-actualization; if you don't have a roof over your head--or more accurately, if you deal with basic survival issues and the accompanying sense of fear--then self-transcendence is meaningless.”

I don't consider non-dualism, or self-enquiry, to be a higher practice, or the fulfillment of a higher need. To do so would be to place it in opposition to lower practices and lower needs. This is part of Wilber's error. Non-dualism is a fundamental need, not to be confused with a higher need. It's simply the need we all have for reality. It's applicable to everyone, regardless of whether they are at a “higher” or “lower” level. By placing non-dualism at the apex of his system, he's made it into an elitist phenomena only for the “higher types”. Adi Da makes the same error. And he's also made it into something other than non-dualism. He seems not to understand the relationship non-dualism has to the hierarchies of life. It isn't in the hierarchy, it isn't a part of that game. It's the reality in which hierarchy arises. It's the reality in which the dream arises. So it plays no favorites within the dream, and it isn't attainable by rising through the hierarchies of the dream. Again, it's simply reality, what is, rather than what the mind thinks and perceives.

Non-dualism isn't in conflict with conditional needs. It just isn't one of them, and it doesn't respond to them specifically. It treats them the same way the body treats digestion. You don't spend time thinking about it, it just happens in a fairly orderly, automatic way. As Nisargadatta says, he doesn't really pay any attention to all his worldly interactions, even though to others it seems that he's sharp as a tack and on top of it all. In his view, he's hardly aware of all that, the same way we aren't aware of our digestion for the most part.

The kind of problem you are talking about, I think arises when people have misconceptions about non-dualism, and as Wilber or Da does, tries to put it on the top of a hierarchical pyramid, which only serves those who think of themselves as top-of-the-pyramid types. It confuses everyone, including themselves, and makes nothing but problems. The solution is simple, but most of these types don't want to take it because it means giving up their privileges and status. And ordinary people are confused because they think they have to someone “balance” their higher and lower needs, The primary need we all have is for reality. Everything else is secondary. You can't play a balancing act with primary needs. Oxygen, for example, is a primary bodily need. Food is secondary. You can't balance your need for oxygen, it's a fundamental need that can't be compromised. You can go without food for days and weeks, but you need oxygen every minute. You can balance your need for food with your need for exercise, say, but you can't balance your need for oxygen with anything else.

“I tend to agree with Gurdjieff when he said that freedom is not de-programming, but being free to choose what program one is running. To be completely de-programmed is not only a myth, imo, but not necessary or desirable (if I may use that word in a positive sense ).”

I don't think deprogramming has anything to do with it. It's about transcendence. Which to be honest isn't something I think Gurdjieff knew much about. I agree that one can't be fully deprogrammed, but one can transcend all samskaras, which is a bit different.

“As I see it, nonduality and integralism aren't antithetical. Just as "striving" and "abiding" (or resting in Self) aren't contradictory, because striving is the movement of the Self in time and space.”

The Self doesn't move through time and space. The Self doesn't exist in time and space. Time and space exist in the Self. These kinds of misunderstandings lead to all kinds of problems. The one who strives in time and space is not the Self. That's the ego, the false sense of being a separate self. That whole perspective is an illusion that can never be made real. It doesn't mean that reality sees illusion in opposition to itself. Nor does it mean that the needs of the body are illusory. But the needs of the ego are. I don't really know what “integralism” means, but I gather it means regaining the integrity for the body-mind. This is a project that can never be accomplished by trying to integrate all one's parts and pieces. Real integrity comes from reality itself, from being real, which makes one honest and strong in all the most basic ways. Non-dualism is the nature of reality, and if the integral movement bases itself in non-dualism, then it will achieve integrity. But if it bases itself in a dualistic striving for integrity, for wholeness, it won't ever get there. I think there are problems with Wilber's approach that he is blind to, because he doesn't want to give up the things which the dualistic approach seem to offer him. Of course, that's true of all of us in our own way.


I think you bring up a lot of good questions.

1) I don't think many teachers do exhibit clear non-dual realizaiton. The only living ones I've come across right now are Lakshmana Swami and Muthra Sri Sarada. There are probably more of them, I just don't know of any. There are of course quite a few others who have left books and instructions on non-dualism behind, such as Ramana and Niz.

2) I think the best non-dual teachers really only teach about non-dualism. They don't seem to bother with developmental teachings. And likewise, I think it may be true that the best developmental teachers only teach that, and don't try to mix non-dualism in with it. Ramana and Niz and their like don't seem to bother teaching developmental processes. It's not that they are opposed to it at all, it's just not something they feel they need to discuss. Why should they? They are two entirely different approaches. I think WIlber and Da get into big problems by trying to mix the two. It gets heavily into that "have your cake and eat it" mentality that produces spiritual psychosis. I think the problems WIlber tries to address in Da - what he sees as highly developed spiritual capacity along with poorly developed human capacities, is actually not that at all - its just what happens when you try to mix developmentalism with non-dualism. THe two simply do not mix, and they produce a psychosis when anyone tries. Da's psychosis is a product of that attempt to mix the two, to have one's cake and eat it. And Wilber is actually experiencing problems of his own, to a much lesser degree, because he is trying to mix the two also. It seems to produce a kind of megalomania of developmentalism, blocking both, actually.

I think those teachers who try to teach about all aspects of life are heading for trouble, since illusion and reality simply don't mix. If one is going to teach the ego how to be the ego, it's best to do that right. If you want to learn how to transcend egoity, you do something entirely different. And that's as it should be.

3) I think people who practice enquiry tend to become more sane and balanced in their lives, and this in turn helps them practice enquiry with greater strength and clarity. There's no need to try to become more sane and balanced to help prepare for enquiry, it will happen naturally if you simply practice enquiry. The approach is to simply be free, and this allows a natural development of the person without trying to direct it or "integrate" it in some self-conscious way.

4) This is a contradiction. Why would anyone who is inquiring into the non-dual eschew other development? They may not put much attention on personal development, but one will develop in any case. Life is a pattern of growth, it can't be stopped unless one obstructs it. Enquiry isn't a way of eschewing development, its a way of eschewing seeking, including seeking for development. But even if one doesn't seek development, it occurs naturally, and actually more sanely and simply than it might otherwise appear.

5) I think it does make sense to attend to the core primarily, and let the periphery develop naturally in tandem with the core work. I wouldn't say the core is all that matters, but it's what makes the rest work out. If the core is healthy, it will bring the rest of the being into a state of health. If the core isn't healthy, no amount of developmental work will do any good.

As for the approach to non-dualism, I think the best way of describing it is not as the pinnacle, or the goal, but as the foundation, the base, the core, of any developmental path. It certainly is true that development proceeds best, I think, from a non-dual base. It's just that such a system would have no "plan", other than to practice the non-dual base, and let life naturally build from there. You would find out in due course what developments will occur, and which are necessary and which are not. My guess is that very little is actually necessary, but much will simply happen in due course anyway. All kinds of things will likely arise spontaneously, from simple human development to God knows what kinds of talents and abilities. Or very little of it will appear. But really, who wants a developmental path in which you don't even try to develop, where development just happens naturally? How are you going to get anyone to tithe? Who will pay $50,000 to get monthly conference calls with you to help guide their development, when it all comes naturally and effortlessly? I don't see much of a future in such a developmental process.



I really like this:

Mainly the point seems to be that inquiry could sometimes be practiced to only a limited degree and with some murky motives lying unnoticed deep within. If that's the case, then folly will proceed from there, even while the person may realize to some degree and express that

I think that hits the nail on the head. That seems to be the general usage of non-dual practice among the "integral" set, WIlber included. They notice that a little bit of non-dual practice actually jumpstarts the whole developmental process, but then instead of keeping the focus on the non-dual process itself, they leap onto the developmental possibilities unleashed, and try to make themselves into ubermensch integral people, the "fantastic" types of guys you see in the David Deida, Wilber, Tony RObbins crowd. This is just seeking going by the name "integral". It isn't actually integral at all, but trying to develop the ego into a great guy with a finger in every pie.

All the development schemes among people who acknowledge the non-dual seem to be an attempt to reduce this folly

Yes, they do try to reduce the folly, because they don't want to be fools. They want to be righteous and great men and women. But what they are really trying to do is trying to have their cake and eat it, and also not get fat to boot. So they not only use non-dualism as a fuel for their cake eating plans, they also think they can avoid the consequences of that. The problem is, this is not possible. You can't have your cake and eat it, and if you do, it will bring harm to you over time. You will not integrate, but begin to dis-integrate. You will begin to show the signs of psychosis, megalomania, and general problematic living that attends every kind of seeking. They notice these problems in others, like WIlber noticing Da's problems, and they want to avoid these problems by better "integrating" themselves, but they don't comprehend that the root of their problem isn't uneven development, it's choosing developmental practice over non-dual practice, and making developmentalism a form of the search rather than simply a natural and homely outgrowth of non-dual practice.

Da once had a great line about this kind of thing, in one of his poems:

Those who do not understand only find power for their lust in holy places.

Too bad he didn't heed his own warnings.

I think Da is simply an extreme example of this problem. He knew something of non-dual practice also, but he was more interested in personal development, becoming the Great Avatar. He never gave that up. Even after his "realization", he continued to pursue a developmental approach, not only for his students, but for himself. And development conceived on a grand, imperial scale. This is an example of trying to mix egoity and non-dualism. One gets merely a hugely inflated ego, the more one is "successful" at it. But that ego then disintegrates, rather than integrates, and you see the long slow degeneration of Adidam, and something on a much simpler scale with Wilber and I-I. This is what happens when the non-dual process is made secondary to the developmental process. It reverses the order of things, and this then reverses the benefits of non-dual practice. One can only suck off that juice for a time before it turns toxic. True realizers know this, and never reverse their priorities. So they neither become developmental
"giants", nor do they turn into monsters. How many realizers were "great guys" on the order of Tony Robbins? None. They were pretty ordinary, reasonably friendly and so on, but not "great guys". They didn't much care about extending the developmental process beyond what was naturally fruitful. They let it be whatever it was going to be. They didn't try to be rich and famous as Wilber and Da are trying. Sometimes that happened, but with little effort on their part.

As for the traditional structures, yes, there's something saner about some of them, but let's not pretend the traditions were all about realization either. They had lots of problems, lots of abuses, lots of seeking. and few of them were pure about the non-dual approach. Ramana's teaching is a way of purifying a lot of that, as with others of the neo-Advaitic approach. But these guys were not fully familiar with the new forms of egoity the west would bring to the table, and use even their teachings in a degraded form, as with Andrew Cohen bastardizing Papaji's teachings, etc., and then of course Da, Wilber, Deida, Bonder, etc. What's needed is a western realizer who can address these kinds of things. Da was supposed to be that guy, but turned out to be a false prophet. The only westerner I've heard of who became realized is Maurice Freedman, who was with Ramana and later became Niz's translator. Niz himself said theat Freedman was a jnani, about the only guy he ever acknowledged as such. Niz's "I Am That" book was compiled by Freedman, and it's an incredible book for that reason perhaps. David Godman says there was one other westerner he saw Niz seem to acknowledge as being realized, but he never became a public teacher to his knowledge. So it seems like we all just have to make do with the mess we have, and not wait for the messiah to come and straighten it all out for us.



I haven't forgotten our other thread. I have a half-written reply I'll post later, but I thought I'd butt in here myself between you and Kang.

If you are talking about consciousness itself than I agree; if you are talking about individual bodyminds, than I don't agree (that duality/life is our own creation).

You can disagree if you like, but these are the basic teachings of the non-dualists such as Ramana and Niz, and many Buddhists as well (not all though). And this is one of the problems with non-dualism: it contradicts our common-sense view of the world. Rejecting it is fine, not only as far as I am concerned, but as far as Ramana and Niz are concerned also. They don't recommend that you just accept and believe this as a matter of dogma, but that you investigate it. But they also say you shouldn't accept and believe that the world exists on its own either, unless you have actually investigated and determined that it is so. So the non-dualists aren't asking you to reject the world as unreal, but to find out what is real. What they will point out to you is that whether the world is real or not, it isn't YOU, and therefore you can't directly determine its reality. You have to first determine your own reality, and then see what the world is. They say that having done that they can clearly say that the world is simply a projection of the Self via the mind.

But are we creating reality moment to moment? Or is it creating itself and "we" are experiencing it, part of it?

Good questions. How will you answer them? The non-dualists suggest you must investigate the nature of the "I" first, that the world of objects is essentially an unknowlable mystery until you have discovered your true Self. Do you have some other plan that doesn't involve simply accepting the world as something that creates itself and that "we" experience?

What is your vision of what "enlightened life" would look like? In other words, if one realizes what you are talking about, how would they live? And if an entire culture realized this, what would it be like?

It's fairly simple. Look at someone you have some trust in as a realizer. Look at Ramana, Niz, Papaji, Lakshmana, Annamalai, Anandamayi Ma, etc. I would gather that's what enlightened people look like. How did they live? Fairly simply. They were teachers of course, so that took up a lot of their time, but their living was relatively simple, modest, with a great deal of integrity and responsibility. They didn't pursue much, they didn't avoid much, they lived with clarity and love and an attitude of helping others. I think that looks pretty good. They were not perfect, or pursuing perfection, but they had no serious faults that I'm aware of. As for an entire culture, well, just imagine a lot of people like that. Sane, happy, responsible people who have nothing to prove or attain, and don't need very much either. It wouldn't look much like today's world, or anything like Adidam either. It would probably be incredibly boring to most people who weren't realized. And it probably wouldn't last long either. Why would those people want to extend their lifespans. Dying means nothing to such people, and living is just the perpetuation of an unnecessary dream. If you were lucid dreaming, would you stay asleep any longer than you had to? No, you'd wake up. The real question, the unanswerable question is, what do they wake up to? What is existence like without this dream going on? That we can't answer in the dream itself. Only on waking can we say, but who will we say it to?

I am reminded of the somewhat famous Ramakrishna quote: "I don't want to be sugar I want to taste it!" The nonduality that you describe seems to equate with "being sugar," whereas "tasting sugar" is duality. Why not both?

Someone once asked Ramana about his famous quote, and his answer pretty well demolishes Ramakrishna's presumptions. He pointed out that the analogy is a false one, because sugar is an inert substance, whereas consciousness is the living substance of reality. So "being consciousness" is not like being some inert substance that can't be aware of itself, that can't enjoy itself, like sugar. Being consciousness is being fully conscious of oneself, tasting oneself continuously, without any intermediary, no tongue and spoon necessary, no object to have to put attention on, but constantly being the very thing one is tasting. So having both means being consciousness, just as Ramana said.

So we have a few options:

1) Duality, or conditioned existence
2) Nonduality, nonconditioned existence
3) Duality enfolded within nonduality, or "integral nonduality"

As I see it, "true" nonduality is number 3 anyways and includes embodiment--so why not embrace that? It seems an artificial, even conditioned, construct to try to rest in nonduality without embracing the arising currents of duality.

The problem here is that you are conceiving of non-duality as a philosophical issue, and treating it as a logical paradox that excluding anything, even duality, makes it non-duality. And it's true, from the perspective of non-duality, there is nothing to exclude, there is no dualistic world, there is only non-dual reality. But non-dual realizers are aware that non-realizers don't realize non-duality, they don't grasp who they are or where they are, or comprehend the nature of the world. So to teach dualists living in a dualistic illusion about non-duality, they have to teach them to discriminate, to reject what is unreal, and put their attention on the real, which is only found in the Self position, not in objects. Living in dualism negates the unity of non-dualism, so the non-dual teachigns can't be approached by the internal logic of non-dualism. They have to be approached through the lense of dualism, which means they have to exclude, rather than include, what is dualistic. The non-dualist realizer doesn't include the dualistic either, simply because he can't find anything that is dualistic. He sees no objects, he has no mind, the world that we see is not visible to him, he sees another world entirely, a real world, a non-dual reality. It's not as if he sees objects, but excludes them somehow. Da's "sixth stage exclusion" critique doesn't apply. These guys are not excluding anything. They simply understand that no "things" exist. They see only what does exist. When they teach others, they are not aware of those people being "other". They seem to be themselves. They are teaching themselves to recognize themselves. The dualistic vision isn't something real which can be excluded, its a dream which simply evaporates, like the snake mistakenly seen in the rope. Are people who see only the rope, and not the snake, excluding the snake from their consciousness? Of course not. There's nothing to exclude. The snake never existed. Likewise, the dualistic world never existed. All our fears and convictions based on separation are imaginary ande baseless. So realizers don't teach you how to develop powers of snake-charming, how to integrate the snake into the non-dual view, or how to integrate non-dualism into the snake view. You can't integrate reality and an illusion. All you would get then is an illusory form of non-dualism, which unfortunately is what you get with Da, Wilber, and their like. Real non-dualism is pure and true to itself, and does not compromise with dualistic views. It doesn't try to integrate dualistic views, and dualistic "realities" into its view. And it won't allow dualistic views to co-opt its reality for dualistic purposes, however well-meaning.

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