Monday, June 19, 2006

A poster below has asked me to respond to a set of questions posed by another blogger, mushin, who has been involved with I-I and Wilber, and has some doubts about the scene. His blog post is at::

His questions are:

1) What is the effect of the prolonged distancing of the observer (”I am not his body; I am not these feelings; I am not these thoughts; etc”), the prolonged ‘neutral witnessing’ of the phenomena inside/outside in a ‘mirror of pure consciousness’?

It depends on the way it is practiced. Traditionally, niddidyasana is a renunciate practice taken up by people who have no wordly involvements. It would certainly tend to lead to a detached life-perspective, something akin to a monastic disposition, as it is intended to do. Doing it in the midst of a busy, householder-style life would tend to make one a little psychotic, I think. If Wilber is indeed practicing this, or recommends it, I would suspect it's a bit aberrating, especially if practiced intensely. A mild, occasional use of it in the midst of situations in which one is intensely identified with problems is probably fine, and even helpful. I recall Papaji recommending it under such circumstances. But even the traditional niddidyasana (not this, noth this) approach has problems, at least according to Ramana. He was strongly against the use of that practice. He claimed that it would only tend to fixate attention on the very objects one was trying not to identify with, and was therefore counterproductive. His description of self-enquiry is of gentle, silent inspection of the self-position that has nothing to do with niddidyasana, which he found to be a rather violent and forceful method.

Nisargadatta's description of enquiry was a bit more open to a niddidyasana-like approach. He said that it was necessary to both reject what one was identified with, and also enquire of the self. He summarized it at times as “I am not this, what am I?”. But with him also, the emphasis was on the second half of that method. The “I am not this” part was merely a preparatory segue into self-enquiry. It wasn't meant to be a method of going around trying not to identify with objects and be left in “nothing”. It was merely a way to stop identifying with objects enough so as to facilitate real enquiry into the self. In both their cases, enquiry was seen as a process that takes place in the midst of a very active life, and both were basically against the formal renunciate practices associated with traditional advaita. So I think niddidyasana is basically not compatible with an active life unless it is merely a segue into self-enquiry.

2)What is the effect of the ‘trans-ethical’ stance that regards all human values as merely relative, and only the Spirit as absolute?

I'm not familiar with Wilber's references to such “trans-ethics”, but I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing human values as merely relative. They are, as far as I can tell. The danger would come in, I think not from regarding Spirit as absolute, but from identifying Spirit with any relative values, such as one's own values, as tends to be the case. One then begins to see oneself as the embodiment or vehicle of Spirit, and one's own views as somehow more worthy than anyone else's. The corruptions that are potential in this view are obvious. That's why its important not to identify with Spirit, or with Brahman, or with That. Again, teachers like Ramana and Nisargadatta did not recommend identification with Spirit or Brahman, etc. They simply asked devotees to find out who they were without making any presumptions.

Nisargadatta's teacher told him he, Nisargadatta, was Brahman, but this didn't inspite N to go around telling himself he was Brahman. He said it merely convinced him that he should find out, that he had faith in his teacher and couldn't see why he would lie to him, so he devoted himself to finding out who he was by meditating on “I am”, and it led to realization. That kind of practice brings with it immendse integrity, becomes integrity comes from being who you are, not trying to be something in the mind. The problem with I-I approaches, as far as I can tell, is that the transformations tend to be in the mind, and the mind produces the results one was looking for, and calls that “realization”. Papaji warned that there were real dangers in having an idea or concept of what realization was, because the mind would produce the states and experiences desired, and one would realize only a “mind” realization that had no spiritual reality to it. Spirit too can be a mind-generated phenomena, as can ethics. Real ethics proceeds from self-knowledge.

3)Are so called higher levels of evolution (yellow, turquoise etc. in SDi language as used by Wilber and his adherents) right in using all kinds of violence to raise lower levels up to their standard?

I'm not familiar with the violence of these methods in I-I, but in my view, yes, the creation of moral hierarchies of right and wrong is almost always motivated by the desire to establish superiority over others, and is an example of Niezschean will-to-power. I don't find Wilber's typologies to be anything more than a naked assertion of will-to-power, regardless of how much truth or falsehood is in them. If violence is used in the process, this only confirms the diagnosis. Gurus who use these methods without clearly demonstrable results, such as Cohen and Da, are simply addicted to will-to-power.

4)Is the non-participatory nature of the ‘pure witness’ in situations and phenomena in ‘the world’ - which will eventually dissolve according to Wilber et al in non-dual One Taste - maybe a cause for the kind of abuse we have recently seen in the integral world of Ken Wilber?

The pure witness is NOT non-participatory. Those who think they are practicing the pure witness, while being detached and non-participatory, are simply deluded fools, to put it politely. The pure witness is utterly participator in nature. That may seem like a paradox or a contradiction, but it is not. It is the ego that is detached and non-participatory. The ego interferes with life, with relationship, with functioning. The pure witness does not interfere at all, and allows all of life to proceed with integrity and full, unobstructed participation. The pure witness has surrendered egoity, has surrendered his resistance to life, has surrendered his likes and dislikes, his desires, his aversions, his identification with what appears, and thus allows all of what appears to continue as it would, openly and freely. People who are actually living the pure witness are remarkably alive, spontaneous, participatory, and full of love and happiness.

But I think you are referring to people who are simply trying to be the pure witness, or what they imagine the pure witness to be, whether with good intentions or not. People like that, and maybe Wilber is one, I don't know, are susceptible to all kinds of delusions, especially if they think it involves some kind of non-participatory detachment from life and mind. This is why Nisargadatta called his practice “the natural yoga”. He didn't advise any kind of unnatural disidentification with life, but a purely natural approach. And the pure witness is the most natural approach anyone could take, because it requires no effort, certainly not an effort of disassociation. The witness is simply what we are at any moment, so it's simply a matter of noticing who we are, not of trying to be the witness and disassociating from life to achieve that goal. That's why they argue against the niddidyasana “not this, not this” approach.

So yes, if Wilber's understanding of the witness, and his practice thereof, is off, and what little I've read of Wilber suggests that it is, then it's certainly likely that it would produce aberrated effects in his life, his teachings, and his relations, which would include I-I. You have to watch people who promote themselves as having the answers to life very closely. Most of them are self-deluded and looking for people to take draw into their delusions as a way of affirming and strengthening them. Unenlightened people who devise their own method for achieving enlightenment are to be treated with great skepticism. You have to ask yourself why they aren't enlightened if they seem to understand things so well that they can take the great teachings of the enlightened and bend them to their own purposes, creating a “superior” path in the process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for your very insightful comment.

Much Love,