The Indian context for "inclusivism" is actually quite broad, and covers a number of different but related contexts. It takes inter-traditional forms as well as intra-traditional. Intra-traditionally, it includes the Buddhist idea of skillful means (upaya-kaushalya) and the Vedantic notion of "differences in qualification" (adhikarana-bheda) both of which refer to the idea that specific teachings are to be assigned to specific students in accordance with their needs and abilities; the idea that certain teachings are merely propaedeutic (avatarana), which we find in both Mahayana and Advaita; the related Mahayana hermeneutic device of distinguishing literal teachings and "metaphoric" teachings (nitartha/neyartha); and the Advaita notion of "harmonization" (samanvaya), in which contradictory teachings are made consistent by reinterpreting them. All of these make use of a hermeneutic prodecure that primarily serves the theological/exegetical end of systematizing incongruent scriptural teachings found within a tradition, but it can also serve the polemical end of subordintating sister schools within a tradition. For example, in Madhyamika, the Yogachara scriptures are merely "metaphorically" true, while the Prajnaparamita scriptures are literally true; and vice versa for the Yogachara. This is actually the original context for the concept of the two truths.

Later, certain traditions start to say of other traditions that their conceptions of reality/God, etc. are "incomplete" (cf. the Jain anekantavada) or inadequate expressions of their own teachings. This idea actually has an ancient basis, as for example when the Chandogya Upanishad says that he who knows the true and absolute Being (sat), knows all teachings; or when the Buddha uses certain brahmanic concepts of the self in some of his discourses; or when the Gita says that all concepts of God are really expressions of Krishna. Later, Shankara also makes use of this idea when he says that all traditions ultimately seek the Self of advaita, but that they don't realize it (Brahma Sutra 1.3.33). Bhavaviveka may have revitalized the classical usage when he said that the Vedanta concept of brahman is an attempt at expressing the Buddhist shunyata, but due to the continuing influence of ignorance among the brahmanic sages, they don't quite get it right, and so they reify emptiness. The inter-traditional context is clearly polemical, and one might certainly question whether descriptions taken from this context can be taken or used as neutral accounts of tradition.

Wilber's system, or systems, including his most recent version of "integralism," can be understood, I would contend, as kinds of inclusivism. Among Wilber's influences, in this regard, we might include Hegel, and his concept of Aufhebung ("transcend and include"), and Aurobindo's own "integralism," his "synthesis of yoga." There is also no question that Wilber's models rely heavily on Da's own schemas, such the "seven stages," to which Da attempts to reduce the entire Indian tradition. In a note at the end of Eye of Spirit, Wilber refers to "the gross path or the yogis," "subtle path of the sants," "causal path of the sages," and "non-dual path of the siddhas," an ascending hierarchy of "paths" that clearly not only draws on Da's models but reveals both Wilber's and Da's allegiance to Tantrism. Da himself draws upon the synthesis of Tantrism accomplished by the great Kashmiri Shaiva, Abhinavagupta, in particular Abhinava's idea of the four upayas, which correspond quite neatly with Da's final four stages. Da was also influenced by the rhetorical schematizing of Neo-Vedantins like Vivekananada and Yogananda, personages whom he wished to emulate.

The inclusivism of the Neo-Vedantins is basically an extention of the inclusivism of the Advaita doxographers who follow the 15th century -- writers such as Madhava, author of the Sarva-darshana-samgraha, "Compendium of All Teachings." The Advaita doxographers presented the Indian tradition in terms of a reductive hierarchy of schools, with materialists at the bottom; followed by the heterodox Buddhists and Jains; then the the Nyaya-Vaishesika; followed by the Samkhya and Yoga; then the Mimasakas, the sister tradition of the Vedanta; followed by the dualist and qualified non-dualist schools of Vedanta; and finally, the teaching of Advaita Vedanta, the capstone of the Indian tradition (for Advaitins). Standard textbooks of Indian philosophy still use this format or something like it. 

What the Neo-Vedantins do is universalize this tendency to subordinate (transcend) and subsume (include). Rather than adressing only the Indian traditions, Neo-Vedanta attempts to address all the world religions. Hence Radhakrishnan can say: "All true religion is Vedanta."  Indeed, perennialism in general reveals the inclusivist tendency. It sometimes appears (or masquarades) as a kind of pluralism, but in the end it is about the dominance of some particular tradition -- whether it be Advaita Vedanta, Tantra, or whatever -- and the subordination of all other traditions to that tradition.

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Comment by xibalba on March 21, 2011 at 11:33am

Bhakti shit? hahhahah


But hasn´t the teaching under poetry form of the Bhagavad gita a central place in his heart practice or Ishta Bhakti Guru Yoga?

Da used to tell that too much zen practice zombie-fied people.

KW primarily a left brain oriented mammal, and probably fascinated by the charisma of Da must have fallen for that sort of argument.



Comment by kelamuni on March 21, 2011 at 11:14am

On the history of this term: At one time inclusivism was offered as a kind of "superior" dialectical alternative to exclusivism and pluralism. So the term did not always have a negative connotation associated with it, nor does it across the board today: their are still thoise who call themselves inclusivists.


Then, as Hegelianism came under suspicion, it began to acquire a negative connotation, as a kind of creeping exclusivism. We can see this in Hacker accounts of the Indian tradition. Part of the problem here, perhaps, stems from whether we want to use the term as a descriptive term or a normative term. The problem though is that now that so much negativity has been attached to it, it is difficult to use the term descriptively without evoking its negative connotations.


Personally, I don't think saying, "inclusivism, bad; Integralism, good; helps matters much. Descriptively speaking, integralism is a form of inclusivism. And personally, I find Wilber's use of the term "meothodlogical pluralism" disingenuous and misleading. Any system that is hierarchical will be inclusivist descriptively speaking, IMO. The only distinction I'm hearing is this: "OUR brand of inclusivism, aka Integralism, is the good kind of inclusivism." Well OK, but then that's kinda like saying that one has a benevolent tyrant. Ethically, it may indeed be better than the alternative, but descriptively, it's still a form of tyranny.

Comment by kelamuni on March 21, 2011 at 10:51am
So this post is a reminder to myself to get off my ass and write the extended essay. Indeed, all of these blog posts will be rewritten and systematized, with redundancies removed and the "tone" neutralized, and then posted at the perennialism site. They are in effect working notes.
Comment by kelamuni on March 21, 2011 at 10:41am

@theurg. Thanks yet again for pointing out an old Lightmind post. I'm not sure where or the degree to which it has been incorporated into my blog comments here, but I'll have a look. At one time long ago I had written an artcile lenghth disussion of both "causal" and "subtle" in Wilber and the tradition that was possib;y the most "serious" piece I had written for NEO at the old forum, but it is now lost to the void, though bits and pieces of it have been incorporated into ny blog here.


@xibalba. Da's bhakti style shit is horrible IMO. I stopped reading him after he stopped being descriptive in his accounts. One can only wonder what was going through Ken's head when he wrote that endorsement.


@Balder. Hey. No, this little blurb was probably removed from my Vivekananda page where it was too long to fit into the fluidity of the prose and could not be put into a footnote. So no, it's not a response to your post. Actually, yet once again, I wrote a longish semi-academic account on inclusivism at Lightmind at one time that included extended accounts of both Advaita and Jainism. It has been lost to the mists of time, but again elements have appeared here and there; most notably there was a short discussion in the "Are Brahman and Emptiness the Same" article, but I may have removed that also.


The intent is to one day not only reconstitute the old essya but to write an extensive history of inclusivism and relating it to its metaphysics of identity and its tendency to hav gods absorb other gods (as in the amagamation of the various Krishna myths and their absorption into Vaishnavaism).



Comment by Edward theurj Berge on March 20, 2011 at 12:37pm
You might check out this oldLightmind forum discussion in which kela participated, commenting about what Wilber gets from Da.
Comment by xibalba on March 20, 2011 at 9:20am


What´s your opinion of Da´s "Dawn horse testament"?

And how do you look at this KW´s statement:

"This is one of the very greatest spiritual treatises, comparable in scope and depth to any of the truly classic religious texts. I still believe that, and I challenge anybody to argue that specific assessment".


Comment by Balder on March 18, 2011 at 4:28pm


I enjoyed this blog, Kela.  Was it possibly inspired -- the theme, not the content -- by my writings awhile back on Integral Theory and inclusivism?   In my ITC paper, I argued that I didn't think Wilber's latest phase of Integral should necessarily be classified as inclusivist (contrary to your conclusion), and that it could provide a good model for an enactive, postmetaphysical pluralism, but I have to admit I was really trying to surreptitiously 'redirect' Integral in these ways (to be more consistent, in my view, with Wilber's IMP and his desire to 'go postmetaphysical') than simply representing Integral in its current state.  I do think, overall, most Integral rhetoric does fall into the 'inclusivist' camp.

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