In Integral Spirituality, Ken writes:

When one is in deep meditation or contemplation, touching even that which is formless and unmanifest-the purest emptiness of cessation-there are of course no conceptual forms arising. This pure "nonconceptual" mind-a causal state of formlessness-is an essential part of our liberation, realization, and enlightenment.

In the Theravada, or early Buddhism, this formless state of cessation (e.g., nirvikalpa, nirvana, nirodh), is taken to be an end in itself, a nirvana that is free from samsara or manifestation. Mahayana Buddhism went further and maintained that such a view is true but partial, and promptly dubbed Theravada "Hinayana Buddhism" ("Small Vehicle Buddhism").

Mahayana Buddhism maintained that while the realization of nirvana or emptiness is important, there is a deeper realization, where nirvana and samsara, or Emptiness and the entire world of Form, are one, or more technically, Emptiness and Form are "not two." As the most famous sutra on this topic-The Heart Sutra-puts it: "That which is Emptiness is not other than Form, that which is Form is not other than Emptiness." This realization of Nonduality is the cornerstone of both Mahayana ("Great Vehicle") and Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle") Buddhism.


As I have shown elsewhere, Ken more or less derives this characterization of Buddhism from Da's Nirvanasara. He continues his characterization thus:

When it comes to the nature of enlightenment or realization, this means that a complete, full, or realization has two components, absolute (emptiness) and relative (form). The "nonconceptual mind" gives us the former, and the "conceptual mind" gives us the latter. Put it this way: when you come out of nonconceptual meditation, what conceptual forms will you embrace? If you are going to enter the manifest realm-if you are going to embrace not just nonconceptual nirvana but also conceptual samsara-then what conceptual forms will you use? By definition, a nondual realization demands both "no views" in emptiness and "views" in the world of form. Meditation in particular is designed to plunge us into the world of emptiness; and what is designed to give us "correct form"? That is, what conceptual view or framework does nondual Buddhism recommend?

Traleg Kabyon Rinpoche, one of the Tibetan masters who is as at home in the Western tradition as he is in the Eastern, is uniquely situated to comment on this (all following quotes are from Mind at Ease: Self-Liberation through Mahamudra Meditation; emphasis added). Traleg Rinpoche starts by pointing out that correct views are just as important as correct meditation; indeed, the two are inseparable:

Buddhist meditation practices and experiences are always discussed from a particular viewpoint that is always taken to be valid and true-this cannot be otherwise. Correct views have the ability to lead us to liberation, while incorrect views increase the delusions of our mind....

That is why we need a proper orientation or correct view when we embark on the path. Correct view is in fact our spiritual vehicle, the transport we use to journey from the bondage of samsara to the liberation of nirvana. Conversely, incorrect views have the potential to lead us off course and, like a poorly constructed raft, will case us adrift and deposit us on the shores of misery. There is no separation between the vehicle that transports us to our spiritual destination and the views that we hold in our mind.

Unfortunately, boomeritis ("nobody tells me what to do!") Buddhism was used in the whole spirit of "Dharma bums," where preconventional license was confused with postconventional liberation. Hence Buddhism was thought to be all about nothing but cultivating "no views," which is true only on the emptiness or Hinayana side of the street, but not true on the Mahayana side, which demands the union of emptiness and views, not the trashing of one of them. But this "no views at all" notion was uniquely suited to "nobody tells me what to do!"

Traleg comments on this strange westernized Buddhism:

Buddhism states that our normal views inhibit us and chain us to the limited condition of samsara, whereas the correct view can lead us to our ultimate spiritual destination. We should not conclude from this-although modern Western Buddhists often do-that meditation is all about getting rid of views, or that all views will hinder us from attaining our spiritual goal. This assumption is based on the legitimate premise that Buddhist teachings emphatically identify the need to develop a non-conceptual wisdom mind in order to attain liberation and enlightenment. However, many people mistakenly think that this implies that we do not need to believe in anything [Nobody tells me what to do!] and that all forms of conceptuality must be dispensed with right from the beginning. It is only incorrect views that we need to overcome. The correct and noble view is to be cultivated with great diligence.

What is this "correct and noble view"? It is simply the Buddhist view itself, or the central ideas, concepts, and framework that is Buddhism, counting its basic philosophy and psychology-including the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Way, the Twelvefold Chain of Dependent Origination, the central recognition of Emptiness, the Nonduality of absolute Emptiness and relative Form, the luminous identity of unqualifiable or empty Spirit and all of its manifest Forms in a radiant, natural, spontaneously present display, and the central linkage of: right ethics and right views > leading to right meditation (dhyana) > leading to right awareness (prajna) > leading to right compassion (karuna) > leading to right action and skillful means (upaya) on behalf of all sentient beings.


What I find interesting about the above is Wilber's use of Traleg Rinpoche. What is odd, and ironic, is that Traleg is coming from what appears to be a rather orthodox stance on Buddhism. Traleg continues:

We should not conclude from this - although modern Western Buddhists often do - that meditation is all about getting rid of views, or that all views will hinder us from attaining our spiritual goal.


Ken appears to be attempting to make use of this rather orthodox approach to further his quasi-"postmodern" account of tradition. In other words, he has appropriated an orthodox idea concerning the necessity of view (darshana) and put it to work so as to give authority to a post-modern theory, namely the idea there is no "archemedian point" outside of "perspective." This may strike us as odd, but strangely enough, the post-moderns and ancients stand together against the moderns in this issue.

It would seem, then, that Ken is taking a quote out of context and using it toward his own end. How so? If Traleg is going to take this stand on the necessity of "correct view" (samyag-darshana) in Buddhism, then it is unlikely that he is going to be open to the perennialist idea, still informing Ken's system, that "Vedanta and Buddhism are the same." For accepting the idea that Buddhism is the "correct view" will mean rejecting false views, such as the view that the eternal Self is the truth, which is the central teaching of Vedanta.

Then Ken comes up with this non-sequitor:

Unfortunately, boomeritis ("nobody tells me what to do!") Buddhism was used in the whole spirit of "Dharma bums," where preconventional license was confused with postconventional liberation. Hence Buddhism was thought to be all about nothing but cultivating "no views," which is true only on the emptiness or Hinayana side of the street, but not true on the Mahayana side, which demands the union of emptiness and views, not the trashing of one of them. But this "no views at all" notion was uniquely suited to "nobody tells me what to do!"


The view of "no view" is mere Hinayana? Apparently this notion is meant to follow from the idea that the "Hinayana" is concerned only with the formless absolute; and since "no view" represents the side of formlessness, the two must be identical. (?) But the "no view" idea is most intimately associated with Western appropriations of Madhyamika. And that would appear to be what Traleg has in mind here.

Note how Wilber has rather conveniently identified "boomeritis Buddhism" with "mere Hinayana," as well as associated the "no view" dictum with the boomeritis slogan, "no one tells me what to do!" As for the relationship between the latter two, there is, admittedly, a grain of truth to what he says here insofar as Westerners generally do not like dogma in their appropriations of the East: they want the "bone," the goods -- "just give me the dzogchen realization and leave the bell ringing, sand mandalas, and hummani-pummani mantras in Tibet, please; and hold the mustard."

But what is really odd is just how "uniquely suited" Wilber's critique of Boomeritis Buddhism is to his critique of "no views." It is as if a queer resonance between the two struck him in moment of inspiration, and now he is cleverly attempting to pass off the superficial resemblance between the two as some kind of "essential relation."

Again, we should be made suspicious by the heady irony in Ken's "no view as Boomeritis" comment. For, if it weren't for the idea that "views" and "dogmas" ought to be suspended as manifestations of mere "exoteric" religion, the perennialist project probably would not have been possible. What is more, the "no view" interpretation of Madhyamika is, and has been, closely allied with the mystical interpretation of Buddhism in general, that is, with the emphasis on "experience" over "doctrine," and these are all ideas that have been central to Ken's works. In short, if we are to understand "Boomeritis Buddhism" in terms that Ken sets forth here, then by those same criteria his own project will fall within that category.

But what is perhaps most perplexing about all of this is that "Boomeritis" Buddhism meant, for such a long time, the so-called "green" interpretation of Buddhism. And to be "green" meant the acceptance of a pluralistic view, of a kind of "perspectivalism," did it not? And yet now it means "no view?"

So apparently, "Boomeritis Buddhism" means whatever we want it to, depending upon the polemic de jour.

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Comment by Balder on April 16, 2011 at 12:19am

I ran the italicized sections of this blog, the quotations, through the Bullshit Meter and got this message:

 

Your text: 4375 charactes, 722 words
Bullshit Index :0.53
Something's fishy. Obviously you want to sell something, or you're trying to impress somebody. Are you sure that you have a real message, and if so: who would understand it?
What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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