Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Barclay Powers is an author and futurist filmmaker. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Columbia University and has an extensive background as an independent scholar. He has studied Chinese, Tibetan and Indian meditation, yoga and martial arts traditions for more than 30 years. Powers is currently releasing multiple media projects worldwide in film and print, related to the evolution of consciousness based on his studies with numerous masters of ancient wisdom traditions. His most recent film, The Lost Secret of Immortality, based on his book, won best spiritual/religious/Christian film at the Great Lakes International Film Festival, 2012, the Silver Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival, 2012 and best spiritual documentary at the New York International Film Festival, 2011. See his website at www.lostsecretofimmortality.com for information on the book, graphic novel and film.
Realizing Awakened Consciousness
Was the First Human Enlightened?
“What was it like as you gestated the Spiritual Embryo?”
She replied, “It solidified deep and solitary.”
“When you gave birth, what was that like?”
“Being stripped completely naked.”
“What about when you met the Ancestor?”
“I met the Ancestor face to face.”
- Roshi Joan Sutherland, What Is Enlightenment?
Realizing Awakened Consciousness: Interviews with Buddhist Teachers and a New Perspective on the Mind by Richard P. Boyle is an important book which clearly demonstrates that conventional approaches to meditation by Western Buddhists do not necessarily result in a complete understanding of awakening/enlightenment. At the same time, Boyle's approach that awakening as described and practiced in Buddhism is a real phenomena that can be appraised in scientific terms is valuable and successfully omits most of the romantic Asian cultural mythology. Boyle considers all of the well-respected teachers that were interviewed to be awakened and capable of leading students to awakening. The question that emerges is why has the Buddha nature been misunderstood or completely mistranslated by Western scholars and meditation teachers? Both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism define complete awakening/Buddhahood as the Trikaya, the union of physical, subtle, and super subtle bodies. It appears that most Western meditation teachers have omitted the actual Asian subtle body theory that the systems themselves emphasize as the key to realization. The carrot that is hung in front of the student by teachers is often the promise of happiness independent of circumstances as opposed to the actual liberation of consciousness. Western definitions of awakening do not necessarily correspond with the actual Asian inner yoga/meditation models of enlightenment.
What becomes clear is that if you engage in a social group spiritual practice based on a relationship with a teacher for a long enough period of time they will tell you that you are awakened and possibly even give you a certificate. It appears in many cases the social structures that revolve around specific meditation systems often limit the meditator from using the most effective methods that are available. The book clearly demonstrates that Vipassana and Japanese/Korean Zen do not necessarily result in awakening/enlightenment in the way that many Western meditation teachers have practiced them. The difference between understanding, realization and liberation is substantial and largely based on a subtle body theory, which Western practitioners often choose to omit. What is even more entertaining about the book is when the author has to wrestle with the fact that the allegedly enlightened Japanese Zen master that he studied with for ten years, has an extensive record of sexual assault on students. This corrupt “enlightened” teacher even told the women to not be attached to the sexual assault while he assaulted them. This is reminiscent of Japanese Buddhists endorsing genocide in twelve countries during World War II. Let us remember that enlightenment/awakening has always been true love and compassion and always will be. What makes Buddhism beautiful is that this truth is the actual origin of consciousness in human beings.
Mahayana Buddhism and Zen in particular define enlightenment in the form of a celibate monk like the historical Buddha. Once you see your Original Face/True Self and become a living Buddha you're expected to have transcended sexual desire. Read the Bloodstream Sermon by Bodhidharma, the Shaolin Temple founder of Chan/Zen, who came to China in the 5th Century and see for yourself. The majority of Western Zen teachers do not appear to have understood the relationship between Zen and Taoist meditation theory. The actual Shaolin Temple model of Chan/Zen training is roughly one third martial arts, one third chi kung/yoga and one third meditation. From the perspective of a legitimate Shaolin Grand Master very few Western teachers have actually seen their Original Face or returned the Dharmakaya to void. The reason for this is that they have not understood the connection between Chi/Ki and awakening from a Chinese point of view. Chinese meditation in both Taoist and Buddhist versions defines meditation as a five-stage process – Jing (reproductive vitality) is refined into Chi (oxygen based vitality), Chi is refined into Shen (mental vitality which eventually becomes the Original Face/Embryo of Buddhahood), Shen is returned to void (Wu) and the void is returned to Tao.
From the perspective of a genuine Chinese meditation master, the key to the process of awakening is defined as the Three Treasures, Jing, Chi and Shen. The connection between sexuality/reproductive energy and awakening has not been understood in the West. The end result is that the Buddha nature/Embryo of Buddhahood has been repeatedly mistranslated as womb of the Buddhas.
“In the sutras the Bhagavan (aka Buddha) says that the tathagatha-garbha (womb of the Buddhas) is intrinsically pure, endowed with thirty-two attributes and present in the bodies of all beings, and that, like a precious jewel wrapped in soiled clothing, the ever-present unchanging tathagatha-garbha is likewise wrapped in the soiled clothing of the skandhas, dhatus and ayantas and stained with the stains of erroneous projections of greed, anger and delusion.” - Daisetz T. Suzuki, tr. The 'Lankavatara Sutra', Parajna Press, Boulder, 1978, pp.68-69.
It appears that the majority of Western meditation teachers do not have the ability to explain the connection between Nadi, Prana, Bindu and awakening although many have studied with Tibetan masters. This key omission demonstrates that a lifetime of Zen/Theravada meditation does not necessarily result in the opening of the Buddha eye (pineal gland), which is the goal of meditation. Chinese medicine describes the pineal gland as the nihuan point, which is the Chinese pronunciation of nirvana. Tantric Buddhism defines realization as the union of solar and lunar energy meridians within the central channel. Liberation is defined as the union of the three bodies.
Let's compare Mahamudra theory, practice and results with the Western Buddhist meditation model of awakening. First of all Tibetan religious art depicts enlightenment sexually, this is obviously not simply a metaphor. What we are being told here is that the secret of enlightenment is sexual yoga. Let us remember that the Yab/Yum sexual imagery is the Tibetan pronunciation of Yin/Yang. It should be noted that the origin of the Chinese medical system is a story of sexual yoga resulting in enlightenment. The Yellow Emperor is taught by female teachers, so like Niguma and Sukhasiddhi six yoga lineages, we have an enlightened feminist sexual narrative based on vitalism. Everything connected with meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, acupuncture, Tantra, and enlightenment/awakening is vitalist. Vitalism is 100% rejected by Western science. Western Buddhist teachers, generally avoid discussing the fact that all genuine Chinese and Tibetan definitions of awakening are vitalist and are explained in terms of Chi/Ki, Nadi, Prana, Bindu. Bindu can be translated as Kundalini as Lama Yeshe did in his wonderful Introduction to Tantra. Tibetan lineages love the Six Yogas of Naropa, which also exist in old translation (Maha, Anu, Ati Yoga) versions. These practices are considered to be the actual mechanism of the awakening process in Tantric Buddhism. Tummo, or Tibetan Kundalini yoga, is always considered the root of the path as the famed Dzogchen Master Dilgo Khyentse stated.
Let us not forget as Joseph Campbell pointed out, the well-known most important rule of Tantric Buddhism, which differentiates it from Mahayana and Southern versions, “Buddhahood can be found in the vagina of a woman.” Since this is the most feminist worldview of any meditation/enlightenment system it is amazing that many Western teachers have turned Mahamudra into Mindfulness. The famous Mahamudra saying is, “There can be no Mahamudra enlightenment without Karmamudra sexual yoga.” The Six Yogas of Naropa start with the Kundalini (Tummo) and end with Karmamudra. Read Glen Mullen's books and see for yourself. Stuart Sovatsky is often considered to be one of the best current writers on the Kundalini and Tantric yoga, and has the ability to discuss the activation of the pineal gland in great detail. The end result of the Six Yogas is the conjunction of mother and son lights, (Dharmakaya and Rupakaya) what Taoist meditation calls the Hun and Po souls, pre-birth yang and post-birth yin subtle bodies. Chang Po Tuan, Taoist/Buddhist alchemist, described this as “husband and wife in blissful embrace.” Nagarjuna is the most famous Buddhist alchemist. The union of the solar and lunar subtle bodies was also known in Europe within the Hermetic tradition. Edward Kelly's 1676 article, The Stone of the Philosophers, quotes Ascanius, “the conjunction of the two is like the union of husband and wife, from whose embrace results golden water.” According to Tibetan models like the Mahamudra or Maha, Anu, Ati Yoga systems, Theravada and Mahayana systems often omit, Nadi, Prana and Bindu practices, which are necessary for both realization and liberation. Taoist meditation also says that the cultivation of the Spiritual Embryo/Golden Elixir, which results in awakening/enlightenment, does not occur without the Three Treasures, Jing, Chi, Shen. This is the basis of the famous Taoist/Buddhist text, The Secret of the Golden Flower. It could be argued that Buddhism doesn't really make sense unless you translate the Buddha nature as the Original Face/Dharmakaya from a practice perspective. Take a look at the Lankavatara Sutra, which Bodhidharma brought with him to the Shaolin Temple where Zen originated. It describes the origin of consciousness as the Embryo of Enlightenment.
The question here that emerges is does the understanding of meditation and awakening of Western Buddhist teachers result in the genuine awakening of their students? Although Western teachers describe selfless awakening in the present, this does not explain the dormant Buddha nature, and the concept of non-self/Anatman that can only be fully experienced when the Original Face/Dharmakaya has been successfully returned to void. It is this actual primordial experience that is responsible for the concept that “form is emptiness and emptiness is form”. “Seeing the Ancestor face to face” is the reason for all of the mirror symbolism in Buddhism. Just like Integral Theory, many Western teachers are actually preventing their students from awakening because they appear to have never actually studied meditation from a fully enlightened teacher although many claim to have received the genuine transmission. As Jung pointed out you can never tell if they are enlightened or just think they are. In this case the signs are clear.
Fortunately, the True Self/Original Face may totally transform Western science when neuroscience explains it as a fully enlightened structure of consciousness within everybody. If the origin of consciousness is enlightenment, as proven by meditation and awakening, the first human is a Buddha. This is what Samantabhadhra, the Dharmakaya Buddha, the primordial naked image of Yab/Yum Yin/Yang, represents. The concept that enlightenment is the basis of human consciousness has the potential to completely transform 21st century science.
The goal of meditation research should be to explain the Dharmakaya from a brain-based scientific perspective. Instead we now have corporate Mindfulness for productivity and control by constant surveillance. Notice the parallels between constant surveillance and Mindfulness. This book demonstrates that a Buddhist establishment that does not teach genuine awakening has been created by a small group of well-meaning individuals. These individuals have come to dominate all of the neuroscientific research on meditation and cognitive enhancement. There are three texts that clearly illustrate the difference between Western and Asian explanations of awakening. They are Bodhidharma's Bloodstream Sermon and the Lankavatara Sutra for Shaolin Chan/Zen, and the Uttara Tantra for Vajrayana.
Science specializes in the rejection of romantic narrative explanations of awakened states of consciousness. So what is the golden truth that is both the origin of science in the form of Infans Solaris/Philosopher's Stone and the goal of Buddhist meditation/yoga? First of all it is said that you have to “see the Ancestor face to face” to understand that the Reality Body/Dharmakaya or Original Face is a structure of consciousness that eliminates amnesia (maya), which lies dormant within all human beings just as described by the Uttara Tantra, and Lankavatara Sutra. Bodhidharma calls it seeing your true nature. The most important idea in Buddhism is that every human being has an enlightened original mind. The Kundalini model of consciousness evolution is relatively accurate but like the Tai Chi meditation model it conflicts with conventional scientific research in terms of pranic theory. Nevertheless, western science has validated the extensive health benefits of yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to actually change the brain positively in eight weeks. Many neuroscientists have shown that the amygdala fear center of the brain shrinks in advanced meditators and the pre-frontal cortex expands and does not deteriorate in middle-aged practitioners. Additionally, the brain stem appears to thicken.
One of the most important original methods of Shaolin Chan, the origin of Zen, is standing meditation, which can also be considered to be a core meditation method in Taoism and Jainism. Jainism goes so far as to say that 21 out of 24 awakened siddhas achieved enlightenment through standing meditation. Jain statues depict the standing posture, which is duplicated in Chinese systems in many other versions. The vitalist theory underlying all these proven meditation methods is that awakening is based on opening the internal energy meridians of the body. The Dalai Lama also says this, describing it as untying the knots in the nadis, or opening the inner channels. This is one of the primary focuses of Tai Chi meditation, which comes from Taoist internal alchemy and medical theory. Real Taoist meditation parallels Shaolin Chan training. Roughly one third standing, one third sitting and one third moving (chi kung) as well as sleeping practices. Jainism has three fundamental meditation postures, standing, sitting and lying on your back. This is a much better healthier model than just sitting cross-legged, which often closes the meridians in the body instead of opening them unless other practices are included. If you're in pain in your hips, knees and back it has nothing to do with awakening and meditation. It is a medical physiological sign of cutting off circulation in your body, which is unhealthy. The process should be comfortable and energizing not painful and draining if you practice correctly. The incredible physical pain and discomfort that teachers have all endured to become teachers is remarkable but has not necessarily resulted in authentic awakening as defined by the lineage standards of the Shaolin Temple or Mahamudra tradition. It could be predicted that a scientific explanation for the Buddha nature may emerge from the popularity of Mindfulness in the near future. Mindfulness is the link between science and meditation. The most well known saying in East Asian Buddhism is “See the True Self/Original Face and become a living Buddha.”