An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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Zen Master Saito has a Ph.D. in Western Philosophy at Maitreya Buddhist University in 2008 and a Master degree in Saijojo Zen at Shangri-La Buddhist University in 2013. He is a Professional Member of the World Association of Buddhism. This essay appeared in the Journal of Evolution of Buddhist Spirituality.

Reposted from with permission of the editors

The Heresy of Ken Wilber

Zen Master Taisen Saito


If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it.

During the dark days of George Bush, the U.S. government wrote a controversial paper on the national security strategy of the United States, stating that the primary aim of this country is to extend the benefits of capitalism to the world: “If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person—or a nation—to make a living.”

In a world where the ideas are a scarce "commodity" I think that Maitriyana Buddhism is a victim of copying by the American cultural establishment. Although there are good people living there, the governmental Power has thrown two atomic bombs on my country without a blink.

The United States of America not only believed to be the best country in the world, but that when it is surpassed in a category it simply decides to resort to copying and plagiarism, in order not to see damaged its narcissistic image. In this way, it is evident that the "New Age" movement feels touched to see how a humble Latin American one is guiding the Spirituality toward its evolution. Something similar happens to Pope Francis I with the Americans and Europeans Cardinals from right-wing, who have defended capitalism saying: What can it be that this little Argentine pretends?”


After the creation of Maitreya Buddhist University (MBU) in 2005, Master Maitreya began to teach a revolutionary new vision of Buddhism, which was announced in 2012 under the name of Maitriyana (The Integral or Reconciling Buddhism) at the same time the World Association of Buddhism (WBA) was created. When this was announced, the MBU and WBA contacted Mr. Ken Wilber to communicate this important announcement. But one year later, Wilber copied this idea, announcing it as his own creation. [The Fourth Turning - Exploring the Future of Buddhism, FV]

Dogen Zenji (1200 – 1253)

The most bizarre thing about this is that this thinker of the "New Era" is neither a Buddhist nor a spiritual master. In fact, in recent years his behavior was grotesque and insulting against critics such as Jeff Meyerhoff (Bald Ambition: A Critique of Ken Wilber's Theory of Everything), as demonstrated by Frank Visser (Max Korman, Ideology and Inflation: The shadow of the Integral Movement. Interview with Frank Visser). What happens is that many people had believed to find a prophet or mystic in Wilber's person, when rather he is simply a transpersonal philosopher.

All his thought is insignificant from the perspective of Zen Buddhism, something that is evident because in almost the entire work of Wilber it is talked about the reality of the soul, giving importance to ideas such as the "Atman", which are heretical for Buddhists. This reminds me that the Great Zen Master Dogen himself, nearly a millennium ago, refuted the eternalist thinking of the monk Senika as heretical, which is notably similar to that of Wilber's. I think the entire new age work of Wilber is nothing but a new return of the "heresy of Senika (sennigedo)". This is why I decided to write this article: in honor of the True Zen of Dogen.


The epistemologist Paul Feyerabend theorized that the West tends to incorporate oriental disciplines but in a degraded way, as it has happened with Yoga and Martial Arts, which were reduced to a mere sport. The same thing has happened with the "Mindfulness" movement, which is a degraded version of Buddhist Psychology. In this sense, I think Wilber wants to do a superficial and commercial version of Maitriyana Buddhism, not merely to sell books and activities but also to try to buy some spiritual prestige since, during the last years, he has been questioned for behaving as the leader of a sect.

But what he really is proposing is a poor quality copy of Maitriyana, being only the seventh part of all that the spiritual movement created by Master Maitreya encompasses. One of the proofs of this is that Wilber himself recognizes that "Integral Buddhism" goes beyond his own movement of "integral thinking", reason why he is now proposing something called "Super-Integral". This is very funny because a few years ago Wilber himself strongly criticized the physicist David Bohm to theorize that behind the "Implicate Order" there would be something greater called "Super-Implicate Order." It seems he has fallen into his own philosophical trap, as evidenced Geoffrey D. Falk in "Norman Einstein: The Dis-integration Of Ken Wilber".

In completely opposite line to Maitriyana, Wilber does not want to transform the "integral thinking" into Buddhist, but rather in reverse. He believes that the "Future of Buddhism" is his own movement of "integral thinking".

Is it so difficult for Mr. Wilber to recognize that the approach of Maitriyana is something going beyond his own theories? What is happening is that it is easier to steal ideas. There is much Ego in the field of New Age, whose liberal political vision will never outperform the spiritual revolution led by genuine Buddhist masters. There is an old Tibetan proverb that says "the Dharma does not belong to anyone, it belongs only to those who are truly interested in it," by devoting their lives to this Purpose. Therefore, I think if there is an Integral Buddhism, undoubtedly it does not belong to Ken Wilber.

In conclusion, I would like to say that in Japan, in the past, it already has been attempted the Project for "Union of Buddhism", but this initiative was unsuccessful. Buddhism is also a field full of Ego. This is my only doubt or skepticism toward the Maitriyana, which is a Spirituality that goes beyond Buddhism, like Zen.

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