Sunday, January 24, 2010

Toward an Integral Buddhism (Redux)

A few years ago, I posted an article in response to Sam Harris's then current article in Shambhala Sun, Killing the Buddha. In the article he argues for stripping away everything from Buddhist practice except meditation practice, what Ken Wilber would call the "technology of transcendence."

I recently posted a revised & shortened version of the original article over at Elephant Journal, where we are having a wonderful conversation about the article and about contemporary Buddhist teacher Stephen Batchelor and his Buddhism Without Beliefs.

Come join us!

Here is a taste:

Toward an Integral Buddhism

In the Winter 2005 issue of Buddhadharma, Reginald Ray had an article (”The Three Lineages“) on the primary lineages of Buddhism. Mr. Ray discussed the primordial lineage, which conveys the direct experience of the awakened state; the transmission lineage, which comprises the variety of methods for conveying or teaching the primordial lineage to students; and the organizational lineage, which in this sense is the person who is officially responsible for upholding and maintaining the organizational structure of a given tradition.

If one wants to speak to a person, it is helpful to be able to speak in a language that fits his/her worldviews. The Buddha understood this. He developed a variety of teaching techniques (the transmission lineages) in order to convey his wisdom (the primordial lineage) to his students, who have since created the Buddhist sangha (the organizational lineage). Buddha recognized that each person, or stage of personal development, would need to have the teaching presented in a way that was accessible from her/his life conditions or worldview. The Buddha taught an Integral Buddhism. We do not need to kill the Buddha (as Sam Harris once famously suggested), we need to honor the full spectrum of ways we can follow his teachings.

In integral theory, which is based on a variety of developmental models, people, cultures, and societies develop through successive stages that occur in a predictable order, and none of which may be skipped. In psychology, we are most familiar with Piaget’s cognitive developmental stages, Kohlberg and Gilligan’s moral development, Jane Loevinger’s stages of ego development, Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, and Clare Graves biopsychosocial values stages, to name just a few of many. For a Western view of religion, we might also consider James Fowler’s stages of faith. Most of these have been verified (and updated or revised) through many research studies.

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