Sunday, September 07, 2008

Da was influenced by the rhetoric and schematizing of Neo-Vedantins like Vivekananada and Yogananda, whom he wished to emulate

Re: Integral Ideology kelamuni said Jun 27, 8:15 PM: Hi Jim,

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 out of which arose 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 is what Hacker means by “what you mean when you say x is what we mean when we say y, and y is a better way to understand it.” 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 underpinning idea here is recognizable – that of priveleged access: “you don't get it 'cuase yer not realized yet.” The inter-traditional context is clearly polemical, and one might certainly question whether such an inherently polemical approach has place in a fair, evenhanded, scholarly account of tradition.

Vis a vis the given link, it is perhaps ironic that among Wilber's influences can be found not only the (European) Hegelian concept of Aufhebung (“transcend and include”), but Aurobindo's own “integralism,” his “synthesis of yoga.” There is also no question that Wilber's modelling relies 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 their 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 (bhakti/yoga/jnana/”an-upaya”). Da was also influenced by the rhetoric and schematizing of Neo-Vedantins like Vivekananada and Yogananda, 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, such as Madhava, author of the Sarva-darshana-samgraha, “Compendium of All Teachings.” These doxographers present the Indian tradition in terms of a hierarchy of schools: materialists at the bottom, followed by the heterodox Buddhists and Jains, then the logicians Nyaya-Vaishesika, followed by the Samkhya and Yoga, followed by the dualist and qualified non-dualist schools, and capped off with, no less than, the teaching of Advaita Vedanta. Standard textbooks of Indian philosophy still use this format. What the Neo-Vedantins do is universalize this tendency so as to include all the world traditions. Hence Radhakrishnan can say: “All true religion is Vedanta.” And we find Suzuki saying the same thing about Zen, and Idries Shah about Sufism. Indeed, perennialism is the locus classicus of the inclusivist tendency. It masquarades as a kind of pluralism. But in the end it is usually about the dominance of some agenda – Advaita Vedanta, Tantra, whatever.

Another irony is that it is precisely this Hegelian tendency toward totalitizing, this need for “das Absolute,” that the post-moderns like Bataille, Derrida and Foucault, following the events of '69, were fleeing from. Generally, it is a tendency that attempts to reduce the “you” to the “I,” to the Absolute Subject; a tendency in which the all-consuming European Eye sees everything as grist for its own consumption, for its own self-understanding. And now, ironically, the postmoderns have been reduced to a simple formula – the greenies – and thrown in a drawer like a trinket or novelty: “you now live at level 5 in the Integral Highrise” And that is because this is basically how Ken reads: he does not encounter the authors he reads, he does not engage them, grapple with them and allow them to transform his thought and being. He uses them toward his own end: he reads an author until he finds something useful, abstracts the bit he needs, and then ignores the bits that don't “fit.” It is no wonder, then, that reading is basically an exercise in “translation” for Ken. That is the only way he knows. permalink


  1. Perhaps if these ignorant self appointed know alls actually studied the Wisdom Teaching of the said Da, especially The Knee of Listening, and even the very early books The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, and The Paradox of Instruction, they will find that he didnt borrow anything from anyone.

  2. [I might well have described Wilber’s project that way at some point, but to the extent that that is what Wilber tries to do, I think the attempt must be classed a complete failure. My article on Wilber showed why I don’t think he really gets any premodern traditions, Buddhism included (briefly, because he illegitimately reduces them all to experiences). And his arguments are so undialectical that one can’t imagine Hegel included in the synthesis.
    Which, I suppose, is part of the reason that a reading of Buddhism and MacIntyre via each other is at some level exactly what I’m now attempting – and it may even turn out to be the culmination of the twenty-year project, though in the kind of timeframe that that name implies. I think MacIntyre’s remarks about Confucianism are quite productive for comparative philosophers, though it’s trickier to work with Buddhism than Confucianism in this regard because Confucianism is so much more similar to MacIntyre’s Aristotelianism than Buddhism is.] Amod Lele said: 11 November 2015 at 4:03 pm