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Thread: The Bodhisattva Vow and Ken Wilbur

  1. #1

    The Bodhisattva Vow and Ken Wilbur

    Helluuuuuuu everyone! (Lynn does her best Julia Child)

    Right! Well, this very interesting link landed in my inbox this morning and, while I don't know much at all about Ken Wilbur, I found his response to the very genuine and deeply saddened questioner, most interesting. *Especially his take on the misconception that some have regarding what the Bodhisattva vow is really asking of us.

    Jundo...what say you?

    http://holons-news.com/node/139

  2. #2
    Thanks for the link. The social worker voices the suffering that goes with any effort to care for others. I liked Wilbur's response which verbalized the paradox that we live in. In a practical way, I thought he sensitively addressed the suffering of the young woman and gave her some good stuff to work with.
    Thanks again for the link.
    David aka PapaDoc

  3. #3
    Hi Lynn and Papdoc,

    I wanted to take some time to answer this one, and to listen to the tape a few times before writing something, because I have to be careful in offering criticism as "Right Speach". You see, I have long had some strong opinions about Mr. Ken Wilber, and I need to say them directly when asked ...

    I must say (and this tape only confirms my feeling) that Mr. WIlber is a sharpie ... a very brilliant mind who takes a good heaping of perennial wisdom ... then wraps it in psycho-babble, stream of consciousness double-talk, 50-cent Cosmic words, Jung and hooey, nonsense and confusion ... then sells it as a series of seminars (not cheap ones either). He is a Spiritual Snake Oil Salesman. I think he found that what he has to sell is good business, and he is sure selling it. For every decent insight in one of his books (as I said, a smart mind who does come up with a stimulating idea here and there), there is page upon page of pablum fed to an audience who thinks obscurity and complex tables and graphs = brilliance.

    The woman's question was heartfelt, and his answer as silly as this fake tape in which he purports to stop his brain waves (electrical engineers will tell you the trick he pulls with the toy EEG machine). I do not think that one can stop the brain waves --- while --- one is sitting there talking on and on about it, requiring, I suppose, some brain waves!! No surprise that he refuses to repeat the experiment under controlled and monitored conditions.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFFMtq5g8N4[/video]]

    Anyway, back to the main question:

    The woman, like many people, is trying to do difficult, good works in a very ugly situation. Poverty and ophans, she buys some blankets which are stolen. It is, I am sure, the straw which broke the camels back for her, and her spirit is broken. Unfortunately, it is a situation that plagues many care givers, social workers, charity workers, etc.

    Try as we might, we cannot heal all that needs healing in this world.

    So, do we quit? What is the attitude to sustain us when we cannot repair what should be repaired?

    My attitude toward this is summarized in a talk I gave after some particularly ugly incident in the news. It is what I recommend for all the ugly situations where our efforts are like Sisyphus and the stone (a stone that rolls over us sometimes on the way back down) ... Please give it a watch and let me know your thoughts?

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/04 ... tance.html

    Our Compassion, and the Precepts, call upon us to act as we can in ways helpful and healthful to ourselves and others (knowing that, ultimately, there is no difference between ourselves and others). But, no matter how many bandaids we place, some diseases will not be cured. Many good efforts will turn sour. That is just how it is, yet we try. (Perhaps that message was buried somewhere in Mr. Wilber's talk, but I could not spot it for all the other fluff).

    One part of his talk that was true to me was the part about Samsara as Nirvana, Nirvana as Samsara.

    Look, Master Dogen is talking about this in the Genjo Koan section which I am babbling on about these days on the blog (not a plug for my talks, it is just true). The world stinks sometimes, our self wants the world to be X (maybe a place without poverty and orphans) but the world is Y. Our Buddhist Practice provides us with a couple of wise perspectives on this. First, we drop the "self" that wishes for X (no you, no poverty, no orphans). Second, as I will talk about tonight, we take the additional perspective that Y is just Y (poverty is just poverty, orphans perfectly orphans). As well, we keep working in the world with hope and Compassion, seeking to alleviate the poverty and comfort the orphans (Dogen did not talk about that so much ... maybe because poverty and orphans were so natural in his day, in fact Dogen was one ... but many more modern Engaged Buddhists do work for such goalless goals). That is what we can do, that is the human condition as care givers.

    Yet in the end, try as we might ...

    Though all this may be true, flowers fall even if we love them, and weeds grow even if we hate them, and that is all.

    I hope I do not come across as cold and uncaring to the situation of the woman on the video, because I am anything but.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4
    Hi Jundo, Lynn, & Papadoc

    I don't think Jundo comes across as uncaring or cold in your comment here. Wilbur's response seemed sort of convoluted to me, perhaps he was trying to say pretty much the same thing . . . I'll never know, my attention span could not hold through the video. I must not be enough of an "intellectual" to get into that sort of a thing.

    On the other hand, I do find a lot of truth in the idea that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing, just another emotion with it's own purpose and things to teach us.

  5. #5
    I think things should be taken one moment at a time. Everyone has the capablity of growing and learning from their practice and experience, so what one person might have said 6 months ago doesn't necessarily make up that person right now. I haven't read the post. I'm about to. It's quite possible that Mr. Wilber is up to his old tricks.

    Hopefully Ken sees his mistakes of the past. For some people the one thing that's so hard to admit is: They don't have a clue. Some times people talk too much.

    Posted after watching:

    If that woman were to sit and practice, she would probably know what to do. It's great that Ken is telling her about it, but come on. Shut up and sit.

    Tenzin Palmo seems to be fairly matter of fact

    From a previous post:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZYPFwASphg[/video]]

    G,W

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Thanks for this too, Will. I think I may link to it tomorrow, as it ties in to a talk for the holidays.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    hmmm..ok, let me focus my question a bit. (I, too, liked what he said about samsara/nirvana.) I was wondering about this piece of his commentary:

    "Bodhisattva isn't one who puts off his or her enlightenment until all beings are enlightened, cuz if you put off your enlightenment how can you do anything with wisdom? If you put off your enlightenment you say, "I vow to be stupid until everyone else wakes up." So what you really say is, "I vow to attain enlightement as fast as I can; or I vow to recognize my already enlightened state; and then, resting in that state to descend into hell."

    I think my own experience of the way people can misinterpret the Bodhisattva vow as saying that you need to stop your own spiritual unfoldment, or somehow hold back in your training because if you don't you'll forget to help others. But, I think that what he is saying about really needing that wisdom in place is very important when one is putting oneself out to do "right action" or "right livelihood" of some kind. This is certainly speaking to anyone in the caregiving profession or anyone doing relief work in someplace like Darfur. Without that wisdom you can easily burn out in some very unhealthy ways at the least, or, in more aberrant cases, you find people falling into "do gooder" -itis and sometimes attaining martyr or saviour complexes.

    Anyway, again, I can't really comment on Wilbur's whole schmeggegy (although you seem to have a strong opinion, Jundo) so, maybe I wasn't distracted by things I didn't have a button on. I was kind of listening with the Buddhist ear and the rest that I didn't understand just fell off to the side of the road. Sorry for not being a bit more specific in what I was interested in commentary around.

    In Gassho~

    *Lynn

  8. #8
    "Bodhisattva isn't one who puts off his or her enlightenment until all beings are enlightened, cuz if you put off your enlightenment how can you do anything with wisdom? If you put off your enlightenment you say, "I vow to be stupid until everyone else wakes up." So what you really say is, "I vow to attain enlightement as fast as I can; or I vow to recognize my already enlightened state; and then, resting in that state to descend into hell."


    I think he's overstating and obscuring- deliberately- a much easier (and nicer) sentiment. I'm also not convinced he believes what he himself said there... but I feel that way about a lot of what he says. He reminds me very much of a politician or a televangelist, but with somewhat better hair.
    A Bodhisattva is simply a person who's figured out how to get from point A to point B, but refused to go all the way to point B taking the map with him until he's guided as many other travellers as possible onto the right path and kept them safely on their way to where he's already been.

  9. #9
    Now I'm confused. I thought enlightenment and Nirvana, although linked, were two separate phenomena. I thought the Bodhisattva were enlightened but held off Nirvana until they helped all the people. Like you can be enlightened but still go through samsara. Now that I'm thinking about this, I seem to remember more than one definition of a Bodhisattva. I think I need to do some reading again.

  10. #10
    Hi Guys,

    Well, let me do my usual "bring them out of the clouds and down to earth" treatment with Bodhisattvas. Remember, though, that when I do that ... I am not trying to make the sacred ordinary, but to express the ordinary-sacred.

    So, in the Buddhist story books, very flowery language is used about the Bodhisattvas, much as with the Catholic Saints. The Bodhisattvas, like the Buddha, move from the status of ordinary human beings to heavenly entities with all forms of magical powers. Master Dogen uses flowery language too about the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but to put it in scholarly language ...

    Among the Japanese Buddhist sects, the Amidhists place Amida Buddha on the lotus pedestal and worship him as the savior. The Tendai sect tended to spread the merit of “receiving and keeping the Lotus Sutra, reading it, reciting it, expounding it, and copying it.”... Not only was the Lotus Sutra worshipped as something sacred in itself, but also numerous Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who appear in the Lotus Sutra—Śākyamuni, Amitāyus, Manjusri, Maitreya, Bhaishajyarāja (J. Yakushi ), Akshobhya (J. Ashiku), Samantabhadra (J. Fugen), and Avalokitesvara (J. Kannon), came to be venerated. The Lotus Sutra especially spread the cult of the devotion to Guanyin or Kannon in China and Japan. Kannon is still regarded by many Japanese as the compassionate “savior-goddess.”

    In contrast, for Zen practitioners Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not the objects of worship but rather they are the living testimony of the life of spiritual pursuits. ...

    In steering clear of the projected and objectively conceived view of the sacred or holy, Zen holds no “devotional” attitude to scriptures or to the founders of the sect, without precluding, however, the sense of reverence rendered to those fully embodied their “original face.” This Zen approach to the Lotus Sutra may appear prima facie “non-iconic,” or even “iconoclastic.” That is to say, Zen followers neither venerate it as a sacred object nor do they worship the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as deities. Zen is the path that begins with discovering one’s own buddha nature, and as such it ultimately both denies and affirms the divine. It denies the divine as a concept, but it affirms the divine as that which sustains and nurtures the buddha nature. Moreover, Zen followers aspire to embody this divine reality. To become a buddha (or bodhisattva) may sound sacrilegious and blasphemous to the mind trained in the theistic tradition, which tends to consider God as a transcendent Being. However, it is by no means unfamiliar to the mystics of the theistic tradition. [JUNDO: I am not so crazy about the word "DIVINE", so I prefer the slight improvement of "SACRED" or "ORDINARY NOT ORDINARY"]

    http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~yusa/TheLotusSut ... eutics.htm
    So, a Buddha or Bodhisattva is the potential we have in all of us.

    In my interpretation, any action of Wisdom and Compassion during this life, in this world, is the action of a Bodhisattva. So, Bodhisattva Tracy, yes, in many traditional concepts "Nirvana" is something that removes from, or is a departure from, this world and/or ordinary mental life. "Enlightenment" has a more worldly feel about it. It can also mean realizing that we have been "Enlightened" all along.

    So, I have no problem with Bodhisattva Mr. WIlber when he says the following, and I really like how Bodhisattva Lynn interpreted it ... In fact (as you probably know about me) I tend to be much more focused on the value of "Enlightenment" in this world and life than on any "Enlightenment" or "Satori" or "Nirvana" that takes us out of life and the world.

    [Ken Wilber] "Bodhisattva isn't one who puts off his or her enlightenment until all beings are enlightened, cuz if you put off your enlightenment how can you do anything with wisdom? If you put off your enlightenment you say, "I vow to be stupid until everyone else wakes up." So what you really say is, "I vow to attain enlightement as fast as I can; or I vow to recognize my already enlightened state; and then, resting in that state to descend into hell."

    [Lynn] I think my own experience of the way people can misinterpret the Bodhisattva vow as saying that you need to stop your own spiritual unfoldment, or somehow hold back in your training because if you don't you'll forget to help others. But, I think that what he is saying about really needing that wisdom in place is very important when one is putting oneself out to do "right action" or "right livelihood" of some kind. This is certainly speaking to anyone in the caregiving profession or anyone doing relief work in someplace like Darfur.
    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11
    So, Bodhisattva Tracy, yes, in many traditional concepts "Nirvana" is something that removes from, or is a departure from, this world and/or ordinary mental life. "Enlightenment" has a more worldly feel about it. It can also mean realizing that we have been "Enlightened" all along.
    Aww, shucks. I don't feel like a Bodhisattva ( :wink: ). I've read a little more. I don't know where I got the notion that enlightenment and nirvana separate phenomena. I guess you hold off 'complete enlightenment' and nirvana to help other people. Whatever, I'm reducing the big picture again.

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