Reintegration via Buddhism?

So I’m pumped, guys.  In a big burst of synthesis, I’ve got a few new topics to write about in this blog.  As usual, they all connect seamlessly in my mind; my task as a blogger will be to try to make what might look at first like content chasms to everyone else as seamless to you as they are to me.  (This is how I get around that tedious “have a niche” blogging rule.  Alternately: my niche is readers who like making connections between niches.)

I’ll start with what seems a fairly easy divide to cross: Buddhism and the Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD).  It’s easy to see a potential connection between those, right?

Well, even if it’s not, I will, of course, elaborate.  Lately I’ve been doing the intellectually overexcitable sponge thing about Buddhism.  See, I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation for a while now, and linked it superficially to TPD in a previous post.  For the past few months, I’ve using The Mind Illuminated, which is a fantastic text for novice meditators; it not only addresses the various specific hurdles faced by everyone from novice to experienced meditators, it also brings in some of the Buddhist thought behind the practice.  I have been one of the standard secular-only Western meditators; but on the other hand, I can’t resist learning the background.  And then, when I recently went on one of my periodic Coursera binges, I found a course called Buddhism and Modern Psychology (it just started on February 19, so it’s not too late to sign up and join me if you’re interested!), which happens to be taught by the author of Why Buddhism Is True, which incidentally showed up second when I searched for The Mind Illuminated.  Hmmmmm.

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So yeah, Buddhism is trendy right now in the West.  Is this because, as my Coursera professor argues, Buddhism is true, and we’re picking out the right religion/philosophy?  Well, I’m not prepared to go that far.  Rather, this seems to suggest that Western society is teetering too far in one direction on the Great Wobbly Platform of Human Existence, and mindfulness and Buddhism are traditions that offer an excellent counterweight to our particular ills.  (For instance, I am prepared to say that we have created a particularly mindless society.)

And then, to put it in language that regular readers will recognize by now: Buddhism seems to be a tool that many people who are positively maladjusted to our unhealthy society are picking up as they search for answers.

This, in turn, reminded me of something Elizabeth Mika said in that same excellent article I quoted in my recent post on true believers, in which she’s addressing positive disintegration in today’s United States.  In talking about why TPD never caught on in the US despite a favorable reception by some respected American psychologists, Mika writes,

[P]eople in general, and Americans in particular, do not like being reminded that pain and suffering are an inextricable part of the human condition. We understandably want to avoid both; and when we can no longer do so, we still try—through distractions, medication, or employment of various forms of magical thinking, from self-help to positive psychology. Not that there is anything terribly wrong with such attempts; however, they offer only temporary solutions—and sometimes no solutions at all; sometimes they obscure the source of our suffering and the means of its amelioration, which is authentic growth and change.

Mika is talking about TPD, but it seems to me that she could just as easily be talking about Buddhism here (possibly excluding that final clause on “authentic growth and change,” but I’d argue even that fits—more on that shortly).

But, right, Americans don’t like dukkha (i.e. famously translated as “suffering,” or more accurately as “unsatisfactoriness.”)  I mean, no one likes dukkha, that’s precisely the point, but American culture in particular seems to encourage us to spend a lot of energy trying to hide from the fact that it even exists—and that there is a means to its amelioration.  And that, of course, is the central claim of Buddhism.

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Mika goes on to add a second reason that TPD didn’t gain broad acceptance in the US:

[T]he theory is counter-cultural in that its ideas go against the prevailing (unilevel, as Dabrowski would call them) beliefs and social mores, with a potential to revolutionize our outlook on mental health and disorder, and our life in general.

Again, a reminder that in this essay, Elizabeth Mika isn’t talking about Buddhism at all; I have no idea what she thinks about Buddhist philosophy.  But this melded so well with one of the readings for my Coursera course.  Consider this excerpt and see if this doesn’t go against our norms of mental health and disorder, or even the general aspirations of the archetypal American:

The word “noble,” or ariya, is used by the Buddha to designate a particular type of person, the type of person which it is the aim of his teaching to create. In the discourses the Buddha classifies human beings into two broad categories. On one side there are the puthujjanas, the worldlings, those belonging to the multitude, whose eyes are still covered with the dust of defilements and delusion. On the other side there are the ariyans, the noble ones, the spiritual elite, who obtain this status not from birth, social station or ecclesiastical authority but from their inward nobility of character.

 

These two general types are not separated from each other by an impassable chasm, each confined to a tightly sealed compartment. A series of gradations can be discerned rising up from the darkest level of the blind worldling trapped in the dungeon of egotism and self-assertion [JM note: Level I], through the stage of the virtuous worldling in whom the seeds of wisdom are beginning to sprout [Level III], and further through the intermediate stages [Level IV] of noble disciples to the perfected individual [Level V] at the apex of the entire scale of human development. This is the arahant, the liberated one, who has absorbed the purifying vision of truth so deeply that all his defilements have been extinguished, and with them, all liability to suffering.

You’ll see that in my enthusiasm, I stuck some annotations in there, and bolded some key points.  This suggests pretty strongly to me that many of these early Buddhists were thinking along the same lines as Dabrowski, trying to deal with positive disintegration themselves!  They’ve even gone and collectively designated a Level V personality ideal, i.e., the arahant.

But wait!  A core part of positive disintegration is the third factor—autonomous self-direction of one’s conscience and developing of one’s own, authentic personality ideal.  If you just accept the one you’re handed by an authority, that won’t do at all.  That’s so second factor!  That’s what the true believers do!  We don’t want that, do we?

Then I read the next assigned reading, this time from a book, The Foundations of Buddhism by Rupert Gethin.  On page 60, Gethin notes that the Four Noble Truths, which are the foundation of the Buddha’s teachings, aren’t a creed; assenting to them isn’t an act of faith that makes you a Buddhist in the way that the declaration that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger is fundamental to becoming a Muslim.  These statements—that of the fact of dukkha, its cause, its cessation, and the path to its cessation—are, says Gethin, realities that both Buddhists and non-Buddhists fail to see as they are.  So, if I understand correctly, it’s the intent to follow the prescription laid out in the fourth Noble Truth that makes a person a Buddhist.

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A quick clarification: there are, of course, plenty of people who call themselves Buddhists not because of an active intent to follow the teachings, but because of their cultural background, just as a Westerner might call herself a Christian even though she never goes to church and is doubtful that God exists.  So when I talk about “Buddhists” here, what I really mean is practicing adherents, not cultural adherents.

And this brings us back to what I was thinking earlier when I said that authentic growth and change actually are potentially compatible with following a map someone else handed you as you walk down a path they recommended.  We can try it on for size and see how it fits.  Maybe that was obvious to everyone else, but I tended to feel compelled  to question everything and even come up with answers on my own.  (In that sense, I think I’m constitutionally incapable of being a “true believer,” which is not to say that I don’t have an opposite set of traits that someone could label with a different epithet.)

On that note, even as I get myself all pumped about basic Buddhist ideas, I still can’t say if I will ever identify myself a Buddhist.  All I can say right now is that it seems to me that the first two Noble Truths are absolutely true—inescapable unsatisfactoriness is inherent to our ever-changing world—and that digging more deeply into this philosophy has potential to help me both in my lifelong struggle with (positive!) maladjustment (internal growth) and, simultaneously, to become the person I aspire to be (external growth).  Going beyond the basics?  I can’t speak to that now.

All I know is that, for me, learning about Buddhism might be one path through positive disintegration and back to reintegration.

Your mileage is certain to vary.  In general, I think that other religions—adopted autonomously and sincerely, not because of social pressures—can provide similar avenues for Dabrowskian disintegration and reintegration; so can purely secular philosophical traditions; or you can make it up as you go along.  For others, rejecting religious belief (especially traditions espousing paths that a Level III+ person recognizes as lower) will have the same effect.  In thinking this through, it becomes clear how much the process of disintegration and reintegration has to be tailor-made for each person’s experience.  I guess that’s why authenticity is so important.  A solution tailored to my maladjustment won’t necessarily be a solution to yours, and vice versa.

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So what do you think?  Have any of you found any traditions (religious or otherwise) that aided your disintegration and reintegration?  How do you feel about the “à la carte” approach to religious beliefs?  If you are religious, how does the third factor impact your faith?  Knowing full well that I just asked an extremely weighty question, I invite you to share your stories in the comments.

Image credits: Devanath, 4144132, MindBodySpritWorld, suc, and judithscharnowski on Pixabay

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37 thoughts on “Reintegration via Buddhism?

  1. I have been a Zen Buddhist for more than twenty years, practicing mostly in the tradition of Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and I am a lay member of the Order of Onterbeing. Let me know if you ever want to talk Buddhism or Buddhism and socialism.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Travis, wow! I figured there might be some Buddhist socialists out there. I have a follow-up post in the works on this topic, too.

      Well, to start, how do you see these two identities meshing? Are there any places where you think they conflict?

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      1. Excellent post, so thought provoking I had to read it twice.

        I can’t answer for any other but Buddhism is actually an array of schools loosely linked under the Western definition of Buddhism. Whilst the teachings of the Buddha are shared, the individual approaches are varied. Different schools would tackle issues of social justice in different ways, almost always with the guidance of reliable teachers and teachings to start with. The key point is an attempt to understand and integrate the teachings of the Buddha into one’s own life.

        The early stages are often characterized by gaining a greater understanding of one’s own mental processes, thoughts, disturbing emotions in order to bring a greater reliability to one’s responses to the external world. The possible exception to this is compassion, compassion to self and others generally being seen as a safe way of expressing oneself.

        Try to identify a particular approach (school) and use that as your starting point. Although most Buddhist teaching are consistent and do converge, this is not always apparent.

        Thanks again for the great post.

        Regards

        Stephen

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful response, Stephen!

          I am indeed learning how diverse the schools of Buddhism are. And your description of the early stages fits exactly where I am at the moment: understanding my mental processes (which fits so well with the Theory of Positive Disintegration!) to try to bring a greater reliability to my responses to the world. Sticking with the Four Noble Truths and meditation practice works well for me at this stage, but it has dawned on me that I should perhaps pick a school and explore that further. I’m not sure I want to be a formal adherent, but I do know I’m curious and want to learn more and see what it does.

          Thanks for visiting and commenting!

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  2. I think there is much benefit to the “secular only” applications of Buddhism. The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are well documented in medical journals. And Buddhist thought has contributed positively to relief of anxiety and a number of modern mental and emotional ills.

    I am a bit skeptical of the philosophical side of Buddhism though. For me it’s a mixed bag. I think the First and Fourth Noble Truths are pretty solid. But I have trouble with the Second and Third ones. To me they seem incomplete, and have inconsistencies and contradictions.
    To the extent that Buddhism teaches to seek Nirvana and that there is a Nirvana and there is a path to get there, I think Buddhism is helpful to the spirit and emotions.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Fred! And I can understand your reluctance with the Third Noble Truth in particular, though I do like the Second one. For me, it rings quite true that the cause of dukkha (whether the basic “unsatisfactoriness” or the stronger “suffering”) is craving or desire, which makes me curious about where you see inconsistency or incompleteness in Noble Truth #2 — and to be sure, that’s a genuine curiosity about your perspective, not as pressure to justify anything. If you ask me, when it comes down to this, this is all very subjective (which the Buddhist teachers certainly wouldn’t agree with)…the question is, does it help you make sense of the climb you’re making up the side of the Mountain of Truth and Well-Being that you happen to find yourself on? And it’s always enlightening to hear what the view looks like from another climber’s perspective.

      As for the Third Noble Truth, my difficulty is merely in wrapping my head around the concept of nirvana, and in doubting that it actually is attainable, but I’m okay with it as a tool for “infinity focus” if you will. It’s so far away as to be unattainable, but we can still focus our lenses on it to some effect. (This view is subject to revision as I learn more, naturally!) So then, in that case, it sounds like I’m climbing the Mountain not too far off from where you are — “helpful to the spirit and emotions” is just what I meant.

      Another question on the off chance you feel like expounding: the Fourth Noble Truth is the Eightfold Path, so, as a non-Buddhist, do you feel like the Eightfold Path is still a useful guide for you?

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      1. Hello Jessie!!

        I think I may have cleared up some (but not all) of my hesitation on the 2nd Noble Truth. The 2nd Noble Truth states that “the root of all suffering (dukkha) is desire (tanha).” Well it turns out that “Tanha” actually specifically means craving, or misplaced desire. There is a word, “chanda,” for more positive desires. And this makes more sense to me. It is healthy and natural to want to be healthy, to want to love and be loved, to want community and support, to seek justice, to create and appreciate works of beauty, to seek learning and wisdom, and a whole host of other “positive” desires. I would have liked to have had it stated that tanha should be avoided and chanda sought, however. That would make the 2nd Noble Truth more “complete” for me.

        I agree with your hesitation on the 3rd Noble Truth. Do we ever have complete, uninterrupted inner peace (nirvana), in this life? Like you, I doubt the actual possibility of attainment of this. The 3rd Noble Truth is also where I saw the inconsistencies. The 3rd Noble Truth states: “the way to extinguish desire, which causes suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment.” Similar to the 2nd Noble Truth, is it possible to have healthy attachments? But barring rehashing that discussion, suppose we dedicate our lives to reducing attachments. Isn’t that in itself an attachment? And if it is, what then? Just zone out and don’t care about anything? This does not bring happiness or inner peace. This just brings despair and depression. So, this Noble Truth did nothing to help me.

        I’m glad you asked about the 4th Noble Truth because I like it best of all! I like it best because, it basically says that there *is* a Natural Law! We experience the wrongness from the 1st Noble Truth, and guess what, there is a Rightness out there! The Eight Fold Path/The Middle Way gets us there! The Buddha did give a caveat on the very first Path though… He said that his followers should not follow his teachings blindly, but rather judge to see if they were true. I don’t see this caveat as an invitation to relativism, but rather an admission that the Buddha himself did not see himself as divine or infallible. So the Eight Fold Path is indeed a tool that can be used by *all* people, no matter where they are on their spiritual path! This is truly a helpful feature of Buddhism!

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        1. Ah, I see where you were coming from on the Second Noble Truth. I hadn’t even thought it as far through as you, but if I had, I would have hit the same roadblock. Clearly, you can “desire” compassion for all beings, and that’s not an unhealthy craving that we should seek to shed. I also have had a similar question about attachments all being bad. In my case, it helps because one of the attachments I have that is particularly causing trouble is to my dad, and he himself was interested in these questions. I have a sense that there is a sense of attachment that can apply to our own lives, and to our ties to other people, that we can let go of, but that doesn’t involve ceasing to love them and hold them close to us and, if they are still with us, to appreciate them every day. I don’t think I’m spiritually mature enough to describe it further than that, but I sense a “higher” and “lower” form of “attachment” there, so this doesn’t deter me from the Third Noble Truth. I very much sympathize with your struggle there, though. This is precisely the material that I’m finding it so beneficial to work through and process.

          (On the attachment to reducing attachments, though — excellent point! And that was actually addressed in one of the readings in the Gethin book I cited above. In fact, a Buddhist is instructed to be willing to let go of the teachings when they are no longer useful. The metaphor is that they are a raft to get you across a river; when you have crossed the river, you no longer need to lug the raft on your back. I have no idea what the view is like from that side of the river, so that answer satisfies me for now.)

          And I totally agree with you about the Eightfold Path, at least as far as I understand it. The fact that the Buddha said “see for yourself, don’t take my word for it” is a major appeal to me.

          Wonderful to think this through with you, Fred. Thanks for the comments!

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  3. I really enjoy this! I find so much of Buddhism fits with my approach to living–mindfulness, attention, and inner silence are certainly keys.

    Recently, much of my journey through Positive Disintegration happened around the experiences of specific astrological transits, specifically with Uranus, Pluto, and Neptune, transiting personal planets in my natal chart. During those very transformative (and ego-disintegrating years), I often felt that the very trans-universal energies conspired to help us along our ways!

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    1. Cathy, thanks for those thoughts and glad you enjoyed the post! It of course makes sense to me (but is nevertheless cool to hear someone say so) that much of Buddhism fits in with your own life approach, as someone who is also interested in positive disintegration.

      You also are not the first gifted person I’ve known to find the idea of universal energies intriguing, which I think goes against the stereotypical image of the hyper-rational scientific image most people have of gifted people. I say that if it’s helping you with your climb up the Mountain of Truth and Well-Being, keep using it! I’d love to hear any stories you might have about those energies, if you felt like sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”– Linji (founder of the Rinzai Buddist school)
    This may lean towards the level 3 + personality development. As would the very origins of Siddartha Gautama whose positive maladjustment to his aristocratic upbringing led him to Buddahood.

    On the other hand, there is also a strong emphasis towards the primacy of right practice as it is expressed through specific formulaic customs (2nd Factor). Which lends itself towards level 1 integration within a Buddist construct. For example, I recall listening to an interview years back with the Dalai Lama. He was asked whether the popularity of Buddist ideas within Western culture reflect the authentic lineage of Buddism. His response was, that while Buddism was an obvious influence upon many people, one could not say that the Western adoption of Buddist principles embodies the actual tradition of Buddism itself which would require the correct adherence to the customs and ethos of its traditional holders. (2nd factor)

    So it depends on which angle you look at Buddism for Dabrowskian ideals. As with all religious traditions, you will encounter the inherent tension between the sanctity of a social construct and the espousing of its inner spiritual meaning.

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    1. Nathan – I love that you started with the Linji quote, because my dad loved that line. 🙂 And I agree that the story of Siddhartha Gautama’s life has to be one of positive maladjustment. Is, perhaps, the rarity of Buddhahood (which can, of course, be achieved by others) perhaps Buddhism’s way of addressing the fact that it’s pretty rare for people to reach Level IV-V? (Though not as rare as just limiting it to “Jesus and Buddha,” who achieved particular fame for their maladjustment. 😉 )

      And I think you’re absolutely right to separate the second and third factor elements of any system of belief, including Buddhism. That’s why I’m really only prepared to go so far as to say that Buddhism’s popularity is largely a response to widespread positive maladjustment…but in line with what we all discussed in my last post on true believers, a lot of people will just look to reintegrate at that lower level. So even though it takes some disintegration to pick out a new philosophical system, you’re absolutely right that the tension between the sanctity of the social construct and the inner spiritual meaning is likely to remain. Perhaps this is the point on the road where potential Level III+s diverge.

      Another thought: If Dabrowski’s right that most people don’t have a lot of developmental potential (DP), then I guess it’s a necessity that someone’s out there trying to get Level I people to incorporate second factor teachings into their life rather than merely following the first factor. But this is a truth I’m not exactly moved to embrace! The frequency of moderate and moderately-high DP in society is something about which I want to be more optimistic, but I’ve nothing to back that up but speculation and hope.

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      1. “If Dabrowski’s right that most people don’t have a lot of developmental potential (DP),”
        There are strong evidences in neurosciences that he was wrong about this.

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  5. Great article! I have always viewed reintegration as a marriage between the eastern and western philosophies. Both are right, and both are limited. Dabrowski struggled with eastern methods as he felt that it diminished suffering and the reality of the individual, while western thought embraced growth through trauma by identification with emotions. The east speaks of “the source” where all creation emerged from, and the west speaks of the individual – that I am an individual before I was mortal, I am an individual as a mortal, and I will remain an individual post-mortality. Is it not possible, then, that consciousness emerged from “the source” into a sphere of individuality and when one passes on to the next “sphere of existence” that they return to that “source”? In this case, both the east and the west are right – it’s more finding a way to unite these two. This is done, in my opinion, paradoxically through the concept of resurrection — and Dabrowski felt the same way. In his Java Shoppe Interview, he spoke of the historical personalities who espoused a belief that at some point the human spirit and body will once again be reunited via sort of resurrection into a perfected, advanced form. It seems that death brings the soul into an eastern union with the source, and the resurrection brings the individual back into unity with the individual physical body by the power of “the source”

    I have transcribed some excerpts of The Java Shoppe Interview below:

    ​​
    Can You Expound On Eastern Meditation Techniques?

    (NEEDS TRANSLATION)

    I feel very badly about what I have said about this. As far as Mahraishi Meditation Method, I am not against this method of meditation, because this is similar to other systems of meditation and meditation means something good, something to give relaxation and harmonization and so on. But Marashiogi (?) he told me and wrote in many journals that he will reject all suffering and he will give possibility to see the world in the (inaudible). This means for me…how do I say this in english…”Charlatanry” – because this is inhuman: Away with suffering, away with friendship, away with idealized love, away from the possibility for development, away from human divinization! Only, ONLY try to reach happiness and joy for experience and so on. This is something completely inhuman.

    Q: You say his techniques would be not beneficial, even to people let’s say at level 4 who feel very meditative.

    Oh no, people with level 4 will never accept such a method. They will utilize many methods of meditation, and i repeat meditation is a very good method. Only it’s the philosophy connected to the meditation technique is for me very dangerous. Is Mahraishi Masiyaogi a lower developed individual? This is very difficult to speak about, but I have some inhibition. I wish to him the best, but to present such a philosophy is to be lowering ourselves. Not just him in particular, but such similar schools, you know that (inaudible) factor in these schools means something like fantastic identity with more of a principal (inaudible) with God with something like, well, this means that this is annihilation of your identity of your independence of your individual personality. Like in Buddhist Nirvana this is annihilation of your individual personality.

    Q. Can you explain how positive disintegration differs from many of these eastern philosophies.

    A. Terribly clearly – this means positive disintegration accepts many positive aspects of the eastern schools of meditation. Only, this theory does not accept, and clearly rejects the philosophy, the metaphysic of almost all eastern philosophy because they do not explain the sense of individual development, the sense of individual life, to giving them the opposite end of identification, this means in my opinion, annihilation of human individual personality.

    A yoga eastern philosopher in his autobiography, one of his pupils came to him and asked him, “Master, will I meet my guru, whom i loved so terribly in the hereafter?” and he told him, “No, never, because you will be your guru, and your guru will be yourself. This means that you will be unified and be completely identified with this unity, and you cannot “meet” something like “guru” or something that presents itself as an individual identity.

    On Transcendence of Biological Life

    Here this is always a mystery and only through our own personal development, we can perhaps, reach the borderline between true and (inaudible) empirical concrete (sp?) transcendence and this life. But we see for instance in Christ, as you know very well, that his life was this transformation of his personality, you know this was described, that transformation in a complete other form, much more spiritual, much more influential, but much more subtle than (inaudible). But I think that this is not far from something like the Occult (or So Called?) in Eastern Philosophy after our body. This means perhaps after bodily death, we can live in another form of the body, which will be something like spiritual body, but with all the faculties. Well, I do not have personal experience, and even if I could have this, it would be very difficult to speak about, but after all I think that tendency in many people to define his attitude toward immortality and to seek prolongation of our personality on the highest level in the hereafter. This means something very human at a very high level and I think that this is a way toward the “Christ Experience” – we are very sorry that christ could not give us all explications, but he told us, “ I can say many more things, but in such a condition you could not understand it, you could not accept it.” Well this is something for the future in Christ to be opened.

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    1. Oh!!! Fantastic content! Thank you for sharing this, Jonathon! I am even more pumped now than when I started writing this post, because bringing this up led to people pointing me in the direction of very intriguing research that I can do to further this line of thought and exploration. I must confess that I haven’t watched all the Dabrowski videos, even though I mean to.

      (A slight digression, of interest to anyone who posts links to videos for me to watch: I tend not to watch them because they go too slowly. I am often too impatient for video and prefer text, unless I’m aware that the video will be so highly relevant to what I’m currently absorbing that I can stand to sit there and wait patiently for the video to get on with it. Dabrowski, of course, is likely to be worth it — a chance to hear the man himself in his own voice! But my aversion to video from all the people throwing out wholly unskimmable videos they liked without making it clear why I should care means I have a mental barrier I have to overcome.)

      But yes. I need and WANT to watch more of the Dabrowski videos.

      Back to the content at hand: so much to think about here. I also got a private message expressing Dabrowski’s less than positive opinion of Eastern religion, and it makes a lot of sense in the context of the development of personality. At the same time, from where I stand, I don’t think they’re incompatible at all — but that may just be evidence of my à la carte approach to religious/spiritual beliefs. I have heard that one of Dabrowski’s graduate students thought Dabrowski did not properly understand Buddhism and that they had great discussions about this; I also have heard Dabrowski was a meditator (which is compatible with what you wrote here). Now I want to track down the graduate student and interview him to create a follow-up post! And to talk to the other colleague of Dabrowski who spoke about his meditation practice.

      So yes, all I really have to say here is that I have more to investigate — so much to chew on mentally! But nothing to pronounce or judge as of yet. This will take, and deserves, much more thought.

      I do have one meta-thought, though: when we talk about second factor pressures and about autonomy and the third factor, we recognize that even Dabrowski can’t be an authority for someone who’s moved by positive disintegration. “No, that’s not what I authentically perceived!” The sort of person we are talking about here must evaluate the Four Noble Truths on her own, and must evaluate the Theory of Positive Disintegration on her own, and will pronounce the truth as she sees it from where she stands, even though she may still strongly respect the teachers and the original thinkers. Upon pondering it, she may well find that one of them was absolutely right and the other was absolutely wrong, even as they all made a valiant effort.

      Looks like I’ve got some work to do. Thanks so much for this!

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    2. “Like in Buddhist Nirvana this is annihilation of your individual personality.”
      It is not.
      In the nirvana state, you stay attached to your most deeper values.
      It’s a bound that cannot be broken. You incarnate them.
      So, your individual personnality seems to change constantly, depending on who you’re interacting with, but there is some permanent hard-core, like a diamond.
      This diamond is what you recognize as yourself.

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  6. The arahant (also spelled arahat or arhat) is a controversial concept in Buddhism. Basically when someone becomes enlightened they can go two ways. Some dedicate their lives to the liberation of others and become bodhisattvas. Arahats (the spelling I first learned) just sit around enjoying being enlightened. When potential students gather around and want to learn from them, their standard response is “No. It’s my enlightenment. Go get your own.” 🙂 Some regard arahats as part of the way, other traditions make students take the ‘bodisattva vow’ and promise they’ll be good after they get enlightened. Some even claim “it is no sin to kill an arahat” and if you read the Spiritual Enlightenment trilogy by Jed McKenna, you’ll find out why. They can be very annoying. 🙂

    Back when I thought enlightenment meant basically being in a permenant flow state it greatly appealed to me. But since I’ve learned more about it (Mariana Caplan’s books are good on enlightenment traditions), the less it appeals to me. While a lot of religions have a problem with things like the body and sex, Buddhism seems to take this a step further and ultimately have a problem with being a separate, individual, being/conciousness/entity at all. At least at the philosophical level it seems a more complete rejection of life than even puritanical religions. Also, why bother dedicating your life to becoming one with the universe when, according to a lot of traditions, you get that for free when you die anyway?

    There is also a safety aspect to spirituality. Some say the spiritual path is a long hard climb up a mountain, while others claim you’re already on the summit and you just need to rub the gunk out of your eyes so you can enjoy the view. The latter fast enlightenment is dangerous because most forms of spiritual realisation involve a vast amout of energy flowing through your body. Without years of preparation the enlightenment could still arise but your spiritual pipework won’t be up to handling it and will blow out, leaving spiritual energy spraying everywhere. It’ll be a mess. Only the years of climbing the mountain get you ready for what you find at the top.

    The connection to TPD is very solid though. Lots of ancient and medieval mystics of all religions were also proto-socialists. I even read somewhere that both traits came from similar dissatisfaction. They were socialists because they were dissatisfied with society and they were mystics because they were dissatisfied with themselves.

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    1. I like how you put that and I agree with the distinction: “they were socialists because they were dissatisfied with society and they were mystics because they were dissatisfied with themselves.” To some extent, I see TPD as filling a spiritual guidance void for people who aren’t otherwise in a spiritual practice; it’s like a pure humanist (I know humanist means something specific to some and I’m not using it in an informed sense in that way) way of approaching the idea of spiritual development, perhaps.

      Right after I posted this, a friend of mine who is also studying Buddhism noted that arahants are treated differently in different traditions. I’m more familiar with Mahayana, to the extent that I was originally taught the term “Hinayana” for Theravada, which I later learned is a bit like calling a Catholic a “Papist.” So I didn’t know where to plug the arahants in; only that they sound like a personality ideal at which to aim. But if they can be supplanted by the Bodhisattvas, then I think that’s obviously to be preferred; I didn’t realize that they were competing concepts and, not being a practicing Buddhist aligned with a Mahayana or Theravada school, I don’t have trouble seeing a place for both. You can figure out if you’ve got what it takes to be a Bodhisattva when you get there; right now I’m just grappling with the reality of dukkha! But I DO like to think that everyone (especially if we get multiple lives!) will eventually have what it takes. There is more room for hope if we get all of eternity. 🙂

      When you noted that “At least at the philosophical level [Buddhism] seems a more complete rejection of life than even puritanical religions,” I suppose I can see why someone might interpret it that way, but some of the material I was listening to for the Coursera course suggests quite the opposite. Don’t be a hedonist AND don’t be an ascetic, or so the Buddha seems to have said. I like that. If it does come to ultimate rejection of physical life, well, I’m quite OK with that from the point on the journey where I’m standing, because death IS a real thing that happens, so to suggest that we need not cling to life to be spiritually healthy…that works well for me at the moment. Life is full of dukkha at the moment. That, in fact, is precisely what piqued my interest in Buddhism. I was going to blog about that (to get a nice week of posts going every other day!), but then MORE dukkha arose and that got thrown off. Well, no matter. One must not cling to blog schedules!

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      1. One book I think you’d like is Robert Thurman’s Inner Revolution. It’s about Buddhism in general but also Buddhist psychology and how Buddhists have organised politically through their history, both in their own intersts and for social change. It’s mostly about the ‘cool revolution’ of gradual change but spoiler alert, at one point the Tibetan monasteries overthrow the aristocracy with the help of Mongolian warlords, disarm their troops and divide up the land. It amused me that the author doesn’t even seem to notice that isn’t just an ‘inner’ revolution any more. 😉

        While I’m thinking about book recommendations, another I’ve been meaning to mention but keep forgetting is The Abolition of the State by Wayne Price. It’s an anarchist critique of revolutionary Marxism and covers pretty much every problem in the theory that worries me (and it may have been responsible for some of my worries in the first place). Although an anarchist, Price is a former Trotskyist, so he knows how to talk to socialists without aggravating them the way anarchists often do.

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        1. Since you’re doing the Million Meditators thing, another part of Inner Revolution that may interest you is the discussion of millenarian Buddhism and what happens when a whole society is going for the same goal at the same time.

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  7. Thanks for sharing and for the ‘like’ and ‘follow’! I am particularly interested in Buddhism, I grew up in a Catholic household but always questioned things. A documentary I found that was interesting is about Jesus’ missing years and that he was taught by Buddhist monks. So, essentially he was spreading the love and philosophy of Buddhism. This is a radical idea but could be a possibility. I have been interested and reading about Buddhism and essentially feel that their philosophy and teachings resonate with me. I saw that Coursera course also but am starting other studies next months so am preparing for that instead but will hopefully be able to complete that course when it is offered again. Peace and blessings! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tigre! And that’s a fascinating idea to ponder, that Jesus had contact with Buddhism. On that note, I just ordered a book called Living Christ, Living Buddha, because it sounded like it might have something to say about Level III+ religion. Once it gets here and I read it, perhaps I’ll get a follow up post out of it!

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  8. An interesting post and a great discussion, which I can unfortunately only join as a sympathetic outsider. My cultural and political home is the class conscious left of the early 20th century (Enrico Malatesta, Rosa Luxemburg, Otto Bauer, Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Leon Trotzki, Fidel Castro Ruz, etc.).

    A few thought splinters:

    What distinguishes an atheist from an agnostic, pantheist, or Buddhist? The laws of the universe, determining our fate so absolutely, can as well be called a supernatural being. Epistemology. Our senses, our imagination and intelligence are limited, so why be picky about words to describe something we cannot understand anyway.

    Religions have a purpose, otherwise they wouldn’t exist, they represent the history and the accumulated wisdom of our ancestors. In some respect, to some extent, some religions may have outlived their usefulness, buts that’s an issue to discuss another time.

    Cultural and religious traditions, practices, rites provide necessary routines and procedures of daily life, are stepping stones, safety grip handles, and social scaffolding. Growing up without religion, Buddhism and Taoism intrigued me, they were compatible with causality and determinism, which are the basis of my understanding of the world.

    The Tao Te Ching and texts about Zen or Buddhism were inspiring. As I understood it, the original teachings of Buddha were not religious at all. If you have found any tenets, tell me please. I didn’t ponder much about formulations, as these texts were mostly orally transmitted in ancient languages (Gandhari, Magadhan, Pali, etc.), which means, that English translations necessarily contain interpretations of the translator. I read the Tao Te Ching in three English and two German versions, they were remarkable different from each other.

    I pondered about Yoganada’s words:

    “God has not to be earned. He has only to be sought. Meditation is the only way. Beliefs, reading books — these cannot give you realization. … Meditation brings proof of the existence of God. … The more you meditate the more you will feel the endless joy of God.”

    Conscious breathing, quieting the brain chatter, focusing, activating the parasympathetic nervous system are easily explainable aspects of meditation. But God? Yogananda never mentioned neurotransmitter, maybe he didn’t know about their existence and function. The right balance of serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine (the great reward) will make you feel very near to God. Only long training enables you to consciously regulate these neurotransmitters, religious devotion and other tricks of imagination will get you started. Everything that helps…

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    1. Great thoughts, Mato!

      It seems to me that all that distinguishes the self-described Buddhist from the others you mentioned is that they’re all climbing different sides of the mountain, and see different things from their perspective. But I agree that essentially, we’re all talking about something we can’t fully comprehend.

      And I like the words of Yoganada, too. This reminds me of what I’m learning (and am very much in the preliminary stages of so doing) about the Zen tradition, which is about practice and experience rather than intellectual understanding of teachings. As someone who lives perhaps more in her head than is ideal for a nice balanced life, I feel like it’s something I ought to explore further. I do most certainly want to learn to regulate those neurotransmitters; that’s one of the handful of reasons I’m pursuing this line of thought at the moment.

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  9. It is very important to keep a balance between your Buddhist practice and the intellectual study of Buddhism. Buddhism is first and foremost a practice. Studying Buddhism only from texts can lead you far away from the Buddha’s truths. Good luck on your spiritual journey!😊

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    1. Thank you for sharing this bit of wisdom! Now, to be sure, I’m not sure that I’d identify myself as a Buddhist or of practising anything at this point…I’m expressly in an intellectualizing mode and exploring Buddhism from the outside, from that space, and from the lens of an unrelated theory…but that doesn’t mean I will have to stay here, on the outside. And actually, I was just pondering this the other day while reading about the various schools of Buddhist practice. The author I was reading, Jean Smith (herself a Zen practitioner) said that Zen had a particular focus on the experiential, and I like that, because I have a tendency to live in my head. So it seems like perhaps that school in particular might give me a nice counterweight to my current habits, helping me grow. I’m intrigued enough to walk this path and see where it heads.

      Do you follow any particular path of Buddhism? With your name of Ronin, I’m wondering if you might also be influenced by the Japanese school of Zen. 🙂

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      1. Jessie,

        A Ronin is a master-less Samurai. I choose that title because I have moved around the world for about half of my life. So in both my Buddhist practice and the martial arts I have never stayed with anyone style or teacher for very long. At first I thought this was a hindrance but later on I realized it was a blessing as I did not get stuck in the dogma of any one school. So it allowed me to approach new ideas without all the baggage. I have practiced Soto Zen but I am primarily a Shingon practitioner now. Though out my life I have studied many different forms of Buddhism. Since I was living in Japan Zen seemed to be ideal to me because of Zens preference for direct practice verses studying books. So since my Japanese was very limited at first I thought this would be great because I wouldn’t be struggling trying to understand complicated subjects in another language. It soon turned out to be a double edge sword though. The Zen mantra is to just sit (Zazen), that’s all. Well that sounds easy until you start doing it! Lol! You are just sitting there not sure exactly what you are supposed to be doing or what you should be experiencing. That is a very difficult thing for a western mind like mine to handle. I wrote about this in my post on Zen Master Bassui. That is why I think for westerners at least you need to have a balance of both. Most of truth in what Buddhism teaches can really only be gained by direct experience. All the writings by the Buddha and the various masters only point to these truths. They cannot be expressed by words alone. That is what I meant by my comment. It is fine to study Buddhism intellectually but if you want to have a true understanding you have to practice. That by the way does not mean joining a particular Buddhist group or anything. It just means that you yourself need to test the teachings for yourself. Nargarjuna once said that only studying Buddhism intellectually is like counting someone else’s gold and thinking it is your own. Good luck which ever path you choose. Buddhism is a beautiful path to follow.

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        1. うわー、私も日本に住んだことがあって、日本語喋ってるよ。 じゃあ、「浪人」って、今年入学試験失敗したっていう意味ではないでしょうね。笑 

          (Sorry, I love any excuse to bust out the Japanese…it gets rusty now that I live back in the States! Where else have you lived? It sounds like you have quite a story!)

          And to the extent that I have tried some of the Buddhist practices, I know how right you are! It does sound easy to just sit, and then you realize the challenge — which makes it easy for me to believe that those who say you have to practice it to understand must be telling the truth. This makes it still more intriguing. So I think I will give it a try (even though, as this blog will make it impossible for me to deny, I’m likely to continue intellectualizing for a while, even if I try to expand beyond that. It may well be just a stage…we shall see.)

          I think the reason I’m reluctant to say that I’m identifying as a practicing Buddhist at this stage is that I also tend to bounce between styles and teachings, and seem constitutionally bound to figure things out on my own. But this isn’t to say that listening to wise people who have gone before isn’t part of the deal…it absolutely is. In fact, one of the most enticing things about Buddhism is that the Buddha famously said not to take his word for it, but try it out for yourself. I think I will, as it does seem to be a beautiful path, as well as starting off well by stating things that resonate strongly with what I already understand to be true.

          Thank you again for the thoughts! It’s great to hear your perspective.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Jessie,

            Where in Japan did you live? I lived in Sapporo on Hokkaido for 8 years. I have also lived in Korea and England and currently am living in Thailand. If you read any of my posts you will see that I often refer to the core teachings. These are the teaching which all styles or sects adhere to and I think when you are like us (learning from multiple styles) these are a good gauge to know how accurate a particular teaching is. In the end I feel that most styles are really just approaching different teachings from a different angle. A lot of what we as westerners see as discrepancies or differences come down to the various cultural trappings that Buddhism has picked up as it spread across Asia. This is even true with western Buddhism where they often have a very dogmatic approach much like they way Christianity is practiced. You will find that I often question this way of understanding the Dharma as well as what many people think of as traditional views of the Buddha’s teachings. I feel that it was my broad exposure to many styles that gave me a sort of big picture view. When you run a lot of topics up against the Buddha’s core teachings you can see that they quickly fall apart. One of the first Buddhist sutras I read was what you mentioned where he instructs us to question everything and not believe in its truth until you can prove it true to yourself. That was very compelling for me and I have followed that advice ever since. Take care and I wish you the best of luck!

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          2. I lived mainly in Shiga Prefecture, though I did also spend six months in Aichi when I worked at Expo 2005. (Shiga is Michigan’s sister state owing to its having Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa, so I did almost every program they offered for exchange! And then got myself placed there as a JET Program teacher.) I visited Sapporo while I was on JET for the Yuki Matsuri…loved it! It felt different from the rest of Japan. I loved that the tower clock at the JR station had stars on it.

            I’ve got a few of your posts open in tabs right now and am looking forward to giving them a look. I expect you’re right about the big picture view as compared to any given tradition!

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  10. “Why Buddhism Is True”
    I’ll tell you why it is not.
    Bouddhism purpose is to awake.
    In 2500, they had less than 30 known people to have reached that achievement the nirvana state, some of them walking their own path and not the bouddhist one.
    Nirvana is the natural state of the adult hunter-gatherer.
    Bouddhism cannot be true if it allowed only a few people to reach a state that is completely natural.

    I may explain to you why bouddhism failed, if you are interested, and why, despite being more than one billion, bouddhists don’t awake.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Christophe. The title you quote is, of course, the paper equivalent of clickbait, designed by the publisher to get people to pick up the book. Nevertheless, contrary to what you’ve written here, it’s evident to me that Buddhist ideas have been very useful to some people as they reintegrate themselves at a higher level. So even though I’m not sure that I’m “actually a Buddhist,” and I agree with your comment about walking one’s own path rather than strictly adhering to the one prescribed by any tradition, I don’t agree with your premise that Buddhism has “failed.” That strikes me as an odd comment to make about a philosophical tradition, unless you expect your audience is particularly dogmatic.

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