Kundalini Splendor

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, and Zen Monks 

Yesterday, I attended an interesting dialogue between Ken Wilber (the "Great Mind") and Andrew Cohen, publisher of "Enlightenment Now" (formerly "What Is Enlightenment?") Both men are renowned figures in the spiritual community. Both have written prolifically, and established organizations that reach thousands throughout the world. Both are extremely articulate. They have highly developed minds, and love to talk and write.

I have read Ken Wilber's books for years, mostly from the beginning of his career. He was among the first to establish Transpersonal Psychology as an essential area in the understanding of human development. Before that, psychologists and therapists seldom included the "spiritual self" as an important component of human nature. Wilber's paradigm of the stages of the evolution of human consciousness (from a historical perspective) was groundbreaking, and became a model for many who followed in his wake.

In all, he has written some 30 books, thousands and thousands of pages, analyzing and dissecting everything from the stages leading to enlightenment to the romantic writers of the nineteenth century. Finally, he wrote a book called "A Brief History of Everything," in which he summarized his ideas touching many fields of research, including sociology, mysticism, physics and biology, art and aesthetics, and others as well as psychology itself.

Wilber has a razor sharp mind. He has used it to examine, classify, and organize in intriguing fashion (with charts) virtually everything he has touched upon. Indeed, at times, one is overwhelmed by his learning, and sated with his relentless arrangements of ideas.

Nonetheless, his contribution to knowledge has been impressive. He has many followers, who respect and love him for his work and for his being.

Ken has also known great pain and suffering in his life. He was the primary caretaker for his wife as she was dying of cancer. Then, about fifteen years ago, he contracted a most unusual illness while residing at Lake Tahoe--several others there at the time also contracted this mysterious airborne virus, which--for Ken--resulted in an ongoing autoimmune response leading to a debilitation of body as the cells are systematically attacked. At one time, he was hospitalized for a series of grand mal seizures, which he survived, though his doctors were not at all sure he would make it. Today, he appears gaunt and even frail.

But through it all, he has continued to write, pouring out tome after tome. As he explained, he could even write in bed, and it didn't take much strength, since he only used two fingers to type.

The dialogue between these two (they billed themselves as "the pandit (Ken) and the guru (Andrew)" was of course quite interesting, but it was also extremely "mental" in focus. I wondered if they would include the realm of the body and feeling in their discussion--finally someone in the audience asked about love as a part of the spiritual process, and from this point the conversation took a different turn. Andrew spoke of the "ecstasy of creation"--the excitement that accompanies the creative act, in which one fulfills the evolutionary impulse to create new things (ideas, objects, art, projects of all sorts). And Ken pointed out that evolution itself arises out of love--of atom for atom to produce a molecule, of molecules to form part of living things, of humans to open to love of others and the planet to move forward in the evolutionary process.

Ken reminded us that we must each do something in the world to try to stem the global disaster now upon us. He himself was gentler, kinder, and more compassionate (and funny) than I had expected from reading his sometimes relentlessly intellectual works. I felt great love and empathy for him as he now is as a human being who has come to terms with some very challenging circumstances in his life. I would have given him a hug, if that had been possible.

But there was no mention of Kundalini bliss, which Gopi Krishna (and others ) saw as the primary engine of human transformation. Of course, I am with Gopi Krishna on this. Kundalini can occur with no prior knowledge or preparation. It resides within us all, and more and more are encountering its amazing powers. I think it is a supreme counter force against the negative currents now abroad on the planet.

Osho said, "The mind must drop before awakening can occur." Now, I have nothing against ideas, books, theories, and knowledge--but I see these as essential foundations, preliminaries not goals. First, I believe, one should explore mind to its full limits and soak up as much learning from past sages as one can. But at some point, mind no longer serves to take one forward. At that point, the mind must drop (perhaps through special circumstances of trauma or grief). Ego must dissolve and in this space feeling must be allowed to come forward for divine union (Kundalini) to occur.

After the talk, I was visiting with a woman outside the hall, and noticed that--although she was not particularly interested in spirituality--she had very sweet "vibes" that I could feel. Then I walked over to a nearly restaurant and met a lovely young waiter who was fascinated by Carlos Castaneda and was planning to go to South America to look for a shaman/teacher. Again, I picked up very nice vibes. Later I realized that I had been a bit "turned on" vibrationally by the talk itself, even though I was not aware of it at the time.

Here is an excerpt from a site on Zen awakening that I happened on a few minutes ago:

Te Shan burnt all his commentaries and books on Zen within hours of his awakening to the truth. Why? Zen master Munan gave Shoju his sacred book on Zen that had been passed down through seven generations of masters. Shoju threw it into burning coals.


Te Shan Hsuan Ch'ien was initially a lecturing monk and great scholar of the Diamond Cutter Sutra, known throughout Zen lore from Case 4 of the Blue Cliff Record and the 13th and 28th koans of Wumen's Mumonkan. Some say Te Shan is most famous for using his staff to strike his students, however, for me, he is more important because of what he did within hours following his Enlightenment experience.

When Te Shan left northern China on foot heading south determined to destroy what he had heard asthe teaching of a special transmission outside of doctrine he was a dedicated Buddhist scholar thoroughly attached to formal learning.

One day close to the end of his southern journey he met an old woman selling refreshments by the roadside. He set down his knapsack to buy some refreshments whereupon the old woman asked what writings had he been carrying that were so dear. "Commentaries on the Diamond Cutter Sutra," he responded, commentaries which were actually books on books on ways to reality that he considered so indispensable that he had to carry them with him everywhere he went. The old woman then said "The Diamond Cutter Sutra" says 'past mind can't be grasped, present mind can't be grasped, future mind can't be grasped': which mind does the learned monk desire to refresh?" Te Shan in all his scholarly learning was rendered speechless.

By the time he reached the monastery he was completely devastated by his 'defeat', especially by a 'mere' roadside vendor. But Te Shan was no longer there to contend or do battle with the teaching of a special transmission outside of doctrine.' Within days all was behind him as Te Shan experienced Awakening under the auspices of Long T'an and the now famous 'blowing out the candle' sequence.

The morning following his Enlightenment Te Shan took all of his commentaries into the teaching hall and raising a torch over them declared to all assembled:

"Even to plumb the full depths of all your knowledge it would be no more than a piece of hair lost in the vastness of the great void; and however important your experience in things worldly it is even less than a single drop of water cast into a vast valley."

He then took the torch and set fire to his commentaries, reducing his once valuable books to ashes.

The above quote is from:


Some books by Ken Wilber that I like: (from his earlier writings)

The Spectrum of Consciousness--written at age 23, this book "established him as perhaps the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times."

Up from Eden

Grace and Grit (the story of his time as caretaker for his wife)

No Boundary

One Taste

A Brief History of Everything (I haven't read it, but it is aimed at a more general audience than some of his later books)

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