Evolving Religion, Evolving World

Integral Life has just uploaded a number of longer content videos on Vimeo. This is great, because some of the stuff gets hasn’t been seen before and it gets into more detail.

Wilber asks, is Buddhism Evolving? What’s the relationship, he asks, between evolution of our reality and the dimension of reality that is beyond and before time? Here’s a transcription of some of the dialogue:

Wilber: “It’s a little unnerving to have religion evolving. So wait a minute, I gain liberation if I practiced the following tenets, but four months later they change. If I practice these tenets and got full enlightenment, and four months later they change, do I lose my enlightenment? This is not what I expect from religion! I want to get the eternally OK, Kosher check mark, and not take that away from me…

If religion is evolving and changing and growing like everything else in the manifest universe, then what does it mean to have a timeless realization? …Does religion evolve? If the world of form evolves, what does that mean? How does one’s religious capacities…change to in order to take into account an evolving world, a world changing all the time?

Most forms of spirituality in today’s world don’t take premodern, modern and postmodern currents into account. If you think about it on balance, that’s slightly strange. If spirit is that which gives rise to everything… why would religion say spirituality gives rise to the premodern world, and that’s spiritual, the modern world and the postmodern world, those are anti-spiritual. Kind of strange, Spirit gives rise to everything!

Traleg Rinpoche: In traditional Buddhist terms, if you think of the state of enlightenment from the absolute point of view, and you think of the rest from a relative point of view, then you might say a Buddha who attains enlightenment in the future has advantages over the Buddha’s in the past as far as the relative aspect goes. But from the ultimate point of view, it’s the same, because it’s the same state of consciousness that one is accessing… whether they are at an earlier stage of development or a later one.

Wilber: “It’s the same freedom, because the emptiness is the same. That doesn’t change. Once you have a deep recognition of that ever-fresh emptiness, that’s not going to change. The actual forms that emptiness inhabits are evolving to some degree.”

I appreciated Traleg Rinpoche’s comment that the relative expression of Buddhism can change without affecting realization. How couldn’t it? Each Wheel of Buddhism is context appropriate, arising during a particular culture and time. That will always be shifting and evolving. If religions are “vehicles” or “boats” to help us cross the sea, would it matter if the boat is a sail boat or a steam engine? Religions themselves are constructs and bridges into the mystery of the divine.

Intuitively I think something is off with how Wilber relates the infinite and finite. In his book, Integral Spirituality, he states that classical enlightenment is only “union with half of reality.” The timeless half. The time-bound, evolutive half is left hanging and needs an “evolutionary spirituality.” This is a bit silly. Especially because many spiritual teachers speak of a non-dualistic union with time and timelessness. Jean Gebser had a more appreciative attitude towards spiritual enlightenment. Spiritual awakening was likened to an awakening to “origin,” that which dreams time and space in the first place.

“The world rises and falls in Zero.”

The evolution of religion can’t be separated from the evolution of culture and consciousness. We have to look at many different factors in order to begin to understand the shift and where we could be going. It goes without saying that culture will evolve as we do, so what is changing within us that would facilitate an outward shift?

Is Buddhism Evolving? (Traleg Rinpoche and Ken Wilber) from Integral Life on Vimeo.

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