A friend recently sent me an essay by Ken Wilber on Integral Spirituality. At first I was a little put off by the language and his obvious attempt to capture the uncapturable in language. Also he was not coming from an inside view of the Zen mind. On the other hand I could also be charged as guilty of trying to capture the uncapturable. I also found his references to developmental psychology as interesting. reminded me of the many psychology courses I had taken for teacher training. I was a High School teacher. In the end I found the essay very interesting and it seemed to pose one basic question for us Zen practitioners. Though we develop in our meditation through practice, does our development in meditation help us develop as complete humans in the many other aspects of our humanity, morally, cognitively, artistically, etc? Wilber even suggests that Enlightenment may fix the individual at whatever stage they are in before the experience.
Those of us who know something about the history of Zen and Buddhism in America are quite aware of the moral failings of many of the teachers of Zen and Buddhism who have come here from Asia, as well as some of our native born. For the Asian born we give as an excuse the differing morality of the various cultures and I think there is something to be said for this excuse. For the native born I will not give an excuse.
I don't really want to go into Ken Wilber's philosophy accept to say it is based on a developmental model laying out hierarchies of development in the many aspects of being an individual. We can also think of meditation practice in terms of hierarchies of development but I resist teaching it this way because the judgement of hierarchy is an impediment to practice where learning to not judge is an important aspect of practice. And here we come to the crux of the issue. If we don't judge how can we develop morally? Is not moral development a type of cognitive development? I remember studying Colberg's hierarchy of moral development which Wilber references. At Colberg's highest level of moral development the individual has gone beyond adopting a moral system that the culture or a religion presents and develops personal criteria for making moral judgments. On the other hand Zen students are often asked the question/koan, "Not making judgments of good or bad who are you right this moment?" If we want to see with the Zen eye, the eye of non-duality then we have to drop all discrimination, especially the discrimination of good and bad.
I don't think Ken Wilber is correct, though meditation is not an intellectual or emotional pursuit it has intellectual and emotional ramifications. Wilber seems to think that you can meditate right past deep emotional issues and never have to deal with them. Though I won't say that this is not possible, my experience is that it is not likely. Deep emotional problems are barriers to deepening meditation. Meditation as a process uncovers the unconscious, bringing the unconscious into the light of consciousness. It is impossible to not encounter one's deep problems as meditation deepens and some how these problems must resolve before meditation continues to deepen, otherwise they cycle through our meditation preventing us from quieting our mind. Sometimes the tools for resolving these issues are not to be found in meditation and one will need to go outside for help. But often we can resolve many problems from within meditation. Being fully aware of the problem is the first step towards resolution. Then understanding that most problems are the result of attachments and that if we can see what these attachments are and drop these attachments then the problem will be resolved. The problem is dropping attachments. Many of our attachments we can see as small minded and silly, but how do we drop, for example, the attachment we have to our life, or the lives of others? How can we not be angry when we think of the events of this world? How can we drop attachment to our moral convictions? As long as we maintain our normal dualistic world view we are caught in the world of attachments. As long as we still view the world with dualistic eyes we may work on ending attachments that cause problems but we will still be living in the world of attachment.
I had a friend and long time practitioner of Zen tell me that he thought it was impossible to end attachments, that even the idea that we should end attachments was an attachment. Like a cat chasing its tail. And he is right as long as we live with that dualistic view. But, Zen is about making a leap, it is not a gradual transformation but, a leap into the non-dual. This leap happens on several levels. It happens experientially in meditation and it also happens cognitively, emotionally and morally. Experientially it happens in meditation by dropping all dualistic thought, and emotions. And here we do have to meditate right past or through, by pure effort, our attachments and all our extraneous thought. But if our attachments are too strong and we are not ready cognitively then when the meditative experience ends we will return to our normal dualistic way of thinking. To be ready cognitively does not mean that we have to be ready to do calculus or any such difficult subject but rather just open minded and thoughtful. The cognitive leap that Shakyamuni Buddha made was expressed most specifically by three of his teachings. One: everything is transitory, ever changing, impermanent, and transitory. Two: everything that we experience is the result of causes and conditions. Three: the previous two teachings are true for our experience of our selves and consequently there is no permanent self or soul. This is the way the Buddha expressed his cognitive leap, but this is not the only way it can be expressed. Each individual makes the cognitive leap in his own way, but the essence of the leap is the same. It is a leap from duality into non-duality
Getting to the point where we can make this leap takes a lot of work on many levels, not just meditation, but also in self examination, emotionally, morally and cognitively. This is what the Eight Fold Path of Buddhism is all about. One might think of the eight Fold Path as an integral approach just without the benefits of modern psychology In this sense our practice is gradual but at some point we have to make the leap and that leap in not gradual. Then once we have made the leap then again the path is gradual but it has completely changed and changed us