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Levels of Insight of Consciousness

Riding the Ox Home - no.6 of the external link The Ten Oxherding Pictures, (from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.

The path to Enlightenment is central to the monistic traditions in India (Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism) and the teachings of some (but not all!) popular gurus to the West, and has also been adopted by the avant garde Consciousness Studies, Transpersonal Psychology, and Integral theory movements. In fact monism in the West goes back as far as Vivekananda, who popularised Vedanta and Hinduism in the West at the end of the 19th century.

The path of Enlightenment is a very pure and minimalist approach, which is one reason why it appeals to so many both in the East and now increasingly in the West. It requires no elaborate metaphysics or occultism, ot is simple and eminently practical form of mysticism, based on very pragmatic teachings.

It is popularly said that "all roads (paths, whatever) lead up the same mountain", that all these teachings, despite not just their external differences but also their very pronounced psychological and phenomenmological differences, are all saying and teaching the same thing.

Admirable as this spirit of ecumenicalism may be, I don't feel it correctly describes the nature of the various states kinds of Liberation. I feel there are many different, albeit overlapping, converging and diverging, spiritual paths, which may indeed lead to the same, or may lead to completely different, mountains. These different teachings can be mapped according to the different "ontoclines" and even perhaps different hypostases within the Absolute Itself. And while it is true that these different hypostases are all simply different aspects of the same Supreme Reality, the way this Reality is expressed, and indeed the actual "resting place" of the liberated beings, may be very very different. A Theravadin Buddhist may go to Nirvana, an Advaitin monist may realise the intrinsic Sat or Being (which is also non-(relative) Being) of the Absolute, and a Vaishvanite or a Sufi or a Christian mystic may arrive at (and merge or remain separate with) the presence of the Persionality of Godhead in the hypostasis of Ananda.

It is suggested here therefore that Enlightenment in the strict or narrow definition of the term only, that is, realisation of Radiant Transcendental Being (as Da Free John so evocatively terms it when describing his experience of Self-Realisation) only pertains to one aspect of the "Integral Mandala"; which is the one described here

Suggested "Ontocline" of levels of Insight

In terms of my suggested hypothesis of "Parameters of Reality", the Two Truths can be included as one of the parameters in the Integral mandala. They represent not a metaphysical, but a purely epistemological and subjective-empirical, axis.

If one accepts only "Two Truths" (Absolute and Relative) and that's all, then this isnt even an ontocline at all, just the basic dichotomy of Enlightenment and Samsara.

However Ken Wilber, perhaps inspired by Da Free John's 7 Stages of Life, refers (beginning in the Atman Project and continuing (with some modifications of terminology) to his current books like Amazon com Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution) to a gradation from ordinary consciousness to the "Ultimate" or Nondual state, in his current books referred to as the psychic, subtle, causal, and nondual evolutionary levels (corresponding more or less to Da's 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Stages of Life). And while, as with most other esoteric traditions, this linear hierarchy seems to be the result of the merger of a number of different parameters, it can still be used as a generic guide for understanding this particular dimension of consciousness.

In the following table of correspondences I have matched the relevant of Wilber's levels with traditional terms from eastern monism. 5 Epistemic levels are suggested here, the highest being identified with Sri Aurobindo's concept of Sat (Pure Existent) as a specific hypostasis within the Absolute itself

Levels Madyamika Buddhism Yogacara Buddhism Advaita Vedanta Ken Wilber
enl 2. Sat Paramartha  Paramarthika  Paramarthika  Ultimate / Nondual
enl 1. Initial Enlightenment Causal
2. Spiritual Insight
1. Relative Truth Samvriti  Paratantra  Vyavaharika (earlier stages)
-1. Illusion Samvriti  Parikalpita Pratibhasika

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text content and original diagrams by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 26 November 2005