Mokshananda on Integral Naked - In the Company of Truth
June 23, 2008 19:34
In this discussion, Mokie and Ken discuss the concept of Integral Satsang, an Indian term that roughly translates as "in company of the truth." While typically associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition, the concept of satsang can be applied to any spiritual tradition, East or West. How can the Integral map help us better relate to spiritual truth, teachers, and communities?
"It's like the effulgence of consciousness is illumining those higher levels [of development], as you start to really see life in a totally different way—it actually brings forth life in a totally different way."
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Who: Mokshananda (or Mokie, as he is commonly known) was born Joe Sousa in 1958, and is disciple of Gurumayi and Adyashanti. In addition to his psychotherapy practice, Mokie teaches at FreeWater Sangha in Santa Cruz CA. He also travels the western United States and Canada offering Satsang, intensives, and teachings.
Summary: In this discussion, Mokie and Ken discuss the concept of Integral Satsang, an Indian term that roughly translates as "in company of the truth." The word satsang is derived from the Sanskrit roots sat (true) and sanga (company), and can be interpreted in three important ways: a) the company of the "highest truth," b) the company of a group of students or practitioners gathered to study, discuss, and assimilate that truth, and c) the company of a spiritual teacher who acts as a conduit between the people and the truth. While typically associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition, the concept of satsang can be applied to any spiritual tradition or community, East, West, contemplative or traditional. Whether you find yourself in the church, the mosque, the synagogue, or the zendo—you are in some form of satsang, seeking to understand some version of spiritual truth, taught by some spiritual teacher or leader, to a community of other seekers and practitioners.
Satsang can be universally applied to any community committed to discovering the "highest truth" because the highest truth itself is universal. And this universal truth lies at the core of every spiritual tradition around the world, in the heart of every great saint, sage, and spiritual teacher throughout history, and at the center of every human experience ever had. It is, in fact, the only thing any of us have ever known.
But if this "truth," this knowledge and experience of our inherent spiritual nature is so universal, then why, for God's sake, is it so hard to discover? Why have so few been able to recognize this supposedly universal liberation, if it is indeed “closer to us than our own skin,” as it has been described in the past? The answer is simple. So simple, in fact, that you cannot really fault yourself for not seeing it.
The universal is only half the story. The other half is the relative world—the world of form, of distinction, of this and that, me and you, inside and outside. The universal world may have been the only thing any of us have ever known, but the relative world is the only thing most of us have ever seen.
The relative world is, by nature, broken. It has to be—it is only because of the inherent brokenness of the world that we can actually exist, that form itself can exist. It is the only reason that evolution can continue its relentless surge toward more novelty, more complexity, and more consciousness, in endless pursuit of a state of wholeness and completion it can get ever closer to, but never actually attain. It is the only reason that we can distinguish between ourselves and our surroundings, between mountains and valleys, between heaven and earth, between right and wrong, and between good ideas and bad ideas. It is only because of the inherent brokenness of the world that we have the power of free will and choice—and it is the reason that we suffer.
The relative world is the arena of the separate self, the turbulent abode of passion, pain, love, hate, birth, death, light, darkness, creativity, and decay. It is the world we can touch, taste, hear, and see—and it is our prison.
We typically feel trapped in the relative world, identifying with mere fragments of form, subjectifying ourselves with the world of objects. This is why we tend to think of ourselves as "inside" of our brains and our bodies, "inside" the house, car, or office, and "inside" the surrounding world. We have grown so accustomed to the shackles of our relativistic prisons that we seldom notice that we are not actually "inside" any of these objects, but that all these objects are actually "inside" our consciousness—that consciousness itself is "bigger" than all of these things. So big, in fact, that you could think of it as the canvas upon which the entire manifest universe is painted.
The purpose of satsang, in any form, is simple: to escape the prison of the relative world. And every prison break requires the most detailed map possible, which is why the concept of Integral satsang is so crucial—the Integral framework is by far the most complete map of human potential currently available, offering a comprehensive way to account for absolutely every manifestation in the universe, as well as every experience people can have.
The Integral framework suggests that there are two important axes of spiritual experience to be considered—states of consciousness, and stages of consciousness.
States refer to the actual experiences of transcendent truth themselves—of which the Absolute is one of several possible states—ranging from gross, to subtle, to causal, to nondual experiences.
Stages refers to the developmental structure of consciousness, which determines how state experiences are interpreted and assimilated by the self. Stages (also called structures) progress from magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral stages of consciousness, and beyond.
Taken together, we discover a rich matrix of human experience, represented in the following model, known as the Wilber/Combs Lattice:
As previously mentioned, the term satsang consists of two central concepts: truth and company, whether company with others in a community, with a spiritual teacher or guide, or with the experience of truth itself. Therefore, as it pertains to satsang, the following important questions should be kept in mind:
a) In regard to truth, what states of consciousness are trying to be expressed? Gross, physical, waking states? Subtle, visionary, dream states? Deep, dreamless, formless states? Or effortless, "always already" nondual states?
b) In regard to the company of spiritual teachers or a spiritual community, what stage of consciousness is the state of spiritual truth being spoken from, and being spoken to? The mythic, traditional, and absolutist stage (amber)? The rational, modern, and materialist stage (orange)? The pluralistic, postmodern, multicultural stage? Or the vision-logic, self-actualized, integral stage (teal/turquoise)?
While the essence of truth in this formulation is indeed universal and Absolute, we are stuck in a difficult paradox: absolutely nothing can be said about the absolute truth, including this very sentence. The absolute truth cannot be described, only experienced. The moment we try to describe the truth is the moment we massacre the truth—words, after all, are mere ornaments of the relative world, and as soon as someone tries to wrap a sentence around the Absolute, it is immediately subject to the inherent brokenness of relative thinking, relative growth, and relative experience.
The best we can do is to use words judicially, in order to construct the very best maps of our shared prison. And by virtue of being relative, our descriptions of transcendent truth are subject to our interpretations of that truth, which depend entirely upon the stage of consciousness we are at when the experience is had. The Heart Sutra states one of the most celebrated paradoxes in all of Buddhist thought: form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. Which means that, if we seek to understand emptiness, we must therefore seek to understand form, since they are ultimately not-two. There are better and worse descriptions of both the relative and the Absolute, which means that, although all forms are equally empty, some are more equal than others—or more reflective of the inherent emptiness of this and every moment.