Integral Spiritual Center is a collaboration between some of the most highly respected spiritual teachers in the world today, who, in addition to fully embracing their own particular paths, have come together to explore a trans-path path to the future.
This is part of an ongoing experiment called 'teach the teachers,' where they each take turn teaching the others some of the most central practices of their own paths, and then inviting a general critique, loving but direct, from all the others, who in their own turns will teach the teachers.
Out of the fire of this crucible of lineage minds melting into each other as the face of an unfolding tomorrow, the shape of future religion will be born, if it is to be born at all.
In June of this year, 2005, some of the world's finest religious lineage holders, who share an integral orientation, concluded the first gathering of the Integral Spiritual Center in Denver. These teachers became students of one another in an amazing discourse about the future of spirituality. We’ll bring you clips of this event very soon. In the meantime, here is a clip of Ken talking to seminar participants just weeks ago about what he expected the gathering to be like.
Before departing from the first-ever Integral Spiritual Center gathering, the teachers held a public forum to share their thoughts from the weekend and their hopes for the future of ISC. Rabbi Marc Gafni began the discussion by asking each of the teachers to share how an integral approach impacted their spiritual and personal lives. In this clip, Diane Hamilton shares her appreciation for the "we" element of the AQAL model, a perspective lacking in her practice of Zen Buddhism. We'll feature comments from a different attending teacher each week.
During the gathering, Genpo Roshi kept his comments short, deciding instead in the moment to lead the group in an exercise in Integral Awareness using the Big Mind Process.
In this clip, Rabbi Marc Gafni tells the audience how the inclusive nature of an integral interpretation of the cosmos generates hope for him.
As a Tibetan Buddhist Lineage holder, Patrick explains how the reflection he found not only from Buddhism, but also in the pool of AQAL, illuminated his passion.
Brother David talks about the way an integral interpretation allows him to arrange all things, including his faith and interest in science, into a framework he can accept.
We know AQAL is the map of the Integral territory. As Fred explains, the mapmaker for him plays an unexpected role in how he sees both map and territory.
As the last of the panel members to speak, Ken describes his personal path to One Taste.
Why do bad things happen to good people? In this clip, Rabbi Marc Gafni and Ken Wilber begin a discussion on the problem of evil, starting with the difference between "bad" and "evil."
Does God take perspectives? In this continued discussion, Ken Wilber explains the integral approach to evil.
If something bad happens to you, is it ultimately because of one of your past evil intentions? Maybe! Or so a traditional conception of karma would have it. But a "4-quadrant" or multi-perspectival view, as Ken explains, suggests that factors outside of yourself—such as genetics or environmental causes—might be to blame for your bad karma.
What makes a terrorist kill? Is it race, religion, culture? Ken explains what he discovered while doing research for The Many Faces of Terrorism.
How can God be good, powerful, and all-knowing if good people suffer? Is it sin and punishment, or an invitation of suffering? In this clip, Rabbi Marc discusses these questions.
This clip is a reminder that each experience or state is interpreted from the stage at which you are currently. In the interest of explaining evil, this statement describes how the lack of a higher level understanding of a state can bring about an interpretation of an experience that is harmful to others.
Here Rabbi Marc Gafni takes a look at some of the magical thinking that often passes as "spiritual," especially in many New Age belief systems. How do we let go of our addictions to control, the "ailment of modernity?" Listen, and let Rabbi Marc help release you into Radical Uncertainty!
It doesn't require full enlightenment to be able to feel the inherent suffering of the human condition—the tears of the world can be tasted in each and every breath we take—and yet we are often left feeling impotent to actually do anything about it. What are we to do with such overwhelming pain?
In this world of suffering, how are we to know what to do? Can our theological maps help us discover a deeper sense of truth to inform our actions, or do they run the risk of actually desensitizing us to the pain of existence? And what is the price of silence in the face of this pain?
In this piece, Ken leads us through a Tonglen meditation, in which we are literally inhaling the suffering of the world into our hearts, and then deeply releasing the world from suffering upon exhalation. So find a comfortable sitting position, take a deep breath, and let Ken help you extend your healing love to the world through this powerful exercise in compassion.
There are so many depths from which we may interpret the Infinite, which lead to so many different ways we relate to the inherent broken-heartedness of the universe. If the Buddha dies, yet you know that the manifest world is no more than empty vapor, do you cry?
When an individual has a direct experience of the infinite Goodness, Power, and Knowing of God, one cannot help but to feel a very real and profound anger with the Divine after reflecting back upon the nature of suffering in the world. What does it mean to authentically "put God on trial?" And what good does this spiritual contempt do for the individual?
Here Rabbi Marc Gafni tells the story of Jewish mystic who had an extremely powerful spiritual experience several centuries, and immediately thereafter went into silent seclusion for twenty years. It was an experience of finding God beyond God, a God no longer "bound in chains." And it is an experience available to us all.
Here Rabbi Marc Gafni talks about the relation of charity and love to the divine. He speaks of a God which can similtaneously be described as infinite power as well as infinite pain. What does it mean to be able to participate in God's pain? How can our wholehearted charity to one another actually "save God from death?"
In this clip, Ken offers a brief explanation of the importance of resting in a state of non-seeking Self when doing Tonglen practice. It is only from this radically free and spacious consciousness that one's suffering can be fully taken in and released, otherwise the effort can be little more than one ego emoting for another.
This Kosmos is a work-in-progress, a constantly evolving universe in which entirely new perspectives and new realities are continuously arising moment by moment. Influenced by what has come before, yet completely unbound by the limitations of yesterday, manifestation is a sort of Kosmic Blog in which God must constantly reconcile what She writes today with what She wrote in the past.
In one of God's previous blogs, She was supposed to be Omniscient, Omnipotent, and All-Good—and yet as Ken points out, while God can be any two of these, She cannot possibly be all three simultaneously. Every single one of us is born with an intuition of these as qualities of our own deepest Perfection—how do we reconcile this intuition with the obvious agony of finite limitations?
Why does anything exist at all? Why does it hurt so damn much? And how do we find the infinity that releases it all? These are obviously not simple questions, and yet they may all share a remarkably simple solution....
In this clip Marc discusses the extraordinary ability for laughter to contain the many mind-bending paradoxes of reality. No other faculty of consciousness can hold the sheer absurdity of life quite like laughter, the deepest realizations eternally reflected in the Buddha's smile.
In this clip, Ken describes the root of evil as a “refusal to touch” other beings—the history of evil, he says, is the history of killing “untouchables.” In the face of this disconnect, love is not enough—it must be a love which grows, unfolding through larger and larger spheres of care and compassion. From selfish care, to humanitarian care, to universal care; love’s reaction to evil brings us closer and closer to each other, until eventually the line between “us” and “them” is pushed all the way out to infinity.
In this clip, Fred relates an extremely moving and personal story about his childhood in Argentina, where he faced a climate of persecution and human suffering not unlike that of Nazi Germany. Later in life, after having come face to face with such horrific Evil, he was able to push through his hatred for those who had been the enemy to his people. Eventually he was able to see through the gaps of understanding that separate our differing perspectives (the gaps from which, ultimately, all evil springs) and directly into the Heart of the Great Mystery itself.
Here, Tami explores the many resistances and frustrations that often occur when opening ourselves to the truly magnificent “power of the We,” the tears that are shed when allowing everyone and everything into our hearts. This clip is a window into the little miracle that was the Integral Spiritual Center conference, a glimpse of the profound love and sometimes painful transformations that made the weekend as beautiful as it was.
Here, Sally discusses the capability of profound remorse to break us open to the fullness of God’s Tears. She offers a personal story of her own to relate her experience of recognizing evil as “the use of power to avoid spiritual growth,” as well as the life-changing after effects of such a powerful realization.
Throughout this series, we have been taking a very close look at the nature of evil in the world. However, as Jim points out, one must be very careful with a word like “evil,” when it can be all too easy to use it as a label for anything we don’t particularly enjoy. Therefore, a sharp distinction between “evil” and “suffering” needs to be recognized, while acknowledging the necessity of suffering in the evolutionary process. How exactly do we draw this line—and, when it comes down to it, what is the relevance of conversations such as these to the choices we make every day?
In this clip, Rabbi Marc examines the split-second moment before temptation towards “evil” occurs. He describes the experience as a palpable sense of lack which urgently needs to be filled, lest we remain painfully frozen in the face of our own non-existence. This “moment before the fall” is, in essence, a breakdown of Eros—another “refusal to touch”—and it is from this horrifying void at the center of our souls that all the evil in the world is born.
When discussing the nature of evil from an integral perspective, we are inevitably faced with the seeming paradoxes that are created when approaching the issue from both Judeo-Christian and Buddhist angles. In the West, more emphasis is typically placed upon healthy discrimination, which produces such qualitative distinctions as “good” and “evil” in the first place. In the East, “evil” is more likely to be seen as “confusion,” in which a dualistic judgment of a person is avoided. Obviously, both of these interpretations are true, and indeed one is quite incomplete without the other. Without equanimity and respect for all beings, one can easily fall into judgment without compassion. And without discrimination, one can become impotent to act—after all, “if all is one, nothing can be wrong.”
Here the question is asked: if you could go back in time, would it be better to kill Hitler, or to try to stop him or change him? In other words, if evil can on a certain level be described as “a refusal to touch,” then in what ways do our reactions to evil perpetuate that same fundamental denial of Eros?
Suffering is a profound and fundamental Truth, arising as soon as one subject rubs against another. Without suffering there would be nothing but mere empty freedom, devoid of perspectives and bereft of fulfillment of any kind—and it is from this radical existential boredom that Spirit chooses to forget Herself and manifest as infinite points of view, each and every moment...
When one’s heart has been completely broken open by the sheer gravity of the world’s suffering—now and throughout history—and yet is somehow blessed enough not to have to endure the worst of these horrors, what is he or she to do with that privilege?
Here, Diane recounts an illuminating experience she had while guiding a group through the Big Mind process, during which a participant confronted her own fear of evil by dialoguing directly with the “voice of Satan.”
You are having a dream. In it, billions of people are starving. What is the best way to relieve their suffering? Wake up!
Rabbi Marc Gafni brings the day to a close with a beautiful traditional Jewish chant, then invites the participants to exchange with one another a simple yet profoundly moving invocation: “I will not be written into the Book of Life without you.”