Theravadin Buddhism and Dream Yoga


While Theravadin Buddhism does not itself have a yoga of sleep or dreaming, it is a dream yoga in the broader sense, that is, a methodology for waking up out of sleeping, dreaming, and sleepwalking through life. Like IDL, it places emphasis on awakening from our waking delusions, in the belief that it is the consciousness of the waking state that determines out consciousness in other states. In addition, Theravadin Buddhism lays important conceptual foundations that not only differentiate it and Tibetan Buddhism from Hinduism, but provide the foundation for Tibetan dream yogas.

Similarities of Buddhism to Hinduism

Originally spread throughout the Indian subcontinent, since the Islamic invasion Theravadin Buddhism has traditionally been found only in Ceylon and southeast Asia, but now has a worldwide following of at least 150 million. Like Hinduism, Theravadin Buddhism, predating Mahayana and Tibetan traditions, believes that life is delusional, like a dream, and that a yoga is needed to wake up out of it. Buddha subscribed to a narrow definition of yoga. He said, “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” Gautama wasn’t focused on improving society; instead he emphasized the creation of monastic communities of people who sought personal liberation. These people would in turn improve society. “The teachings of the Buddha created hope and aspiration for those who otherwise had no hope of salvation and freedom of choice in a society that was dominated by caste system, predominance of ritual form of worship and the exclusive status of the privileged classes which the Vedic religion upheld as inviolable and indisputable.”

To understand Buddhism it is important to understand the consciousness of its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, a prince in northeastern India in the fifth century BCE. His contributions need to be understood within the context not only of Indian culture but the suppositions of the religious traditions in which he was immersed and participated. These were thoroughly Hindu, but because of the many diverse margas and darshanas within it, it may be assumed that Gautama was exposed to many conflicting points of view. There is very little in the teachings of Gautama that is not compatible with this or that school of Hinduism, so much so that it coexisted in India with Hinduism until the Moslem invasion in 664 AD. However, there is evidence that his ethical teachings came from outside the mainstream Brahmanical Hindu culture at that time and are associated with the pre-Aryan Aramaa.[1]

Both Hinduism and Buddhism believe in samsara, karma, and reincarnation, compassion and non-violence toward all living things, and ignorance as the source of suffering. Both also believe in the practice of meditation, concentration, and the cultivation of certain states of mind (bhavas), detachment and renunciation of worldly life as a precondition to enter spiritual life, and liberation, not rebirth or heavenly life, as the solution to suffering. These notably non-shamanistic concepts and beliefs co-exist within a remarkably shamanistic cosmology: the existence of several hells and heavens, and the existence of gods or deities on different planes, for which Hinduism and Buddhism use similar names, such as Indra, Brahman, and Yama. In particular, they share a four-tiered cosmology: Both religions recognize the earth as center of the universe, resting on the mountain Meru, surrounded by seven concentric rings of mountains with the hells of Asuras below and the worlds of devas above. The Hindu version contains a subterranean world, the Earth, a mid-region populated by celestial beings, the heaven of Indra, and the world of Brahman. The Buddhist version is different, but the region populated by celestial beings in Hinduism is populated by devas who inhabit worlds of passions and desires. The “heaven of Indra” is not much different, comprised of more devas that are inhabiting the worlds of form and perception. The Hindu world of Brahman is call Brahma lokas and is inhabited by great beings. The microcosm and macrocosm mutually reflect, in that the whole cosmos is represented in the inner world of a human being.

What we can conclude then is that both Buddhism and Hinduism share a combination of a belief in the reality of realms that shamans, channelers, mediums, and most contemporary monotheists and new agers could agree upon in broad outline, if not in particular details. The mystery of how and why a naively realistic and concrete view of reality not only managed to survive within Hinduism and Buddhism, but up until the current day, among well-educated and experienced exponents of personal development, is a topic for later chapters.

Characteristics Unique to Buddhism

Hinduism was not founded by any one individual, as was Buddhism. Hinduism believes that the Vedas are divine revelation and Hindus attempt to justify their decisions and choices in terms of them. Buddhism does not believe in any Hindu scripture, but some followers venerate and take as truth various Buddhist scriptures in the same way that Hindus do their own. While Hindus believe in an individual imperishable soul, atman, as well as God, Brahman, Buddhism believes in neither. Hinduism views Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu, but Buddhists do not accept any Hindu god either as an equal or as a superior to Buddha. Theravadin Buddhists do not worship images of the Buddha or any gods, including the Mahayana Buddhist concept of Bodhisattvas. Theravadin Buddhism considers Buddha the supreme being and worships him with images. Hinduism recognizes as main aims of life religious duty (dharma), wealth, (artha), pleasure (kama), and liberation (moksha). Because Buddhism considers the world as full of suffering it recognizes only two practices, Buddha’s teachings, dharma), and liberation, nirvana. Buddhism does not believe in the four ashramas that define the Hindu caste system and exclude no one from monastic life due to caste. While Hinduism may be practiced by sects with different beliefs, its path to salvation is essentially an individual practice. Buddhism is traditionally practiced by groups of monks in monasteries, supported by the surrounding laity, who accumulate good karma by serving them and sending their children there. Buddhism requires refuge in the “three jewels” of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; Hinduism provides broader options. Yoga has a much broader connotation in Hinduism than in Theravadin Buddhism. While all yogas in Hinduism aim to achieve liberation through union of the soul with God, in Buddhism, meditation is meant to suppress changes in the self and its formation, resulting in the elimination of its existence. The result for both is the cessation of all desires; for Buddhism that experience is conceptualized and experienced as sunyata, emptiness, while for Hinduism it is self-realization as Atman unified with Brahman.

Two Theories of Truth and Integral Deep Listening

While the idea that different standards, rules, and behaviors apply to Heaven and Earth and the unconditioned and conditioned realities, nirvana and samsara, are widely and commonly found in human conceptions of reality, it is perhaps most clearly enunciated by Mahayana, but already existed in Theravadin Buddhism.[2] The two theories of truth show up in the distinction between real and delusional states, with life being dreamlike and liberation defined as freedom from delusion. Generally, the past, internal, subjective, emotional, evil, and chaotic are considered to be delusional and unreal while the present, external, objective, rational, good, and peaceful are considerd to be true and real. We have seen that it also shows up in Indian dream interpretation as the distinction between secular, mundane, and meaningless dreams and spiritual, inspirational, and transformative dreams. It can also be observed in Hinduism as the distinction between purity and impurity, as rajas, sattvas, and tamas foods and occupations.

IDL does not recognize two realms of delusion and reality, dream and enlightenment. Instead it believes these are conditional states subject to the perspective which is taken, and that what was taken to be absolutely Real and True is found to be conditional and conditioned once that perspective is internalized. IDL considers the Two Truths Doctrine to be a holdover from shamanism and an unhelpful codification of dualism that generates a spiritual Darwinism that separates the sheep from the goats, the elect from the damned, the Pharisees and Sadducees on the one hand from the unclean on the other, and the Chosen People from the goyim. While Darwinism is survival of the fittest, neo-Darwinism is the belief that the rich deserve what they have because they are more fit and the poor and unfortunate deserve what they have because they are less fit. Spiritual Darwinism puts spirit in competition with form, life, matter, sensory experience, emotions, and thinking.

The Two Truths Doctrine is largely responsible for generating the fundamental delusion of exceptionalism: grandiosity writ large on the stage of community, nation, and the global community. As such, it is the root of untold misery. The shamanistic roots of the Two Truths Doctrine have been laid out above in the chapter on shamanism. It reflects a dualism that shamans, Manicheists, Zoroastrians, Mithrians, Jesus, and monotheists of almost all persuasions could appreciate.[3] Besides the obvious discriminatory problem built into dualisms, they have nothing to do with unitary mystical states, and particularly not the non-dual. The fact that the world looks unitary from a non-dual state and dualistic from a mental state does not validate a dualistic worldview. The latter is an artifact of the self remaining identified with mind; the former is the worldview of someone who has learned to look at both the non-dual and the dualist world of form from the perspective of non-discrimination. While such a view does not indicate that a person has evolved into the transpersonal levels, it is probably an indication that they have achieved multi-perspectival vision-logic on at least the cognitive level. However, if a person has experiences of mystical union and claims to be a psychic, guru, llama, saint, or sage, and still believes in the Two Truth Doctrine, it is a reason for caution. In fact, expression of belief in a dualism is a telltail sign that you are dealing with someone or something that is at a personal level of development, at best, and probably below, because most people at personal levels of development are not attracted to spiritual dualisms because they look too much like superstition and concrete naïve realism. The problem is that when you create a non-dualistic reality you thereby create a dualism between non-dualism and dualism. Sunyata, or emptiness, is an attempt to heal this split by equating samsara and nirvana, Buddhists still uphold the Two Truths Doctrine. IDL may be wrong about this because some very intelligent and advanced mystics, Nagarjuna, for example, accept the Two Truth Doctrine.[4] The Two Truths Doctrine is found in most, if not all, the sacred traditions of the world.

Integral Deep Listening strengthens dream yogas is by providing a method that experientially demonstrates the non-reality of the Two Truths Doctrine. It does so by putting you in touch with perspectives that are legitimate and authoritative, and yet do not make these distinctions and have no use for them. You will find for yourself that interviewed toothbrushes and shoes are no less sacred, pure, true, or real than interviewed angels, bodhisattvas, and beatific deities. More importantly, you will find that they themselves do not discriminate between Truth and Reality, on the one hand, and falsity and delusion, on the other, in any absolute sense. However, they very much differentiate among degrees of truth and falsity, reality and delusion. By repeatedly becoming such perspectives you will learn to see the world independently of this basic dualism; you wil learn to stop evaluating yourself and your experience with others, dreams, and meditation in terms of it. The consequence is the reduction of a fundamental cognitive filter that blocks transpersonal development.

Integral Deep Listening sees dualistic perception and cognition as a necessary, vital, and useful tool for development because discrimination is the fundamental process by which the mind grasps and works with reality. Therefore, dualism is necessary for feeling, forming preferences, and thinking. To say that dualism is “bad,” or “wrong,” or “unnecessary,” is to say that emotions, preferences, and thinking are these things. However, making distinctions is not the same as dividing reality into two different categories. You can use dualism as a tool to make distinctions and still not divide reality into categories. This is the path IDL takes, and it does it not primarily for philosophical or psychological reasons, but because interviewed emerging potentials generally do not do so, particularly not the ones that score high in the six core qualities.

People need such a tool to outgrow the Two Truths Doctrine. There are too many brilliant, dedicated seekers throughout history who have remained in it to allow us to believe that reason or experience in meditation will naturally cause people to outgrow it. IDL thinks that this tenacious remnant of shamanistic consciousness will persist unless you have some tool like IDL that allows you to get in touch with respected perspectives that do not use it.

This is a core benefit of Integral Deep Listening that you will not and cannot outgrow. As long as you are alive, it will continue to access perspectives that are less dualistically-immersed than you are, regardless of your level of practice. It will also routinely remind you of just how deluded you are, regardless of what you think of your progress or what those around you may think you are. This is important, because while it is theoretically possible to be too humble and too selfless, it is difficult to imagine circumstances in which more is not better, as long as humility and selflessness exist within the context of strengthening and balancing the six core processes and qualities.

Samsara: Life is Dreamlike in its Illusoriness

The Buddha said, “The world, indeed, is like a dream and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage! Like the apparent distances in a picture, things have no reality in themselves, but they are like heat haze.”

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

Within Buddhism, samsara is defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from ordinary beings grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. This is essentially the Hindu definition of samsara, meaning that Buddhism, like Hinduism, views earthly experience as intrinsically a result of grasping and self-fixation. This is important to remember, as you will find many current-day apologists for Buddhism who want to reinterpret the message as one that says something different. For example, “Buddhism does not see the world itself as an illusion, but the emotions and concepts we hold which provoke our responses to the world are seen as the illusion.” While Buddhism can be interpreted in such a way, this is not the way Buddhism has historically interpreted itself. This issue is important for those who have an investment in protecting Buddhism from criticisms that it is life-denying. However, Integral Deep Listening does not have any need to have Buddhism (or any tradition) say one thing and not another. This is the tendency of all True Believers in any age: to read their value system into scripture.

IDL does not view life as intrinsically delusional or as samsara. Delusion is caused by the physical, emotional, and mental filters that we have evolved as adaptive advantages for life. These filters have important and deep-seated purposes; they are not going to go away just because we suddenly realize they are there. It often takes drug hallucinations, mystical experiences, or near-death encounters to drop at least some of them. The most entrenched seem to be the perceptual cognitive distortions associated with our level of self development because it is carried into dreaming, lucid dreaming, mystical and near death experiences. We can drop our bodies and time-space-causal filters, but we will continue to interpret events in terms of our current level of development. This is why we need to evolve and thin the self; it is the weaver of the web of samsara, a brilliant insight that the Buddha understood, which was a new development in world religion and philosophy. Most of the world has not understood it yet, much less recognized its importance for waking up.

Avidya (Ignorance), the Source of Samsara

For Buddhism, samsara arises out of avidya (ignorance) and is characterized by dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction). It is ignorance that causes craving. In the Buddhist view, liberation from samsara is possible by following the Eightfold Noble Path, which personifies wisdom. As with Hinduism, which has a similar emphasis on wisdom, Buddhism commits to the primacy of one of the six core qualities, which means that the other five are placed either in supportive roles or are subsumed into wisdom as “facets” of it. Notice that either move can be made with any of the six core qualities. Christianity tends to do so with love/compassion; shamanism with confidence; mysticism with witnessing; Chinese traditions with peace as a response to chaos. Integral Deep Listening believes a wiser solution is to note that all are interdependently co-originated, meaning that they are equally essential to enlightenment. While Buddhism rightly acknowledges this concept, it does not methodically follow its implications and see that the cause of suffering involves imbalances among multiple core values.

The implication of an interdependent approach such as IDL uses is that suffering is a consequence of both an absence of and imbalance among the six core qualities. Ignorance is the absence of one core quality, wisdom. Each of the other five core qualities has a corresponding deficit, each of which plays an equally important role in the generation of suffering and samsara. These are fear, selfishness, attachment, stress, limitation, and subjective filtering, deficiencies that are associated with the absence of confidence, compassion, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. It is not only important to recognize the co-originating nature of suffering associated with all six of these qualities, but to recognize that reducing some but not the others does not end suffering. For example, you can become very wise and still be selfish. You can be wise and attached to your wisdom You can be wise and subjectively identified with your world view. All of these factors need to be used in tandem to leverage you out of the others. This is what is meant by balance. You will grow much faster if you have a number of different causes and solutions, because you then have more tools in your toolkit, more options for response, and greater adaptability.

While Buddhism sees ignorance as the cause of samsara, IDL views it not only as a consequence of a lack of balance in the six core qualities but as identification with the filters which generate our identity and sense of self. This is because samsara is caused by identification with these filters, called skandhas in Buddhism, which create the core illusion of self. The goal is not to eliminate the self but to eliminate identification with the self and the filters that generate delusion. You do not have to actually eliminate the delusion, just like you don’t have to stop the sun from rising to stop the delusion of geocentrism.

The Wheel of Karma

The Buddhist concept of karma is very similar to that found in Hinduism, with the exception that it is driven by an illusory self: “Our karma producing actions are caused by the delusion that we are real selves, that the ego is a permanent identity; therefore this self is dominated by egotistical desires or attachments. It is desire, passionate attachment or repulsion and hate, caused by ignorance as to the truth about the non-existence of the self that shackles us to the wheel of samsara – rebirth. Therefore, the key to the release from this wheel is the understanding that there is no self or ego and consequently that desires and the satisfaction of them are the illusory products of ignorance.”

If there is no self, then what is it that accumulates and carries on karma from one existence to another? What is the relationship of this to the nature of ultimate reality? Theravadin schools accepted the existence of elements and aggregates to explain what reincarnated. Elements are called dharmas: sensation, form, memory, space, and energy. Aggregates are called skandhas: material form, sensation, ideas, concepts, and understanding. Salvation is attained by insight, or enlightenment, concerning the truth that self is merely a temporary association of these dharmas and skandhas.

Karma is one way to understand the influence of causation of humans; it is neither the only way nor is it the best way, because it causes people to stay attached to exactly that sense of self that Buddhism claims does not exist. This is because it promotes the concept of personal causation and therefore not only overpromotes responsibility for causation, but by implication, the reality of the source of that causation, although the reality of that source is denied in Buddhism. Instead, IDL views whatever happens not in terms of cause and effect or karma, but as a wake up call. The first model emphasizes responsibility; the second model emphasizes enhanced awareness that leads to improved behavior. Isn’t that the point?

Integral Deep Listening sees the concept of karma having important individual and societal purposes, motivating people to obey, do well, be ethical, and believe that there will be eventual rewards for right actions. It also had the very practical result of the laity maintaining monasteries by bringing food and donations in order to attain “good merit,” or positive karma, which would result in a better rebirth. IDL teaches the taking of responsibility through identification with multiple perspectives. It is exactly because IDL is so effective at showing people themselves in a way that they take responsibility for it, that many people will not do it. If I want to make excuses for myself or avoid responsibility, why in the world would I do something that pointed out to me that was exactly what I was doing? Every interview asks, “What aspect of this person do you most closely personify?” Clearly, there is not only an encouragement of ownership but a thoughtful consideration of the implications of such ownership. Therefore, IDL encourages the taking of responsibility just as the doctrine of karma encourages. However, by not using the concept itself, IDL avoids the multiple problems that it inevitably raises, including predestination, predetermination, determination, fate, social and cultural coercion, and discrimination due to karma.

Integral Deep Listening does not view karma as a characteristic of the natural world as Hinduism and Buddhism does. Following Kant, it sees time, space, and causation as categories that the mind intrinsically uses to make sense of the world rather than objective realities. This is not to say that causation is not a reality for humans; it is. However, causation is not a characteristic of life, but of human consciousness. Consequences are brought about by fear, guilt, conscience, the choices of others, and natural laws, like gravity. Integral Deep Listening also does not recognize a law of karma because few interviewed emerging potentials need it or use it.

We have to outgrow the assumption that making karma irrelevant, completely apart from debates over its truth or not, will result in an unlawful, unregulated life in which one is free to do whatever they want, or that the only ideological option to karma is materialism. Most interviewed emerging potentials do not subscribe to either viewpoint, indicating that there are other possibilities. IDL is fully aware that you are not going to change your beliefs based on anything you read here, nor should you. Instead, it invites you to look at the perspectives of your own interviewed emerging potentials and draw your own conclusions.

Freedom from Rebirth

Once you accept karma, you are on a path to crazy conclusions. One is that the “effects” of your karma must land you in different places, since different causes have different effects. These places then have to be created, or at least hypothesized. Such is the case with Buddhism. We have seen that it believes in the existence of five realms or six, depending on who you ask, for you to transmigrate or reincarnate into. You may end up as a Naraka being that lives in one of many Narkas, or hells. The implication, as in all religions with hells, is that you will be appropriately scared of that possibility and therefore behave in such a way that you don’t end up there. If you aren’t quite so bad, but aren’t particularly good, you will simply become a ghost, called a Preta, sharing space with humans, but considered another type of life. Instead of a ghost, you could reincarnate as an animal, where there are various learning opportunities. This is better than being a ghost, because at least you are alive, even if an animal, because earthly existence provides opportunities for creating good karma that being a ghost doesn’t. Notice that Buddhists and Hindus differ with most reincarnation-believing Westerners on this, who generally consider being a ghost to be a higher developmental state than incarnating as an animal. What is good and important about incarnating as a human is that it is one of the realms of rebirth in which attaining Nirvana is possible. You can use it to escape the wheel of karma and rebirth. Notice that what this does is define the entirety of life in terms of its instrumentality; instead of being a good in itself, its value is as a launching pad to get somewhere else. Wise Buddhists understand that this is a contradiction with what they know: that there is nowhere to go and that escapism to some imagined preferred state of existence keeps you stuck in suffering. Knowing this, why did Buddhism not jettison karma and reincarnation? As we have noted above, one reason is that it allowed the monastic system to exist. Without the laity accumulating good karma, with the reward of a better rebirth, by contributing support, how would the teaching centers be sustained? This is an example of how functionality in the external collective social quadrant creates interpretations in the interior collective quadrant that slow down and impede the expansion of consciousness in the interior individual quadrant.

Beyond human incarnation you have the opportunity to be reborn as a god, deity, spirit, or angel, called Devas. These have even a higher likelihood of accessing Nirvana than humans do. The Mahayana Buddhists add another possibility, after humans and before Devas, called Asuras. These are lower deities titans, and interestingly, powerful but negative forces, such as demons and antigods. It is another interesting metaphysical twist that some evil forces are closer to attaining Nirvana than say, advanced Buddhist meditators. This may be a concession to the human experience that there are forces that cause floods, disease, and death that are positively harmful but must be respected because they are part of a larger cosmic order. Such an awareness sets up a psychology that naturally leads to a need to appease such forces with offerings, confessions, and sacrifices, reinforcing a shamanistic worldview that underpins almost all world spiritual traditions. The above are further subdivided into thirty-one planes of existence. Rebirths in some of the higher heavens, known as the Suddhavasa worlds or Pure Abodes, can be attained only by skilled Buddhist practitioners known as anagamis, non-returners. Rebirths in the arupa-dhatu (formless realms) can be attained by only those who can meditate on the arupajhanas, the highest object of meditation. While East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism add intermediate states, bardos, between one life and the next, Theravadin Buddhism rejects this; you go immediately to the existence that your karma has earned you after you die.

Integral Deep Listening views all this as prepersonal mythology that naturally and consistently arises out of the basic premise that karma exists and the naïve realism that produces the shamanic three-tiered cosmology. While educated Buddhists may distance themselves from such beliefs, they do not denouce them, imagining that they are “necessary” for the laity and those at earlier stages of development. The consequence is that they perpetuate a cultural context that keeps people stuck at prepersonal levels of belief.

If you buy the premise that what you experience in your dreams, trance states, and near death experiences is real, and that karma exists, then these levels and realms become reasonable. Pretty soon you are believing the realms of gods and deities of the solar system, galaxies, and galactic clusters enumerated in authoritative works like The Urantia Book. The only escape from the crazy implications of such crazy conclusions is to not buy the premises. Is what you see in your dreams and trance experiences really “real,” or could it be a product of your culture and level of development? Is it true that there is a “you” that gets rewarded or punished based on your actions? Buddhism should be able to avoid this, since it does away with an immortal, eternal self or soul. However, it is so wedded to the dogma of karma that it cannot. Instead of an emphasis on causation, which hundreds of years later Nagarjuna would show is itself subject to the same demolition as the concept of the self, Integral Deep Listening focuses on listening to wake up calls, doing interviews and triangulating to do your best to understand them properly, and to follow whatever recommendations are appropriate. If you do so you may find that the concept of karma becomes irrelevant. In addition, Integral Deep Listening does not view incarnation as an intrinsically painful place, pain as intrinsically bad, or avoiding pain as intrinsically good. There is nothing to escape from; to even try is to avoid yourself instead of practicing deep listening. There is nothing to escape to; to even try is to take yourself out of the here and now, which is the only place that life can exist.

Yoga as Meditation; Meditation as Yoga

Buddhism agrees with Hinduism that in order to become enlightened you need a spiritual discipline or yoga. However, Gautama subscribed to a much more narrow definition of yoga than was understood in India: “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

Gautama was clearly familiar with Hindu meditational yoga and accepted its fundamental doctrines. He expanded and elaborated on that system of meditation, adding as many as forty subjects of meditation, thirteen vows of physical restraint, and many aids for concentration. In a very early text, the Mahsatipahnasutta, Gautama teaches four subjects of meditation, the human body, sensations, thoughts and mind-objects. These are described as the “Foundations of Mindfulness.” What is interesting about this is that it implies that early Buddhist meditation focused on mental concentration on different subjects rather than consciousness itself. This difference is not trivial. It implies that some early stages of meditation were for early Buddhists what we now would call “contemplation” rather than meditation, that is, thinking about the human body, its condition and fate, thinking about physical pain and visual, auditory, gustatory, or sensate impressions, thinking about the thoughts that cross your awareness, or thinking about mental images. That this is “thinking about” rather than observing is implied by the inclusion of thoughts and thinking in the list. If this is so, early Buddhist meditation follows in the Hindu tradition of jnana yoga, which also relied upon contemplation of the human condition and truths about life.

In the Mahsatipahnasutta you are told to find a quiet place, free from disturbances, such as a forest, the foot of a tree or an empty house. Sit cross-legged with your body erect. Begin breathing mindfully by breathing in and out consciously and with awareness. When your mind is calm and brought to a point, take up the subjects of meditation. It includes the eight-fold method of Yoga advocated by the Yoga Sutras. These are sla, or moral purity, or setting and following an intention to act in an ethical manner, undertaken to prepare the mind for meditation; observance of internal and external purification through abstaining from unclean acts and thoughts; sitting cross-legged with an erect body; “mindfulness in regard to breathing,” involving an awareness of whether breathing is rapid or slow; withdrawal of the senses; fixed attention or trance; contemplation; and concentration.

In the commentaries 40 meditation objects are listed, including the kasinas – this is for samatha or tranquillity meditation where a single object is used to develop concentration (samadhi) and ultimately the jhanas. The most popular object of concentration seems to be the breath, and a whole sutta is devoted to this practice, the Anapanasati Sutta. While in the Yoga Sutras samadhi is the ultimate goal, in Buddhism it is only an intermediate step. Insight, or the realization of the true nature of life as embodied in the Four Noble Truths, is the ultimate goal. In Hinduism, while samadhi is the ultimate goal, it produces a number of other attainments, such as suspended animation, levitation, knowledge of past births and others’ minds as well as the mastery over the first cause which results in absolute independence. Both Hinduism and Buddhism assume the attainment of psychic powers is not only possible and desirable but also conducive to spiritual perfection.

Integral Deep Listening finds that there is little to no correlation between spiritual “gifts,” psychic abilities, or trance state access and spiritual development. Associating such state accomplishments with enlightenment implies that those who claim such accomplishments are enlightened, a conclusion that does not follow, since states are not developmental stages. State attainment may and usually does indicate proficiency in one line of development; it is a logical error to assume that because Einstein is a genius at physics that he will also have something valuable to say about meditation, opera, or construction materials. Just because a person can lucid dream or stay awake in deep sleep, it does not follow that they are enlightened. IDL also notes that there is no evidence, despite many people meditating in the 20th and 21st centuries, of suspended animation, levitation, precognition, and other psychic abilities as a consequence of meditation. Consequently, while meditation has been shown to be enormously effective at improving physical and mental health as well as improving problem solving, reducing stress, and improving both relationships and quality of life, it does not produce the psychic states or the transcendence of identity normally claimed for it. Why not? Interviewed emerging potentials rarely place any value on psychic abilities whatsoever. Why not?

While the implication is that such abilities are signs of being awake or enlightened, interviewed emerging potentials emphasize accessing broader and more inclusive perspectives on the world and translating those into actions that are in alignment with priorities of your inner compass. However, if you have a strong desire to develop such an ability, you can and will get feedback on your desire if you do IDL interviewing, as well as recommendations as to how best to proceed. Many interviewed emerging potentials recommend meditation; Integral Deep Listening highly recommends it as an essential element in your integral life practice.

IDL sees the benefits of meditation as balancing and integrating development on whatever level you are on, in addition to advancing the self line to higher levels. However, there is apparently nothing about meditation that will inherently advance the lines of cognition, empathy, ethics, or relationships. This is because we can point to famous mystics who were champion meditators who were clearly deficient in one or more of these lines. Therefore, the limitations intrinsic to your development on each of these lines, and particularly your worldview, since cognition is the leading line, are going to act as a natural anchor that results in your fixation at your current level of development. The implication is that you need a broad developmental approach that addresses all these different life areas, not just meditation. This is why IDL recommends an integral life practice.

Theravadin Meditation

Meditation is the practical core of Buddhism and its central yoga. To the extent that it is viewed as aimed at liberation from delusion and illusion it can be considered a dream yoga. While it can be practiced while dreaming and in deep sleep, Theravadin Buddhists have traditionally focused on waking up out of the waking dream. While they did not develop meditative practices associated with dreaming, lucid dreaming, or deep sleep, the extension of meditation into these states would have been recommended if such questions arose.

Theravadin meditation recognizes two varieties, samatha, or “tranquility,” and vipassana, or “insight.” In many Buddhist traditions, Samatha is done as a precursor to Vipassna. Samatha is “mindfulness of breathing” and is used primarily for calming the mind. Here are some traditional instructions: “Bring your attention to the small triangular area between your upper lip and your nostrils. Observe your inhalations and your exhalations. Whenever your mind wanders bring it back to an awareness of your breath flowing in and out.”

Vipassana is also watching your breath with awareness. However, it can also include contemplation, introspection and observation of bodily sensations, analytic meditation and observations on life experiences like death and decomposition. The main objective is to develop insight regarding the true nature of reality, which involve the “Three Marks of Existence,” impermanence, suffering, and the realization of non-self. These insights create freedom from samsara, nirvana.

Current “Mindfulness” meditation is descended from a Burmese Buddhist vipassana tradition developed in the 1950’s. It includes four stages of insight or jnana. In the first stage the meditator explores his body and then his mind, discovering the three characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and non-self. The first jnana consists in seeing these points and in the presence of attention, vitakka, and sustained discernment, vicara. Phenomena reveal themselves as appearing and ceasing. In the second jnana, the practice seems effortless. Vitaka and vicara both disappear. In the third jnana, joy disappears and only happiness and concentration are experienced. The fourth jnana is characterised by purity of mindfulness due to equanimity and leads to direct knowledge. The practice shows every phenomenon as unstable, transient, disenchanting, and the dissolution of all phenomena is clearly visible. The insight into the impermanence of all phenomena leads to a permanent liberation.

From this description you can see that vipassana, as traditionally taught as a process of insight and assumes a familiarity with and acceptance of basic principles of Buddhism. It is therefore different from its Westernized adaptations, such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s widespread program for teaching mindfulness meditation. The popular Western adaptations are therefore probably more accurately called samatha than vipassana.

Because meditation is central to Theravadin Buddhism, the typical monk meditates three to four hours a day broken up into four or five different time periods. The rest of the day is filled with prayers, teachings, chores, and meals. Monks do not eat after noon. Consequently, meditation represents a major lifestyle choice and commitment for monks, and life in a monastery involves a degree of cultural, social, and ideological immersion that is difficult to compare to any other lifestyle. IDL encourages its students to explore many different approaches to meditation in addition to the techniques that it teaches. Long, committed practice to an effective approach to meditation is probably the one most important thing that anyone can do to bring balance and transformation into their lives. IDL believes that when effective, regular, and long meditation is combined with IDL interviewing and the application of recommendations that a synergistic effect creates growth at a faster pace than either practice by itself.

Theory of Dreaming

Theravadin Buddhism shares Integral Deep Listening’s focus on waking up from the dream of life. Consequently, it focuses its attention on waking yogas and has no historical interest in lucid dreaming. Another reason for its emphasis on waking experience is its comparative disinterest, in relation to shamanism, Hinduism, and Tantric Buddhism, in psychism, paranormal states, or adventures in heavens or hells.

Dreaming is important to Theravadin Buddhism, but it has nothing to offer that is different from traditional dream interpretation anywhere else in the world. Following Hinduism, Buddhism divides dreams and dreaming into categories of the spiritual and meaningful and the secular, profane, and meaningless. The latter are to be ignored and disregarded. Spiritual dreams may be from Gods or demons and are determined to be spiritual by their content, as perceived by the dreamer or dream interpreter. They are to be treated as literal revelations or metaphorical statements about great truths, as the personification of Buddha as a white elephant. Buddha’s mission was foretold in a famous dream by his mother, Queen Maya. The Buddhist scriptures mention five dreams related to Gautama, all of which are “spiritual,” in that they are precognitive or demonstrations of higher spiritual abilities.

Integral Deep Listening does not differentiate between spiritual and secular dreams because an interviewed pillow may prove to be as revelatory as the Buddha in a dream. You don’t know until you do an interview. Then you are free to arrive at your own conclusions. Was the interview about a “spiritual” or a “mundane” dream? What you will probably find is that after the interview the dream defies categorization, thereby throwing the entire system of categorization into question.

Life doesn’t differentiate between your waking and sleeping states, although because of the differing conditions of your mental filters it expresses itself differently in waking, dreaming, and deep sleep natural trance states. We have seen that in IDL all dreams are treated as wake up calls, to be listened to in a deep and integral way. This applies to your waking dream as well. The distinctions between spiritual and secular dreams are projections onto dreams by waking identity; waking interpretations by humans without the input of interviewed dream characters is embarrassing in their shallowness and ignorance to those who have experienced what is possible. Integral Deep Listening does not view waking identity and its preferences as the center of the universe. Instead, it views life as the center of the universe, and life is multi-perspectival, equally present in every occasion.

Other Characteristics Unique to Buddhism

Middle Way

The Middle Way, or Middle Path, the name Gautama gave his teaching, indicates a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence. It defines nirvana as a consciousness in which it becomes clear that all dualisms are delusions. Metaphysically, it indicates a desire to affirm a middle ground between disputes regarding whether things ultimately do or not exist, there is or is not God, or whether there is or is not a soul.

Integral Deep Listening views triangulation as a “middle way” between not two, but three extremes. The first has two aspects, depending on external sources of authority, such as experts, scripture, religious leaders, family, peers, psychics, professional codes, and work expectations; or depending on external sources of authority that have been internalized and made your own, so that you think they are “you” and “true,” such as internal parent voices, scripting, conscience, intuition, “God’s will,” revelation, visions, and dreams, as you understand them. The second extreme is soley to depend on your own common sense or judgment. The third extreme is to soley depend on interviewed emerging potentials. Each of these is, by itself, “extreme,” because it excludes two other important sources of objectivity for good decision-making. Each of these is, when conjoined with one other, ineffective, because it excludes another essential source of objectivity for good decision-making.

A middle way between these extremes involves consulting all three sources, and to do so effectively. For example, consulting phony, manipulative, or biased external sources is not going to yield effective decision-making. While consulting wise sources of external authority and guidance can be life-changing and absolutely essential, it is not the same as consulting your inner compass, nor is it expected to be. The two are not in competition. It also is not meant to replace using your common sense. The same is true for consulting conscience, intuition, internal parent voices, and most other internal sources of guidance, because these lack objectivity. They generally either validate what you want to hear and the choice you want to make (such as to believe the object of your infatuation really is your soul mate), or will tell you what you fear. If your common sense is not rational, that is, it is filled with emotional, logical, and perceptual distortions, then it will be disastrous to depend on it, with or without the other two. If you only trust and follow the recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials you are neglecting important feedback and help from the perspectives represented by others and your common sense. This is as much a mistake as erring to the other extremes.

Decision-making is central to spirituality because it is central to growth, to success and to failure. It involves all four quadrants of the human holon. Seeking external advice means consulting the external collective quadrant; seeking internal advice is to consult your internal collective quadrant; evaluating these with your common sense means to use your internal individual quadrant; acting on what you decide is to use your external individual quadrant. When you use all four quadrants in your decision-making you are more likely to make better decisions and thereby further your spiritual development. Relying on all three provides a system of checks and balances, with your common sense acting as the Executive branch of your internal government, external sources of objectivity as the Judiciary, and your community of interviewed emerging potentials as something like the Legislative. When all three are functioning, you are more likely to stay in balance and find a “middle way” forward for your life, avoiding extremes.

Dukkha (Suffering)

By choosing suffering as his starting point, Buddha wasn’t trying to be negative or pessimistic. He was instead pointing out a reality that most people spend their lives trying to avoid: that when you base your life on things that are impermanent the inevitable consequence is suffering. Suffering can be caused by loss, sickness, pain, failure, or the impermanence of pleasure and can be experienced as anxiety, dissatisfaction, unease, or distress. It may be experienced as illness, growing old, and dying; as the anxiety that comes from trying to hold on to things that are constantly changing; and as a subtle dissatisfaction pervading all forms of life that are impermanent and constantly changing.

Integral Deep Listening approaches suffering differently. It defines it as identification with the Drama Triangle in the three realms of relationships, cognition, and dreaming. To be in the role of persecutor, victim, or rescuer is to suffer. This is because to be in one role is to be in all three; to be in the Drama Triangle is to confuse your perception of life with life itself, because life does not do drama. Integral Deep Listening also differentiates between the suffering of victimization, as when you are in a car accident, and the suffering of being in the victim role of the Drama Triangle. It is enough to suffer as the victim of a car accident; it is another matter entirely to compound your suffering by feeling hopeless, helpless, powerless, and persecuted. Without the Drama Triangle you mostly have the suffering of physical pain to deal with; that is bad enough, but by itself much more easily dealt with than when you pile depression and anger on top of it, as occurs when people put themselves in the role of victim.

A third distinction that Integral Deep Listening makes regarding suffering is its perceptual subjectivity. At any point you can shift your identity into this or that perspective that is not suffering. This demonstrates that there is nothing intrinsic about suffering or anything inevitable about its presence in life. As the saying goes, “Misery is optional.” This why suffering is not ontologically grounded; there is nothing intrinsic to identity that says one must ever suffer. Such awarenesses allow a person to grow without being intimidated by suffering or to avoid choosing a path out of a desire to avoid suffering. A final awareness Integral Deep Listening has about suffering is that it is best viewed as a wake up call. Wake up calls are not to be avoided; they are to be listened to. This reframes suffering as an opportunity and aid to greater awakening.

The second truth in Buddhism, following that all things involve suffering, is that the origin of dukkha can be known. Within the context of the four noble truths, the origin of dukkha is commonly explained as craving (tanha) conditioned by ignorance (avijja). On a deeper level, the root cause of dukkha is identified as ignorance of the true nature of things. The cause of suffering is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.

Craving, the source of suffering for Buddhism, can be viewed as a desire for rescuing within the Drama Triangle. Ignorance generates feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness associated with the victim role within the Drama Triangle. Wisdom then becomes the rescuer, which removes the persecution of craving. However, solutions to suffering do not lie within the Drama Triangle. If you escape craving by attaining wisdom, your rescuer becomes your persecutor. Why? Because wisdom is only one of six core values. To give it preeminence as the solution to suffering creates intrinsic imbalances, because it subordinates confidence, compassion, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. To avoid this problem, as well as this formulation of the Drama Triangle, you learn not to experience yourself as persecuted by your addictions because you come to understand that if you do, you put yourself in the role of victim, necessitating rescuing. Instead, IDL uses other core qualities, such as witnessing, to objectify craving so that you do not personalize it; acceptance to move you beyond preferring the end of craving; inner peace to choose freedom whether or not craving exists; confidence to seek balance outside the Drama Triangle whether or not craving and ignorance exist, and compassion to be kind to yourself and those others who are lost in craving and ignorance. All of these strategies are modeled by interviewed emerging potentials in ways that are tailor-made for our own particular “brand” of suffering.

Integral Deep Listening uses the six core qualities as antidotes to dukkha:

According to Buddhism there are three sources of suffering,

They are ignorance or delusion,

Attachment or craving,

and pride or self.

The remedies of these are found in the six core qualities.

Wisdom and witnessing are the antidotes to ignorance and delusion;

Develop them and you wake up and become enlightened.

Acceptance and confidence are the antidotes to attachment and craving;

Develop them and you become free and powerful.

Compassion and inner peace are the antidotes to pride and self;

Develop them and you become all things and sacred.

Anicca (Impermanence)

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

Buddha understood that when you create distinctions you create realities that are illusory. For example, “you” and “me” are linguistic and sensory-based distinctions that life itself does not make. The fact that we cannot conceive of life without them does not mean that they are intrinsic to life; they aren’t. Distinctions create useful and necessary stabilities where none exist. We then rely on those stabilities, become dependent upon them for our self-definition, relationships, and work. Most of them are not only harmless, they are helpful and necessary. However, believing in their reality and basing our sense of self on them is a common and honest perceptual error that invariably leads to suffering. At that point we are out of the flow of life. It is as if we were attempt to cling to water in a mountain stream.

Buddhism notes that all things and experiences are inconstant, unsteady, and impermanent. Everything you can experience through your senses is made up of parts, and the existence of things is dependent on external conditions. Everything is in constant flux, and so both conditions and things themselves are constantly changing. They are constantly coming into being, and ceasing to be. Since nothing lasts, there is no inherent or fixed nature to any object or experience. According to this Buddhist doctrine of impermanence, life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of rebirth and in any experience of loss. Because things are impermanent, attachment to them leads to suffering.

For IDL, this is another way of talking about victimization by craving. When you are attached to something or someone, your craving persecutes you. You become its victim. You require rescuing, either by things staying the same or by changing; in either case they must conform to your preferences and expectations for you to be happy. Your preferences and expectations are relatively permanent; they do not shift to match reality. Consequently, your become attached to them. They become your persecutor and you their victim. You rescue yourself by associating yourself with those beliefs, activities, and people that validate your preferences and expectations.

Integral Deep Listening attempts to deal with this human predicament by encouraging identification with emerging potentials that are not attached to your preferences and expectations. They have their own that they may be attached to! There is no claim that they are free of craving or of suffering, only that they can help you leverage yourself free of those cravings to which you are attached. Different emerging potentials will be required, depending on the particular cravings, preferences, and expectations that are at work in your life at present.

Anatta (No Self)

“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength”

For Buddhism, there ultimately is no such thing as a self that is independent from the rest of the universe. Gautama was brilliant to recognize this fundamental truth about life, that there is no such thing as any “thing” outside the perception of the beholder. This is because it is impossible to identify an independent, inherently existing self. The self only exists in dependence upon causes and conditions.

Here is the argument Theravadin Buddhism makes to support this conclusion. “If you look for the self within the body, you will not find it there, since the body itself is dependent upon its parts. If you look for the self within the mind, you cannot find it there, since the mind can only be said to exist in relation to external objects. Therefore the mind is also dependent upon causes and conditions outside of itself. Since the self cannot be said to exist within the body or mind, it is said to be “empty of inherent existence.”

Integral Deep Listening takes this argument for interdependence and relates it to the four quadrants of the human holon. If you look for the self within the external individual quadrant of the body and its actions, as biochemical reductionists do, you will not find it there, since bodies do not exist independently of environmental forces like gravity and atmospheric pressure, interior collective patterns of habit or instinct, and consciousness itself. If you look for the self within the mind, you cannot find it there, since consciousness is only found in the presence of material forms that embody it,[5] as well as social and cultural systems that contextualize it. If you look for the self within group identity, as the religious and nationalists do, you cannot find it there, because the self can only exist in terms of individual values, perspectives, consciousness, and action. If you look for the self within core values, as Socrates, Plato, and montheists do, you will not find it, because values do not exist apart from a manifesting form, relationships, and individual consciousness.

The importance of the doctrine of “neither self nor no self” is that it uproots both the source of fear and craving. The only reason you feel fear is because you think you are somebody that can die and that therefore needs protecting, or you fear you possess something that you can lose and that therefore requires protection. The only reason you feel cravings is because you identify with a sense of self that is “needy.” Because you have a body and live in a society of others who can steal, the need for protection is real. Victimization is real. However, when you become an emerging potential that does not have fears or cravings you make decisions without drama. While your cravings will return, because you cannot and will not hold on to that transformational emerging identity, that they depart when your attachment to a sense of self vanishes, demonstrates the principle. It is your attachment to your sense of self that creates suffering.

The Buddha saw that the solution is not to deny that there is a self, because it is an experiential fact. Instead, he denied the independent, autonomous existence of any self. This is very similar to how Integral Deep Listening views the personification of any perspective, whether that of a whale, a lightbulb, or yourself. It is not that these perspectives are not real, or are not associated with some “thing” that personifies them, but that their reality is dependent on the conditions that generate them. Eliminate those conditions and the “thing” is no more. A dream whale, light bulb, angel, or monster does not have an eternal soul; neither do you. It is your attachment to your sense of self that generates the delusion that such a permanent self exists. To the extent that attachments persecute you, you take on the victim role in the Drama Triangle. You now need an infinite variety of substitute gratifications to assuage your existential anxiety that maybe you will not only die some day, but that you really are nobody.

Integral Deep Listening views the concepts “I,” “my,” and “mine,” along with “you,” “yours,” and “ours,” as linguistic artifacts, arising with language and inseparable from it. Gautama rejected both the assertion “I have a Self” and “I have no Self” as ontological views that bind one to suffering. When asked if the self was identical with the body, the Buddha refused to answer. The experience of separateness arises from sensory embodiment and is reinforced in dream experience. This is rather like the Ptolemaic worldview. Because our eyes see the sun rise and set, the Earth must be the center of the universe. Because we experience our self as real, interacting with other selves, we must be real, separate, and permanent. Breaking free of this mythology is somewhat equivalent to Galileo attempting to demonstrate new truths to the Church Fathers; your daily experience will bring great pressures to bear to cause you to recant your foolishness.

All of the above amount to intellectual or rational observations that will not sway experiential and emotional realities. Consequently, IDL generally does not rely on such arguments. Instead it says, “Do the experiments yourself and draw your own conclusions.” The experiments are, of course, interviews of your choice of both dream characters and the personifications of life issues that are meaningful to you. Decide for yourself whether the perspectives you encounter have a “self” or not and how their sense of self-identity compares to your own.

Interdependent Co-origination

“Everything is interdependent.”

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”

Of the many brilliant contributions of Gautama, the concept of pratītyasamutpāda, interdependent co-origination, or that everything is interdependent, is perhaps the most brilliant. It is unique in the history of philosophy_ and the cornerstone of Buddhism, upon which the entire intellectual structure rests and depends. It is the basis for other key concepts, such as karma and rebirth, the arising of dukkha, and the possibility of liberation through realizing no-self, anatman. The way it is expressed in the original texts is as, ‘this existing, that exists; this arising, that arises; this not existing, that does not exist; this ceasing, that ceases’[6] In other words, a single cause does not give rise to either a single result or several results; nor do several causes give rise to just one result; but rather several causes give rise to several results.

The reason that interdependent co-origination is important does not rest on the truth or untruth of Gautama’s analysis of the factors leading to rebirth. It lies in its elimination of dualisms of all kinds, such as those between man and God, good and evil, right and wrong, heaven and hell, salvation and sinner, cause and effect. These implications were not clearly seen, nor were they spelled out for some six hundred years, until the brilliant mystic and philosopher Mahayana philosopher Nagarjuna did so in the Pratityasumutpada, “Constituents of Dependent Arising.”

This understanding undercuts the reality of shamanistic and shamanistically-derived world views by demonstrating that dualistic perception is not only a perceptual delusion but also a failure of the rational mind. This was not only important for refuting dualistic worldviews, but for creating a way for the thinking mind to first move beyond prepersonal and pre-rational belief systems, and then to objectify or transcend its dependence on itself. These are in turn requirements for a stable trans-personal and trans-rational worldview, which in turn is a prerequisite for maintaining stable, ongoing transpersonal anything. These are some of the reasons why it is highly unlikely that any true classical mysticism is much more than state access on the self-line. The requirements for more, such as advance on the cognitive line to vision-logic, much less beyond, just did not exist.

The fact that most religious and “spiritual” worldviews are either dualistic or are experientially monistic but are rationally still attached to the reality of substances, such as Atman and Brahman, in the case of Shankara, indicates that Buddha’s understanding of the conditioned, non-dual nature of life, still remain far ahead of their time. In addition, Buddhism itself has not absorbed or adapted to address these consequences: the side-tracking of belief in karma, samsara, the three realms, and the Two Truths Doctrine.

For Integral Deep Listening the importance of interdependent co-origination relates to the awarenesses gained by becoming this or that emerging potential. When you become a corkscrew, for instance, it speaks not only as an aspect of yourself, dependent upon your identity, perspective, experience, and memory stores, but adds to that its own unique and relatively autonomous perspective. Note the use of “relatively.” What the corkscrew says is dependent upon you and your identity and reality, and arises interdependently with your consciousness, yet offers a perspective that you agree with to a greater or lesser degree. You may not agree with it at all. How is that possible if it arises from within you? If it is a part of you then won’t you not only understand it, but agree with it as well?

When you become the corkscrew, it is your identity at that moment. Like Chuang-Tzu, the butterfly has created the dreamer. At that moment, your waking identity is interdependently co-originating with the imaginary corkscrew, which is who you are. You are imaginary; you are neither spiritual nor secular; you are in the middle between being and non-being. Once this understanding is experienced, through multiple interviews, the truth of interdependent co-origination is grasped, not as a logical, rational conclusion, but as a known and felt truth. So what? The result is that it becomes obvious that your sense of self is interdependently co-originated, a completely arbitrary construct that is dependent upon the locus of your perspective at the moment. It is only because that locus is normally stable and predictable, spread out among the habitual roles that you take in the round of your life, that a stable sense of self emerges and is maintained. Once you start spreading it among totally arbitrary and imaginary objects, yet discovering that they demonstrate characteristics that you normally retain to yourself in order to maintain the specialness and uniqueness of your sense of who you are, the illusory nature of an independent, non co-created existence is clearly observed.

This understanding will not turn you into a Buddhist, but it indicates that Gautama was onto something powerful and fundamental You do not have to accept the path of Buddhism to recognize and appreciate the clarity and helpfulness of some of Gautama’s basic ideas about life and how to live it.

Skandhas Generate Reality

“All form is comparable to foam; all feelings to bubbles; all sensations are mirage-like; dispositions are like the plantain trunk; consciousness is but an illusion: so did the Buddha illustrate [the nature of the aggregates].”_

“Skandhas,” or “aggregates,” are both another application of interdependent co-origination and an explanation of the specific mechanism by which it undermines both the concept and experience of an independent self or Self. By analyzing the constantly changing physical and mental constituents, the skandhas of a person or object, you are likely to come to the conclusion that neither the respective parts nor the person as a whole comprise a self. The five skandhas are:

Matter, or body, rupa,

sensations and feelings vedana,

perceptions of sense objects, sanna, (recognition, perception, conceptualization, cognition, reason)

mental formations samskaras, (habits, prejudices, predispositions, volition, intention, faith, conscientiousness, pride, desire, vindictiveness – various mental states), and

consciousness, vijnana.

The self, or soul, cannot be identified with any of its five constituents, nor is it the sum of these five parts. It is considered to be an illusory effect of the interaction of these five factors. The Buddha puts it like this, “A ‘chariot’ exists on the basis of the aggregation of parts; even so the concept of ‘being’ exists when the five aggregates are available.”

Integral Deep Listening encourages an understanding of these five elements, but defines them differently, as five different objects of perception: sensory experience, emotions, images, thoughts, and states, including perception itself. As you can see, there is a rough similarity to the Buddhist concept of skandhas, but Integral Deep Listening does not claim equivalency. It alters the order slightly, to reflect what developmental psychology says is the order of the differentiation of consciousness in humans. We first objectify our bodies with images, in which we are image-making beings observing our sensory reality. You can observe this in cats and six-month olds. We then objectify our images with emotions, becoming emotional beings observing both our images and sensory experience. You can observe this in dogs, two year olds, and while dreaming. We then objectify our feelings with thoughts, becoming rational beings observing our feelings, images, and sensory experience. You can observe this beginning with the acquisition of language and coming to fruition in adolescence. We then objectify our thought process through identification with a variety of different perceptual states, whether they are near death experiences, meditation, drug-induced highs, channeling, or becoming interviewed emerging potentials with Integral Deep Listening.

We know that these are states because they create disidentification with the state of waking identity and replace it with something else. The state objectifies waking cognition, emotion, imagery, and sensory experience. Of course, what you replace waking experience with determines to a large extent what you will get. If you replace it with deep sleep, you will mostly get unconsciousness. If you replace it with dreaming, you will mostly get emotionally-meditated experiences interpreted by your waking sense of self that is in the trance state called dreaming. If you replace it with near death experiences, drug-induced highs, or channeling, you still are interpreting those experiences through the filter of waking consciousness. Integral Deep Listening also does this, but not until an objectified perspective has a chance to speak. It then comments on the other four skandhas. Because you interview different emerging potentials, they provide objectivity toward each other, thereby objectifying the fifth skandha of states.

The Buddha taught contemplation of the skandhas as a type of mindfulness meditation, in which the monk saw each of the aggregates arising in consciousness and dissipating. The purpose of this exercise was to create a cognitive space between the skandha and attachment to it. It aimed to objectify the skandha: sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, or consciousness, and with them identification with a separate self.

Integral Deep Listening encourages its students to learn to identify these five types of identifications and objectify them when they meditate. This is discussed in the text, Transcending Your Monkey Mind: The Five Trees and Meditation.

The Three Jewels

Refuge in the Buddha

To take refuge in the Buddha has both objective and inner, esoteric meanings. The objective referent is of course the historical Buddha. The softening effect of time has produced the portrayal of an idealized human being, at least in the eyes of those Indian monks who recited the original scriptures for hundreds of years before they were written down. In this sense, the job of a Buddhist is to imitate the mind, heart, and consciousness of the enlightened Gautama.

The internal referent is to your own ideal and highest potential. Buddha’s mind in his earth body or nirmanakaya is frequently associated in Buddhist scripture with the greatest gem of all, the diamond, the hardest natural substance. In the Anguttara Nikaya Anguttara Nikaya,[7] Buddha talks about the diamond mind that can cut through all delusion.

This immediately raises a challenge. What happens when these two do not coincide? What happens when what you know, are told, and are taught about the path of the historical Buddha conflicts with your own ideal and highest potential? This question would be unlikely to ever arise among the great preponderance of historical or contemporary Buddhist practitioners, because the assumption is that they do coincide, and if they seem not to, it is only because of your ignorance. When you have right understanding you will see that the two coincide. Another way of asking this is to say, “Is each individual’s path always a universal one, when rightly understood?” If so, then it would seem that the external, objective Buddha is enough; one needs to ignore one’s own ideals and concept of highest potential, because the external is enough and the individual sense will only lead you away from the truth. Many people adopt this position. The opposite position is taken by others. The historical Buddha is merely an externalization of your own highest potential; he exists to direct you to listen within to your own path. If that is the case, then doesn’t it follow that at some point one can discard Buddhism and the historical Buddha in favor of one’s own wisdom?

Integral Deep Listening seeks a middle way between these two extremes. That is the purpose of triangulation. You are taught to consult with both external sources of authority, such as the historical Buddha, and your own emerging potentials, and then compare those answers with your own common sense. For IDL, the Buddha is a metaphor for one’s inner compass. Whether it is or not, or whether it personifies only some aspects of it while ignoring others, can be determined by conducting your own interview with the Buddha.

Refuge in the Dharma

Buddhism was a term coined by Westerners. The teaching itself is referred to by practitioners as “Buddha-dharma,” or simply as “Dharma.” In the earliest language of Buddhism, Pali, it is known as “dhamma.” This refers to the teachings recorded in sutta pitaka of the Pali canon that lay out the causes of suffering and the steps required to undo these causes. This is essentially a process of self-imposed disciplines involving various purifications, first of the body and relationships, and then of the mind, leading to insight into the internal causes of suffering and final liberation. Part of this path is helping others to do the same.

Theravadin Buddhism emphasizes personal discipline and the following of a previously laid out path rather than salvation through belief in a deified man. This is not the case in some forms of Mahayana, such as Amida Buddhism, but the original and majority Buddhist practice focuses on salvation through personal discipline involving aligning oneself with natural law, dharma, as understood and laid out by Gautama. Consequently, Buddhism tends to be based less on belief and faith than Chinese religion, the Western monotheisms, and many of the sects of Hinduism, and more focused on personal yoga – although it is not called that. This yoga is the Dharma.

There are a number of outstanding characteristics of Dharma that Integral Deep Listening also respects and encourages in its students. Neither Buddhism or Integral Deep Listening are approached as sectarian belief systems by supporters but as something open to empirical investigation. For Buddhists, this involves a causal analysis of natural phenomena. For Integral Deep Listening, it involves the investigation of any and all perspectives. Because both are based on empiricism they are open to scrutiny, testing, and falsifiability. Both welcome it. Those who follow the injunctions will see the results for themselves by means of their own experience. Both work in the here and now. All are invited to come experience the results for themselves by putting it to test in their own lives. Both require personal experience; hearing and reading about a yoga is not sufficient to understand or evaluate it, nor is it something that can be communicated by a teacher, although teachers are necessary to tell you where to look and to provide objective feedback. Each person is personally responsible for his or her own practice. While Theravadin Buddhism holds that the practice of the Dhamma is the only way to attain the final deliverance of Nirvana, Integral Deep Listening believes that there are many ways but that some are superior to others. In addition, instead of seeking an ultimate, unchanging state, Nirvana, Integral Deep Listening is a developmental tool that supports an ongoing process of awakening, regardless of one’s level of development. Its purpose is to access and maintain higher stages of development, wherever you are in your development, rather than to attain some ultimate state.

Refuge in the Sangha 

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”

This is fascinating, in that it is contradictory. While insisting on an individual approach to enlightenment, Buddhism depended on communities of monks, not autonomous individual effort. It also relied on prelates as teachers, instructors, and gurus in right living and meditation. In these teachings Buddha and Buddhism claims to break from Hinduism in its reliance on a guru. However, in practice Buddhism depends on one’s own effort in the context of a teaching community where the officiating monks and the scriptures serve as gurus.

Sangha means “association,” “assembly,” “company” or “community.” It usually refers to the monastic community of ordained Buddhist monks or nuns. The ariya-sangha, or “noble Sangha” is a subgroup within this community of those who have attained a higher level of realization and who functionally serve as gurus within the monastery. The monastic life is considered by Buddhism to be the safest and most suitable environment for following the dharma due to the temptations, distractions, and demands of secular living. The sangha not only provides a refuge for practicing meditation; it preserves the teachings and traditions of Buddhism and provides spiritual support for the surrounding community. Buddhist monasteries are teaching centers for monks and the surrounding community alike.

Monks and nuns chant daily the following description of the Sangha:

The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is:

    practicing the good way

    practicing the upright way

    practicing the knowledgeable or logical way

    practicing the proper way

This Sangha is:

    worthy of gifts

    worthy of hospitalities

    worthy of offerings

    worthy of reverential salutation

   the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.

Notice that the correctness of practice by members of the Sangha makes them worthy to receive support from the surrounding community because they bring that community “unsurpassed” blessings. What we find here is a contract between Buddhist monastic communities and the surrounding society at large: “If you support us, we will not only prove worthy of your support, but by doing so you will be immeasurably blessed.” The implied blessing involves good karma, meaning spiritual advancement and a better rebirth. This is powerful social glue in societies that believe in karma and reincarnation. It is further evidence that the path of a Buddhist monk is hardly solitary; instead it is interdependently co-created with other monks and the cultural-social environment. In contemporary monasteries in the West that do not depend on this model, support comes through financial donations, foundations, trusts and sometimes work for pay or barter. Consequently, monasteries in the West are typically meditation centers with kitchens, often stocked by the surrounding Buddhist community. Some, mostly in southeast Asia, are still constructed along the classical model of monks taking their food bowls out into the community each day.

The rules of conduct in Buddhist monasteries are strict, including complete chastity and eating only before noon. Scripture study, chanting, meditation, and maintenance are the main daily activities. Personal possessions are minimal. Vegetarianism is generally optional. Membership in the sangha is not necessary for enlightenment; there is an example in the suttas from the life of Buddha of a layperson attaining enlightenment.

Buddha laid down strict guidelines, called The Eight Garudhammas, subordinating nuns to monks. These rules are definitely sexist and reinforce patriarchal societal hierarchy. Some therefore believe this was a requirement for Buddhist sanghas to receive societal support in Indian society; it appears to be a continuation of assumptions from Indian conceptions of karma and rebirth that male incarnation is superior to female incarnation. The Atharva Veda states, “Let a female child be born somewhere else. Here let a son be born.” Female infanticide and discrimination against women in both professional and personal relationships has historically been an intrinsic element of Indian culture and society, and patriarchalism has been a strong bias within Buddhism until the twentieth century, changing only subsequent to exposure to Western egalitarian cultural values.

This is an excellent example of how enlightenment is conditioned by cultural context. As Wilber points out, you have the ability today to access a broader, more inclusive enlightenment than Buddha or Jesus could, because you live in cultural and societal contexts that are broader and more inclusive than theirs. This is another reason why Integral Deep Listening does not strive for the attainment of a state, like nirvana, but rather a higher developmental stage, for as humanity evolves, so does what it means to be enlightened.

Integral Deep Listening adapts the Buddhist concept of sangha in two ways. Your external sangha is not only your community of students and Practitioners of Integral Deep Listening, but the macrocosm, your external, outpictured world dream. It can be thought of as people, objects, and sentient beings, or it can be thought of simply as any and all wake up calls. When you look at all stimuli in this way you undermine your normal unconscious categories of phenomena. You no longer differentiate between useful and trivial events, for example, or between humans and toasters. Clouds, giraffes, power cords, and fungus are all equally wake up calls and all equally sources of enlightenment. The goal of your interactions with all is the same: to listen to them in a deep and integral manner.

When you do so, this sangha merges with your second sangha, your intrasocial community of interviewed emerging potentials, including your waking identity. You develop the discernment to recognize that what you thought was your own voice of intuition or conscience is actually your external sangha that you have internalized and used to construct your social and psychological selves. For Integral Deep Listening, these two communities are neither sacred nor secular, but integral. They mirror one another; the internal individual and collective mirror the external individual and collective just as the external individual and collective mirror the internal individual and collective. As holonic quadrants, it makes no sense to ask which is prior or which creates the other. They interdependently co-originate.

Both sanghas access the transpersonal but with methods and contexts that are not themselves transpersonal, in that they are available to almost anyone in circumstances most consider secular and mundane. For example, the interview with Air from the Bhagavad Gita, in the comparison of Integral Deep Listening and Hinduism, addresses a perspective from a sacred scripture and itself reveals the sacred, as when it provides a practical method for self-transcendence: “Instead of breathing me in and out, I would have him be me breathing him. I would have him look at his life moment to moment from my perspective. This will objectify his physical sensations, emotions, images, and thoughts.” This is an integral approach in that the transcendent, wholly other is made incarnate in the profane, everyday fabric of life. There is no need to identify Air with some sacred essence, such as prana. The sacred and profane are integrated.

Viewing your internal community of interviewed emerging potentials as a sangha has several advantages. It encourages you to consider them as a collective, rather than as individual perspectives from different interviews. This is made obvious when you create dream sociograms. However, you are encouraged to view yourself as belonging to that collective rather than doing what we normally do, assume that it belongs to us. Your internal sangha is mirrored externally in your relationships with your external sangha.

Let us look at the wording of the basic vow of Buddhism: “I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha.” When a person takes “refuge,” they seek protection. Protection can occur in or out of the Drama Triangle, or be both. Taking refuge occurs within the Drama Triangle when the protection is a form of self-rescuing. This is because the rescuing is also a form of avoidance of the underlying issue: one’s sense of victimization, accompanied by feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, and even depression. The goal is to move out of the role of victim, not to avoid those feelings by taking refuge in some rescuer. Therefore, to approach Buddhism, IDL, or any path from an identity as victim is a misunderstanding and ineffective.

Such motivations may or may not apply to Buddhists. If a person takes up Buddhism, joins a monastery, or does Buddhist meditation to avoid feelings of victimization they are practicing Buddhism within the tender embrace of the Drama Triangle. Most people have mixed motivations. The truth is, most of us are in part motivated by a desire to avoid feelings of victimization and therefore seek rescuing; the first step out is to recognize that is the case. The next step is to look at what we are avoiding and defuse it. Integral Deep Listening interviewing is designed to help with this process by practicing deep listening to perceived sources of vicimization. If there are feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, or if there is anxiety or depression, Integral Deep Listening interviews them. By doing so, it surfaces those feelings and provides practical steps for neutralizing them. The result is that your practice becomes cleaner, purer, easier, more natural, and more honest, because you know your own motivations better. You move your practice out of the Drama Triangle to a greater extent. To not do so means to stay in a conflictual relationship with Buddhism or IDL and your own practice of it, because you will resent being rescued and fear eventual persecution, which you will project onto Buddhism or IDL, even though the “persecution” is a self-created delusion.

Integral Deep Listening associates the Buddhist dharma with its particular dream yogic methodology and the Buddha with one’s inner compass. It also notes that Buddha, Dharma, Sangha each include and respect the six core qualities of confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing, although it uses different names and notes other qualities as well. In addition, Integral Deep Listening associates Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha with specific core qualities. It finds it helpful to associate Buddha in particular with fearless confidence and wisdom, Dharma with inner peace and witnessing, and Sangha with the core qualities of compassion and acceptance, although these are arbitrary associations and you can create your own.

Buddhist Yoga: The Eight-Fold Noble Path

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”

The fourth of the Four Noble Truths is Magga. It says that to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path, which can be compared both to Hindu yogic traditions and the concept of a dream yoga integral life practice. The first two paths listed in the Eightfold Path refer to discernment (panna; prajna in Sanskrit); the middle three are related to virtue (sila); the last three are designed to cultivate concentration, samadhi.

Panna, or discernment, insight, wisdom, and enlightenment, is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom emerges when your mind is pure and calm. It consists of:

Samma ditthi, or right understanding of the Four Noble Truths, which is to view reality as it is, not just as it appears to be. By this point, readers will recognize that IDL views this as an expression of the Two Truths Doctrine. It also assumes that it is possible to transcend conditions and perception. Buddhism indeed believes this, because the mechanism of life is interdependently conditioned, and perception is one of the skandhas that generate the illusion of self. This is analogous to aspects of jnana yoga, which emphasizes right knowledge. It also discriminates dream and delusion from reality.

IDL does not focus on discriminating dream and delusion from reality in any absolute sense. What is considered to be reality today is seen to be dream and delusion tomorrow. For IDL, this is as it should be, because we need relative realities to create structure, meaning, and purpose in life. However, IDL realizes it is making a choice that Buddhists would say reflects life in conditioned, not absolute reality. IDL does not believe that there is some final distinction between dream and reality, as Buddhism does. This is because that is not the reality revealed by IDL interviewing, and IDL believes transpersonal experience transcends and includes all cognitions, concepts, and laws about the nature of reality.

Samma sankappa, or right intention and thinking. This involves following the right path in life, including setting the intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness as well as the intention to act ethically. This is analogous to karma marga in Hinduism, or liberation through right action in general and right livelihood in particular. Notice that what constitutes “the right path” is determined by external sources of objectivity, the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. For IDL, students are encouraged to create an integral life practice and take their sense of right action to their inner compass, in the form of interviews with a number of emerging potentials. There is no formulaic “one size fits all” path for students of IDL.

Sila refers to virtue, good conduct, and morality, based on the principle of equality, that all living entities are equal, and the principle of reciprocity, or the “golden rule.” Notice that this does not include collective standards of moral behavior, which generally exist for the self-preservation of the group rather than stand as an expression of one’s own inner compass. For IDL, concepts of virtue, good conduct, and morality evolve. For example, the work of Kohlberg demonstrates that there are predictable stages of moral development.[8]

Samma vaca deals with appropriate and inappropriate speech, including no lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language, and speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way. It is equivalent to Patanjali’s yama yoga. IDL views this in terms of staying out of the role of persecutor in speech as well as learning assertiveness, an important skill in waking up. It also involves the avoiding of a number of common emotional cognitive distortions.

Samma kammanta is doing the same in relation to behavior, by acting in a non-harmful way. It is similar to Patanjali’s niyama yoga and includes not killing, stealing, or sexual misconduct. For IDL this involves eliminating behaviors that others deem abusive. This is sometimes difficult, because something can be called abusive as a way of shifting responsibility for change onto another person or group. IDL recommends deferring to the judgment of the person claiming abuse, however if in doubt, or if you think it is a manipulation, do one or more interview. Your fundamental responsibility is to your inner compass, not to someone else’s definition of abuse. In this regard IDL breaks from samma kammanta.

Samma ajiva involves making a living in ways that support yourself without harming others. This is obviously a slippery slope, for reasons similar to samma kammanta. Buddhism enumerates forbidden professions: trading in animals for slaughter, dealing in weapons, slaves, poison, or intoxicants. Clearly, if everyone followed samma ajiva we would all be vegetarians, there would be no arms industry, slave labor, or manufacture of addictive drugs or harmful substances. The world has a way to go in catching up with the Buddha in this respect.

Samadhi refers to concentration, meditation and mental development. This is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom and helps you to maintain good conduct. These are aspects of Hindu dhyana yoga.

Samma vayama refers to promoting good thoughts and conquering evil thoughts. IDL does not divide thoughts or experience into good and evil because dualism automatically throws you into the Drama Triangle: you hope the good will rescue you from the persecuting evil, which means you are at war with yourself. Instead, it focuses on recognizing and eliminating emotional, formal, and perceptual cognitive distortions, which creates both clarity and objectivity.

Samma sati is becoming aware of your body, mind and feelings so that you can see things for what they are with clear consciousness and be aware of what is present within yourself, without any craving or aversion. This is an example of how central insight is to the Buddhist concept of awakening.

Samma samadhi involves correct meditation and concentration in order to achieve a higher state of consciousness. As we have seen, IDL places priority on achieving higher stages of consciousness. While interviewing accesses higher states of consciousness in easily duplicatible and understandable ways, as does meditation, this is a means to creating balance and integration as a foundation for achieving higher order developmental synthesis to your next developmental stage. To this end, IDL recommends the following:

Educate yourself. Learn how you are asleep, dreaming, and sleepwalking and lost in the drama of your life script, played out within the Drama Triangle. Recognize your physical, mental, cultural, and social filters, because they keep you from clarity and being alive. Learn to see everything as a wake up call. Recognize and counteract your emotional, intellectual, and perceptual cognitive distortions. Set goals in harmony with the priorities of your inner compass and work toward them today in order to move from delusion and mental fuzziness to clarity, and thence to luminosity, cosmic humor, and abundance.

Develop and follow an integral life practice mediated by interviewed emerging potentials. Find and follow your own life practice that addresses your physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and developmental issues. This involves setting goals in harmony with the priorities of your inner compass. Becoming interviewed emerging potentials when you meditate is a way of keeping your goals and practice in alignment with the priorities of your inner compass.

Meditate. IDL interviews demonstrate that meditation is considered high-octane fuel for your emerging potentials. It amplifies their presence and influence in your life, supporting and speeding your transformation. By meditating regularly, IDL predicts that you will sort out your important from not-so-important wake up calls and address the important ones both more quickly and effectively. To this end, Integral Deep Listening has specific recommendations for meditation centered around naming thoughts, sensations, and feelings, and the observation of breath.

Teaching. Integral Deep Listening places the responsibility for transmission of this path on each individual student. Becoming a teacher, through conducting interviews, teaching others how to interview themselves, helping them to get clear by recognizing and avoiding the Drama Triangle in the three realms and the three types of cognitive distortions, and explaining the preceding educational steps and practices, is one way to manifest a degree of enlightenment.


Sunyata, or “emptiness,” “voidness,” “openness,” “spaciousness,” or “thusness” often refers in Buddhism to the belief in the lack of any soul or intrinsic self due to the concept of the five skandhas. To say that something has Sunyata indicates that it not a “substance” or “real” being. It lacks intrinsic beingness: “It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?” The Buddha replied, “Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ānanda, that the world is empty.”

Sunyata is also used in Buddhism as an awareness-release exercise: “Emptiness as a mental state, in the early scriptures, means a mode of perception in which one neither adds anything to nor takes anything away from what is present, noting simply, “There is this.” This mode is achieved through a process of intense concentration, coupled with the insight that notes more and more subtle levels of the presence and absence of disturbance.” This sounds like a combination of focus and clarity.

Sunyata also refers to a type of meditation: “Emptiness as a meditative state is said to be reached when “not attending to any themes, he [the monk] enters & remains in internal emptiness”.[9] This meditative dwelling is developed through the “four formless states” of meditation and then through “themeless concentration of awareness.”_

Integral Deep Listening agrees with Buddhism on the essential emptiness of all things and that this concept can be experienced directly, not only in meditation, but by paying attention to the nature of the self of perspectives that you become, both during interviews and later, at other times, such as during meditation. When this is done, they are seen to lack “own being,” or independent reality as selves, and are therefore empty. What is important about this is that it strongly implies that IDL dream yoga is a transpersonal and trans-rational methodology in its own right that is separate from, yet substantiates core awarenesses normally discovered only through meditation.

Regarding meditation, consistent naming of whatever is in awareness will detach you from the contents of your awareness in three different ways. The thing named ceases to have meaning, it ceases to be an object of preference, and it ceases to have beingness. As self is no longer projected onto or into an object of awareness it is experienced as real, yet without essential or autonomous beingness. This also creates a growing awareness of sunyata.

A second type of meditation exercise used by Integral Deep Listening moves you to a similar place through the observation of breath. The long pause after exhalation is associated with clarity, witnessing, deep sleep, the after-death state, winter, the formless font of creativity, formless life, luminosity, and emptiness. In addition to being a particular stage of the cycle of breathing, when one moves into it and becomes one with it, it is found to interdependently contain all the other five stages, which each represent one or another of the aspects of the cycle of interdependent co-origination, conceptualized as the twelve-step causal cycle of the Nidanas. Moving into this space, the entire cycle of breath, the microcosm as well as the macrocosms it personifies, are experienced as devoid of autonomous, or independent being. Because their ontological status is dependent, they are not “things”; they possess no “otherness.” This awareness deepens and broadens as meditative ability advances, but this feature of experience is not hidden; it is on the surface, available to all, and one does not have to meditate for years to experience it. The focus of Integral Deep Listening is not to deepen the experience in a way that runs off and leaves your waking, everyday level of development, but to pervade your current level of development with this experience. This means to be able to access it with your eyes open as you move through the normal events of your everyday life. The difference is that instead of needing to go into trance, monastic life, or commit to years of disciplined practice, the goal is to amplify the experience of emptiness, generally referred to as luminosity by Integral Deep Listening, at this moment, and this moment, and this moment, regardless of what you are doing.

The third way that Integral Deep Listening amplifies the experience of sunyata is perhaps the easiest and most self-evident. As indicated earlier, when you follow an Integral Deep Listening interview protocol and become this or that emerging potential, you have taken on an identity that intrinsically lacks own-being. This is so obvious that it is generally overlooked. When you speak as a tooth, chair, or car as a dream character, what is your ontological status? Are you a genuinely existing, tooth, chair, or car? It speaks out of the context of your four holons but adds its own perspective. So is it your soul pretending to be some other being? This is, of course, the standard, shamanistically-derived analysis of life; we are spirits pretending to be mortals. However, this analysis only holds up as long as you fail to identify fully with the dream character or personification of a life issue (tooth, chair, car) of the moment. If and when you are willing to do so, you move into a space in which it is clear and obvious that the autonomous nature of the perspective you inhabit lacks a soul. Its existence is dependent upon yours and, to the extent that you allow yourself to become it, your existence is dependent upon it. For at that moment that you become it, it defines what is real and unreal; your reality is dependent upon its definitions, not yours.

The reason this is important is because it undercuts fear of death as the source of the self. Without the perception that you have a real self to lose, it is no longer for you to experience real death. All you can do is get lost in drama. This is why the opposite polar tool to identification with states of luminosity is recognizing the Drama Triangle and choosing not to play, whether in your relationships, your thinking (in terms of your cognitive distortions), or your image worlds, particularly your dreams.


Freedom from Rebirth

The fourth Noble Truth, Nirodha, states that, “There is an end to suffering.” Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana. The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. This is the fundamental aim of Buddhism: to find liberation from the things that bind consciousness to illusory concepts of oneself. This goal is sometimes described as the blowing out of the sense of self. This should not be thought of as a killing of oneself psychologically, but rather an untangling of fundamental self from the many influences it is usually enmeshed in. Nirvana results from the overcoming of ignorance (avidya), because suffering is created by a fundamental misunderstanding or mis-perception of the nature of reality. When you awaken to the true nature of yourself and all phenomena you develop dispassion for the objects of clinging, and are liberated from suffering and the cycle of incessant rebirths.

Here we see a literal and psychological interpretation of Nirvana. There is no doubt that Buddhism has traditionally been literal in its interpretation: if you want to stop reincarnating, which is to say, stop suffering, you need to attain Nirvana. The traditional definition of Nirvana is the cessation of rebirth. Many people, including most Western Buddhists and apologists for Buddhists, are much more comfortable with the psychological interpretation of Nirvana. They will tell you that what the Buddha really meant was psychological detachment. They believe this because they want to believe that Nirvana is accessible now, today, not in some future life after having accumulated enough good karma. They want to believe that a true understanding of the Buddha is that there is no time or causation, hence no future or future salvation or causal karmic process at work, that all of these are mental delusions. At the same time they will admit that the Buddha used them, but only as upaya, “skill in means,” or “tricks” to get people to purify their lives, minds, and hearts and start meditating. While this amounts to a gigantic rationalization, it also points to the enduring relevance of Buddhism. The belief in nirvana developed with literal meanings and with concrete, “real” heavens assumed, the fact that the philosophical structure is broad enough to be interpreted in ways that keep up with evolving culture implies that Buddhism has a high likelihood of survivability.

Integral Deep Listening does not believe that a psychological interpretation of nirvana as the achieving of enlightenment now rather than the cessation of rebirth is an accurate reading of the historical record or the cultural context in which Buddhism developed. It believes this is a projection of contemporary cultural values onto historical Buddhism, and is therefore does not exemplify integral deep listening. Instead, it reflects one’s own understanding of Nirvana as about consciousness, or the internal individual quadrant, and only secondarily about the other three quadrants. Neither the message of the Buddha, nor of Buddhism, can be reduced down to one quadrant or another. To do so means to use Buddhism to evolve in the internal individual quadrant of consciousness at the expense of the other three quadrants. The result is unbalanced development, resulting in high lines of development (such as meditative competency, detachment, and inner peace) but stagnated stage development.

Integral Deep Listening views Nirvana as primarily a state claim. The claim of Buddhism seems to be that by practicing the Eightfold Path you will attain a state of consciousness that is permanent: freedom from rebirth. However, this is a contradiction in terms in at least two ways. States are, by definition, temporary and impermanent, so Nirvana cannot be a state of consciousness. If it is not, what is it? Buddhism also believes that all things are impermanent. So Nirvana cannot be either a state, nor can it be a “thing,” because things have ontological status. We know that Nirvana is, by definition, not part of the causal cycle of the Nidanas. If Nirvana is not a state and it is not a “thing,” what is it? Is it ineffable? Can it only be described in terms of what it is not? The problem Integral Deep Listening has with Nirvana is that whatever else that the Buddha said that it is not, we do know at least one thing that he said that is was, or is. We know that it is the end. It is described as the cessation of suffering, ignorance, and delusion. Furthermore, it is clear that nirvana is a state of consciousness, and consciousness is a descriptor for the internal individual quadrant of holons.

Buddhism has the burden of proof to explain why Nirvana is not a claim that a state of cessation exists and that it is permanent. An integral and holonic model of life holds that every whole is a part of a greater whole. Development is therefore ongoing; there is no thing, state, or stage that does not exist within a larger context. Nirvana is therefore a moving target that evolves as cultural, social, and behavioral contexts evolve. This model conforms with the experience of Integral Deep Listening interviewing. Regardless of your level of development you will find that you will access perspectives that transcend, yet include your own. You will identify with points of view that score higher than you do in the six core qualities, no matter how high you score. If Buddha did an Integral Deep Listening interview on a dream or a life issue, he would find that his enlightenment was a conditioned and relative awakening. While it would be “all tens and beyond” in relationship to other humans, it would be less than all tens in relationship to those emerging potentials which seek to be given voice and life through him. Perhaps the Buddha himself would be quite happy with this state of affairs; he would be the first to say that he was human, had plenty of areas in which he wanted to grow, and was looking forward to doing so. However, this fantasy conflicts with traditional Buddhism, which teaches that Buddha was and is perfect.

Particular Strengths of Buddhism

The power of our thoughts and ability to reason

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

You can see in these quotes that at their very core, the teachings of Gautama place reason before belief. This is radical; it is unprecedented in the history of major world religions. While one can point to strains within all religions that celebrate reason, none put reason before scripture as fundamentally and unequivocally as does Buddhism. This is not to claim that Buddhism is always rational; it isn’t; one can point to any number of aspects of Buddhism that are not rational. It is also not to claim that there aren’t consistent attempts throughout Buddhist history to base teachings on scriptural authority rather than reason; the history of Buddhist thought is mostly an attempt to justify teachings in terms of the authority of Buddha, not reason. It is also not to imply that reason is somehow morally superior. There is no inherent correlation between rationality and ethical behavior, although the cognitive line tends to lead all others,_ including moral development, and therefore is necessary, but not sufficient, for ethical development. This is because the cognitive line creates the perceptual constructs that make sense of experience for the other lines, including the self.

Why is the Buddha’s emphasis on reason so significant? Life evolves. There are stages of development. In humans, these have been researched by Piaget, Maslow, Aurobindo, Kohlberg, and many others. There is general agreement that development falls into three broad stages: prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal. Religious doctrines, dogmas, rituals, and ethical codes are products of prepersonal stages of development because they do not require reason, nor are they grounded in reason. They are grounded in faith in teachers, belief in scriptures, and sacred myths, such as the birth and death of Horus and his resurrection as Amen Ra. Such beliefs do not require rationality or an education. They can be understood by children and become the assumptions about reality in which all thinking about life is framed. For prepersonal consciousness, thinking that leads one to question the precepts of faith is dangerous. Therefore, personal levels of development, which are rationally based, are generally viewed by prepersonal and pre-rational traditions as threats. Personal, rational consciousness questions the concrete, literal, objective reality of religious beliefs and teachings. It not only asks questions; it doubts, evaluates, compares, and is both skeptical and critical. Most religions therefore have a vested interest in keeping adherents from reasoning. An excellent example of this was the practice by the Catholic Church in the middle ages that the Bible would be read by priests, not the laity, who were illiterate and had no access to the texts in any case, and interpreted by priests for the laity. In prepersonally-centered cultures, if the public does become educated, its questioning should be limited to areas that do not threaten religious belief, such as science and technology. The assumption is that the secular can be separated from sacred, that one can develop secular competencies that will not interface with, and therefore not interfere with, religious beliefs. The history of Christianity in Europe as well as Hinduism in India tend to disprove this theory as so much wishful thinking. Education is not a friend of prepersonal belief systems. As religiosity declines in Europe, its churches, grand and small, are turning into museums, stores, and community centers. In India, the institution of the caste system continues to give way to the onslaught of Western concepts of human rights. Moslems who study science and technology tend to become more secular. Why? Because they learn to think; they learn to question and to problem solve. When they turn this ability toward religion they are inclined to disregard those parts that do not make sense.

Gautama represents a radical break from prepersonal consciousness in that he encouraged questioning and the discarding of those things that do not make sense. Theoretically, any belief in Buddhism that is not rational should be discarded. Of course, many Buddhists claim that irrational, pre-rational, and prepersonal beliefs are rational, just as many Creationist Christians believe their arguments against evolution are rational. However, unlike Creationists, Buddhists believe in yogas, which are empirical methodologies, that, unlike faith in scriptures, can be tested. Unlike the vast majority of monotheists and polytheists, Buddhists are willing to subject their beliefs to empirical testing. Unlike Hindus, who also use empirical yogas, Buddhists are somewhat more willing to accept results that contradict scripture. However, like Hindus and all believers, they tend to interpret the “true meaning” of scripture as “actually saying” what reason has later revealed. Within Hinduism, you see this in the Western adaptation of Ayurveda. Within Buddhism, meditation research is understood to validate Buddhist meditation techniques; there is the psychologizing of Buddha’s claim that nirvana ends rebirth, as we have discussed. However, the willingness of Buddhism to subject its beliefs to reason remains significant, outstanding, and unusual among world religions. It is this willingness to challenge assumptions and think things through which is the most likely explanation for at least some of the radically different ideas within Buddhism: atheism, anatma, interdependent co-origination, skandhas, and sunyata. While this aspect of Buddhism has won it many admirers and followers among humanists in the West, many of whom practice Buddhism alongside their Judaism, Christianity or scientific humanism, there is a more fundamental consequence that is often overlooked. It involves the nature of human development.

If humans evolve progressively, through a developmental dialectic of integration, conflict, and synthesis of broader, more inclusive elements, then the rational and personal transcend and include the pre-rational and prepersonal. Consequently, this means that the trans-rational and transpersonal also transcend and include both the personal and the prepersonal. That further implies that one must move through the rational personal to access stable transpersonal development. If that is the case, then there is a simple, powerful, and profound test for all those who claim to be enlightened: are they rational? Do they question their own beliefs? Do they exhibit healthy skepticism toward authority and custom? Do they subject their claims to empirical, objectively measurable criteria? If they do, then there is a way to “falsify” their claims, which means that they can potentially be demonstrated to be true or untrue. However, if someone claims to be enlightened but bases their claims on belief rather than reason and empirically duplicatable processes, then the most generous interpretation is that they have accessed transpersonal states and confused those with stable development into transpersonal stages. The less generous, but generally more accurate assumption, is that they are at a prepersonal, faith-based, mythologically-grounded level of development but think that they are at a transpersonal level because they have some transpersonal state ability or experience: trance channeling, lucid dreaming, psychic ability, or had a near-death or mystical experience.

This holds true for all sorts of things that work. For instance, if you have ever had an astrology or tarot reading that was evidential and helpful for you, the results validated astrology or tarot for you. These sorts of experiences are not unusual. You can go to a psychic and be impressed by the helpfulness and accuracy of the information or you can go to a psychic healer and have all your physical health problems removed. If this occurs, you have all the evidence you need. Similarly, if you don’t vaccinate your kids and you see kids getting seriously ill who have been vaccinated, you have all the evidence you need that vaccinations are deadly. We will discuss this issue in more detail in the chapter on epistemology, but in brief, the answer is that you are looking at positive results that can be explained by placebo. While the results are there, they are not duplicatible, nor is there a rationally-based methodology behind them. For example, research has failed to validate the claims of astrology[10] or homeopathy.[11]

Notice that reason transcends and includes belief. Those scientific humanists who claim that they have no beliefs because they are rationalists are disingenuous. They are believers in rationalism, among other things. Everyone has beliefs; what makes them different is first, whether they subject their beliefs to reason, and secondly, whether they subject both their belief and their reason to transpersonal experience. Few pass through the first sieve; fewer still the second, although most believe they do.

The Buddha is very clear that his claim is that people will access permanent transpersonal stages, not simply temporary states, by practicing the Eightfold Path. These are represented by access to various heavens and jnanas. He invites the interested to test those claims for themselves. This is admirable, because Buddhism is not threatened by attacks on its suppositions. On the contrary, it welcomes such attacks; if its claims can be disproved, then Buddhism is the better for it.

Integral Deep Listening is not an advocate of Buddhism, nor does it desire to proclaim Buddhists as having attained stable transpersonal developmental levels. There is considerable evidence to support claims that many Buddhists are functioning at early, mid, or late personal levels of development, and some are stabilized at a multi-perspectival worldview. There is also much evidence to show that meditating Buddhist monks have attained unusually high transpersonal states of consciousness, such as formal and non-dual mystical states, in the interior personal quadrant. There is much less evidence that their cultural, behavioral, and social quadrants have evolved at a comparable rate. Because you need all four quadrants of a holon to evolve to support stable higher levels of development, lack of evidence of similar development in these other quadrants implies state, rather than stable stage development into the transpersonal. However, Integral Deep Listening believes Buddhism is more likely to produce such an outcome than other major religious traditions, precisely because of its grounding in reason, because rationality is a prerequisite for stable transpersonal development.

The challenge is to make reason a servant of life instead of an end to itself, as the cult of scientism does in most education in the natural sciences, medicine, or humanistic fields, such as psychology and sociology. The spiritually inclined need to challenge the all-too-common assumption that just because science does not validate faith healing, astrology, tarot, or homeopathy, that it is an enemy of spiritual development. Like Buddhism, Integral Deep Listening encourages you to respond to any religious claim, in particular access to mystical states, with the following questions. “Are they duplicatable?” “Does the claimant demonstrate personal, private behaviors reflective of a transpersonal level of development?” Is there development in all four quadrants?” If not, then what you are most likely seeing is impressive state access and unverified claims of the ability to maintain those higher states in a stable, ongoing way. If someone says, “I have accessed this impressive transpersonal state and I can teach you to, too,” such as someone who offers to teach you lucid dreaming or nidra yoga, that is one thing; no problem there. They are not claiming to be enlightened. However, if they say, “I am enlightened, and I can teach you to be also,” that is a very different claim, an extraordinary one indeed, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary verification.

You are what you think

Consider the following quotes by the Buddha:

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

Buddhism became popular in the West partially because of its convergence with the teachings of the “New Thought” lineage, particularly in the United States, that can be traced from Franklin and Emerson through the Fillmores, Mary Baker Eddy, and Ernest Homes, to Tony Robbins and coaching. This aspect of Buddhism converges with and reinforces a line of belief that emphasizes using your thoughts to create your reality. The advantages of this way of thinking are many. They place growth and control in the domain of individual choices regarding emotions, attitudes and actions; they provide justification for creating your own reality rather than submitting to consensus groupthink; they promise freedom and enlightenment.

Integral Deep Listening does not center the creation of reality on thinking the way Gautama, Buddhism, or the New Thought/New Age movement do. In addition, it is suspicious of the damage that can be done by the creation of another form of groupthink, a “cult of positivity.”[12] Following Wilber, Integral Deep Listening says that who you are is the result of influences in all four quadrants of the human holon and that none of these four can be reduced to the others. In the individual interior quadrant of consciousness, you are shaped not only by your thoughts but also by your feelings, particularly in the form of your preferences, not only during waking, but during your dreams. What you perceive is determined by your level of development. In the collective interior quadrant your values and your interpretations shape what you think. They in turn are products of whatever perspectives you normally assume in your waking state. Those perspectives are largely determined by your internalized script assumptions, mostly left over from the culture of your childhood. Your perspectives and socio-cultural programming, largely perceptual cognitive distortions, cannot be reduced to your thoughts or to your individual stage of development, because in large part they determine your stage of development as well as what and how you think. Therefore, you are not just what you think; you are also the values you use to interpret your experience. In the individual exterior quadrant, what you do creates your reality as much as what you think or value. This is perhaps seen most clearly in your dreams, where the behavioral choices you make determine the course of dream action. Do you engage or watch? Do you fight or make peace? Which do you do in what dream circumstances? Finally, focusing on the mental creation of reality ignores or minimizes the importance of the external collective quadrant of interaction. It tends to not take into account the enormous impact on growth that others, communication, and environments, both while awake or in some other state of consciousness such as dreaming or trance, have on who you think you are and who you will become.

Good and bad, purity and impurity

“If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”

“It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.”

Integral Deep Listening does not think in terms of evil or good thoughts, impurity or purity because of experience becoming the perspectives of interviewed dream characters and personifications of life issues. Dream Sociometry provides a thorough-going education in the superficiality of preferences, such as good and evil, purity and impurity. Integral Deep Listening interviewing provides repeated experiences of perspectives that do not think in terms of good and evil, purity and impurity. This emphasis is a hold-over from shamanistic dualism that Buddhism inherited from Hinduism. While healthy and necessary as an ethical distinction in early youth, it soon becomes simplistic and unhelpful because it avoids the complexity of grappling with the ambiguities of moral choice, a complexity that is unavoidable on rational levels of development.

Be in the present

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

Integral Deep Listening agrees. A large component of most depressive states is associated with preoccupation with the past, while most anxiety disorders are supported by a preoccupation with the future. Consequently, an excellent preventive measure is to develop the habit of focusing ninety percent of your awareness on the present moment. Spend five percent of your time thinking about the past and learning from it. More than that risks descent into depression, guilt, and anger. Spend another five percent of your time thinking about the future to set meaningful goals. More than that risks the cultivation of worry, anxiety, and fear. Meditation is focused training on keeping your awareness centered in the here and now. However, meditation is not enough; you need to learn to stay centered in the here and now when you are not meditating. Among the many tools for doing so, becoming interviewed emerging potentials that live powerfully in the here and now is a strategy that IDL recommends.

Be true to the best you know

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”

Implied in Buddha’s comment is the wisdom in staying true to The Middle Way. All approaches, including Buddhism, claim to teach this skill set, but most lack a convincing empirical methodology for doing so. Most people define the “best” they know as the teachings of their youth, the words and advice of the wise, and their own experience. Integral Deep Listening does not believe this is the best you know, nor does it believe it is wise to base your life or your daily actions on these sources. None of these typical, customary sources of the “best one knows” are reliable. Fundamentally, they are external to you; they are not your truth; they are the truths of others that you have internalized and made your own until you are convinced that they are “your” truths. Are they? Integral Deep Listening encourages you to find and follow your inner compass by practicing Integral Deep Listening interviewing and testing the resulting recommendations in your daily life. Only by finding and following the priorities of your inner compass can you be true to the best that you know. You will be able to sort through the advice of external authorities and the promptings of your own conscience and intuition by comparing them to the recommendations of aspects of your inner compass.

Find your work

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”

How do your discover your work? The implication of Buddhism is that sooner or later you will wake up to the work of taking on the monastic life and focusing on your own liberation. All other work is preparatory to this in the Buddhist model. Most people either follow the traditional path of family and cultural traditions or else fall into a career based on the influence of a mentor or a job opening. That most people find happiness and serve others through such superficial and capricious means invites the question, “How much more happiness and service could you provide if your life work were based on the priorities of your inner compass?” “How can one give their heart to a work that is not in alignment with their inner compass? Should they even try?” Integral Deep Listening says “Yes”; whatever work you do can be used as a series of wake up calls and as a path toward enlightenment. There is no one “right” work; life will make the best of whatever you do to awaken to itself. Therefore, what is important is not finding the right work, but to listen to and follow the wake-up calls that are coming your way in the context of the work you are doing today, wherever you are in your life.

Seek peace of mind

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”

Here Gautama is emphasizing another of the six core qualities, inner peace. He is noting that comparing oneself to others steals inner peace. The pursuit of wealth, health, and status does not guarantee inner peace. However, if you seek inner peace you will have it whether or not you have wealth, health, or status. Integral Deep Listening views inner peace as one of six essential core qualities, because growth often involves conflict and stress. Antithesis is a normal, natural, and unavoidable stage of the growth dialectic. Homeostasis is not a peaceful state; it is an ongoing balancing of oppositions. Gautama recognized this truth in the last words he is reported to have said: “ourself that they personify. Gautama understood this: “Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.”

Therefore, peace and conflict can and do coexist, as they do in hurricanes and in every breath. However, most people lack peace of mind at any depth whatsoever, which deprives them of two choices. They cannot choose peace of mind over turmoil and they cannot differentiate when it is better to emphasize conflict or peace of mind because they have no choice; they are addicted to turmoil. Integral Deep Listening cultivates peace of mind through identification with emerging potentials that have more of it than you do, both during interviews and in waking application, for instance, during meditation. It also develops peace of mind by recognizing and avoiding drama. There is no peace of mind within the Drama Triangle.


“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

Here, Gautama is emphasizing another of the six core qualities Integral Deep Listening identifies in the round of breath and life. Most people find it much easier to love others than themselves, yet the ability to love others is limited by our own ability to love ourselves. Integral Deep Listening builds compassion by interviewing emerging potentials that are more accepting of you than you are of yourself. Out of this acceptance grows an increasing ability to love yourself. The more you do so, the less likely are you to treat others in abusive ways, because to do so is to not love or be compassionate toward the aspects of yourself that they personify. Gautama understood this: “He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.”

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

The interdependence of core qualities

Gautama sometimes indicates the interdependence of core qualities rather than the primacy of one, such as wisdom. For example, consider the following:

Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

Which comes first, virtue or wisdom? Virtue or good deeds? Wisdom or peace of mind? Goodness and purity or right thinking? The implication seems to be that these qualities are interdependent, despite other teachings that place ignorance as the root cause, and thereby imply wisdom as the root solution. The Eightfold Nobel Path is a developmental model, in which foundational virtues are supplemented by higher order ones. Here are two more quotes that refuse to boil salvation down to one core quality or another.

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.”

The virtues, like the Muses, are always seen in groups. A good principle was never found solitary in any breast.”

This tendency can be seen throughout the teachings of early Buddhism, and it is consistent with its reliance on reason. It is found in the twelve interdependent co-originating factors, in the five skandhas, in a path with eight components, and with three “jewels,” not just one. Refusal to boil reality down to one principle, as monotheisms do, or to two principles, as samkhya, Taoism, and science often do (known and unknown; rational and irrational; valid and invalid), is an indication not only of intellectual sophistication but of emotional maturity, because it represents a tolerance and respect for ambiguity. Prepersonal consciousness does not do well with ambiguity and doubt. It wants certainty. Personal consciousness, on the other hand, encourages doubt. Early personal consciousness wisely doubts itself and so seeks group identification for protection, stability, meaning, and growth. Mid-personal consciousness wisely doubts family, authority, and certainty and so thrives on ambiguity and indefiniteness. Late personal wisely doubts the discrimination, hierarchies, and rational objectivity of mid personal and so affirms the community, importance, and rights of all, in a context of mutual respect, while maintaining a strong grounding in reason.

The importance of action

Buddha also saw the importance of the external individual quadrant of behavior:

“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?”

“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.”

This was Buddha’s justification for the yogic discipline required to follow the Eight-Fold Noble Path which lays out the specific actions that he believed are and are not conducive to enlightenment. However, Buddha made action secondary to and dependent on, the individual interior quadrant. He said, “All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?” We have seen that regarding the collective exterior quadrant, who you surround yourself with will largely determine what ideas, thoughts, and feelings are permissible, what values and interpretations are acceptable and which are ignored, and what behaviors are encouraged. To reduce such powerful collective influences to individual, personal factors, as Gautama did, is not only mistaken, in the long term it is disastrous. It can be argued that a lack of proper balance between collective and individual factors created a monastery-based religion which was uniquely subject to annihilation, as occurred in India in the seventh century, with the Islam invasion of India. [13]

Which of these four influences is most important? Clearly, Buddha emphasized the influence of the interior individual quadrant and secondarily, the individual exterior quadrant. Instead of applying his principle of interdependent co-origination to them and recognizing that they co-determine each other, culture and society were viewed as the creations of these two individual quadrants. This appears to be the case, despite the Buddhist emphasis on interdependent co-existence, which is a statement of the importance and nature of the external collective quadrant of holons and a strong emphasis on healthy and transformational values in the internal collective quadrant.

If Buddhism had strong competencies in all four quadrants, why were these four not able to interact to propel both individual and societal development? Its allegiance to the authority of its scriptural roots took precedence over rational questioning. The result was that it stayed anchored in prepersonal beliefs, such as naïve realism, the shamanistic cosmology, and respect for authority, instead of questioning and interacting to bring new perspectives and growth to the monastic model. This is highly understandable, since it was not only a product of its time and culture, but it had to maintain fundamental cultural assumptions in order to be understood, appreciated, and practiced by contemporaries. In much more recent times this has changed and continues to change rapidly, as any observer of transplanted Western Tibetan and Zen can observ. However, this is less so for transplanted Theravadin communities, which do their best to maintain the traditional monastic community model.

All four holonic perspectives have different degrees of influence in different situations and at different times, with one quadrant, then another, dominating. All four need to be brought into balance for an integrated platform to be created that will sustain synthesis and the maintenance of higher order functioning at the next developmental level.

This is one reason why IDL does not emphasize lucid dreaming. It involves state awakening on one line in the individual internal quadrant in a secondary state, dreaming. Not only is waking, the primary state of the individual internal quadrant, much more determinant of the overall development of consciousness, but awakening in one line is not predictive of awakening in any other line, much less any other quadrant. Interviewing is emphasized because it hugely expands development in the often neglected internal collective quadrant. A holonic view means that interviewing is not sufficient; other practices are required, including meditation, the recognition of cognitive distortions in the interior individual quadrant, an integral life practice in the exterior individual quadrant, and the elimination of the Drama Triangle and development of communication skills for the exterior collective quadrant. Because waking patterns of interaction and behavior influence dreams, eliminating the Drama Triangle in the collective exterior quadrant tends to reduce it in the interior collective states of thinking and dreaming.

Core limits of the Buddhist model

The following limits are not limited to Buddhism, only illustrated by it. They are found within shamanism, Hinduism, Chinese traditions, and the Western monotheisms as well.

Emphasizes Consciousness and Personal Action

Integral theory states that all four quadrants of any holon need to grow together if development is not to become fixated. If you emphasize one or two quadrants, say consciousness and behavior, to the detriment of culture and society, you are going to block your development, whether you are an individual or a world religion. This is essentially what Buddhism has taught, and because of that model, what most Buddhists have historically done.

Despite advanced knowledge, awareness, and generally humane morality, Buddhism has not, until the twentieth century, flourished outside societies that believe in reincarnation and karma. This is partially because of a basic limitation in the interior collective quadrant; if a culture or individual does not approach the world based on reincarnation and karma, then Buddhism is less likely to take hold. It will be fascinating to see if in time Buddhism manages to evolve beyond its identification with this pre-rational belief system.

Emphasizes purification

Inherited from Hinduism and Indian culture in general, purification is a value in the internal collective quadrant that keeps development stuck on the mid-prepersonal level of emotional preferences. You prefer or like what makes you pure; you reject and dislike what makes you impure. Such emotional preferences frame individuals, actions, and places in terms of their degree of purity. The result is a system of spiritual development that is grounded not only in mid-prepersonal emotional preferences but in unnecessary dualisms. As indicated above, this is a problem with all world religions; they confuse the sacred and the holy with purity when there is no relationship whatsoever. Beyond world religions, spiritual paths that emphasize purity are very helpful for the development of structure and discipline, something most of us do not have enough of. However, once you have developed a structure and discipline that work for you, an emphasis on purity can keep you fixated at prepersonal developmental levels.

Purity is not a value that is emphasized by interviewed emerging potentials. They do not frame the world in terms of emotional preferences in general, and purification in particular. You can interview a piece of shit and decide for yourself if it is less pure than gold, diamonds, or babies. Emphasis on purification is important for purposes of basic hygine, emotional stability, and clarity of mind, but these are associated with developmental skills that are appropriately taught in youth, internalized, and integrated, so that you can focus on more important things. Focusing on them as a religion or as an individual is a dualistic dead end. To those who say, “Yes, but Buddhism does that; the Eightfold Noble Path sees purification as a foundation, to be transcended.” In theory that is correct; in the practice of Buddhist monastic life, not so much.

Emphasizes Authority, Hierarchy, and Obedience

While Buddhism is not centered on individuals finding gurus, as in Hinduism, it is most definitely focused on followers obeying the teachings of recognized teachers. This teaching organization is a rigidly structured hierarchy that demands obedience. The problem with such a model is that it leaves relatively little room for finding and following your inner compass. While Buddhism and all world religions advocate for discovering your own relationship with the sacred, in reality are they not despotic dictatorships with clear punishments for those who do not follow the rules? The message is contradictory: “We are accepting and unconditionally loving!” However, “You must do this and avoid that if you want to stay a member of our group (and escape hell).” Buddhism is not, nor has it ever been, a democracy. It is a totalitarian hierarchy that equates conformity to the expectations of teachers to harmony with Dharma.

Integral Deep Listening views consciousness as a community of equal perspectives, most of which just want to be left alone to do their work, but some of which will demand your attention. They don’t care about the authority of any religion, teacher, or deity. They care about their priorities. If you listen to them they will generally become integrated into an expanded definition of who you are; some will not be quiet until you demonstrate that you have heard them by taking concrete action of some sort, which generally means to stop some self-abusive behavior. This is an egalitarian model that more closely approaches democracy than teaching hierarchies. Buddhism has never claimed to be democratic; because it has not, its roots are somewhat foreign to both multi-perspectivalism and the implications of finding and following your own inner compass. This, however, says nothing about the future of Buddhism. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have proven highly adaptable to evolving culture, much more so than the Western monotheisms. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that followers will integrate the best of integral traditions into their structures and practices.

Emphasizes self-development

Buddhism approaches the overcoming of samsara and the attainment of nirvana as the priority of waking identity. In other religious traditions, salvation is the interest of the soul. In both cases, the formulation is psychological geocentrism, which is something shamanism shares and understands. It is not psychological polycentrism or multi-perspectivalism. It is not about life and life’s agenda, but what is good for me, as instructed by those who know. The consequence is that development is not understood from the perspective of life and its priorities. To do so, you have to get outside yourself and your agenda. But this is impossible on prepersonal levels of development; it is extremely rare on personal levels of development, beyond the cultivation of altruism and empathy, generally toward others or even all sentient beings. This is not the same as psychological polycentrism or multiperspectivalism. Such an approach looks at you and your life from multiple perspectives of life itself. This can never be accomplished, because life is too magnificent, broad, and autopoietic, but it can be successively approximated. That is supported by interviewing, on a regular basis, emerging potentials, because they inform you of how life views you in a way that includes your perspective and interests, yet transcends them.

Emphasizes State Awakenings

Meditation is generally characterized as withdrawal into various, successively more refined, states. This is certainly the case for Theravadin Buddhism. Integral practices, including Integral Deep Listening, draw a critical distinction between states and stages. State openings only require proficiency in two lines of development, cognition and the self line. Cognitive development provides the roadmap, which is your worldview, your current perceptual cognitive distortion; yogic practice by a self following that roadmap generates the specified states. These states can become woven into the background of consciousness, but in themselves they are temporary when compared to stages. We have seen how balance among the four quadrants of the human holon is necessary for stage development. World religions typically emphasize one or two quadrants and lines to the detriment of the others, generating developmental fixations. Stage development requires the development of a considerable number of lines: not only cognition and self lines, but the interpersonal, moral, executive function, and empathetic lines are some of the most critical.

For advancement in developmental stage, having a worldview that provides a broad an integrative model is important. This is why IDL encourages its students to be familiar with Wilber’s integral AQAL. In addition to familiarity with the integral model, everyone needs to set goals for an integral life practice that reflect that model and consult with interviewed emerging potentials to make sure your goals are in alignment with your inner compass. They can then focus on applying the recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials that pass the test of triangulation. This moves the growth process out of the conscious cognitive domain and frees you up to live your life and, more importantly, to allow life to live itself through you. The above process is described in Waking Up.


Religions, like other organisms, are intrinsically exclusive, meaning they create boundaries that define them as different from others. Without boundaries there is no self-definition; with too many boundaries there is resistance to new information, change, adaptability, and growth. The way around this fundamental contradiction is to cultivate the ability to reduce boundaries when desired yet maintain the ability to raise and maintain appropriate boundaries when necessary. The problem for most people and religions, including Buddhism, is twofold. First, their boundaries can become too strong and rigid, cutting them off from adaptability. Secondly, because they do not know how to stay secure without boundaries, the boundaries they do put up are often inappropriate and self-defeating. Examples within Buddhism include the over-emphasis on purification and obedience. There are times when purification and obedience are not important priorities; at those times they should be de-emphasized, regardless of the rules and recommended procedures. If this does not occur, then hypocrisy becomes all too evident. The religion teaches compassion and acceptance while beating or exiling students who don’t follow the rules; the religion doesn’t pay attention to shifting social-cultural circumstances because it knows what is right and true. Eventually, those social-cultural circumstances devour the religion, either by making it irrelevant, as in the case of Christianity, or making it unfit for the changing world community, as in the case of Zionism.

Individuals fall victim to the same issues. IDL attempts to address this by evaluating the usefulness of boundaries from the perspectives of objective, respected outsiders, objective, respected interviewed emerging potentials, and one’s common sense. Even under such conditions change is not likely because there are powerful environmental and intrapsychic factors that support the status quo, regardless of how dysfunctional it is. Many people would rather die than change their boundaries. Consider smoking, soldiers, and religious martyrs. That this inflexibility is heralded and held up as something to emulate is generally a celebration of the absence of creativity, empathy, and dialog.

Emphasizes wisdom

Religions, including Buddhism, tend to reduce causation down to one simple factor, probably because humans tend to prefer simplicity and the absence of ambiguity. For Judaism and Islam, the cause of suffering is disobedience and the solution is obedience to God. For Christianity, the cause of suffering is also disobedience and the solution is Christlike love. This generates an authoritarian familial model, with God as Parent. For Chinese religion, the cause of suffering is chaos and the solution is peace, as demonstrated by harmonious relationships. This generates an interactional model that emphasizes relationship. Shamanism also views the cause of suffering as chaos; its solution is propitiation. As we have seen, for Buddhism, the cause of suffering is ignorance and the solution is wisdom. This generates an educational religious model.

Integral Deep Listening views these various analyses of the human condition as similar to the old Indian tale of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Each wise man had a piece of the truth and was correct, but lacking the pieces of truth of the others, were each equally partial and therefore mistaken. What each requires are the pieces supplied by the others. This is now possible, because for the first time in history we can compare the beliefs and practices of different religious, philosophical, and psychological world traditions to create a synthesis. This is, of course, what Wilber’s Integral does. In Integral Deep Listening, such an integration is represented in the internal collective quadrant of values by the six core qualities of confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. When these are all cultivated, they support one another, compensating for the blind spots inherent in the reliance on one or several to the exclusion of the others.

[1] Guruge, A.,The place of Buddhism in Indian Thought,

[2] “The Awakened One, the best of teachers, spoke of two truths, conventional and higher; no third is ascertained; a conventional statement is true because of convention and a higher statement is true as disclosing the true characteristics of events.” Khathāvatthu Aṭṭha kathǎ (Jayatilleke: 363, in McCagney: 84)

[3] The non-dualistic monotheists, or monists, are typically mystics, like Meister Eckhard. However, all mystics are hardly monists, for instance Nagarjuna, and some monists, like Shankara accepted the Two Truths Doctrine.

[4] Wilber apparently does not, although I do not know where he actually comes out and says so. Instead, it is implied in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality when he says, “It’s holons all the way up and all the way down,” meaning there is no state which is not contingent on a broader context. This in effect refutes the idea of an absolute Reality, Truth, or Nirvana.

[5] “So what about spirits talking in seances?” In such instances the mind is embodied by the medium. The “otherness” of realities experienced in mystical and near death experiences are embodied by the perceptual apparatus of the beholder.

[6] (Majjhima Nikāya iii. 63; Samyutta Nikāya v. 387.

[7] (3:25)

[8] These are: Level I: Preconventional/Premoral

Moral values reside in external, quasi-physical events, or in bad acts. The child is responsive to rules and evaluative labels, but views them in terms of pleasant or unpleasant consequences of actions, or in terms of the physical power of those who impose the rules.

Stage 1: Obedience and punishment orientation

  1. Egocentric deference to superior power or prestige, or a trouble-avoiding set.
  2. Objective responsibility.

Stage 2: Naively egoistic orientation

  1. Right action is that which is instrumental in satisfying the self’s needs and occasionally others’.
  2. Relativism of values to each actor’s needs and perspectives.
  3. Naive egalitarianism,orientation to exchange and reciprocity.

Level II: Conventional/Role Conformity

Moral values reside in performing the right role, in maintaining the conventional order and expectancies of others as a value in its own right.

Stage 3: Good-boy/good-girl orientation

  1. Orientation to approval, to pleasing and helping others.
  2. Conformity to stereotypical images of majority or natural role behavior.
  3. Action is evaluated in terms of intentions.

Stage 4: Authority and social-order-maintaining orientation

  1. Orientation to “doing duty” and to showing respect for authority and maintaining the given social order or its own sake.
  2. Regard for earned expectations of others.
  3. Differentiates actions out of a sense of obligation to rules from actions for generally “nice” or natural motives.

Level III: Postconventional/Self-Accepted Moral Principles

Morality is defined in terms of conformity to shared standards,rights, or duties apart from supporting authority. The standards conformed to are internal, and action-decisions are based on an inner process of thought and judgement concerning right and wrong.

Stage 5: Contractual/legalistic orientation

  1. Norms of right and wrong are defined in terms of laws or institutionalized rules which seem to have a rational basis.
  2. When conflict arises between individual needs and law or contract, though sympathetic to the former, the individual believes the latter must prevail because of its greater functional rationality for society, the majority will and welfare.

Stage 6: The morality of Individual Principles of Conscience

Orientation not only toward existing social rules, but also toward the conscience as a directing agent, mutual trust and respect, and principles of moral choice involving logical universalities and consistency.

  1. Action is controlled by internalized ideals that exert a pressure to act accordingly regardless of the reactions of others in the immediate environment.

If one acts otherwise, self-condemnation and guilt result.

[9] (MN 122)

[10] Astrology repeatedly fails to pass verification tests arranged by professional astrologers themselves. See Walsh., R. Gnosis, Spring, 1996, for a review of the research.

[11] A 1997 meta-analysis published in the Lancet concluded that homeopathy worked better than placebo but was not effective for any single clinical condition In 2002 Edzard Ernst did a systematic review of systematic reviews that showed homeopathy was no better than placebo. Ernst, E. 2002. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 54: 577–582.

[12] For a critique of the “cult of positivity,” see Dillard, J., Words and Concepts that Are and Are Not Conducive to Enlightenment. http://INTEGRALDEEPLISTENING.COM/?p=4239

[13] The monastery system existed independently of surrounding villages, in the sense that its laws and organization applied to monks and not to villagers. In order to eliminate Buddhism from India all the Islamic conquerers had to do was burn down the monasteries and kill all the monks. By comparison, Hinduism, which was as much in conflict with Islam as Buddhism was, could not be destroyed because it was the cultural and social fabric of every family.

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