I did an event at a Finnish sauna last week. In Finland saunas aren’t just places weird health-nuts go and sweat by themselves. They are communal gathering spaces. People have parties in them, get spiritual in them, all kinds of stuff. I met one Finnish guy who was born in a sauna.
This particular Zen sauna event was set up for me by Essi, a woman who leads a pagan group at Helsinki University. We gathered at the sauna, discussed Zen and things for a little while in the lobby area, and then went inside the hot, humid, dimly lit sauna room itself where we sweated and spoke some more.
Among the people who attended the event was a guy who was very interested in drug-induced spiritual practices. As regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of that stuff. He tried to make some points but it got a little convoluted so he asked if he could show a YouTube video about five minutes long. I said OK. We were back in the lobby at this point.
So he gets out his iPad and shows us all this video of Ken Wilber talking to some people about using psychedelics for spiritual practice. Wilber is one of the worst of the current crop of blithering idiots who hog up cyber space to mislead and misinform spiritual seekers everywhere.
The video was typical Wilberian garbage. In some ways, Ken Wilber is kind of interesting to me, although not interesting enough for me to ever want to read his books. On his videos he comes across as a person who probably had a moment or two of genuine, deep understanding a number of years ago. But, rather than really getting a handle on what that moment was, he has instead spun a bit of real insight into an amazingly profitable persona and career. Branding, folks. It’s all about branding.
Be that as it may, during this video Wilber puts forth an assertion that sounds like he’s used it a few hundred times before. He says, “That which has a beginning and ending in time is not real.”
If someone ever said that to me in dokusan I’d be inclined to slap him hard in the face and ask, “Did that have a beginning and ending in time or not?”
Ken Wilber looks like he works out, so he’d probably beat me up if I slapped him. Still, I think it’s the only appropriate response to such an idiotic statement. It’s not that I’d be angry about it. But anyone who was so thoroughly lost in his own head that he’d say such a thing would probably require at least a hard slap in the face to put him back on the right track.
What makes Ken Wilber so truly and deeply bad is that everything he says points his followers directly away from that which they are paying him huge wads of money to help them seek. He sends them out searching for fantasies he, himself, has concocted. He gives his followers treasure maps with X’s marking spots where nothing is buried except more phony treasure maps.
Let me help you out, Kenny. Sometimes meditation will allow you get a glimpse into the state of timelessness. My first teacher said that enlightenment takes place outside of time. That’s a good way of putting it. And, just like any other good way of putting it, it’s also bullshit. Zen teachers have other ways of indicating this state of timelessness. Dogen uses the phrase “your original face, before your parents were born” to point the way to it.
The problem is that the timeless state and “that which has a beginning and ending in time” are two ways of looking at the very same thing. Once you say that one is real and the other is not, you’re hopelessly smothered by your own brain farts. If you go down that dark road there’s very little that anyone, even Buddha himself, can do to help you.
A slap in the face is real. And orgasm is real. Stubbing your toe on a rock as you leave the temple in a big huff is real. Reading this silly blog about a guy I met in a Finnish sauna is real.
It is also timeless. It has no beginning and no end.
Dogen explains it best in his essay Uji, aka Being-Time, in Shobogenzo. You and I are time, he says. We are not beings who exist in time, who have a beginning and ending on some great cosmic chessboard called “time.” Rather we are time itself. We our very selves are manifestations of time and, as such, we are all of time. To be is to be time.
And yet every sentence has a beginning and ending in time. The phrase “that which has a beginning and ending in time is not real” has a beginning and ending in time and, by Wilber’s dimwitted definition, is not real.
Yet it is real. Real stupid.
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