In the Spring/Summer issue of â€œWhat Is Enlightenment?â€ magazine, thereâ€™s a remarkable exchange between spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen and integral philosopher Ken Wilber, that touches the very heart of and upgrades my concerns for collective intelligence and wisdom.
My first concern was a moral one. Seeing so much unnecessary, man-made suffering in the world, I thought there must be a better way; all we needed is an enlightened society driven by the high ideals of one for all and all for one. Later, as a young and radical sociologist, Iâ€™ve been studying laws that govern the social dimension of our existence, hoping to get a clue of how to bring an enlightened society about, and how I can add my talents to trends pointing that way.
In my thirties, when I became a meditator, the context shifted again, each shift encompassing and transcending the previous context. The new, higher concern became the â€œreaching of irreversible loving-kindnessâ€ as my best bet to contribute to social enlightenment, in a way that has a chance to make a positive difference.
In the late 80â€™s, I met David Bohm, in a small group that gathered in San Francisco, in the house of Sidney Lanier, to learn from this pioneering physicist, philosopher, and teacher of true dialogue. After the meeting I started reading more of his writings, and to my delight, I discovered a paragraph that became a new focalizer of my quest thatâ€™s still what drives my work and being. (At least, in my best days, :-) Here it is:
"I'm proposing that we need to learn how to dialogue with each other because of all the fragmentation in the world. It seems to me the only way we can overcome that is by experiencing our wholeness together. We need a kind of social enlightenment to help that take place. In the past, people have developed ways to foster individual enlightenment, a higher intelligence for the individual through meditation or mystical insight or what-have-you. But we haven't worked on ways to develop a higher social intelligence."
So, the key to the future is to learn â€œexperiencing our wholeness together.â€ How can we do that? It can be learned, obviously, only in experience but not any kind of experience.
Holding that question in my attention, I discovered another piece of the puzzle: "This is something that is a permanent cessation of these emotional negative thoughts. So that is my private nirvana. What we really need is a nirvana for society." -- The Dalai Lama
Learning from those wise teachers, and others not mentioned here, whetted my appetite for growing capacity to experience it in the company of others. Then, I became lucky and got a â€œbig mealâ€ of experiencing our wholeness together, when it occurred spontaneously, around the dining table in Les Courmettes, a French retreat center just North of Nice, August 2002.
It happened in a 2-week retreat with Andrew Cohen, and 200 of its students. Looking back what happened, Iâ€™m not sure whether I can really call it â€œspontaneous,â€ given that we received ample guidance from Andrew that helped us refraining from ordinary chit-chat at meal times. Whatever happened, itâ€™s interesting to see how it kept gaining more depth and meaning as I was reading the transcript of Andrewâ€™s conversation with Ken Wilber. All quotes below are from the Spring/Summer issue of â€œWhat Is Enlightenment?â€ magazine.
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