Here’s a small bite of additional context on Marc Gafni’s distinctive Integral Enlightenment teaching…
In “Newest Thinking on Unique Self, from a dialogue with Bert Parlee and Marc Gafni, at the recent Integral Leadership Collaborative,” Ben Levi offers an inexact transcript/summary which includes this teaching by Gafni:
…[I]f [Enlightenment] is actually the source of love and compassion, the source of all that’s virtuous and good, if it actually would allow us to move beyond suffering, which is precisely the promise of enlightenment teachers, then why isn’t everybody rushing to buy this incredible product (putting it in lower-right marketing terms)? Why isn’t everybody rushing to buy it off the shelf? Why isn’t there an incredible desire for everybody in the world rushing to become enlightened?
Not only is that not happening, but actually, people don’t really care about enlightenment. In my new book, “Your Unique Self,” I insisted on putting a subtitle on it, “The Future of Enlightenment.” The problem with putting “Enlightenment” in a book title is that you automatically cut your audience by 2/3. Because who cares about enlightenment?
So it doesn’t make sense, friends. If enlightenment is that important, if it’s knowing your true nature, if it’s sanity, if it has the transformative potential to shift the way we live together in this global commons, to end war and slavery because there’s been a shift and deepening of our perception and knowing of our True Nature and identity, and expanding our sense of small-self and becoming Big Heart and Big Mind; if that’s truly the case, and it is the case – that’s the great teaching of all the enlightenment traditions – then why doesn’t anybody care? Why isn’t this more popular? Why is this on the fringes of society? That’s our second question.
So what’s the answer? Some people say it’s because enlightenment is hard; you have to practice a lot. People don’t want to give up the comforts of the ego. People are unwilling to die to their separate self. The enlightenment teachers tell us this, and there’s some truth in it. But there seems to be more. Is it really that people are too lazy, they’re really just afraid to die to their separate self? Don’t people realize this would be an incredible, wild gift to everyone? What’s the deeper reason that enlightenment teachings actually don’t take hold in the general culture? Why does it remain such a fringe part of our conversation?
It’s not just that people aren’t willing to die to their separate self. It’s more like people aren’t willing to lose a sense of their uniqueness.
People feel, “my uniqueness is my personal identity; that’s who I am. But if I become enlightened, I’ve got to leave that whole separate self thing behind, and I just become part of the One, which feels kind of blah. I become ‘blah-ified,’ amorphic. I lose my distinguishing characteristics, my uniqueness. I don’t want to do that, because to lose my uniqueness, my distinction, I feel is actually to lose myself; it’s actually to disappear.”
It’s the fear of disappearing that prevents people from engaging in enlightenment conversations.
People are actually right, and most enlightenment teachers are actually wrong. That is to say, that fear of getting lost, of losing that sense of being a unique self, that sense of being distinguished, that’s a correct fear. In fact, much enlightenment teaching suggests that in order to be part of the One, you need to leave that sense of your uniqueness behind.
If you engage the dharma deeply, you realize it’s actually not true [that you lose your unique self]. You realize – and here’s the core of what we’re saying here, the essence of what this Unique Self enlightenment teaching is – we need to posit a central and compelling distinction between “separateness” and “uniqueness.” That distinction allows for a higher integral evolutionary embrace of the best teachings of East and West, and allows us to evolve the dharma and evolve the very trajectory of our own personal lives, and change everything.