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Three/Four Perspectives and Four Dharmadhatus.

Four Perspectives

The four perspectives. Here the right hemisphere represents relative reality, including Wilber's Subjective, Intersubjective and Objective perspectives, which correspond to the Individual, Collective, and Universal realities. I've added some further correspondences, but these shouldn't be taken too inflexibly. The left hemisphere (it could just as easily be portrayed as the upper or the right) corresponds to the Absolute reality or Turiya of the Mandukya Upanishad.
Diagram creative commons attribution licence M Alan Kazlev 2009


Before describing metaphysical perspectives, a bit of background:

I used to be very critical of maestro-synthesiser Ken Wilber for his procrustean intellectual typology (see for example his misunderstanding of Sri Aurobindo). But then it occured to me that, if we get away from the obvious errors and oversimplifications, he really is saying some interesting things. One of these is his idea of perspectives; basically that Reality can be understood in terms of perspectives of consciousness, such as subjective, intersubjective, and objective. Of course this is what the Jains said long before, as we find in the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

Thinking about Wilber's three perspectives made me realize that Vedantic epistemology (theory of knowledge) has described these three realities many times, as the trilogy of Seer, Seeing, and Seen, or Knower, Knowing and Known. But a fourth perspective has to be added that Wilber, despite his affinity for nonduality philosophy, forgot about. This is the transcendental reality, Turiya, the Fourth, as described in the Mandukya Upanishad, the foundation text of nondual Vedanta and of Yoga Psychology. The result are the three (relative), four (relative and absolute) or one (absolute) perspectives; these are shown in the diagram above. They also represent the lower and upper left of the main metaphysical diagram.

But it goes further than that, if we consider the sophisticated metaphysics of Hua Yen Buddhism, which is based on the Avatamsaka (Flower Garland) Sutra, but especiallty as developed by Wikipedia link Tu-shun. This posits Wikipedia link four basic realities or universes (Dharmadhatus) although these are also better referred to as perspectives. These are Chih (phenomena, samsara), Li (principle, nirvana, shunyata), non-obstruction of Li against Shih, and non-obstruction of Shih against Shih. This last is Wikipedia link "Indra's Net", the interpentrating and inter-existing of all things. Obviously, Shih corresponds to relative reality or Wilber's three perspectives. Li is Turiya, or the Absolute, or Nirvana. That gives six perspectives altogether, three relative and three absolute.

These are shown in the following diagram (from highest to lowest):


Reality Perspective Mandukya
(metaphoric rather than literal)
Vedantic epistemology Tu-shun
(Hua Yen)
Wilber
(Integral Theory)
Absolute Interrelationship of all things Turiya (Transcendent) Atman (transcendent Self) Non-obstruction of Shih against Shih
(" Indra's Net")
n/a
Realization in the world Non-obstruction of Li against Shih
Transcendent Realization
nonduality
Li
Relative
Dualistic
(Three Worlds)
Consciousness Prajna (dreamless sleep, causal) Knower Shih Subjective
Process Taijasa (dream, subtle) Knowing Intersubjective
Object Vaishvanara (waking, world, gross) Known Objective


Note that these are static perspectives only, and hence abstract and not pertaining to Reality, which is Process as well as Being. The diagram at the top of the page, or the co-action compass of Haskell et al's Unified Science, or other similar understandings, are needed to show how they interact.

Also, as far as the realm of Shih or Relative Existence goes, there are several variables here. Self and Non-Self is one variable, Inner and Outer being another, Gross, Subtle and Causal yet another variable, Subjective/Knower, Intersubjective/Knowing and Objective/Known is another, and (not mentioned here) Individual, Collective, and Universal is another again. I refer to all these interacting variables as the Three Worlds because they involve a dynamic three-fold division of reality



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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 3 October 2009, last modified 9 November 2009