Wednesday, August 8, 2012
What is "non-duality"? (video)
Amber Dorrian and Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
Non-duality (Sanskrit, advaita) is oneness, not-two-ism, and the whole is often called "God." This realization, while satisfying and fulsome, is NOT enlightenment, is not nirvana, is not the end of all suffering.
There is an object of perception. We see (or otherwise perceive) it. Therefore, we conclude, there must be a perceiver distinct from the perception.
Although it seems this way, it is an illusion. There is. That much can be said. But what is there? Perception goes on. But who is there?
The Buddha laid out a never-before-heard Middle Path that avoids two extremes in views -- one that things are eternal vs. another that asserts that things are annihilated. But how could it be that it is neither one way nor the other?
To the wise the Buddha explained what really happens, contrary to appearances. "Things" (conditional phenomena, i.e., things that depend on component parts for their existence) do not really arise. Illusion arises. Never having been they certainly cannot be annihilated.
While this may be true for "things" throughout the universe, there are five that arise much closer to home: groups known as form, feeling, perceptions, formations, and consciousness.
These things are clung to as self, as the property of a self, as the manifestations of self. When the Buddha mindbogglingly proclaimed that, ultimately speaking, there is no-self (an-atta), he was not at all saying there is nothing.
Things are "empty" (shunyata), that is, devoid of self-existence, identity, continuity. They are impersonal. When we let go, we reduce suffering (the anguish associated with the conjoining of impermanence and clinging).
We (as conglomerates sustained by nourishment, composite entities with five very general components, processes), conventionally speaking, may refer to the aggregates of clinging as ourselves, knowing full well that they do not constitute any kind of self.
This is possible to achieve through deep learning, but it is only really useful when understood through insight (vipassana) on foundations of virtue and concentration (samadhi). Samadhi (the jhanas) is not enough.
What is Duality?
Perceiver vs. perceived, self vs. external phenomena -- this is the fundamental duality. In Vedic Hindu terms, it is the separation of us and the ALL (Brahman, GOD, the ultimate reality). That separation is painful, a severe form of alienation. The solution, then, is given by seers and pundits: It is a blissful reunion (yoga), binding with the supreme (Brahma). It is perceiving the inter-connectedness of ALL in Mahayana Buddhist terms.
But Mahayana was a movement much influenced by Brahmins in India. It relies on the assumptions of a self (atman, atta, soul, self, ego).
This union, this yoga or "yoking" of little-self with the Grand-Self (God or the entire cosmos as an expression of Brahman, the Godhead or ultimate reality behind Maya, the illusion). It runs contrary to the historical Buddha's teachings but is very much in line with the previous Brahminical views espoused in the Vedas and promoted by priests all the way down to Adi Shankara, who formalized "Hinduism" out of the disparate teachings of India based on the Vedas (Knowledge Books, sacred Indian texts).
Non-Duality Panel, Part 1
If one experiences our inter-connectedness, that will be wonderful and is likely to inspire compassion and a liberating feeling of unselfishness. But the way to liberation the Buddha was teaching was selflessness, the realization that nothing can be identified as a self (not even consciousness, which is an ever-changing and insubstantial process rather than any kind of substance).
The moral to the story is that not all spiritual experiences, of which there are many, are fundamental to awakening/enlightenment (bodhi), and liberation (moksha) from rebirth-and-suffering (samsara). What the Buddha designated as nirvana (the unconditioned element as distinct from all conditional phenomena) is very specific; many other traditions simply call their highest experience "nirvana" as if it were referring to the same accomplishment.