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June 07, 2009


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Tucson and Tao,

Have you two ever identified yourselves as, Nondualist? I don't think I have ever read such.



Here is what tAo said about that:

"Now Brian, well he says that he doesn't comprehend non-duality... but then, no one does. Not teally. I certainly don't either. I deeply understand the concept, but there is no actual "knowing" of non-duality. There is no one apart from THAT (or THIS) who is able to know. There is no "knowing" of non-duality. Who is there to know? What is there to know? There can be, and there is, only being non-duality... only BEING.

As for me I don't know what I am as far as some philosophical label is concerned, but non-dual philosophies seem to indicate most closely what I experience as life goes on. Still, as concepts they all are dead but the spirit of them is alive.

Some readers here have difficulty with my concept of no 'thing'. It seems to irritate them and elicits sarcastic responses. Actually I can understand this reaction because ideas of 'I am not' or 'I am without form' are still within the realm of separation. It is probably less misleading to say that what exists in 'no form' exists in 'form' as well. We are the same either with or without form. Without the sense of separation and difference, this and that, it's all complete just as it is.

Brian wrote: "And here's where I start to wonder about whether nonduality really can be said to be more real than any other way of looking at the world. I mean, maybe it is. Yet maybe it isn't. Who can tell?"

--No one can tell until they see it. Until then it is just an idea like any other. It can't be objectively proven, yet when seen it is perfectly obvious. The purpose in describing it may be that doing so may be the catalyst for someone to see for themselves. Otherwise it is in the realm of the play of concept against concept which is the only problem. Conceptualization hides the truth of it.

Brian: "How could we tell the difference between someone who supposedly has realized the truth of nonduality, from someone who hasn't?"

--I don't see how anyone could, even one who has "realized the truth of non-duality". Because there is no difference.

Brian: "I don't grasp what it is like to experience nonduality. I don't see how it is any different from what I'm experiencing now."

--It isn't any different except for our habitual conditioning of erroneous subject-object relation. I am not the subject of the object I perceive for the subject is object also. In the absence of imagined subject is unity. Appearance is what I am, I who am not.

Brian: "And if that's true (as seems to be the case; otherwise why are there nondual sages?), then how can we tell the difference between the Realized and the Deluded?"

--I don't think we can. Probably the reason for the existence of non-dual sages is that a few people like where their "heads are at" and word pretty soon just gets around. I don't know much about Ramana Maharshi, but I understand he didn't talk much. He just sat around and people were attracted to the vibe whether he actually was a sage or not. Pretty soon there were books and ashrams. He just sat there and watched the show.

Tucson and tAo,

Thanks for your thoughts allround. Just trying to understand "whether nondualism is [a] ... belief system ... or a genuinely unique direct realization of reality" as Brian says, and perhaps more importantly, the reasoning behind this, i.e. “How could we tell the difference between someone who supposedly has realized the truth of nonduality, from someone who hasn't”?


Your post neatly summarises the main issues.

Moreover, you raise a point that grabs attention and perhaps goes to the heart of it: "Since reality always is experienced subjectively, through the lens of consciousness, it isn't possible to know what the cosmos is like objectively."

On a first reading the sentence seemed logically correct, but then had misgivings about the second part, since surely the best way of objectively knowing the cosmos is to do so objectively? Perhaps this is impossible to do and exposes the limits of science. Or, perhaps science has in fact dispelled or extended the limitations of our subjective lens’ to give us a more objective, albeit less intuitive, view of reality - for ex: Einsteins physics.

With nonduality seems linked our assumptions of reality:
Is reality an objective reality independent of human experience OR is reality only subjectively experienced through the consciousness and therefore illusory?

I think the former, since so many subjective consciousness’ (or lenses) seem to arrive at such a similar experience of reality, ex: the shape of a Suzuki motorcycle. Its difficult to understand how each subjective mind would be programmed in a way to experience this shape so similarly despite having no apparent a priori knowledge thereof. Who does this programming and why?

If there truly is no-thing or formlessness, why so many apparent, albeit illusory, things and forms? Perhaps the answer is that its precisely because there are no independent subjective consciousness, rather only one collective consciousness. Still this does not explain why the one collective consciousness has apparent duality at all, i.e. illusory forms, objects, selfs, etc?

Is there a conceptual difference between ‘oneness’ and ‘nonduality’?

"Brian: "And if that's true (as seems to be the case; otherwise why are there nondual sages?), then how can we tell the difference between the Realized and the Deluded?"

Tucson: I don't think we can."

I don't think we can either and in that case, its difficult to see the difference between the P1 guru and the P3 sage, from a neutral viewpoint trying to assess the objective validity of their respective teachings.

"Why, though, does nondualism seem to be so dualistic? This is what keeps nagging at me. If it takes a lot of "spiritual" practice to realize the truth of nondualism, doesn't this divide reality into those who see the cosmos for what it is, and those who don't?"

---I can see the dualistic discussion of nondualism. More one talks about nondualism, the more dualistic it becomes.

---I don't see the "spiritual" practices, needed to realize a supposed truth of nondualism.

George wrote: "..its difficult to see the difference between the P1 guru and the P3 sage, from a neutral viewpoint trying to assess the objective validity of their respective teachings."

--Well, there is a big difference in their teachings although as you say there doesn't seem to be any way to objectively evaluate the validity of what they teach. In either case you would have to see the truth of what they teach for yourself and at that point you wouldn't need the teacher!

So, for the person looking for answers they will just have to go with what feels right for them. A P3 teacher, however, doesn't typically claim any special ability to "deliver" a seeker to the truth or to having supernatural powers. They usually don't have any special requirements, rules or processes that lead to a specific goal. They just present their concepts (or lack of the same) about reality and let the seeker discover for themselves. This seems a little easier to "swallow" than a guru who claims to administer the followers' karmas over the course of up to four lifetimes and to be able to guide them through the pitfalls and illusions of vast mystical regions to the lap of god which is inaccessable without their help.

The P1 guru teaches future possibilities via a method, while the P3 teacher is more oriented to stripping away all preconceived notions, clearing the way to seeing what is true right now.

George, a belated response to your June 8 comment. I'll probably share some additional thoughts about subjectivity and objectivity in a post later today, so won't repeat myself (too much) here.

I didn't say things quite right before, as you correctly pointed out. A book I'm reading, and will reference in the post, helped me understand this.

It isn't that there is no objective world. Rather, our experience of it is subjective -- though founded on physicality, the brain. So there's really no conflict between subjectivity and objectivity, when life is viewed clearly.

Regarding oneness and nonduality, the way I see it, oneness is half of the nondual coin, the other half being duality. That is, oneness says (obviously) "the cosmos is one, unity." Nonduality, in the advaita sense (which means "not two") says "the cosmos isn't two, but neither is it one").

I wrote about the distinction between Neoplatonic oneness and Nondualism in this post:

Check out the links to the essay I wrote that critiques Ken Wilber's attempt to make Plotinus into a nondualist, whereas he actually is a monist, a Oneness guy.

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