I've been enjoying a comment conversation that's been happening on my "Mind in the Balance" post. The basic theme is whether nondualism is just another belief system, like any other philosophy or religion, or a genuinely unique direct realization of reality.
Might as well throw some of my own ideas into the discussion stew.
First off, though, I've got to admit that while I understand the notion of "dualism" pretty well, "nondualism" has never lodged in a comprehension niche within my mind.
Of course, nondualists like Ramana and Nisargadatta -- whose teachings I'm familiar with via a number of books I've read -- would say something like, "Of course you can't understand nonduality. There's nothing separate from you to understand. You are it!"
In a sense I can sort of understand, oops, I should say be, that. Since reality always is experienced subjectively, through the lens of consciousness, it isn't possible to know what the cosmos is like objectively, from the outside as it were.
We can't get outside of reality, or existence. The whole of existence thus reasonably seems to be viewed as one great big bunch of something, which could be called nonduality.
Shifting gears, so to speak...
I spent eight hours today finishing up a three-day Team Oregon motorcycle safety class. Most of the time I was sitting on a 200 cc bike, getting a refresher course in turning, stopping, swerving, and other motorcycling basics.
Now, what's the point in all this? Of all the things I could do in the limited time I have here on Earth, where does zooming around on a motorcycle fit in the Great Cosmic Scheme of Things?
A nondualist, seemingly, would answer, "Nowhere. And everywhere. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. A motorcycle is reality. Also, it isn't."
Zen, which strikes me as basically nondualist, finds chopping wood and carrying water to be eminently respectable activities. Along with any other sort of activity someone might decide to pursue, including motorcycling.
It's all in how you do it, whatever "it" may be. Or more accurately, how the "you" is that is doing it.
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?
Let's say there was a recognized nondualist among the ten Team Oregon students in the motorcycling class I just completed. Ramana himself, for the sake of argument.
How could we tell the difference between someone who supposedly has realized the truth of nonduality, from someone who hasn't? Would they operate a motorcycle differently? Would they communicate differently? Would they be distinguishable in any way?
I suspect not.
Zen is fond of saying that there's nothing special in that way. And I'm not aware of any evidence that, aside from the nondual'ish words uttered by sages such as Ramana, a neutral observer could tell the difference between someone "realized" and someone who isn't.
Isn't this the same problem we face in sorting out truth claims of various religions? Each says, "Ultimate reality is like this."
But when asked to supply some demonstrable evidence of this, we're asked to take the claim on faith -- perhaps with an assurance that after death all will be revealed, or that the truth of this only can be experienced, not demonstrated.
So I can understand why skeptics look upon nondualism as one more philosophical system that makes interesting statements about what really real reality is like, yet isn't able to answer those who respond with: show me.
Again, I realize that in nondualism there is no "me" to be shown anything.
And this might well be the case. I don't know. It just seems to me that might well be isn't enough to justify giving the nod to nondualism over dualism, if someone is looking for the philosophy that best reflects reality.
I could be off base here. Or not even in the ballpark.
However, here's how I see the nondual situation: blindly. I've read, and re-read, the words of nondual sages. 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.
In fact, those sages often say, This is It! You've got It! There's nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to become.
I can embrace the lazy man's way to enlightenment. Doing nothing sounds fine to me. Or rather, doing nothing special, since I'm looking forward to doing a lot with my soon-to-be delivered Suzuki Burgman scooter.
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?
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?
If it's only a matter of words, a claim by some of "I know," this seems to be the same sort of take-it-on-faith that religions ask of us.
But as I so often say, I could be wrong. The conversation continues...