Since I've been writing about nonduality in a couple of previous posts (one explicitly, the other implicitly), I was drawn to pick up David Loy's book, Nonduality, after noticing it gathering dust on a bookshelf.
I've written three posts about the book:
Pink Panther and Alan Watts
Cutting out the bullshit from "nonduality"
Why an experience of "pure consciousness" says little about reality
A favorite part of the first blog post (September 2013) is a You Tube video by Jeff Foster, The Advaita Trap, in cartoon form. Brilliant. Hopefully I've never sounded this bad, but for sure I've written some posts that included language which, though not so annoying, hit some of the same themes.
What I like about Loy's book, which I've started rereading, is that an early draft of Nonduality was his doctoral dissertation. So there's an intellectual rigor to this book that's lacking in other New Age'y books about nonduality that I've read -- then given away for the annual Salem Library book sale fundraiser.
Yet the back cover says that David Loy "has been a student of Zen for over twenty years and is a qualified Zen teacher." Thus he has some direct experience with the philosophies of nondualism discussed in his book: Hindu Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism, and Taoism.
This morning I skipped to a chapter that Loy calls his most important, "The Deconstruction of Dualism." It starts off by discussing a subject that I find fascinating: how two philosophies arose in India that in large part are incompatible with each other.
So when people glibly speak of "Indian philosophy," that's pretty much meaningless unless we know exactly what philosophy is being spoken of. Here's the initial paragraphs of that chapter.
After rejecting the dualism of Sankhya-Yoga, in chapter 5 I suggested an affinity between Buddhism and Vedanta in several ways. But the most important differences between them have not been resolved. As a starting point, we may ask why these two traditions rather than a single tradition arose in India -- and traditions that are not just inconsistent with each other but diametrically opposed in their ontological categories.
T.R.V. Murti summarizes the situation and the contrasting views of each party:
There are two main currents of Indian philosophy -- one having its source in the atma-doctrine of the Upanisads and the other in the anatma doctrine of Buddhism. They conceive reality on two distinct and exclusive patterns.
The Upanisads and the systems following the Brahmanical tradition conceive reality on the pattern of an inner core or soul (atman), immutable and identical amidst an outer region of impermanence and change, to which it is unrelated or but loosely related. This may be termed the Substance-view of reality....
The other tradition is represented by the Buddhist denial of substance (atman) and all that it implies. There is no inner and immutable core in things; everything is in flux. Existence (the universal and the identical) was rejected as illusory; it was but a thought-construction made under the influence of wrong-belief. This may be taken as the Modal view of reality.
However, on the next page Loy writes provocatively:
My intention is rather to demonstrate that both extremes, in trying to eliminate duality, result in much the same description of nonduality -- just as one may travel east or west halfway around the world to arrive at the same place.
I can't remember whether I found Loy's attempt to bridge that gap persuasive. Will have to reread more of his book.