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.
Giving. Scarcity. Love. Fear.
The different forms of Eastern Philosophy put a strong emphasis on finding enlightenment within. So much so, that the totality is often ignored.
I love the prayer of St. Francis. I also love, love, love my quiet time alone. Yet I realize that without my brothers and sisters I have no purpose on this earth. We’re here to learn what love is—and you can’t do that alone.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is Hatred, let me sow Love.
Where there is Injury, Pardon.
Where there is Doubt, Faith.
Where there is Despair, Hope.
Where there is Darkness, Light, and
Where there is Sadness, Joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Posted by: Sonya | April 22, 2022 at 11:22 PM
It depends on what level of consciousness one views things. At one level even we don't exist, except as a particle entirely separate from all else, immutable, everlasting, silent yet refulgent. At another level we are a product and part of all around us, biological, physical, constantly undergoing change, gain and loss.
I suggest these are not opposed at all.
We can view things as an observer, from place of beatiful calm and detachment, letting out knowledge expand by nothing more than growing awareness. The less we think, the more aware we become.
And we can act as an actor, thinking about things as distinct,, making decisions limited by time, storage and necessity.
And there is both simultaneously. One with an infinite love, while acting in peace even amidst turbulence.
We have within us the capacity for all that.
It is just a matter of the level of consciousness to which we aspire.
And that aspiration is our practice, led faith, our orientation
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 23, 2022 at 03:57 AM
LOL, that vid. Hilarious.
Incidentally, I've bookmarked the url for the vid, that you can copy from Brian's embedded link --- not so much to watch it again, it's a funny video but one viewing is quite enough, but because following on that vid YouTube presents a whole deluge of similar-ish vids, that is, very short and very simple discussions on different philosophical ideas, presented through entertaining cartoons like this one. I watched two of them, and will get back to scrolling through some more later on at leisure. As far as I could see (although I could be mistaken here, because I only looked at one screen, not beyond), they're all to do with Indian philosophy, Buddhistic and Advaitic and stuff like that. Anyhoo: Fun watch, this one, as well as those that follow.
As far as this: "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":
It's my understanding that there are THREE core streams in Indian philosophy: The one is the Buddhistic Anatta stuff. The second would be Advaitic/ Brahmic Oneness. And the third would be Sankhya (and philosophies derived from Sankhya), that posit unresolved duality, which sees soul and matter as always and necessarily separate. Jain theology is in that sense similar to Sankhya, although I'm not sure which derives from which, or if the two are independent of each other.
The taxonomy that's used here seems to conflate Sankhya and Advaita into one. Well I guess that makes sense, in as much as both posit Atma, as opposed to the Buddha's Anatta; except how they look at Atma is so very different, at a fundamental level, that lumping them together seems just a bit incongruous.
Well whatever. Am loving these articles of yours, Brian, the last few. Real meaty stuff (or tofu-ey, if you prefer), that you can keep chewing on, and at the end of it end up asking for more.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | April 23, 2022 at 06:51 AM
Theres alot of different Indian philosophys flying around for longer than we can think off, but whats real and whats just utterly useless.
First things first, religious self man made cults like Radha Soami and the Lying Little Gurinder Singh Dhillion baba have to go if one want any kind of a chance with enlightenment
Why you may ask?
Looking into the contradicting lifestyle of Gurinder Singh Dhillion gives the whole game away, if one believes what he's really seeing.
A love of Money and Land with the whole contradicting concepts of not needing anything, but still going on the prowl to have it all shows you the reality of whats really going on in this hideous babas mind.
Trying to use his hidden hand for material gains and power is not hidden at all for us all to see if care to look past the continuity of his lies on and off stage.
Like he says himself, "look at the actions of one that's all you need to see"
Well we have seen it all then.
There is NOTHING to gain on this Radha Soami Cult as many a person has told his personal experience of lies and deception which they went through and then went onto live a life of regrets.
Inner experiences from repeating kaals (Devil) names for hours on end is never a wise move in the end.
Sitting in front of a so called baba whos channeling kaals negative energy's all the while thinking its darshan is the very reason for so much of the Sangat falling for his dirty ticks he plays on all of humanity.
Don't be Deceived and stay clear of kaal as he works through his agents like Gurinder Singh Dhillion to lead the whole world astray.
Deception is the Devils way of creating religion so he can be worshipped as the God he always wanted to become
Only a wise soul can see past the reality of his evil lies and reach everlasting freedom forever...
Posted by: Manoj | April 23, 2022 at 01:21 PM
The great point in the video, is that there is always an annoying monkey that thinks he knows it all, and seeking followers to satisfy their big fat insatiable ego. Does this remind you of anyone ?. Gurinder singh dhillon is that monkey, the clown that sits on stage, and RSSB is the front organisation selling/ thrusting the so called science of the soul - essentially a rip off of sikhism, Hinduism and buddhism doctrines, and any thing else that fits a living master blueprint. What ever works through donkey dhillon attracts innocent lives, that just want to live their own life. These entities influence you away from your own dreams and desires and ambitions and turn them into dull labels. They make you feel like nothing and surrender everything, and themselves gain everything. Isn't it time you got control of your own life. Isn't it time for narcissists like gurinder singh dhillon and his agents and selected influencers to face their karma. Yes it is!!!
Posted by: Uchit | April 23, 2022 at 03:59 PM
"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."
This is the western interpretation.
Annata is, in earlier texts, referred to as" not the self" and not, as is found in modern interpretation, "no self."
That is to say, this physical realm is not the self.
Liberation from attachment to all this leads to freedom, not death. Freedom from Transmigration.
What is it that is free? What is being freed?
Not this, for sure. Not this thinking mind and its limited understanding. Not that at all.
But not that, and no thing, is not the same as nothing.
Nirvana, the end of rebirth, is the goal of Buddhism. That is the blowing out of physical, emotional and mental attachments that bind us here and being is back here.
Freedom is not death. Freedom from death is freedom.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 23, 2022 at 08:00 PM
THINGS physical, emotional, psychological or any combination thereof do exist. But not in or of themselves.
Just as a car has no car-ness, what you believe to be you has no you-ness. Yet the car and you exist in subjective reality as two different functioning THINGS but do not exist in or of themselves. For any THING to exist in or of itself, it must substantially exist independent of preceding causes and conditions and be fixed and unchanging into infinity. Just as a functioning car is an assemblage of parts, none of which exist as THINGS in or of themselves, so it is with what you believe to be you, that is a functioning human being. What we call a car is the sum total of all it’s parts and operating system. What we call a human being is the sum total of all its parts and its perceptions via sensory data input within the operating system that is the brain. What separates us from the car is our ability to be aware of being aware.
The next time a non-dual person tries to strike up a conversation with you by claiming they do not exist, it might be helpful to ask them where is that noise wordage coming from. But rather than bursting their bubble you could just ignore them and leave them to their confusion. Personally, I think a compassionate punch on the nose might help them wake up.
Posted by: Roger | April 23, 2022 at 08:22 PM
You can say "I'm not my thoughts"
But thoughts are certainly a part of you. And apart from you. They are mostly transient. They come and go. But you exist beyond them.
Your thoughts cannot understand you. But for the most part you can become aware of and understand your thoughts.
You can say "I'm not my body"
But you have a body. It changes over time. Body, mind and emotions are the source of all suffering. They cannot understand you. But you can become more aware of each of them. And being more aware, understand them better.
But you are not this body, nor the ones before it. And, as Buddha teaches, you can be free of all the ones later. You can escape this cycle of constant change.
The mind and the body and the emotions cannot understand what is beyond them.
But you can. Because you are not body, mind or emotions. You are not those. Therefore they cannot understand what you are. They are not you. But if you can understand them, become more aware of them, you can also become more aware of what is not them.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 24, 2022 at 12:06 AM
The most obvious way to understand duality, non-duality, no self etc. is to study (or contemplate) such things for ourselves. Academics can take one around in circles and even practitioners who embrace such subjects can be influenced by their particular traditions. Also, when reading and studying what has been written, our own cultural and educational background may unconsciously confer a slanted interpretation on such matters.
I guess the main thing that needs to co-exist with readings and studies of – well anything really – but particularly where unfamiliar concepts are involved, is to study the studier. Sounds strange perhaps, but where we approach a subject with a pre-conceived set of notions, the results can end up reflecting our expectations.
Which doesn’t mean avoiding teachings, guidance or advice – some of which may incorporate the principle of self-study. Often, it can all be somewhat paradoxical and confusing.
Posted by: Ron E. | April 24, 2022 at 02:46 AM
Find what is real within you that today, you don't know yet.
Raise your consciousness through practice, and become aware of what you do not see today.
The reward is to see what you now have no clue about, or, outside your current perception, you believe to be a myth.
What is outside of the "you" you know, may be the most important part of "you"!
What you don't know today, what may appear at myth, may be the truth.
And of course, that truth will make all your current opinions about truth obsolete.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 24, 2022 at 09:16 AM
So, because you don't know, opinions about that are of limited value.
The path and practice of self-discovery is fast more variable.
Practice will take you there.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 24, 2022 at 09:20 AM
And that practice will become the most valuable thing in life.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 24, 2022 at 09:21 AM
Sometimes I wonder if we spend too much time analyzing and examining ourselves—our thoughts, feelings, identity, etc.
It’s common for teens to become extremely self conscious because they’re suddenly graduating from the a state of mind that is more concerned with playing than with trying to be perfect.
But all this self focus, even if we try to label it “self-help” can very quickly become narcissistic.
Get out there and engage with other human beings. Help others in your community. Be of service to someone. It will readjust your perspective. All of the sudden you feel more connected and less self obsessed, because let’s be honest, too much self focus is egocentric.
Posted by: Sonya | April 24, 2022 at 01:18 PM
@ Sonya: [ Get out there and engage with other human beings. Help others in your community. Be of service to someone. It will readjust your perspective. All of the sudden you feel more connected and less self obsessed, because let’s be honest, too much self focus is egocentric. ]
Valuable messaging, Sonya. It's important to be cognizant of going overboard.
Still, IMO, the self-focus of mindfulness only becomes risky when brain-mind
wriggles free of simply observing thoughts in order to let go... and instead
lingers obsessively. One thought chain-reacts into a dozen more sweeping
aside the observer's control.
The observer's best option then (or one of them) as you say is to engage, to
help others , be of service to readjust perspectives. Ultimately, however, the
goal of mindfulness is always to return and strengthen the power of observa-
tion to free us of the shackle of our own thoughts.
Posted by: Dungeness | April 24, 2022 at 11:25 PM
Thank you for sharing that link. The more I kept thinking about this, the less all of this made sense to me.
How can you have a no-self. I like the East/West directional analogy because that’s exactly how I feel about this subject. You go far enough East and you meet West and visa versa.
This is from the link you included. (The second sentence helped clear things up).
In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali: अनत्ता) or anātman (Sanskrit: अनात्मन्) refers to the doctrine of "non-self" – that no unchanging, permanent self or essence can be found in any phenomenon.[note 1] While often interpreted as a doctrine denying the existence of a self, anatman is more accurately described as a strategy to attain non-attachment by recognizing everything as impermanent, while staying silent on the ultimate existence of an unchanging essence. In contrast, Hinduism asserts the existence of Atman as pure consciousness or witness-consciousness,[note 2] "reify[ing] consciousness as an eternal self."
Posted by: Sonya | April 26, 2022 at 09:32 PM
What’s the difference between an unchanging essence and an eternal self?
Posted by: Sonya | April 26, 2022 at 09:34 PM