Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Approaching Nonduality via dualistic concepts and practices.

I was prompted to write this short post due to some readings and listenings over the last few months.

Briefly stated, I want to present the idea that there can be no approach to non-duality, or the ultimate Truth, except through dualistic concepts, or at least a basic dualistic setup.

There are a number of modern teachers who like to talk about the need for a 'direct, uncompromising pointing' to the ultimate truth. These teachers seem to indicate that their pointing totally removes the need for all practices, concepts, etc. and directly points at the ultimate truth of non-duality, which lies in the direct experience of presence, beingness, aliveness, etc.

Unfortunately, this too is a concept. The dualistic concept of beingness, presence, etc., even the actual felt sense, is still a concept. "Just this! Nobody here!" is still a concept. There is the thought-stream, mind, world etc. and then there's presence, awareness (another concept). Everything is perfect, nothing needs to be done or attained, and yet there's a pointing happening in the appearance. (Another concept). 

There's really no escape from concepts, right from the moment someone or something opens its mouth.

Then there are the time-tested teachings of the sages, which openly espouse dualistic concepts or systems for the apparent seeker to engage with, as a precursor to the direct truth of non-duality. Sometimes the direct truth is presented first (as in dzogchen, and teachings such as practical Advaita Vedanta). At other times it is reserved for a later time in one's 'progressive path', such as in traditional Buddhism, Dhyana, or Sankhya yoga.

Some examples of dualistic concepts that were used by teachers (that I'm familiar with) include:

Purusha/Prakriti (and 3 gunas) - Sankhya yoga

Pure consciousness / the witness - Sri Atmananda

Food body / consciousness - Sri Nisargadatta

ego, I-thought / Self - Sri Ramana Maharshi

mindfulness of the 4 Foundations, samsara / Nibbana - Buddhism (Theravada)

non-conceptual awareness / thought, concepts - contemporary Advaita teachers (e.g. Sailor Bob)

form / emptiness - Mahayana Buddhism

Real / unreal - Sri Sankara

Space, 'headlessness' / the world, universe - Douglas Harding

One important point on the above, is that the conceptual system presented by the teacher must in some way deconstruct itself or provide the means for its own undoing. It is of no use to be stuck in the dualistic concept or hang on to it as such when its work is done. Any valid use of a dualistic concept must contain the seed, as it were, for its own undoing or unfolding that naturally occurs, and thus make way for an understanding of the real state of things (ie. one's own nature being nothing other than non-dual existence+non-existence).