In this blog I will try to convey what is “becoming” the natural state of awareness, especially in the last few years (that is, since late 2012).
I say that I will try, and that’s for a reason: it is simply impossible to convey in words what can only be experienced. The Nondual level is so far beyond even the Causal experiences that any attempt at defining it is, in the end, futile.
So, let me open the Q & A section of this Blog with a nice story:
“Once upon a time, there were three Sufis who agreed to meet and discuss the highest Nondual attainment. Well, they met alright, sat down and looked at each other and then they laughed their asses off for three days straight and left.”
It is pointless to try to explain it all or to get it just right. I might just as well refrain from the sharing now and be done with it and just laugh and laugh… But I won’t. Let’s play.
Q: What is the Nondual level of awareness?
A: It is not a level, it is not a state and it can not be attained, at least not as we can understand the attainment of the other transpersonal levels of awareness (the Subtle and Causal levels).
I don’t really know how to explain it, but the matter of fact (for me) is that the nondual (Buddhist nondual in this case, not the Vedanta one) is the natural “reality” where there is no center, no God, no actor, and no agency. Complete freedom, peace, way beyond even the freedom of the Causal Self.
Wilber says that the Nondual is like a paper on which all other levels of human awareness are written on. It is the natural ground reality, as it were.
I tend to agree.
Q: What’s with the Vedanta nondual?
A: Vedanta nondual is actually the Causal transpersonal level. As far as I can understand all of this, the Vedanta teachings (Upanishads, and even Tantras) proclaim in one voice that the Brahman is the ground reality and that He is the non-differentiated awareness, the “I am presence” which is, well, everything. It is the Source and River at the same time and the Witness and phenomena that It witnesses. Hence the term advaita (not-two).
And that’s the Vedanta nondual. Where advaita stops, Buddhist nondual starts, according to my experiences.
The Theravada Buddhist scriptures, for example, state that the journey towards enlightenment begins only when the first anatta insight manifests. And the anatta insight itself is already far beyond the Causal Self and Causal level (Vedanta teachings). And I am not speaking here in terms of hierarchy.
Q: It is said that Ramana Maharshi was all about nondual. What is your take on that?
A: No, Sri Ramana Maharshi never said anything about Buddhist states of consciousness. He was all about Vedanta teachings, the jnana path.
We can see this from His own statement; for Him, the highest possible attainment is the so-called Sahaja Nirbikalpa Samadhi, which He describes like this:
“In yoga the term samādhi refers to some kind of trance and there are various kinds of samādhi. But the samādhi I speak of is different. It is sahaja samādhi. From here you have samadhana [steadiness] and you remain calm and composed even while you are active. You realize that you are moved by the deeper real Self within. You have no worries, no anxieties, no cares, for you come to realize that there is nothing belonging to you. You know that everything is done by something with which you are in conscious union.”
“You know that everything is done by something you are in conscious union”, He says. Well, this can not possibly be the nondual Buddha is said to have attained and was sharing.
What Sri Ramana Maharshi shares is perfect Causal transpersonal attainment.
The nondual discussed here, however, is the anatta and sunyata, which is described in the scriptures like this:
“Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus:
In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen.
In reference to the heard, only the heard.
In reference to the sensed, only the sensed.
In reference to the cognized, only the cognized.
That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that.
When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there.
When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two.
This, just this, is the end of suffering.”
(Dawsonne 2010, Udana 1.10)
No Self, no center, nothing to be at-one-with. Anatta or an-atma. Not-self.
Q: OK, so what is the nondual really, and how to attain it?
A: As I already said, this can not be attained, not in a sense our minds are used to work. Action – reaction, this simply does not apply here.
Maybe this will add some light to our discussion (a quote from my upcoming book, After anatta):
“It is simply impossible to keep any trace of any kind of identity (whether from the Centuar, Subtle or even from the Causal stage) when really moving on to the Buddhist Nondual, i.e. anatta and sunyata. No way. Even the slightest trace of identity implicates and indeed induces duality, albeit unperceivable.
If we consider Vedanta Advaita (monism, non-separateness), there are no problems with some kind of ultimate or causal identity or entity or inherent quality still present. No problems there.
But as soon as we move on to the Buddhist Nondual, namely anatta, and sunyata, then every single trace of identity, entity and inherent quality (even the higher Causal notions of the unmanifested Being or Brahman) must be left behind, entirely and unconditionally.”
So, what I am talking about here is the so-called “Identity collapse”. And I am not speaking about the ego or Authentic self, I am speaking about “collapsing” the I am presence, the Causal self, the Witness as well.
Q: How do you understand the famous “Mu” answer to the question of whether a dog has the Buddha-nature?
A: Excellent question, it fits right into our discussion. Thank you.
It is said that illustrious Zen master, Joshu was asked a question: “Does a dog have the Buddha-nature?” and the master answered: Mu (which means, no).
My understanding is that Buddha-nature can not be pinned down, there is nothing inherent about it, it is no-where and no-one. There is no center, no Self, no God (if you believe in him), no agency, and no actor. Anatta.
I have observed that most people I met are convinced that Buddha-nature is something they can identify with. Well, according to my anatta and sunyata insights, there is no question about any kind of identity when we come to the Buddhist nondual.
Hence, not even a dog has anything there as a Self or Center. Anatta, an-atma, not-self. No-soul.
Q: Ken Wilber has written a lot about the nondual. What’s your opinion on his contribution?
A: In my honest opinion and with all due respect, Mr Wilber is not speaking about the Buddhist nondual in his books OR if he is, he is very very vague about it. Granted, he must have had a lot of experiences along the transpersonal line of things, but as far as I can understand his words, he is always speaking about the Causal level even when using the words that may convey the Buddhist nondual.
As a matter of fact, there is a huge difference between the Vedanta Causal and Buddhist nondual. If that wasn’t the case, why would the historical Buddha offer a completely new map of human awareness not elaborated on in Vedanta?
Why wasn’t he satisfied with Upanishads and Tantras which in one voice proclaim the superiority of Brahma or Shiva (supreme being)?
Of course, these are only my speculations, but nevertheless interesting to take into consideration.
Q: How is it when you are in nondual?
A: Anything I say about it is just a joke. 🙂
Words lose their meaning when we come to the Buddhist nondual, in my opinion.
How about this:
there is no one here, there, anywhere, no center, no actor, no cause and no effect. All that “remains” is just what has always been, unfolding, manifesting, and disappearing on its own, not touching anything and yet intimately interconnected.
Hahahah. As I said, it is pointless to try to convey this.
Let me finish by quoting this (again from my upcoming book, After anatta):
“The Buddha said “Monks, when the gods with Indra, with Brahmā and with Pajāpati seek a monk who is thus liberated in mind, they do not find [anything of which they could say], “The tathāgata’s consciousness is dependent on this.” Why is that? A tathāgata, I say, is untraceable even here and now.”
This does not mean the tathagata’s consciousness is ‘independently existing’ but it is like drawing on water – utterly traceless and self-releasing. When you try to draw on water, the picture does not land, does not lead to ‘growth’, does not lead to grasping or infatuation.”
Drawing on the water – explaining the Buddhist nondual state – trying to catch the Buddha-nature.
LOL (laughing out loud)
Related Blogs on the Buddhist nondual:
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