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Pluto

Pluto

Meowing to go out
Dec 27, 2020
3,502
Nonduality
The term nonduality is derived from the Advaita Vedanta branch of the Hindu tradition. Advaita is sometimes translated as, 'one without a second,' or, more simply, 'not two.'

Nonduality has gained popularity in the West, though the precise meaning can vary between individuals and cultures. I will attempt to provide an accessible definition which broadly does the subject some justice.

In the most superficial sense, nonduality refers to an understanding in Eastern traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism that at the highest level, ultimate reality is a single, infinite 'thing.'

At that level, nonduality is the living reality of a pure state of consciousness that gets revealed through spiritual work. It is not merely a better way for a person to live, but describes is the true nature of reality, functioning by what Ramana Maharshi called 'automatic divine activity.' There is no longer a separate self, nor are other people or places viewed as separate.

Self and no-self
At this point, the notion of Self becomes undefinable. In the Buddhist tradition, ultimate reality is described as a void in which there is no self. Yet in Advaita Vedanta, everything is the Self (note the capital S). Despite appearing completely contradictory, both are slightly different perspectives on the same no-thing.

In plain terms, our sense of being a separate self is a mighty illusion. The false self will be exposed and therefore 'dies' via study and practice of the texts and methods of teachers within these respective traditions. Any of them can potentially work.

At this point, describing ultimate reality verbally is a fool's errand, since the level of conceptual abstraction reaches a point of absurdity; everything is nothing and nothing is everything. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. There is no self, and everything is the Self. This kind of talk sounds like utter nonsense to the human mind, though after liberation it becomes profoundly moving and meaningful.

Speaking of the Unspeakable
If the 'Tao that can be told is not the true Tao,' then why speak of it? Language used at this high level of spiritual discourse tends to openly frustrate the mind by being paradoxical, slippery, intangible and ethereal.

This lofty kingdom of supreme truth-seeking can be reached via skilful practices and understandings of various traditions, yet ultimately bears no resemblance to commercial or mainstream religion, much less reductionist materialism. There are no creation myths here, no gods and ultimately no practitioners. No tasty food for the mind and its separate ego-self. All these things come from, and vanish back into the Tao.

Despite the enormous limitations of language - language which is dualistic by its very nature - clumsy attempts to communicate the nature of ultimate reality can serve a couple of purposes.
1) The state of people who achieve liberation can be analogous to a lit candle, the flame of which is capable of lighting other candles. Even their words are prone to have this effect for a sufficiently mature seeker.
2) Even for the majority of aspirants, the esoteric nature of sagely language still carries a power that benefits the process of exposing and discarding layers of falseness.

Nonduality or Oneness?
If we take the Buddhist perspective of ultimate reality being a void, it logically follows that Self-realisation will result from a subtractive process. That is, deleting our beliefs, ideas, worldly attachments and finally the very self at the centre of our human experience. Dissolving into truth.

Now, it is correct to say that all things are one. Even in the physical world, it is perfectly accurate to say that Earth is not separate from the universe, and a human body is not separate from Earth, therefore you are one with the universe. However, that leaves us with a belief system added onto a little self who also believes in its own thought-based identity.

Because the term nonduality speaks in the negative about reality - that is, talking about what it is not rather than what it is - it has a greater power in the subtractive work of the liberation process. Understood deeply, it directs the seeker away from mental conceptualisations and towards the nothing-everything of ultimate reality in the present moment.

Beyond Duality
As perceived by humans, the physical world is constructed out of dualities. The human mind enjoys (or not!) the unending playground of exploring dualities and defining its ever-changing identity. Each duality is a double-sided coin of polar opposites, with the nondual Self containing and transcending both. Let us get practical by exploring some basic dualities:

Subject/object: The most fundamental duality is that of self and other. Or a 'me' and 'the world.' In lesser states of consciousness, this is an extremely convincing illusion. But, like waking from a dream, it is seen that all of the contents of the world, the 'me' and 'others' are all unreal appearances that appear before the uninvolved Self.

Life/death: The greatest causes of suffering occur within this life-death duality. Our selves are (apparently) born and must face their own mortality, as well as the temporary nature of every person or thing in existence. Alas, the Self was not born and does not die; this is known with conviction, beyond mere belief, to those who have awakened.

Male/female: One of the most fundamental dualities of the human experience is men and women. The first hint that something is wrong comes through phenomena - be it subtle examples of nonconformity to gender norms or the wide gamut of LGBT communities - that reduces a simple duality to something very complex to define. Then, when the lid of truth is finally blown wide open, the Self (pure consciousness) is neither male nor female, yet contains both.

Man/God: Humans are frustrated little creatures struggling in a cruel world, while God is a deity that created it all. Therefore, God is implicitly at least somewhat cruel. At this point, all the great religious debates are raging. But alas, an emotional outpouring awaits when truth of this dramatic game is revealed; beneath the mask of the human body, God dwells as the only one in existence.

Victim/villain: This follows on from the previous point. (And worth noting that this message is rarely appropriate in the context of human abuse and trauma.) Most of us have experienced both victimhood and villainy. The human collective - very unenlightened as it is - is great at both, and it is worth noting that an enlightened society would function radically differently at every level. That is because an advanced society knows there is only the Self.

Man/nature: Our modern culture has bulldozed many older, nature-worshipping societies such as Native Americans and Indigenous Australians, along with quite a lot of the world's forests. Because man sees himself as separate from, and even threatened by nature, he is shameless in plundering and pillaging it. But sadly for him, it will become clear that humans are very dependent on nature; in fact, there is no separation between the two.

Good/evil: Another great religious debate erupts; indeed, entire wars are ablaze. We agree that some events are atrocious. But when looking deeply, it gets harder to define which is which. The cruelest people can't help themselves, shifting blame onto neutral pacifists. The battles can be traced back indefinitely since someone else started it. The heroes massacre their way to victory. When all the needless noise and insanity finally falls to silence, we realise we were our own enemy all along.

Pleasant/unpleasant: One of the core teachings of Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta is to develop dispassion for the world in order to transcend it. This ultimately means having no preference even for 'positive' or 'negative' events as viewed from a conventional perspective. This detachment is something that can be worked on in a practical sense, but is already the case at the level of the Self.

Past/future: The immediate present perches precariously on a timeline between past and future. At least, so says the human mind. Greater minds, like Einstein, speak of time as being strangely unified with space, or even an outright illusion. Today, the most popular spiritual book, Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, features the eponymous technique of discarding the mind-made past and future. The Self is aglow here and now.

Here/there: It is said that in advanced states of consciousness, the sense of distance and separation dissolves. The world looks and feels different and may actually take some getting used to. Sometimes people, particularly children, spontaneously have strange nondual experiences, such as feeling they are in two places at once. Unfortunately, parents are more likely to send them for psychological evaluation than to appreciate their insight into reality.

Mere Philosopy, or...
Nonduality does not address mundane practical matters of finance, relationships, living arrangements or careers. At least, not unless it triggers such a seismic shift that, like Eckhart Tolle, the result is spending 2 years sitting on park benches in a state of uninterrupted joy.

Beyond maintaining a hopefully uncomplicated life, the goal of nonduality is to use this lifetime for its highest possible purpose - ending suffering for oneself and others and even overcoming death. So let's make this simple and practical.

First, there needs to be a willingness to consider realisation of the nondual Self as a real possibility for you. Then, a need to give it some sort of priority. A world of books, techniques and teachers will inevitably be discovered by the sincere seeker, then discarded after use. But let's start with something immediate.

Something to Try
Stop everything and put away all your ideas, preconceived notions and belief systems. All thoughts are worthless in this space.

Where do you look to test out the hypothesis that you are not what you think you are?

Look and see: is it true that your entire life consists solely of this immediate present moment, with past and future mere thoughts?

Who or what is looking out through your eyes right now? Even your body is just another object in the room in its presence. Is your consciousness a mere belief? Is it a distinct entity? Does it have a shape or a size?

When dreaming, you function as a self interacting with others in a world. All of it is exposed as false upon awakening. Yet an even more fundamental Self is there throughout the waking and dreaming states to make the experience possible at all. That Self is here now. What is it? What will remain of you even after awakening from this apparent world?

This mere act of looking is the most direct opening to reveal nondual reality.
 
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Forever Sleep

Earned it we have...
May 4, 2022
7,799
I always love reading your spiritual posts Pluto.

I hope you don't mind me questioning a few things... So, this world is naturally geared to predation for a lot of animals. Carnivores live by tearing other living things to pieces. Should they become vegetarian in recognition that we shouldn't hurt one another because we are all 'one'?

I always thought it was a pretty inequal trade in 'The Lion King' when Mufasa explains that it's ok to tear antelopes to bits because one day, they'll die and become the grass which other antelopes will eat. Like- really? That's your great sacrifice? You're going to die and rot anyway but that justifies you hunting down either baby animals or sick, old and injured ones and tearing them to bits? Lucky you were born a lion really...

Is that what we're supposed to be working towards though? World peace? Being nice to all living organisms? Are animals even capable of knowing what's nice or nasty though? So- are they part of the equation?

What truly is 'bad'? Australia had a problem when rabbits were introduced because there weren't enough natural predators to keep down their numbers. Good news for the rabbits. Not so good for Australia's indigenous flora and fauna. So, there are so many intricacies built in to ecology which on the surface, appear cruel but are necessary to keep everything in balance.

If humans didn't evolve to this level of abstract thought, would it still be present, governing whatever is here? Or, does it require the human mind to realise? It's weird to me. It's like you need to have a thinking mind in order to then reject it somehow. Can someone or something be enlightened and not realise it?

What do you suppose the end goal is? Do you think there is one? Will this enormous being one day learn all it needs to or, reach the required state it needs to? Then what? Can it die?

I'm curious as to how you became interested in this personally Pluto. Have you had many spiritual experiences? Does it feel really transformative and authentic?
 
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Argo

Specialist
May 19, 2018
354
This was very thorough, and good to read. I'll just add that like you said, the most fundamental non-duality is simply the illusion of the self. That's because every other conceptual scheme you could list there, falls apart once it falls apart. It's all rooted in this feeling of "I".
 
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Pluto

Pluto

Meowing to go out
Dec 27, 2020
3,502
This was very thorough, and good to read. I'll just add that like you said, the most fundamental non-duality is simply the illusion of the self. That's because every other conceptual scheme you could list there, falls apart once it falls apart. It's all rooted in this feeling of "I".
Yes, the self is like the root of the tree of suffering. A small number of seekers have the whole thing uproot at once; akin to a spiritual lottery win. Though the actual prize ultimately belongs to everyone.

I always love reading your spiritual posts Pluto.
Thank you. I lobbied for this forum to be made long ago because it helps me to go into the 'mode' I go into when communicating about it. I appreciate the tolerance and, even better, engagement.

I hope you don't mind me questioning a few things... So, this world is naturally geared to predation for a lot of animals. Carnivores live by tearing other living things to pieces. Should they become vegetarian in recognition that we shouldn't hurt one another because we are all 'one'?
Even in humans, vegetarianism is a debate that comes up regularly. Many sects of Buddhism and Advaita promote vegetarianism. As a near 25-year vegetarian myself, one of the things I most love about Ramana Maharshi was his deep kindness towards animals and promotion of vegetarianism. I can't go as far as not eating eggs, as he suggested, though. And in the end, everyone will make their own choices, which must be respected.

As for the animal kingdom itself, Eckhart Tolle once noted a Bible verse including the line, "The wolf [or lion] shall live with the lamb." He hinted that this could imply even the animal kingdom might function in a more enlightened way in a future scenario where the global collective evolves beyond ego and towards enlightenment.

The level of the Self is beyond all of this, however. It includes, unifies and transcends all seemingly separate creatures. It transcends dualities like cruelty and kindness, or enlightened and unenlightened. At that level, all is well. And the goal is to attain that state, not to fix what we think is wrong the world. Though it's not hard to conclude that the world would change radically if this became widespread.

The theologian Neale Donald Walsch has commented about the unseen spiritual perspective of reality. At that behind-the-scenes level, an animal might be offering itself as food for another. Everything in the ecosystem is already the Self. Even the field of near-death studies is full of reports that souls choose the circumstances of their birth - even 'undesirable' ones - for various purposes that ultimately relate to spiritual evolution towards enlightenment.

There is still a paradox here, though, since the Self is beyond time and already complete. Yet the experience of evolution is a part of its infinite wholeness.

If humans didn't evolve to this level of abstract thought, would it still be present, governing whatever is here? Or, does it require the human mind to realise? It's weird to me. It's like you need to have a thinking mind in order to then reject it somehow. Can someone or something be enlightened and not realise it?
The question of enlightenment in nature is probably a topic in itself. As with Eckhart Tolle's famous comment about cats, animals are on average infinitely more innocent, pure-hearted, honest, authentic and therefore more enlightened than most humans. Jesus once used flowers as an example of how to live.

As far as actual enlightenment goes, the only case study that I have to go with is a cow who Ramana Maharshi was deeply close to. She was one of only two beings that he ever formally declared as enlightened. An honourable mention to the famous Zen cat who reportedly refused to eat meat.

Humans often project their own cruelty onto animals just because carnivorous creatures form a part of the ecosystem. As if there's no distinction between a wolf feeding an unlucky sheep to its family vs. the mass-scale inhumanity of factory farming, nuclear bombs and the Holocaust that humans have created based on their dualistic us-and-them philosophies.

Because of their own primitiveness, humans project their own cold-blooded interpretation of animal evolution - 'survival of the fittest' - when this is only a small part of what is actually happening. As the saying goes, "You do not see things as they are, you see things as you are."

Again, bringing it back to the level of the Self, everything is already enlightened. In practice, most on Earth do not realise it. But upon attaining realisation, they will realise that everything was the Self all along, therefore there was never a need for so-called enlightenment. In some ways it is like a cosmic game of hide and seek.

Will this enormous being one day learn all it needs to or, reach the required state it needs to?
The Self is beyond time. It means that all possible events, places, dimensions and universes are already contained within it. He/She/It cannot want or need anything by definition.

An analogy for time could be a DVD. A film is watched from start to finish, one frame at a time. Yet the entire movie is stored on the disc the whole time. Multiply that by infinite realms and infinite individual 'souls' and you have the Self.

That doesn't prevent it from creating various illusions of limitation. This is where all the dualities come in, even though they are not real. Though it can be controversial, it is possible to use the analogy of a video game in which the player faces and overcomes hardships, yet none of it was ever real.

It is worth noting that the Buddha often discarded questions which speculated about metaphysical matters, including the poisoned arrow parable. He felt the only valuable use of time is directly pursuing enlightenment.

As for me, this topic can be credited with me being alive. Lately I have had several people come into the picture with interest in the topic, so I might finally find a use for it. Nothing matters more than actual realisation, but being in a space where it is 'OK' to talk openly about it is a big step forward. I feel hope, even if the self who is hopeful doesn't exist.
 
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