I have just begun a very exciting book, Nonduality, by David Loy. It is a philosophical analysis of three major non-dual philosophical systems: Advaita Vedanta, Taoism and Buddhism. It explores notions such as nondual perception and action in a rigorous and yet readable manner. Though is is primarily an academic work, it has already in a couple of chapters opened up some “real-life” philosophical puzzles that have haunted me for some time now!
I came across it in Joan Tollifson’s reading list, which is a rich source for books in the non-duality ballpark.
Very excitingly, the author himself has uploaded the book as a scanned copy here. Please read for a sophisticated and exciting glimpse into the most profound philosophical traditions on the planet!
M: The dreams are not equal, but the dreamer is one. I am the
insect. I am the poet — in dream. But in reality I am neither. I am
beyond all dreams. I am the light in which all dreams appear
and disappear. I am both inside and outside the dream. Just as
a man having headache knows the ache and also knows that he
is not the ache, so do I know the dream, myself dreaming and
myself not dreaming — all at the same time. I am what I am be-
fore, during and after the dream. But what I see in dream, I am
Q: It is all a matter of imagination. One imagines that one is
dreaming, another imagines one is not dreaming. Are not both
M: The same and not the same. Not dreaming, as an interval
between two dreams, is of course, a part of dreaming. Not
dreaming as a steady hold on, and timeless abidance in reality
has nothing to do with dreaming. In that sense I never dream,
nor ever shall.
Q: If both dream and escape from dream are imaginings, what
is the way out?
M: There is no need of a way out! Don’t you see that a way out
is also a part of the dream? All you have to do is to see the
dream as dream.
Q: If I start the practice of dismissing everything as a dream,
where will it lead me?
M: Wherever it leads you, it will be a dream. The very idea of
going beyond the dream is illusory. Why go anywhere? Just
realize that you are dreaming a dream you call the world, and
stop looking for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your
problem is that you like one part of your dream and not another.
Love all, or none of it, and stop complaining. When you have
seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs be
Nisargadatta on dreaming and reality
If you pay attention to your inner life, you will see that the emergence of choices, efforts, and intentions is a fundamentally mysterious process. Yes, you can decide to go on a diet—and we know a lot about the variables that will enable you to stick to it—but you cannot know why you were finally able to adhere to this discipline when all your previous attempts failed. You might have a story to tell about why things were different this time around, but it would be nothing more than a post hoc description of events that you did not control. Yes, you can do what you want—but you cannot account for the fact that your wants are effective in one case and not in another (and you certainly can’t choose your wants in advance). You wanted to lose weight for years. Then you really wanted to. What’s the difference? Whatever it is, it’s not a difference that you brought into being.
You are not in control of your mind—because you, as a conscious agent, are only part of your mind, living at the mercy of other parts. You can do what you decide to do—but you cannot decide what you will decide to do. Of course, you can create a framework in which certain decisions are more likely than others—you can, for instance, purge your house of all sweets, making it very unlikely that you will eat dessert later in the evening—but you cannot know why you were able to submit to such a framework today when you weren’t yesterday.
So it’s not that willpower isn’t important or that it is destined to be undermined by biology. Willpower is itself a biological phenomenon. You can change your life, and yourself, through effort and discipline—but you have whatever capacity for effort and discipline you have in this moment, and not a scintilla more (or less). You are either lucky in this department or you aren’t—and you cannot make your own luck.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
One of my favourite poems; it captures so well the intersection between mortality and eternity, in a flash of words.
There is a musical rendering of this poem by the group Salamander Crossing which is stunning. Click here.
On Meditating, Sort Of
Mary Oliver (From Blue Horses)
Meditation, so I’ve heard, is best accomplished
if you entertain a certain strict posture.
Frankly, I prefer just to lounge under a tree.
So why should I think I could ever be successful?
Some days I fall asleep, or land in that
even better place — half asleep — where the world,
spring, summer, autumn, winter —
flies through my mind in its
hardy ascent and its uncompromising descent.
So I just lie like that, while distance and time
reveal their true attitudes: they never
heard of me, and never will, or ever need to.
Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints —
all that glorious, temporary stuff.
The first few weeks of Trump’s presidency have left many people feeling raw and angry. He has been brash, crude, totally un-statesman-like in his approach to anything outside his own rather narrow world–and often within that world as well. As the police-woman said, “I’ll dress like a lady when he acts like a president.”
But if we look at it logically, Trump is not to blame for who he is, and is perhaps more deserving of compassion and understanding than of hatred. I do not mean that his actions should be condoned and that there should be no legal battle against his ludicrous bans. Rather, there should perhaps be a shift in the slightly hysterical way in which people and the media have portrayed and lampooned him–a portrayal and lampooning that allows him to recreate himself afresh, perhaps against his will.
Trump is a megalomaniac, out of touch with global realities. Is this his fault? No, if we go with Sam Harris’ arguments that I had presented some posts ago. Trump is profoundly unlucky to have the genes of a megalomaniac, to therefore have the mind of a megalomaniac, to have been in environments that nourished and did not question this tendency. He is profoundly unlucky to be unable to empathize, to look only at the short term and not at the long term. He therefore deserves our sympathy. Unfortunately he is the most powerful man in the world and can cause immense damage. But there is no “Trump” in there, any more than for anyone else. There are neurons firing and emotional patterns swirling, just like for the rest of us. What a pity he is so powerful.
So–what do we do? Just let him continue on the rampage? Absolutely not: that would be to confuse, as Sam Harris puts it, choicelessness with fatalism. He should be confronted in the strongest possible terms. But: he should be confronted with understanding, and with an understanding of all the people who voted him into power (and they didn’t have any “choice” about the matter too, by the way). He cannot be confronted on his own terms–brash and megalomaniacal and hysterical. That would be merely adding fuel to the flames.
I feel the traditions of non-duality have much to teach us and our institutions–the media, political structures. Of course they must primarily shine a light into our own minds. That is the only valid beginning.