Nonduality, by David Loy

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!

On Meditating, Sort Of: Mary Oliver

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.

Alan Watts on the ego

As a young adult, I loved the writing of Alan Watts. I felt he opened up new dimensions in my understanding of myself and my relationship to the universe. Reading him now as an adult simply reinforces the feeling of wonder at his insight and skill with words.

The root of the matter is the way in which we feel and conceive ourselves as human
beings, our sensation of being alive, of individual existence and identity. We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body—a center which “confronts” an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole
realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.

Billy Collins

Shoveling snow with Buddha

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

‘I’ thought

Arranging thoughts in the order of value, the ‘I’-thought is the all-important thought.

Personality-idea or thought is also the root or the stem of all other thoughts, since each idea or thought arises only as someone’s thought and is not known to exist independently of the ego. The ego therefore exhibits thought-activity. The second and the third persons [he, you, that, etc.] do not appear except to the first person [I]. Therefore they arise only after the first person appears, so all the three persons seem to rise and sink together.

Trace, then, the ultimate cause of ‘I’ or personality. From where does this ‘I’ arise? Seek for it within; it then vanishes. This is the pursuit of wisdom. When the mind unceasingly investigates its own nature, it transpires that there is no such thing as mind. This is the direct path for all.

The mind is merely thoughts. Of all thoughts the thought ‘I’ is the root. Therefore the mind is only the thought ‘I’. The birth of the ‘I’-thought is one’s own birth, its death is the person’s death. After the ‘I’- thought has arisen, the wrong identity with the body arises. Get rid of the ‘I’-thought. So long as ‘I’ is alive there is grief. When ‘I’ ceases to exist there is no grief.



Yesterday I had a migraine, for almost 24 hours. Ramana suggests that, when we are ill, we should meditate on the feeling “Who is ill?” I valiantly try to do this when I am in the throes of the malaise, but it is next to impossible. Therefore, I feebly wait for the waves of pain to pass before attempting any enquiry of the “Who am I” variety 🙂

But the overall point is well taken. We need to relentlessly and non-verbally ask the question, who is the centre of all experience? And, what is the relationship between the experiencer and the experience? Probably, this is our best chance of dissolving the habitual dualistic vision of ourselves in the world.

And eventually, this might work during migraines as well. Who knows.