Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Nonduality and Concepts

I recently watched this debate: http://batgap.com/whos-driving-the-dreambus-a-conversation-with-tim-freke-and-lisa-cairns/

A nondual debate?  Well, yeah, it was. The central question, if I can dare to paraphrase, was whether, once awakened, we completely operate without a sense of self, or future, or ideas of what we believe will make the world a better place -- or whether, on the other hand, the awakened life includes all of that as well. Lisa Cairns' position was what I would call the "absolutist" one, while Tim Freke's position was that we "come back" from the absolute into the world, where we do operate as separate individuals relating to other separate individuals even while we do not lose the awakenness.

There are a couple of Buddhist concepts that I thought could have clarified things and maybe even resolved the debate. They are "substance" and "emptiness."  These are more or less dichotomous the way I am using them, and there is no way to understand their meaning without experiencing that to which they refer. But I'm going to give it a try.

The reason things look separate has to do with our belief in their substantiality. We believe we are looking at something separate from ourselves when we see a tree. We don't know it, but it is just the label that makes this appear to be the case. This is why Buddhism speaks of the world of "forms." "Forms" are just forms, not individual entities, and when forms are seen as "empty," they are seen without substance. It's as though all things are ghosts -- you know how ghosts walk through things in movies?  Well, it's because they don't have substance, which living "beings" are thought to have.

So -- nothing is really separate but things appear separate. And the question is whether that appearance is believed to be the ultimate truth or not.  Most people implicitly believe forms have substance. But when that belief starts to fall away, we begin to experience ourselves as the other.

What does the ordinary life look like when we know this?  Depends on the person, I'd say. But so long as this truth, having been realized, is remembered, we cannot believe anymore that our concepts of how things should be ultimately matter -- because it is concepts that form the basis of substantiality. Maybe we want to do something that "helps" the world, but if we have an idea of what that might be, we are deluding ourselves, because it is the human mind, not the world, that operates through concepts.  We just live. And if that living is from a genuine place, then that is all we can do. And even if it is not from a genuine place, it is still all we do.

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I love to get comments from readers who want to mutually explore Truth as we at the same time remember that the words are just fingers pointing...