PDF One: Essential Writings on Nonduality

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The English word's origin is the Latin duo meaning "two" prefixed with "non-" meaning "not". One of the earliest uses of the word Advaita is found in verse 4. An ocean is that one seer, without any duality [Advaita]; this is the Brahma-world, O King. Thus did Yajnavalkya teach him.

This is his highest goal, this is his highest success, this is his highest world, this is his highest bliss.


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All other creatures live on a small portion of that bliss. The English term "nondual" was also informed by early translations of the Upanishads in Western languages other than English from These terms have entered the English language from literal English renderings of " advaita " subsequent to the first wave of English translations of the Upanishads.

Nondualism is a fuzzy concept , for which many definitions can be found. However, since there are similar ideas and terms in a wide variety of spiritualities and religions , ancient and modern, no single definition for the English word "nonduality" can suffice, and perhaps it is best to speak of various "nondualities" or theories of nonduality.

David Loy , who sees non-duality between subject and object as a common thread in Taoism , Mahayana Buddhism , and Advaita Vedanta , [19] [note 3] distinguishes "Five Flavors Of Nonduality": [web 1]. The idea of nondualism is typically contrasted with dualism, with dualism defined as the view that the universe and the nature of existence consists of two realities, such as the God and the world, or as God and Devil, or as mind and matter , and so on.

Ideas of nonduality are also taught in some western religions and philosophies, and it has gained attraction and popularity in modern western spirituality and New Age -thinking. Different theories and concepts which can be linked to nonduality are taught in a wide variety of religious traditions. These include:. The Hindu concept of Advaita refers to the idea that all of the universe is one essential reality, and that all facets and aspects of the universe is ultimately an expression or appearance of that one reality. Pre-sectarian Buddhism may also have been responding to the teachings of the Chandogya Upanishad , rejecting some of its Atman-Brahman related metaphysics.

Several schools of Vedanta teach a form of nondualism. The best-known is Advaita Vedanta, but other nondual Vedanta schools also have a significant influence and following, such as Vishishtadvaita Vedanta and Shuddhadvaita , [41] both of which are bhedabheda. The nonduality of the Advaita Vedanta is of the identity of Brahman and the Atman. Advaita, states Murti, is the knowledge of Brahman and self-consciousness Vijnana without differences. Brahman is the single binding unity behind the diversity in all that exists in the universe. Atman is the Universal Principle, one eternal undifferentiated self-luminous consciousness, asserts Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism.

Advaita Vedanta philosophy considers Atman as self-existent awareness, limitless, non-dual and same as Brahman. Advaita Vedanta adopts sublation as the criterion to postulate three levels of ontological reality: [72] [73]. Scholars state that Advaita Vedanta was influenced by Mahayana Buddhism , given the common terminology and methodology and some common doctrines.

In any event a close relationship between the Mahayana schools and Vedanta did exist, with the latter borrowing some of the dialectical techniques, if not the specific doctrines, of the former. It is possible that the Advaita philosopher Gaudapada was influenced by Buddhist ideas. The standard translation of both terms is "consciousness-only" or "mind-only. Michael Comans states there is a fundamental difference between Buddhist thought and that of Gaudapada, in that Buddhism has as its philosophical basis the doctrine of Dependent Origination according to which "everything is without an essential nature nissvabhava , and everything is empty of essential nature svabhava-sunya ", while Gaudapada does not rely on this principle at all.

Gaudapada's Ajativada is an outcome of reasoning applied to an unchanging nondual reality according to which "there exists a Reality sat that is unborn aja " that has essential nature svabhava , and this is the "eternal, fearless, undecaying Self Atman and Brahman". Buddhism, in contrast, holds the premise, "Atman does not exist or, An-atman as self evident". Mahadevan suggests that Gaudapada adopted Buddhist terminology and adapted its doctrines to his Vedantic goals, much like early Buddhism adopted Upanishadic terminology and adapted its doctrines to Buddhist goals; both used pre-existing concepts and ideas to convey new meanings.

Vishishtadvaita Vedanta is another main school of Vedanta and teaches the nonduality of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone exists, but is characterized by multiplicity. It can be described as "qualified monism," or "qualified non-dualism," or "attributive monism. According to this school, the world is real, yet underlying all the differences is an all-embracing unity, of which all "things" are an "attribute.

Nondualism

Vedanta Desika defines Vishishtadvaita using the statement: Asesha Chit-Achit Prakaaram Brahmaikameva Tatvam — " Brahman , as qualified by the sentient and insentient modes or attributes , is the only reality. Neo-Vedanta, also called "neo-Hinduism" [92] is a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism , and aims to present Hinduism as a "homogenized ideal of Hinduism" [93] with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine.

Neo-Vedanta , as represented by Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan , is indebted to Advaita vedanta, but also reflects Advaya-philosophy. A main influence on neo-Advaita was Ramakrishna , himself a bhakta and tantrika, and the guru of Vivekananda. According to Michael Taft, Ramakrishna reconciled the dualism of formlessness and form. But the distinction between them does not mean a difference. The Personal and Impersonal are the same thing, like milk and its whiteness, the diamond and its lustre, the snake and its wriggling motion.

It is impossible to conceive of the one without the other. The Divine Mother and Brahman are one. Radhakrishnan acknowledged the reality and diversity of the world of experience, which he saw as grounded in and supported by the absolute or Brahman.

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The Neo-Vedanta is also Advaitic inasmuch as it holds that Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is one without a second, ekamevadvitiyam. But as distinguished from the traditional Advaita of Sankara, it is a synthetic Vedanta which reconciles Dvaita or dualism and Advaita or non-dualism and also other theories of reality. In this sense it may also be called concrete monism in so far as it holds that Brahman is both qualified, saguna , and qualityless, nirguna. Radhakrishnan also reinterpreted Shankara's notion of maya. According to Radhakrishnan, maya is not a strict absolute idealism, but "a subjective misperception of the world as ultimately real.

All opposites like being and non-being, life and death, good and evil, light and darkness, gods and men, soul and nature are viewed as manifestations of the Absolute which is immanent in the universe and yet transcends it. Advaita is also a central concept in various schools of Shaivism, such as Kashmir Shaivism [41] and Shiva Advaita. Kashmir Saivism is based on a strong monistic interpretation of the Bhairava Tantras and its subcategory the Kaula Tantras , which were tantras written by the Kapalikas.

The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism can be seen in contrast to Shankara's Advaita. Kashmir Shaivism was influenced by, and took over doctrines from, several orthodox and heterodox Indian religious and philosophical traditions.

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Advaita is also part of other Indian traditions, which are less strongly, or not all, organised in monastic and institutional organisations. Although often called "Advaita Vedanta," these traditions have their origins in vernacular movements and "householder" traditions, and have close ties to the Nath , Nayanars and Sant Mat traditions. Ramana Maharshi 30 December — 14 April is widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding Indian gurus of modern times. Dvaita and advaita are relative terms. They are based on the sense of duality. The Self is as it is. There is neither dvaita nor advaita.

According to a modern western spiritual teacher of nonduality, Jeff Foster , nonduality is:. Oneness is all there is — and we are included. The Natha Sampradaya, with Nath yogis such as Gorakhnath , introduced Sahaja , the concept of a spontaneous spirituality.

Sahaja means "spontaneous, natural, simple, or easy". There are different Buddhist views which resonate with the concepts and experiences of non-duality or "not two" advaya.

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SN According to Kameshwar Nath Mishra, one connotation of advaya in Indic Sanskrit Buddhist texts is that it refers to the middle way between two opposite extremes such as eternalism and annihilationism , and thus it is "not two". These extremes which must be avoided in order to understand ultimate reality are described by various characters in the text, and include: Birth and extinction, 'I' and 'Mine', Perception and non-perception, defilement and purity, good and not-good, created and uncreated, worldly and unworldly, samsara and nirvana, enlightenment and ignorance, form and emptiness and so on.

It is in all beings wordless, speechless, shows no signs, is not possible of cognizance, and is above all questioning and answering. In the Mahayana Buddhist philosophy of Madhyamaka , the two truths or ways of understanding reality, are said to be advaya not two. As explained by the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna , there is a non-dual relationship, that is, there is no absolute separation, between conventional and ultimate truth, as well as between samsara and nirvana. It is also seen as an explanation of emptiness and as an explanation of the content of the awakened mind which sees through the illusion of subject-object duality.

However, it is important to note that in this conception of non-dualism, there are still a multiplicity of individual mind streams citta santana and thus Yogacara does not teach an idealistic monism.

Nondualism

These basic ideas have continued to influence Mahayana Buddhist doctrinal interpretations of Buddhist traditions such as Dzogchen , Mahamudra , Zen , Huayan and Tiantai as well as concepts such as Buddha-nature , luminous mind , Indra's net , rigpa and shentong. In Madhyamaka, Advaya refers to the fact that the two truths are not separate or different. The Buddha's teaching of the Dharma is based on two truths: a truth of worldly convention and an ultimate truth. Those who do not understand the distinction drawn between these two truths do not understand the Buddha's profound truth.

Without a foundation in the conventional truth the significance of the ultimate cannot be taught. Without understanding the significance of the ultimate, liberation is not achieved. As Jay Garfield notes, for Nagarjuna, to understand the two truths as totally different from each other is to reify and confuse the purpose of this doctrine, since it would either destroy conventional realities such as the Buddha's teachings and the empirical reality of the world making Madhyamaka a form of nihilism or deny the dependent origination of phenomena by positing eternal essences.

Thus the non-dual doctrine of the middle way lies beyond these two extremes. Likewise it is because they are dependently co-arisen that they have no intrinsic, independent reality of their own. Madhyamaka also rejects the existence of absolute realities or beings such as Brahman or Self. Instead, it is the knowledge which is based on a deconstruction of such reifications and Conceptual proliferations. Ultimate truth does not point to a transcendent reality, but to the transcendence of deception.

It is critical to emphasize that the ultimate truth of emptiness is a negational truth. In looking for inherently existent phenomena it is revealed that it cannot be found. This absence is not findable because it is not an entity, just as a room without an elephant in it does not contain an elephantless substance. Even conventionally, elephantlessness does not exist.

Ultimate truth or emptiness does not point to an essence or nature, however subtle, that everything is made of.