FW: [Buddha-l] Laughing at enlightenment

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Sat May 7 22:54:45 MDT 2005

On Sat, 2005-05-07 at 18:49 -0700, W. Codling wrote:

> After decades of meditation practice, dozens of sesshins, probably 
> hundreds of lectures and discussions with some extremely talented and 
> erudite students of the way, I still do not know what is meant by 
> non-dualism.

It's good to see you gracing these parts again, Mr Codling! Welcome.

As has been pointed out more than twice, there are many kinds of non-
dualism. Perhaps there are as many varieties of non-dualism as there are
non-dualists. The kinds I am most familiar with are 1) the claim that
experience, when divided into perceiving subject and perceived object,
is the basis of such forms of unsatisfactory affects as desire and
aversion, and 2) the claim that there is not the slightest difference
between nirvana and samsara, or between a buddha's mind and the mind of
a sentient being. The former is a mainstream of Indian Yogacara, the
latter of Indian Madhyamaka. What I take both of them to be saying,
although in importantly different ways, is that we go astray when we
seek truth outside ourselves instead of navigating by our inner light
(or what Quakers call "that of God in everyone"). See the quote in the
signature file at the end of this rambling disquisition.

Chinese, and then Korean and Japanese, Buddhists had a very difficult
time accepting much of Indian Buddhism. Monasticism and renunciation of
family went too much against the grain of Confucian culture. Although I
have dabbled in Chinese Buddhism a few times, it has always seemed very
foreign to me, although Chinese thought in general appeals to me very
much. So I like Indian Buddhism and the neo-Confucianism of both Zhuxi
and Wangyangming. And the poetry of Walt Whitman. And the novels of
Umberto Eco. And the essays of Nietzsche and William James. And the
talks of Swami Vivekananda. As a pretty incurable pluralist, the only
kind of non-dualism that appeals to me is the sort that results in
celebration in diversity, which means making no value judgements based
on the subjective distinction of what makes one comfortable and what
makes one uneasy.

> Almost everybody who is anybody in the Zen world talks about non-dualism 

Steven Collins once made the useful observation that in Theravada
Buddhism there is a sort of linguistic taboo against saying anything
that could be construed as a self. Aside from this linguistic taboo, he
suggests, there is not much to the doctrine of non-self; it is a taboo
the honoring of which makes one a Buddhist instead of a Hindu or a
Jaina. Denying self is what one DOES as a Buddhist. In a similar vein,
one could say that denying duality is what one DOES as a Zen Buddhist.
But aside from being a basis of esprit de corps and echte Zenlichkeit,
much as a secret handshake and a password serve as the basis of esprit
de corps in a college fraternity or in the Freemasons, there is not much
to non-dualism. Just nod and pretend to agree, and take it like a man
when the master hits you with a stick and calls you an incorrigible

> Naturally I think my non understanding indicates that I am an iccantika, 
> enchanted by my own ignorance.

Probably not, Wayne. While you may be enchanted by your own ignorance--
hell, ALL of us prefer our own ignorance to that of our neighbors--an
icchantika is someone who does not even aspire to virtue. Alas, the fact
that you have sought a clear understanding of non-duality betrays a
flickering of interest in virtue, so I'm afraid you flunk the icchantika

> There must be something to this popular dogma which is so obvious to
> many teachers. 

Why? When has popularity ever elevated a dogma to the status of being a

> Can you (or anyone else) shed some light on this for me?

James Joyce, when asked by an earnest reader for help in understanding
Ulysses, reportedly said "Let me see if I can shed some obscurity on it
for you." This I have not tried to do but have probably done anyway. But
I'll bet Dan Lusthaus or another of the list's scholars can set us all
straight and enable us all to see the clear light of bliss.

It's good also that you invite Steven Lane for a sensible response. When
he responds, be sure to react to him in a way that he can interpret as
rejection or maybe even persecution, for he likes to think of himself as
the genius whose appearance on buddha-l was predicted by Jonathan
Swift's maxim "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him
by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Richard P. Hayes
"Books are useless to us until our inner book opens; then all other
books are good so far as they confirm our book."
        (Swami Vivekananda)

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