FW: [Buddha-l] Laughing at enlightenment

W. Codling waynewc at telus.net
Sun May 8 23:06:34 MDT 2005

Richard P. Hayes wrote:

>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").
Thanks for this explanation, Richard.  You posit two versions of 
fundamental dyads, neither of which is unfamiliar to me as a theme 
within Zen Buddhist practice.  Indeed I suspect that the flavours of Zen 
can be understood as varying expressions of the relationship between 
Madhyamaka and Yogacara versions of 'Middle Way'.  But modern zennies 
don't talk about the 'middle way', they talk about   'non-dualism'.  One 
of my basic questions has always been, "why insert a whole other 
vocabulary (that of non-dualism) into something as fundamental to 
Buddhist thought as the middle way?" (the 'Middle Way' being simply the 
avoidance of falling into extremes).   But even so, I do concede that in 
meditation it is possible, and even common, to have some experience that 
can be described as somehow integrating disparate or contradictory 
'extremes' such as subject and object or nirvana/samsara.  And further, 
that such experiences are quite powerful and often pleasurable. Dogen 
called this moment the dropping away of body and mind.  This is the 
direct experience of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of 
impermanence.  But for many Zen teachers, what they call 'non-dualism' 
has some significant and active component, a better mode of perception, 
a superior understanding of something. It never seems to occur to them 
to wonder if this non-dualistic mind is functional in the context of 
crossing a busy intersection in traffic.  Dogen certainly didn't mean 
anything like the exclusiveness that many zennies seem to purport with 
regard to terms such as non-dualism.  In my study I frequently encounter 
phrases such as 'not one, not two', so from that viewpoint the doctrine 
of non-dualism is itself a falling into extremes.

> 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.
Yeah, easy for you to say.  But what other guide is there?  The problems 
only arise when one mistakenly takes the subjective distinctions as 
being the objective ones.  This confusion could also  be called 

>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
Well, my teachers didn't indulge much in these sorts of actions, 
although I am sure most of them thought of me as incorrigible, which 
indeed I seem to be.  Which I why I think of myself as an iccantika.  I 
suspect that iccantikas end up as pratyekabuddhas and the rest of you 
end up as nirmanakaya buddhas.  So thanks a lot, Richard, for spoiling 
my best shot at salvation.

I also thank Angela for her suggestion that 'nondualism' refers to our 
own inner light which is the nexus of the ten thousand things.  Again, I 
suspect that many teachers are actually talking about this sort of 
experience, but lack the willingness to find a more honest and useful 
way of speaking about it, relying instead on this wishy-washy attempt to 
be evocative rather than descriptive.  I still see no reason to talk 
about non-dualism in regard to any of these notions or experiences.  I 
think it is just confusing, especially within the normative 'western' 
sensibility.  Whatever that is.


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