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Non-Dual Buddhism?

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Non-Dual Buddhism?
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11/7/14 4:45 PM
Is non-dual philosophy found in the sutta pitaka, or is it purely mahayana? In the suttas where the buddha talks about emptiness, he doesn't seem to be talking about non-dual philosophy to me, but rather an absence of identification with the aggregates.

If anyone wants to read the suttas I'm referring to, google brought them up with "emptiness sutta" for me.

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/7/14 5:37 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I think non-dual philosphy in Buddhism would most likely be found in the 3rd turning of the wheel where Buddha nature is described.  The idea that everyone has Buddha nature but simply isn't aware of it is essentially non-dual philosphy.  However that is definately Mahayana. 

What's the reason for looking exclusively in the cannon?  Given that the cannon is based on the 1st turning of the wheel, the explination of emptiness is more superficial than found in the later turnings, in which Buddha went into greater (and more advanced) detail.  At anyrate that's my understanding of it. 

I saw the Dalai Lama teach on the origins of different Buddhist schools a few weeks ago, and he said that 1st turning teachings, which Theravada takes as its base, are much more 'basic', and focused on morality and such.  The 2nd and 3rd turnings however served to explain teachings on emptiness in greater detail, and thus serve as the basis for higher paths, i.e. Mahayana and Vajrayana.  This is clear when you look at 2nd turning teachings such as the Heart Sutra which describes the path of attainment in the Mahayana (taking Hinayana attainment as a base), and 3rd turning teachings on Buddha nature or non-duality which are only realized experientially at the final stages of the path.

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/7/14 9:44 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Non-duality is not much a theme in early Buddhism. Early Buddhism is definitely not practiced on this forum and has more to do with religion.

The early Buddhists were more concerned with the end of suffering (in a pragmatic sense, the cutting off of rebirth), purity and desirelessness, stream-entry for them was unshakable faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and pure morality. This qualified someone as a stream-winner.

When Buddhism grew or branched off however, the Mahayana and tantric teachings introduced the focus on "states of mind" (which were not given much prevalence in early Buddhism), as such tantric teachings (like Mahamudra) fed off the Hindu culture at the time and non-dual Hindu views were blended with Buddhist views to produce traditions like Buddhist tantra, and Mahamudra.

When the teachings travelled to Tibet we got Dzogchen and so on and so forth.

When new innovations in meditation came along in Southeast Asia the focus shifted from the noble eightfold path and faith in the Buddha, to noting and "supramundane insight".

So no, early Buddhism does not focus much on non-duality. Actually much of non-duality (there are many famous teachers on this subject, Douglas Harding, Suzanne Segal, Ramana Maharshi etc) is very "freestyle" and depends mostly on experience, as such there is little bondage to tradition.

Buddhism is critical of purely experiential realizations of truth, as they believed that a context, a training in view, and grounding morality and other things were necessary for making this journey and interpreting the experiences.

For a list of doctrines that were purely inspired by "experiences", see the Brahmajala Sutta (translated by Piya Tan, PDF is free).

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/7/14 9:59 PM as a reply to T DC.
The main reason I'm asking is because I've always rather liked the sutta pitaka.  I  feel like it talks very simply about my personal experiences and seems to match up very well.  Non-dual philosophy messes it all up and just doesn't work with what I'm seeing.  It just seems to be somthing entierly different.

The way you guys characterize it as a morality teaching doesn't line up with what I've read either.  Early buddhism seemed mostly interested in jhana meditation.  Morality was a support for that.

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/7/14 10:07 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
The reason they seem different is because they are different.

The later developments are distortions or degradations of the doctrine, Buddhist teaching was originally straightforward and easily seen.

Then it became mystical and non-dual.

ggnore

Morality was heavily, heavily emphasized in early Buddhism, see the repeated sections on morality in the Kevaddha sutta, see this sutta (http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/3.3-Refuge-3-Entering-the-stream.pdf) where for a noble disciple if his five hates and fears are quelled, he can declare he is a streamwinner.

The five hates and fears being the taking of life, taking the not-given etc.

See this discourse as well: http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/6.5-Sabbalahusa-S-a08.40-piya.pdf

As well as the Bala Pandita sutta.

Anyways I'm gonna stop dropping links.

Peace.

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/8/14 12:34 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Is non-dual philosophy found in the sutta pitaka, or is it purely mahayana? In the suttas where the buddha talks about emptiness, he doesn't seem to be talking about non-dual philosophy to me, but rather an absence of identification with the aggregates.

What is your understanding of "non-dual philosophy" and emptiness? I ask because it can be used to refer to many different things, kind of like emptiness.

Madhyamaka style emptiness is non-dual but in a very different way than oneness. It is more like interdependent diversity.

It is a bit confusing because it deals more with epitstemic truth rather than ontological distinction.

It is worth putting in the time to gain correct understanding of Madhyamaka type philosophy. Emptiness demolishes grasping at rigid ideas of reality, notions of superiority and inferiority in an ultimate sense. Interdendence allows for all of these things to still be valid funcitonal notions.

Experential realization emptiness is hard to describe accurately. But it is like realizing that all sensory phenomenon have no set attributes aside from their interrelationship with each other.

Normally the mind via inference assigns attributes, assigns value judgements, etc to phenomeon. This inference is necessary to function, and is not a porblem.

The problem is when due to a lack of discernment of its own process of inference, the mind thne proceeds to grasp at these attributes as if they were something concrete and real. This causes suffering.

When discernment is maintained the grasping stops, and suffering ceases

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/8/14 5:43 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
re: Not Tao (11/7/14 4:45 PM )
"Is non-dual philosophy found in the sutta pitaka, or is it purely mahayana? In the suttas where the buddha talks about emptiness, he doesn't seem to be talking about non-dual philosophy to me, but rather an absence of identification with the aggregates."

Here's an unusual take on it that I just ran across.

Alexander Wynne (in The Origin of Buddhist Meditation, 2009) argues (using sophisticated historical and philological analysis) that the very earliest potentially verifiable teachings of G.Buddha are found in parts of the Sutta-Nipata, in the Paaraayanavagga, which records a series of conversations between G. Buddha and several Brahminic ascetics. At 1069-1076 is a dialog with Brahminic asectic Upasiiva, who asks a series of four questions testing GB's viewpoint against his beliefs. Here's the summary, after Wynne's detailed analysis:

1069-70
Upasiiva asks what meditative object one should practise in order to escape suffereing. The Buddha answers that one should observe 'nothingness' mindfully; the word satimaa appears to mean that this practice combines meditative absorption with the practice of mindfulness.
1071-72
Upasiiva asks if this state of meditation can be sustained without falling away from it, probably because he was surprised to hear that one must observe 'nothingness' [Wynne began the book 'establishing' the historical factualness of GB's training with Brahman teachers Kaalaama and Uddaka, who taught him attainments of 'nothingness' and 'neither perception nor non-perception'] and practise mindfulness at the same time. [Wynne: this use of mindfulness was a radical departure on the part of GB.] The Buddha answers that this state of meditation can be sustained without falling away from it.
1073-74
Upsaiiva asks if consciousness disappears for the one who, after sustaining this state of meditation for some time, attains liberation at death ('becomes cool'). For the Buddha, the issue is not in question because the state of the living liberated person cannot be reckoned. [Brahminic ascetic belief was that liberation, with 'cooling' (of the body) happened only at death; GB surprised him by asserting that liberation & this 'cooling' can happen while still living.]
1075-76
Upasiiva asks if the one who is liberated/dead exists in a state of eternal bliss, or ceases to exist [he doesn't quite get GB's point about liberated while living]. The Buddha again denies the possibility of answering this question, because all modes of speaking do not apply to this living person. The conceptual framework upon which the dictotomies of existence and non-existence are based has ceased to function for the sage, evenwhen he is alive.

All the analysis (90+ pages) that went into this is fascinating…

Anyway, back to this thread: The Brahminic system aims at non-dualistic union or the soul with Brahman, but only at death (cooling) – long story that Wynne examines in depth. But GB teaches (1076 literally) "There is no measuring of one who has gone out, Upasiiva,… that no longer exists for him by which they might speak of him. When all phenomena have been removed, then all ways of speaking are also removed."

G.Buddha: all conceptual, linguistic means don't apply to the mind of a living, liberated 'sage'. INCLUDING DUALISTIC / NON-DUALISTIC (my extension of the argument).


Now what Wynne is arguing is this that this is among the earliest potentially documentable (by historical, philological, etc. analysis), 'genuine' teachings of G. Buddha, historically way before the 'three vehicles', etc. of later, sectarian 'Buddhisms'. (Where 'dualistic / non-dualistic' may or may not apply.)

So this theory might pertain to the discussion here (or not).

This post might also pertain to the thread "Nibbana with some kind of 'knowing'", in that G. Buddha also indicates, so Wynne, that mindfulness ('satima') is experiencable along with cessation, which was a radical departure from the Brahminic system he was initially educated in.

(I first ran across Alexander Wynne's book as it is mentioned as the source of the theory behind the recent pubished research as noted in the thread: Scientific research on the Jhanas
re: Not Tao (10/6/14 11:51 PM as a reply to Pål.)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24975229

Here's the snippet from that link that caught my attention:
The most diffuse forms of meditation derive from Hinduism and Buddhism spiritual traditions. Different cognitive processes are set in place to reach these meditation states. According to an historical-philological hypothesis (Wynne, 2009) the two forms of meditation could be disentangled....
)

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/8/14 10:01 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thanks you guys, this does help clear things up for me.

DZ, I like that term "interdependant diversity."  It strikes me as pointing to the web of connections between phenomena.  Phenomena is both emergent (as in, new things are combinations of other things) and co-dependant (as in, each causes the other).  The whole point of looking at the world this way is that it helps untangle the way the mind trys to preserve emergent and co-dependant things, and this causes tension when it fails to work.

Chris, thank you for the analysis.  I'll have to look into that book.  You seem to be following my line of reasoning across threads here, too, haha.  Maybe this is wrong scholastically, but my reading of things (and my personal experiences) seem to be pointing to a general disidentification that allows the mind to become effortless, or move through any state without tension.  This isn't really non-dual, in that the mind is liberated from the idea of an awareness that is separate from phenomena because the result is actually freedom from those negative states.  They no longer arise, or even exist, since the mind doesn't construct them.  Seeing through the states changes them fundimentally and they are dropped immediately and replaced by absence.  Or maybe a beter way of saying it is that, when the negative states are seen as constructs, the awareness separates from them - like suddenly realizing the emotional involvement with a movie you're watching isn't real.  This might be a crude example, though, since the judgement isn't whether the states are real or not but whether they are stressful or not.

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/9/14 12:47 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Hi Not Tao, 

I see neo-Vedantic non-duality and Buddhism as being entirely compatible, but the usefulness of adopting such concepts into one's practice really depends on where one is at.  Sometimes it's useful to be in 'seeker' mode, while sometimes the nothing to do nothing to attain mindset can be very liberating.  

Many Theravada traditionalists get very up in arms against this notion, but I think it misses the point a bit.  Bhikku Bodhi has an essay where he rallies against non-duality, but it seems like he takes an acceptance of non-duality to be a reification of the Atman-Brahman concepts.  This misses the point as any sufficiently realized (neo)-Vedantist will admit that these concepts are empty triangulations around the truth, which can't be fully articulated.  They are skillful means that arose from the Hindu landscape, thus have a very Hindu flavor which many Theravadists are averse to.  

My sensibility is that the Bahiya Sutta is the quintessential non-dual teaching.  In the seen, only the seen.  In the heard, only the heard.  It is an acknowledgement of awareness as being inseparable from phenomena that co-dependently arise.  How could this be other than non-duality?  It is the no-self dharma door.  
    
The unborn, unfabricated aspect of experience represents the context/Brahman/transcendent aspect of experience, whereas the fabricated represents the content/Atman/relative aspects of reality.  This kind of view really thrives in the Mahayana, but is supported in the suttas, IMO.  Have you come across Adyashanti before?  He's the king of neo-Vedanta, Zen fusion. 

The shadow side of a strict non-dual approach is that it can be very dismissive of one's suffering.  This is where a Dhamma-Vinaya practice is very useful; it's a way of life that will help to untangle the mess we find ourselves in.  Non-duality is a view we can abide in.    

RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/11/14 4:16 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao
"...I'll have to look into that book. 


Just finished 1st read of Wynne's book last night (but must re-read it soon – it's quite dense). A key point he makes is that G.Buddha (in 'early' teaching) was reinterpreting a Brahminic (ascetic) notion that meditation is a sort of blissful enthrallment (quasi non-dual), but full 'liberation' comes only with bodily death and union into Brahma (fully non-dual). According to Wynne's analysis, G.Buddha discovered / taught that 'liberation' is possible in life, and meditation can be permeated with mindfulness (sati). This could be called 'dualistic', and in fact somewhat paradoxical (samatha and vipassana at the same time). Wynne pointed to Richard Gombrich's How Buddhism Began, Chapter 4 ("Retracing an Ancient Debate: How Insight Worsted Concentration in the Pali Canon"). Gombirch traces a contrast of what he calls an 'intellectual' approach vs what Wynne calls meditative, that Gombrich symbolizes with the text phrase 'touched with the body'.
A further paradox (at the meta-view level) – to what extent was there 'debate' in early Buddhism, or is that construed, over-emphasized in the modern debate among scholars and teachers, who look to justify their respective views in the original texts? Sujato's A History of Mindfulness also traces that debate through the evolution of the Canons.

"...Or maybe a better way of saying it is that, when the negative states are seen as constructs, the awareness separates from them - like suddenly realizing the emotional involvement with a movie you're watching isn't real." 

Where the movie isn't 'real', the emotional involvement might be? (The involvement could be a 'citta', which is one of the types of 'ultimate reality' in Abhidhamma analysis.) But you successfully counter with:
"This might be a crude example, though, since the judgement isn't whether the states are real or not but whether they are stressful or not."

'Citta' are phenomenologically 'real', but the pragmatic question is whether the one at hand is profitable/wholesome/skilfull (kusala) or not (akusala).
 
The example reminds me of one used by Than-Geof in a talk postulating a dream of being on a boat with family, captured by pirates who demand someone's life. Asking adults about this, they tend to ponder a solution -- whether to give oneself to die to protect children, or whether the children would be worse off without a parent… Asking children about it, they say "Just wake up! It's only a dream."



RE: Non-Dual Buddhism?
Answer
11/12/14 5:14 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
re: ChrisJ Macie (11/8/14 5:43 AM as a reply to Not Tao. )

re: Alexander Wynne's book The Origin of Buddhist Meditation -- mentioned as the source of the theory behind the recent published research as noted in the thread: Scientific research on the Jhanas (re: Not Tao (10/6/14 11:51 PM as a reply to Pål.)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24975229

Here's the snippet from that link (citing the 'abstract' of the research) that caught my attention:


The most
diffuse forms of meditation derive from Hinduism and Buddhism spiritual traditions. Different cognitive processes are set in place to reach these meditation states. According to an historical-philological hypothesis (Wynne, 2009) the two forms of meditation could be disentangled....

Actually, I didn't notice Wynne specifically "disentangling" two forms of meditation to the extent that they could be experimentally tested. He did depict Brahminic ascetic practice as rapt meditation culminating in a liberation (as union with Brahma) at death, and G. Buddha's variation as rapt meditation with mindfulness, and liberation during life. But the definitions are still somewhat "diffuse". Then Wynne's reference to ideas of Richard Gombrich seems to link the distinction to a traditional "debate" between "intellectual" (vipassana?) and "touched
with the body" (absorbed?) meditation – a debate that rages on in present-day Buddhisms (and in the DhO forum).

A next step would be to read the full scientific report (…pubmed/24975299), but it's only available for about $40, or for free to subscibers to Elsevier. Does anyone here have subscription access to Elsevier? Medical school and university libraries usually have such subscriptions, and free access to anyone with library privileges.

If no one here can get ahold of the report, and my curiosity becomes overwhelming, I might shell out the $40 for it, but I am reluctant. Most of the 'research' in this area has been rather disappointing – largely done by self-proclaimed 'dharma-teacher neuro-scientists' whose work is clearly infected with conformational bias.