*Brian Wilcox. 'a passionate fellowship'. Flickr
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A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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First, let us put "nonduality" in perspective. Nonduality is now a faddish buzzword, it will pass, what it points to will not. Since the word is a pointer, if the word does not help, drop it, forget it; anyway, Reality is not nondual, Reality is Reality. The moment we put a word to this, we have stepped outside of Reality. Yet, one can easily get on the nonduality train and forget it is really going nowhere, is not even a train, another dream, easily wishful thinking.
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Practice intimately and return to where you are.
The teaching of the fourfold realm [of Hua Yen Buddhism] is quite complex, but in practical terms it can be boiled down to the fact that each thing is intimately connected to every other thing, each thing is an expression of the interdependence of everything else, the whole universe is an expression of each individual thing, and each thing is exactly itself.
*Ben Connelly. Inside the Grass Hut: Living Shitou's Classic Zen Poem.
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We share about nonduality, and I try to meditate that way, I feel a loss of vigor, a dryness, like the juice has left the silence; I myself feel left out.
One danger of sharing about nonduality is nihilism, where all is one, so nothing matters more than anything else, so nothing matters at all. Life is a flat, plain pancake. You are the same flat, plain pancake. The motto, then, is "All is sameness." In sameness there can be no differentiation, one cannot even logically say smiling at someone is good and murdering someone is bad. This is like saying riding a plane going anywhere is as good as riding another plane going somewhere else, even if the somewhere else is the side of a mountain.
So, if you are of the same flat, plain pancake, then bypassing yourself in meditation is understandable. In this view, you have no importance as a particular I, and to attend to yourself is a distraction from the meaningless sameness. There is no meaning, for if all is sameness, no meaning exists in form as form, for nothing can have particular meaning in the formless, non-particular sameness. Finally, you have no more existential meaning than the dog poop beside the road.
In meditation, then, you pay no attention to yourself as yourself. Yet, you are there. You cannot logically deny this. To ignore this is to repress a natural self-reflection, which is the play of oneness. To self-reflect is what consciousness does in being you, you acting upon yourself is oneness. To repress this will take the juice out of your meditation and life. Also, this repression, acting against Nature, brings strain. In meditation, meditation fails through effort at denial, which is repression. Meditation is expression, Life expressing Itself through and as you.
So, here, one mistakes oneness for sameness, where oneness is the oneness within differentiation. Oneness is a differentiating oneness. Outside time oneness remains itself, yet becomes in time a moving, modifying oneness.
This applies, in the opposite direction of clinging to form, to those who now speak of God as God-ing, this arising from process philosophy and theology. Here, one can lose the formless as stable, all becomes movement, so all becomes surface. Depth is lost. One is stuck with a God the product of change. There is no foundation to the house, so to speak. This rather than seeing God as the fount of change, God is equated with change in form. God is not God, but has to have a -ing to be God. So, where is such a God? God is lost in formation, in becoming. To press this to a logical conclusion, the only logical conclusion, nihilism reigns.
See, the ego tends to go toward formless or form. The mind cannot grasp the Mystery, and the self-directed effort tends to an extreme, a polarizing of Truth, attempting to ground itself in stability or movement, in changlessness or change, in oneness opposed to manyness or vice versa. Again, you must be silent within and listen with the heart, for the truth. What you find will be unlike what you have been told, no matter how helpful has been what you have been told. What you hear will remain a mystery.
So, the thought of myself, even bettering my life or character, is not a denial of the oneness?
No. I appreciate Chogyman Trungpa observing that in meditation we must be willing to, in his words, "open yourself to yourself." He goes on to speak of synchronizing mind and body. See, you as you are is as much a manifestation of the Holy in this world as anything or anyone else. The body and its capacity of thought is sacred; your form a temple walking this Earth.
But you're saying that nihilism can intrude into meditation?
Yes, and life. Once someone says there is nothing to do in meditation, to leave things in their naturalness, then naturalness is presented in contrast to action, or effort, and movement in differentiation one attempts to negate and interprets this as oneness. Spontaneity is assumed to be a contrast to action, effort and effortlessness in opposition. What is overlooked is that this natural spontaneity can express, without losing itself, as effort, and may, in fact, choose to realize itself through effort. Oneness is fully present as oneness within the movement itself. So, to initiate in meditation movement, such as a means of meditation, is as fully oneness as oneness can be. To side with oneness in contrast to manyness, see, is itself duality. The only way to a nonduality experienced in form is to equally embrace form and formless, one and many, unseen and seen, as the One. As said Meister Eckhart, the great Christian sage, "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love."
Yet, what I read speaks of nonduality as only oneness.
Listen closely, and remember this ~ Only through diversity is one introduced to oneness. To say one is to say the other. That is the vocabulary of oneness ~ both. This is part of the mystical meaning of the incarnation in the Christian path ~ through the form, Jesus, one realizes the Father, the formless. The formless provides form to elicit response, recognition, celebration. The holy Spirit initiates this, the go-between. ~ Yet, this is only a pointer, a hint. ~ It is all Grace. You embrace fully form to come upon the formless. Yet, to say come upon is relative. The realization of oneness does not bring oneness, for only Grace timeless introduces Grace timeless and in time. This Grace is timelessly already present, never appearing but to the perceiver. This Grace is before perceiver and perception, and conception.
So, I shouldn't abandon technique in meditation, as many seem to teach in nonduality?
First, let us be clear, no one knows the absolute oneness, or One, not in a conceptual manner. I mean, this always remains the absolute Mystery. So, any guidance spoken about it, which has to be conceptual, whatever we call this oneness, is fallible. The temptation is for the parading of a certainty that is simply not possible. So, listen to your heart. Your heart knows the truth. And I have read writers in nonduality, some denying any technique to realize oneness, yet, consistently, they speak of a means to this realization, while denying any means and possibly even that this can become a realization. I have no doubt these teachers had some use of technique that helped them prepare for realizing nonduality, and that, if they are truthful, there was a moment of sudden realization or a gradual progress toward it. These teachers are not being truthful, and this can mislead many. It is one thing wisely to use paradox, another to play with words recklessly. As there is no infallible Bible, there is no infallible teacher. Only Truth is infallible, your heart receives Truth directly and intimately.
I understand this conceptually, but how to apply this to my meditation, so it helps in my life outside meditation, I don't know.
My recommendation is to act from an awareness of oneness. This does not mean you are thinking about oneness, you are oneness thinking. You have become convinced that there is only one Life behind all life unfolding in time and space. To meditate, as well as bake cookies, you must be intimate with duality. You cannot choose not to be, you are stuck with duality, even as you are stuck with oneness. That is the human way for everyone. You have to put forth effort to bake cookies. Baking cookies, however, can be for you celebrating, even experimenting with, oneness in the field of manifestation. A motto for this could be: "God likes to bake cookies." Simply apply this to meditation, see your time in intentional silence as the playful experience, even experimentation, with form. So, juice-up your mediation by engaging means, by attending to yourself in compassion and gratitude.
However, yes, there are times when a sense of formless presence arises and seems to move form aside, and that is good. Yet, do not treat it as a divine dictum that you must move into some formless mode of meditation, anymore than into some formless mode of living, which is impossible. What is present in your life, in its variety, is the movement of life. In my estimation, also, Zen works well with honoring the movement of form, while retaining the formless immovable and unmoving. Zen retains the paradox of the middle way, rather than moving into the polarization of Reality.
Recall the well-known image in Zen of the moon reflected in the waters. It may be a reflection in the water, but it is as real a reflection as the water is real as water, and the moon is real as a moon. If you remove either the water, the reflection, or the moon, you cannot have the moon being reflected in the water. If you remove yourself as a manifestation of oneness, you negate oneness, for in negating form, you negate formless. So, as to yourself in form, I urge do as says Dogen ~ keep returning to where you are.
*Brian Wilcox. 'reminders of innocence'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.
*Chogyam Trungpa quote, from Shambala. Dogen quote, from Ben Connelly. Inside the Grass Hut: Living Shitou's Classic Zen Poem.