Nondual Wisdom / Primordial Awarenesspublic - created 10/26/03
-- Ramana Maharshi
"The work of Neoplatonic philosophy involved providing a systematic description of the derivation of the whole of reality from a single principle, 'the One'."
Neoplatonism is generally a metaphysical and epistemological philosophy. Neoplatonism is a form of idealistic monism (also called theistic monism) and combines elements of Polytheism (see Monistic-polytheism).
Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity, nor distinction; likewise, it is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The concept of "being" is derived by us from the objects of human experience and is an attribute of such objects, but the infinite, transcendent One is beyond all such objects and, therefore, is beyond the concepts which we can derive from them. The One "cannot be any existing thing" and cannot be merely the sum of all such things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence) but "is prior to all existents".
. . . For Plotinus, the first principle of reality is an utterly simple, ineffable, unknowable subsistence which is both the creative source and the teleological end of all existing things. Although, properly speaking, there is no name appropriate for the first principle, the most adequate names are "the One" or "the Good". The One is so simple that it cannot even be said to exist or to be a being. Rather, the creative principle of all things is beyond being, a notion which is derived from book VI of the Republic, when, in the course of his famous analogy of the Sun, Plato says that the Good is beyond being (ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας) in power and dignity. In Plotinus' model of reality, the One is the cause of the rest of reality, which takes the form of two subsequent "hypostases", Nous and Soul. Although Neoplatonists after Plotinus adhered to his cosmological scheme in its most general outline, later developments in the tradition also departed substantively from Plotinus' teachings in regards to significant philosophical issues, such as the nature of evil.
Here, then, we enter upon the practical philosophy. Along the same road by which it descended, the soul must retrace its steps back to the supreme Good. It must, first of all, return to itself. This is accomplished by the practice of virtue, which aims at likeness to God, and leads up to God. In the ethics of Plotinus, all the older schemes of virtue are taken over and arranged in a graduated series. The lowest stage is that of the civil virtues, then follow the purifying, and last of all the divine virtues. The civil virtues merely adorn the life, without elevating the soul. That is the office of the purifying virtues, by which the soul is freed from sensuality and led back to itself, and thence to the nous. By means of ascetic observances, the human becomes once more a spiritual and enduring being, free from all sin. But there is still a higher attainment; it is not enough to be sinless, one must become "God" (henosis). This is reached through contemplation of the primeval Being, the One — in other words, through an ecstatic approach to it. Thought cannot attain to this, for thought reaches only to the nous, and it itself is a kind of motion. It is only in a state of perfect passivity and repose that the soul can recognise and touch the primaeval Being. Hence, the soul must first pass through a spiritual curriculum. Beginning with the contemplation of corporeal things in their multiplicity and harmony, it then retires upon itself and withdraws into the depths of its own being, rising thence to the nous, the world of ideas. But, even there, it does not find the Highest, the One; it still hears a voice saying, "not we have made ourselves". The last stage is reached when, in the highest tension and concentration, beholding in silence and utter forgetfulness of all things, it is able, as it were, to lose itself. Then it sees God, the foundation of life, the source of being, the origin of all good, the root of the soul. In that moment, it enjoys the highest indescribable bliss; it is, as it were, swallowed up by divinity, bathed in the light of eternity. Porphyry says that on four occasions during the six years of their acquaintance, Plotinus attained to this ecstatic union with God.
A Course in Miracles presents an interpretation of nondualism that recognises only "God" (i.e. absolute reality) as existing in any way, and nothing else existing at all. In a book entitled The Disappearance of the Universe, which explains and elaborates on A Course in Miracles, it says in its second chapter that we "don't even exist in an individual way - not on any level. There is no separated or individual soul. There is no Atman, as the Hindus call it, except as a mis-thought in the mind. There is only God."
Sufism and Irfan (Arabic تصوف taṣawwuf) are the mystical traditions of Islam. There are a number of different Sufi orders that follow the teachings of particular spiritual masters, but the bond that unites all Sufis is the concept of ego annihilation through various spiritual exercises and a persistent, ever-increasing longing for union with the divine. Reza Aslan has written:
Like most mystics, Sufis strive to eliminate the dichotomy between subject and object in their worship. The goal is to create an inseparable union between the individual and the Divine.
The central doctrine of Sufism, sometimes called Wahdat-ul-Wujood or Wahdat al-Wujud or Unity of Being, is the Sufi understanding of Tawhid (the oneness of God; absolute monotheism). Put very simply, for Sufis, Tawhid implies that all phenomena are manifestations of a single reality, or Wujud (being), which is indeed al-Haq (Truth, God). The essence of Being/Truth/God is devoid of every form and quality, and hence unmanifest, yet it is inseparable from every form and phenomenon, either material or spiritual. It is often understood to imply that every phenomenon is an aspect of Truth and at the same time attribution of existence to it is false. The chief aim of all Sufis then is to let go of all notions of duality (and therefore of the individual self also), and realize the divine unity which is considered to be the truth.
Main articles: Huayan school and Indra's net
The Huayan school or Flower Garland is a tradition of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy that flourished in China during the Tang period. It is based on the Sanskrit Flower Garland Sutra (S. Avataṃsaka Sūtra, C. Huayan Jing) and on a lengthy Chinese interpretation of it, the Huayan Lun. The name Flower Garland is meant to suggest the crowning glory of profound understanding.
The most important philosophical contributions of the Huayan school were in the area of its metaphysics. It taught the doctrine of the mutual containment and interpenetration of all phenomena, as expressed in Indra's net. One thing contains all other existing things, and all existing things contain that one thing.
Distinctive features of this approach to Buddhist philosophy include:
Truth (or reality) is understood as encompassing and interpenetrating falsehood (or illusion), and vice versa
Good is understood as encompassing and interpenetrating evil
Similarly, all mind-made distinctions are understood as "collapsing" in the enlightened understanding of emptiness (a tradition traced back to the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna)
Huayan teaches the Four Dharmadhatu, four ways to view reality:
All dharmas are seen as particular separate events;
All events are an expression of the absolute;
Events and essence interpenetrate;
All events interpenetrate.
Main article: Buddha-nature
The Buddhist teachings on the Buddha-nature may be regarded as a form of nondualism. Buddha-nature is the essential element that allows sentient beings to become Buddhas. The term, Buddha nature, is a translation of the Sanskrit coinage, 'Buddha-dhātu', which seems first to have appeared in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, where it refers to 'a sacred nature that is the basis for [beings'] becoming buddhas.' The term seems to have been used most frequently to translate the Sanskrit "Tathāgatagarbha". The Sanskrit term "tathāgatagarbha" may be parsed into tathāgata ("the one thus gone", referring to the Buddha) and garbha ("womb"). The tathagatagarbha, when freed from avidya ("ignorance"), is the dharmakaya, the Absolute.
The Śrīmālādevī Sūtra (3rd century CE), also named The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala, centers on the teaching of the tathagatagarbha as "ultimate soteriological principle". Regarding the tathagata-garbha it states:
Lord, the Tathagatagarbha is neither self nor sentient being, nor soul, nor personality. The Tathagatagarbha is not the domain of beings who fall into the belief in a real personality, who adhere to wayward views, whose thoughts are distracted by voidness. Lord, this Tathagatagarbha is the embryo of the Illustrious Dharmadhatu, the embryo of the Dharmakaya, the embryo of the supramundane dharma, the embryo of the intrinsically pure dharma.
In the Śrīmālādevī Sūtra, there are two possible states for the Tathagatagarbha:
[E]ither covered by defilements, when it is called only "embryo of the Tathagata"; or free from defilements, when the "embryo of the Tathagata" is no more the "embryo" (potentiality) but the Tathagata (actuality).
Dzogchen [ Great Perfection ]
The Dzogchen practitioner realizes that appearance and emptiness are inseparable. One must transcend dualistic thoughts to perceive the true nature of one's pure mind. This primordial nature is clear light, unproduced and unchanging, free from all defilements. One's ordinary mind is caught up in dualistic conceptions, but the pure mind is unafflicted by delusions. Through meditation, the Dzogchen practitioner experiences that thoughts have no substance. Mental phenomena arise and fall in the mind, but fundamentally they are empty. The practitioner then considers where the mind itself resides. The mind can not exist in the ever-changing external phenomena and through careful examination one realizes that the mind is emptiness. All dualistic conceptions disappear with this understanding.