Sunday, June 19, 2011

Advaita II

Advaita II
by Scott Bradley


As mentioned in the previous post, advaita is Sanskrit for 'non-dual'. And I said that if I 'believe' anything, I believe in this, that there is One Reality. But since it is my way to at least attempt to believe nothing, I'd like to qualify that (at least verbally) and say that I have a visceral, intuitive inclination in that direction. In any case, it is my working paradigm.

Zhuangzi never really stated definitively that there is One. Even when he says, "I and the ten thousand things are one", it is only in the context of the relative nature of all the qualities we assign to things — a tentative and apparent statement of unity.

I recently quoted from another author within the Zhuangzi who says, "For this reason the sage values oneness." Its immediate context is the fact of the rising and passing, the temporal and transitory nature, of all things. To understand this 'oneness' is of use in relating oneself in the world. So, let us call the concept of Oneness 'upaya', a 'skillful means' of realizing what cannot be defined, even as One.

The fact that advaitists say 'non-dual' is for a similar reason. To say "All is One" is to make two, a subject and an object. As Zhuangzi says, "One and the saying make two." Nevertheless, I am not quite sure why these semantics are necessary apart from the philosophical Hindu insistence that these things can only be discussed in the negative: "Not this, not that." (How this reconciles with "That art Thou" I do not know).

It seems to me that the oneness of Reality is the most reasonable explanation of the way things ultimately are, but I do not put my faith in reason, wonderful tool that it is. The only viable alternative, for me, would be theism — the belief in a God that has created a Universe as apart from and eternally other-than Itself. But this seems counter-intuitive to me and merely reflects the essential dualism of the human self — God made in the image of man. There are the Zoroastrians (Parsees) who, I understand, believe in two equal and eternally opposing forces, but again, this somehow seems to leave things...unresolved. (Yin and Yang, as I understand it, is a temporal opposition of forces, and not eternal.)

Thus my heart leans toward the Unity of all that is, but this does not say anything about what that Unity is. It may be pure, mindless energy (matter) or Universal Mind. I do not know. Nor do I need to know. For the gate that stands before me is Mystery and it is enough to let go the burden of fearful individuation and vanish there.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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