Thursday, September 1, 2011


by Scott Bradley

I think I might be a monist, but I am not sure what it is. I have seen this word a lot of late, and always with a dismissive cast. It is not an acceptable point of view. For Buddhism, it is heresy. Dismissed! Great! Now I can get on my way.

I have explained before that I have few resources available to me at the moment — no big dictionary, and to get online I must sit in the bushes and swat mosquitoes and deer flies. Nevertheless, I must look up this word.

Yet its meaning seems clear enough — ‘mono-', one, '-ist', one who follows. Therefore, a monist is one who believes in oneness. What's wrong with that? I suspect that the problem with monists is that they really believe in oneness. Belief in oneness is all well and good, but qualifications are also necessary. We have to make room for right and wrong, for one thing. What kind of chaos would otherwise ensue? And, more importantly, we must admit to a state of being lost, benighted, or sundered from the Ultimate. If we don't need to be saved, what's the point of Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, and the lot?

So, monism is mostly bad because it obviates the need for salvation. And the salvation industry is incredibly huge and powerful. This should not surprise us since it feeds the insatiable human hunger for meaning, redemption and purpose. We are, after all, out here on a bit of a dangle over the Void. Neither are the proponents of salvation simply exploitive captains of this industry; their meaning, purpose and redemption are likewise found in the telling. That the telling leads to money, fame and 'spiritual' prestige is, one hopes, largely coincidental.

There are, of course, other very serious problems which arise from this view. Fatalism! Surely we must conjure up the imponderables of freedom and necessity, free-will and determinism. (So live; what's the problem?) Amorality! How do we know how to behave? (Follow your heart; if there’s a problem, we’ll let you know.) How do we deal with those that harm others? (Put them in the prisons — they're already full of buddhas, right?)

In what sense would I qualify as a monist? Well, I believe that every relative reality is Reality. Every expression is Dao. All that one is, thinks, dreams, does and feels is Dao. Without qualification. I believe in Oneness. “We don’t need no eff-ing Buddha, mon.”


You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. Who is there to be the fatalist when all is one? Who is there to believe in monism? The problem with monism is that the One who believes in monism is Two. Believer and thing believed in are two thus believer destroys that in which he believes.


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