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#2228 - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

Two articles in this issue. One is by Jan Barendrecht. The other article is by Deborah Hay and comes from her lively book on dance, My Body, the Buddhist. It could be viewed as another response to the question, What Is Nonduality? I think you'll like it.  



What is Nonduality?
Jan Barendrecht

[This is edited from emails.]

Nonduality isn't about concepts; it is about getting rid of concepts, including a concept of absolute.

In a nondual state there are no opposites. There is neither an awareness of being passive nor an awareness of being active; awareness without content comes near. In a nondual state there is no contradiction or paradox; common language fails in its ability to describe events from a nondual perspective. The sense of "I am the doer" is permanently absent as is the sense of "I am not the doer;" what comes near is "things being done," as there is no "feeling"of I, and there is no experiencer.

Nonduality is easy - understanding that there is no separation. The joke is that unconditional happiness cannot be understood - not even experienced. Not preaching but laughing.

Nonduality is an ordinary fact of everyday life for some thirty years... . The car is being driven, the walk is undertaken, this reply is being written, and there is nobody pondering over what exactly to write. ...

Strictly speaking, ordinary language with "I," "me," "mine," and "you" means continuous lying as the meaning of these words is lost forever. But lies are what present day society is all about; who cares. So it is obvious there is neither negation nor affirmation, neither I nor you, neither nothingness nor fullness, neither nirvana nor samsara. Or put simply: a painting of a mango won't satisfy one's appetite, and the description of the mango on the painting doesn't stimulate the appetite for those not knowing the taste of mangos. The real question of course is, without having met a picture of a mango, how would one describe the taste of nonduality? So it comes to no surprise that everyone raised in a “system” will affirm that system, confirming the dictum "as you meditate, so you become.” The Buddha was one of the few exceptions.

Non-duality isn't experienced. All experience has a beginning and an end; one's real nature hasn't.

One's real nature is pure consciousness, which is the basis for everything, so what one observes are but its manifestations. It is the analogy that seeing the moon reflected in thousand mirrors doesn't make a thousand moons.



My Body, the Buddhist

by Deborah Hay

Amazon link:  


18. my body is held in the present

      or, attending a dance performance in 2097


From the floor, I picked up what I thought was a seed. As it came to life in my hand, my thumb rolled it across my fingers and dropped it. The spider ran. My hand still knows that supple spider body. –Simone Forti, dancer


There are no tickets or reserved seats. I don’t know where the dance performance is and I am not to look for nor anticipate the location. The choreographer whose work I am about to see suggests that the small group consisting of her audience/patrons apply her frame of reference for seeing dance before we leave home.


In the humming quarters of a grooming tank, I am bathed, moisturized, and massaged. My clothes contain stimulants that heighten the sensitivity of my skin.


I leave for the performance without locking the door. It seals itself shut when it senses my body crossing the threshold. Keys long ago replaced arrowheads as object of the hunt for the hobbyist collector.


After centuries of disregard, particularly in cities, the moon, stars, and fire have again become the primary source of evening light. Unencumbered boulevards are bordered with vegetable, flower, and herb gardens, and orchards tended and harvested by their respective communities. Tangy scents open my temples and nasal passages, and my salivary glands juice excitedly. Everything radiates, and my surface capillaries blissfully respond.


Humans have learned to see life as scintillating composites of every conceivable combination of matter that has ever been, is, or will be. Through disciplined practice and guidance from early childhood, we have unlearned the compulsion to judge life by a mere handful of facts. Our cultural commitment to embrace the unknown, particularly after the demise of the computer age, reminds me to breathe deeply and notice everything.


The choreographer had one other suggestion. “Turn in place several times and then walk in the direction you face when you stop turning.” And so I do, glad to be going where I haven’t chosen to be. The act and object of seeing are now undifferentiated. I am the performance I set out to find without looking, alert to fleeting changes in and outside my physical body. Breathing feels planetary. My hands pass and turn like tropical vegetation before my eyes.


People enter my visual field. We are interacting no matter what we do. Like that man sitting with his head lowered and his eyes closed. On one level, he does not register my presence. On another, we are including each other in our separate perceptions of the moment. I love this feeling. I love him for being where he is so I can see him in this context.


A blind woman with ivory-colored skin and a downy layer of body hair moves along the street in tiny little steps. She is wearing a black bathing suit. Her legs glide over the surface of the boulevard. She is completely at ease, a smile turning her half-opened eyes into slits. Her guide, a young woman with fine black eyes and an aquiline nose, watches the blind woman from a distance, her patience and goodwill palpable. If the motion of the blind woman looks threatened by outside interference, her guide is immediately beside her to prevent harm. She moves so rapidly her work is invisible.


A tall, broad-shouldered woman wearing an ankle-length cobalt blue skirt holds an edge of the skirt at arm’s length. Her head is tilted downward and she focuses several feet beyond her body. With the skirt edge in her hand, she thoughtfully steps forward on one leg, the other coming to meet it like an old friend. The poetry of being so close to stillness is hypnotic. She, too, has another person aligned with her. It is difficult to tell if this person is male or female. The body is small, fit, and fast-moving like a hawk. It swoops into place to ground the tall, blue-skirted woman. Blue skirt moves. Hawk flashes into her field and becomes perfectly still. Blue skirt moves away. Hawk stays. It is impossible to read meaning into this strange dynamic.


An infectious joy exudes from a tall, thin, good-looking man who gallops by, wearing a red cape and clown’s nose. His teeth are bared.


In a bed of flowers, a woman stands with her hands spreading and resting on the voluptuous surfaces of her body. She is large-breasted, with a rounded belly and big eyes. The pleasure she experiences is doubly appreciated in the absence of any embarrassment. Near her, a dark-featured man sits in a lotus position barking like a dog. People flinch at the sound but return to what they were doing, more alert and laughing.


A gypsy family passes in a loose file. There are nine of them, their manner quiet and easy. Straight backs, heads high, their dark eyes flash and their hair falls casually. They disappear through a doorway framed by green leaves. My eyes roam in the empty frame.


A parade appears at the end of the boulevard. Pairs of nervous black horses draw carriages with young children dressed in stiff lace clothing; or they pull floats engorged with color and beauty. Other boys and girls watch from tents lining the parade route. Wide-eyed and ecstatic, their chins rest on the backs of their hands, which are folded atop railings separating them from the passing river of music, color, and stunning happiness. I am reminded of a culture once known as Mexican.


A woman standing alone is trying to determine how to prepare a few potatoes that lie nested in her apron. She thinks about it for a long time. At her side, a gray-haired woman tells a tale of life, love, and death, spoken so quietly I must burrow down to hear.


An old woman with foreshortened arms jumps to clutch the branch of a tree. The sound is suck. She tells jokes with her body; about a four-legged fish and a two-legged fish; then fish.


A dark-brown-skinned musician stands in ankle-deep water playing jazz on a primitive stringed instrument. His feet pad the silt of the river bottom, as he pulls sand up over one foot with the other. The water does not cloud. Another man enters this river that is more green than blue. Beside him a baby is born, curling into a fetal position before I get a chance to see it. One set of identical twins hands the newborn to another set of identical twins. Everyone is pleased. I glance at the time. It is 11:33.


I love this choreographer.

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