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#3074 - Tuesday, February 12, 2008 - Editor: Jerry Katz
Today an article by Dustin. Congratulations to Dustin's family on their new baby boy, born February 8, their third child. The more they have, the greater the odds one of them will take the Highlights in the 22nd Century.
More on teachers of nonduality and teaching nonduality today
from the Nonduality Community on Live Journal: http://community.livejournal.com/nonduality/
With respect to the apparently flippant
attitude that nondual teachers often take towards personal
practice, I'm somewhat in agreement with [Charlie Morris] [see http://community.livejournal.com/nonduality/150441.html]. It's not uncommon to see hardcore Advaita guys
keep returning to the same mantra about "nothing
existing" and "there is no path to follow -- just
BE." It's not difficult to take issue with that, because it
doesn't appear to address the myriad issues that people are faced
with every day. I mean, if I'm in the midst of a toxic and
stressful job or maybe a painful physical ailment, how does it
help me if I'm told to "just BE?" (A close friend with
depression once blew up at me for suggesting that she just
"go outside for a walk." My suggestion was a good one,
and would have been therapeutic had she followed it, but it
didn't take into account that she wasn't able to crawl out of her
bed in the morning, let alone go for a walk outside.)
Having said that, I think it's important to look at the context from which these hardcore teachings come. A hundred years ago, the general public would never have had access to such esoteric teachings or teachers -- the only way they could ever be exposed to this kind of thinking would be if they joined a Zen monastery or something and studied at the hands of a good guru. Because the profound insights of nonduality have traditionally been passed directly from guru to student, guru to student, for thousands of years. It is only recently that the sum total of these teachings has been typed out and indexed on the internet for everyone to see.
This leads me to my next point. Most of us are not prepared to hear the most profound of those teachings. We haven't been living in a monastery, undertaking austerity practices and daily meditation and all that. And because we have no basis in this way of life and we're so indoctrinated in modern ways and means, we can't handle the Truth. Because from the most radical nondual standpoint available, NONE of this stuff around us exists: it's all a mental construct and the mind is just an electrophysiological apparatus that vibrates from the essential energy of the universe. Underneath all the appearances and the sum total of the physical world, nonduality (and Buddhism, and other traditions) all teach that there is nothing: all is a void, emptiness, sunyata.
Now, whether that fact has any bearing on an ordinary person's sanity or practice, I don't know. I suspect that mostly, it doesn't. But I do know that the nondual teachings which uncover the inherent flaw of thinking of ourselves as individual entities unto ourselves are extremely helpful for anyone who's suffering emotionally or psychologically (and who isn't?). If you can see past the dream that you are who you think you are, then the suffering stops. If you stop believing that you are this gnarled web of emotions, motivations, thoughts, and this personality, then all the pain associated with that form of self-identification just falls away. You give yourself permission to stop cognizing this thing called pain, and you just live in the moment and let whatever happens, happen.
Now I know that sounds like an overly passive approach to life (accept everything! hold no expectations of anyone or anything! let whatever happens happen!), and whenever I discuss this stuff with my scientifically-minded physician wife, she goes ape on me. But if you've ever glimpsed nonduality for yourself and if you've placed value on that way of looking at the world, then the insights associated with that will genuinely remove all sense of suffering in your life. True, you may physically suffer in all types of ways, but because you're not identifying yourself so tightly with the apparent body-mind who's undergoing the suffering, it doesn't feel nearly as bad. Because the moment you remind yourself of Who You Really Are, the pain kind of dries up and blows away. It can't sustain itself without your own mental energy feeding it.
Charlie also mentioned a shortcoming of nondual teachers in that they don't ever give you any instructions about what to do, or how to apply these teachings in your life, and all that. As far as that's concerned, I think you have to pay attention to the context of those original teachings again: they were traditionally passed down in monasteries from gurus to students over a period of many years! Not many of us can suss out what these teachings mean without a lot of effort and study and practice. But today, we can receive the most intense nondual insights through a simple Google search.
I'm not discouraged by any of this, though. I think that anyone who can receive the most profound nondual teachings and understand them, can themselves become efficient vehicles for teaching other laypeople how to apply this knowledge to their lives. But laypeople can't take the really hardcore teachings and apply them to their own lives without some form of translation from somebody else. And the person to perform that translation is, by definition, another good teacher. Someone like Charlie, it sounds like.
Different teachers teach at different levels, and not every student is prepared to hear everything that can be taught. But if people like Charlie (and doubtless many other people reading this now) can spend time with the hardcore teachings, then they can distill those teachings in their own mind to more useful and accessible nuggets that their own students (or the general population) can use.
In this way, nonduality can be shared with the many instead of the few.
~ ~ ~
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