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#3435 - Friday, February 6, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights -      

Greg Goode, teacher, philosophical counselor, writer, and nonduality pioneer, writes on emptiness, or nonduality without awareness. To go deeper into his discussion, click on the link at the bottom.  

"What are things empty of? According to the Buddhist teachings, things are empty of inherent existence. Being empty of inherent existence means that there is no essential, fixed or independent way in which things exist. Things have no essential nature. There is no way things truly are, in and of themselves."

Jay Michaelson, author of Nondual Judaism, takes a little emptiness and a little awareness, a little Judaism, a little Buddhism, and comes up with a deli platter of nonduality.


Greg Goode  

Why Emptiness?

Emptiness is another kind of nondual teaching. Emptiness teachings demonstrate that the "I," as well as everthing else, lacks inherent existence. The notion of lacking inherent existence has several senses. In one sense, empty things lack essence, which means that there is no intrinsic quality that makes a thing what it is. In another sense, empty things lack independence, which means that a thing does not exist on its own, apart from conditions or relations. A great deal of what one studies in the emptiness teachings demonstrates that these two senses amount to the same thing. Emptiness teachings are found mainly in Buddhism, but there are some surprising parallels in the work of Western philosophers such as Sextus Empiricus, David Hume, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty and many others.

How Is Emptiness Nondual?

The most common connotation of "nonduality" is "oneness" or "singularity." Many teachings state that everything is actually awareness; those teachings are nondual in the "oneness" sense in which there are no two things. But there is another sense of "nonduality." Instead of nonduality as "oneness," it's nonduality as "free from dualistic extremes." This entails freedom from the pairs of metaphysical dualisms such as essentialism/nihilism, existence/non-existence, reification/annihilation, presence/absence, or intrinsicality/voidness, etc. These pairs are dualisms in this sense: if you experience things in the world in terms of one side of the pair, you will experience things in the world in terms of the other side as well. If some things seem like they truly exist, then other things will seem like they truly don't exist. You will experience your own self to truly exist, and fear that one day you will truly not exist. Emptiness teachings show how none of these pairs make sense, and free you from experiencing yourself and the world in terms of these opposites. Emptiness teachings are nondual in this sense.

For those who encounter emptiness teachings after they've become familiar with awareness teachings, it's very tempting to misread the emptiness teachings by substituting terms. That is, it's very easy to misread the emptiness teachings by seeing "emptiness" on the page and thinking to yourself, "awareness, consciousness, I know what they're talking about." Early in my own investigations I began with this substitution in mind. With this misreading, I found a lot in the emptiness teachings to be quite INcomprehensible! So I started again, laying aside the notion that "emptiness" and "awareness" were equivalent. I tried to let the emptiness teachings speak for themselves. I came to find that they have a subtle beauty and power, a flavor quite different from the awareness teachings. Emptiness teachings do not speak of emptiness as a true nature that underlies or supports things. Rather, it speaks of selves and things as essenceless and free.    


A Jewish Perspective on the Jhanas

Part 2   by Jay Michaelson   Excerpt:
   As I've written about at length in my book Nondual Judaism (coming out next September from Shambhala), I think this word "God" is a kind of naming, a way of relating to "Is" that some people choose to do and other people don't. Remember, "Ein Sof" does not mean "God"--it means "infinite." And YHVH doesn't mean God either--it means, I think, "is." Asking whether "is" exists is nonsensical. Asking whether "God" exists is a question of naming. Do we choose to experience this moment as You, rather than It? If we do, You appear--quite reliably, the more spiritual practice one does. God is here, right now, I know it. However, it is also possible to choose to experience this moment as It, in which case the personality of God recedes, and is replaced only by a placid, transparent, omnipresent, maybe-aware emptiness. This is also true, right now, and I know it too.

I know both of these things because, thank God or karma, I am blessed with these two ways of relating--the secular Buddhist one, and the religious Jewish one. I find both of them incredibly nourishing. On my jhanas retreat, days would go by without God-consciousness. I would surrender to the practice, experience ecstasy, bliss, contentment, and equanimity as factors of mind, and grow very quiet and precise. Other times (especially since the retreat coincided with the Jewish holiday season), the protective, loving, and sometimes erotic natures of God/dess would arise even during quiet concentrated mindstates. Even in the fourth jhana, there was a sense of "I am always here." At the very least, there was often a sense of gratitude--and "God" was just a name for Who/What I felt grateful toward.

So, I really do want to say that everybody is right--partly because I experience both sides myself. As Ken Wilber has described in great length and of great use, it's a matter of looking, and as Wilber also discusses, it's really helpful to look from as many perspectives as possible. I don't think the Buddhists are ignorant because they're missing the God piece, and I don't think the Christians are deluded because they're seeing Christ. I think we approach the mystery with perspectives, expectations, and vocabularies that both shape and interpret those experiences. The wings of the Shechinah are the flapping ears of Ganesh, and both are just a visual impression that should not be reified. Which perspective works best depends on the moment, and your heart.  

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