Advayavada Buddhism

ON COURSE WITH NATURE.

Archive for the month “October, 2014”

Advayavada Study Plan – week 44

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

Our quest is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths suffice to start off on this Path at any time.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year.

The purpose of the autonomous ASP is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

(As stated earlier, my personal specific objective this quarter is to further investigate and explain to my fellow Buddhists in my country and elsewhere what is meant by the ‘whole’ in the non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism – what’s yours?)

To continue this weekly series, in week 44 we again closely survey the Noble Eightfold Path (the fourth noble truth of Buddhism) that eliminates the cause of existential suffering; in Dutch: het edele achtvoudige pad en de vooruitgang (de vierde waarheid van de Boeddha en het vierde kenmerk van het bestaan).

In Advayavada Buddhism, the Path is understood dynamically, i.e. as an ongoing and fully autonomous, non-prescriptive, investigative and creative process of progressive insight, reflecting in human terms wondrous overall existence becoming over time. It is composed of (1) our very best (samma in Pali and samyak in Sanskrit) comprehension or insight, followed by (2) our very best resolution or determination, (3) our very best enunciation or definition (of our intention), (4) our very best disposition or attitude, (5) our very best implementation or realization, (6) our very best effort or commitment, (7) our very best observation, reflection or evaluation and self-correction, and (8) our very best meditation or concentration towards an increasingly real experience of Samadhi*, which brings us to a yet better comprehension or insight, and so forth.

Nirvana is, in Advayavada Buddhism, the total extinction of existential suffering as a result of our complete reconciliation and harmonization with reality as it truly is beyond our commonly limited and biased personal experience of it.

*Samadhi (Pali and Sanskrit): total or perfect concentration (of the mind, cf. enstasy); non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object; total absorption in the object of meditation; transcendence of the relationship between mind and object; merging of subject and object; to contemplate the world without any perception of objects; suspension of judgement; turiyatita; satori; bodhi; rigpa; realization of the sameness of the part and the whole, of the identity of form and emptiness, of samsara and nirvana, of the immediate and the ultimate; mystic oneness; perfect dynamic attunement with wondrous overall existence; oceanic feeling; wonder, awe, rapture; essential purity; deep love and compassion; awareness of our common ground and the innocence of sex.

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

Atomistic vs. Holist Composition (Harte)

Atomistic vs. Holist Composition, from Plato’s Metaphysics of Structure, in Plato on Parts and Wholes, by Verity Harte, 2002, Oxford 2005, p.276-8.

David Lewis [1941-2001] has what one might call an ‘atomistic’ approach to composition. By this I do not mean that Lewis is committed to the existence of atoms. What I mean is that Lewis approaches composition from the bottom up. One starts with things, which are candidate parts, as the building blocks of composition. And one builds up to composites from these things by taking various sets of things, which are more or less related to each other in various ways. But the various ways in which the things in question are related (including their composing something) seem somehow secondary to the things themselves. […]

In contrast to such an ‘atomistic’ approach to composition, the alternative model of composition that I have attributed to Plato might rather be described as a ‘holist’ conception. Rather than working from the bottom up, it proceeds, as it were, from the top down. The identity of a part is determined only in the context of the whole of which it is part. Thus, whether or not there is something such that it is a part of something else is determined only in the context of the whole in question. Wholes come first; and parts – and the things that are parts – only thereafter.

The contrast between these two approaches to composition has consequences for the evaluation of Lewis’ argument against the imposition of any restrictions upon composition. Lewis’ ‘things’ are all candidate parts. Indeed, by the Axiom of Unrestricted Composition, they will all in fact be parts, and, in almost all cases, parts of very many fusions indeed. But each such thing has perfectly good identity conditions independently of the fusion(s) of which each is part. Such an assumption is necessary, if, in arguing against restrictions upon composition, Lewis is to argue that any attempt to impose restrictions on which ‘classes of things’ compose something must perforce result in vagueness, since, Lewis supposes, it will be ‘a vague matter whether a given class satisfies our intuitive desiderata for composition’. But, Lewis argues, ‘The question … whether a given class does or does not have a mereological sum … cannot have a vague answer’. If this argument is to get purchase, things must come first. If, alternatively, parts are to be found only in the context of the whole they compose, Lewis’ argument appears to be blocked at the first move.

Advayavada Study Plan – week 43

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

Our quest is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths suffice to start off on this Path at any time.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year.

The purpose of the autonomous ASP is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

(As stated earlier, my personal specific objective this quarter is to further investigate and explain to my fellow Buddhists in my country and elsewhere what is meant by the ‘whole’ in the non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism – what’s yours?)

To continue this weekly series, in week 43 we continue to deepen our understanding that ignorant craving and attachment are the causes of existential suffering (the second noble truth of Buddhism) and that this suffering shall cease altogether (nirodha in both Pali and Sanskrit) when we deal with and overcome its causes (the third noble truth); in Dutch: het hechten is de oorzaak van het lijden en door ons te onthechten verlossen wij ons daarvan (de tweede en de derde edele waarheid)

Man is prone to suffering (dukkha, duhkha) quite simply because he wrongly strives after and tries to hold on to things, concepts and situations which he believes to be permanent, but are not. Man’s mistaken view of things is produced by a thirst, craving or clinging (called tanha in Pali and trishna in Sanskrit) which is in turn caused by his fundamental ignorance (avijja, avidya) of the true nature of reality. And this thirst, craving or clinging can easily take on a more unwholesome form: already as sensuous desire, ill-will, laziness, impatience or distrust will it seriously hinder any efforts to better his circumstances.

(Fundamental ignorance > clinging, ill-will, etc. > mistaken views > wrong action > suffering)

According to Advayavada Buddhism, it is indisputable that the Buddha did not believe in Brahman (God, transcendent and immutable Absolute) or in the atta or atman (soul, immortal self, in Pali and Sanskrit) and taught that man ultimately suffers because he does not understand and accept that all things in life are instead utterly changeable and transitory; if the Buddha had ever expressed belief in Brahman and the atta or atman, such a fact would have been unequivocally recorded in History.

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

Advayavada Study Plan – week 42

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

Our quest is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths suffice to start off on this Path at any time.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year.

The purpose of the autonomous ASP is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

(As stated earlier, my personal specific objective this quarter is to further investigate and explain to my fellow Buddhists in my country and elsewhere what is meant by the ‘whole’ in the non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism – what’s yours?)

To continue this weekly series, in week 42 we again study the ubiquity of existential suffering in the world as thoroughly as possible; in Dutch: het existentieel lijden (het derde kenmerk van het bestaan en de eerste edele waarheid).

This task is based on the concept of dukkha (in Pali) or duhkha (in Sanskrit). Dukkha or duhkha means undergoing suffering, sorrow; dissatisfaction; frustration, stress; pervasive unsatisfactoriness; gnawing unease; the existential distress non-liberated human beings are prone to. It is one of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being and the first of the four noble truths of Buddhism.

In Advayavada Buddhism, dukkha or duhkha does not include emotional grief or physical pain and is certainly not a permanent feature of reality; it is ‘only admitted and entertained as a possible contingency in life as it is generally lived’ (B.C. Law). It is rather a suffering in the sense of a basic frustration, even suffocation, caused by the unhealthy feeling that ‘reality does not conform to our innermost desires’ (David Loy).

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

The nondualist difficulty with theism (Loy)

The nondualist difficulty with theism (from Nonduality in the Bhagavad-Gita, in Nonduality, A Study in Comparative Philosophy, by David Loy, 1988, Amherst, New York, 1998, p.290-291, spelling slightly modified)

The nondualist difficulty with theism is not just that God is a person, but that this person is an ‘other’ to us – ‘Wholly Other’ as the early Karl Barth stressed and later repudiated. Of course, the two concepts are closely related. My awareness of being a person is dependent on there being other persons; a sense of self arises only in dialectical relation to other selves. Then is God a person only in relation to myself? If so, what will happen if I ‘merge’ with God – which is the goal of most theistic mystics, just as nondualists wish to realize their oneness with Brahman, and so on. In this union with God, I am of course transformed – but then won’t God be transformed too? Into what?

In samadhi the meditator seems to merge with the object of his concentration; my awareness of the object (physical or mental) is no longer distinguishable from the object. Usually this is only a temporary trance state, for the mind later becomes preoccupied with thoughts again. But the nondualist claims that this is not a delusion. On the contrary, it is a glimpse of the true nondual nature of phenomena: they are not other than ‘my’ mind. Because he was able to let his individual mind and body “drop away”, Dogen realized that “mind is nothing other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars” – the essential Mahayana claim that is equally crucial to Advaita. But unlike Buddhism, Advaita finds a role for God in Shankara’s distinction between Saguna (with attributes, i.e. Ishvara) and Nirguna (without attributes, i.e. completely empty of any phenomenal characteristics) Brahman. The transcendental latter, like Meister Eckhart’s Godhead, is inactive and immutable, whereas the former is not immanent ‘in‘ the world but ‘is’ the wold as the totality of Brahman’s self-luminous manifestations. Yet how is this description of Saguna Brahman equivalent to God? And, more generally, how can we understand the relation between these two Brahmans?

Shankara says that Brahman reflected in maya [illusion] is Ishvara (God), whereas Brahman reflected in avidya [delusion, ignorance] is the jiva (ego-self). Given that Shankara (unlike Gaudapada) generally seems to identify maya with avidya, this seminal statement must mean that the mystical experience of God as the true nature of the phenomenal world is still somewhat illusory (maya), the ‘other side’ of the delusion (avidya) of myself as still other than the world. A bit of maya persists if I perceive Brahman (Eckhart’s deitas) as God, but only because I experience him as other than myself. God is the Absolute viewed from outside, as it were: still a bit dualistically. Then the Impersonal Absolute is the true nature of God – nondual because completely incorporating ‘my’ consciousness as well. In other words, to experience God is to forget oneself to the extent that one becomes aware of a consciousness pervading everywhere and everything. To experience the Godhead/Absolute is to ‘let go’ completely and realize that consciousness is nothing other than ‘me’, fully becoming what I have always been. The sense of ‘holiness’ (Rudolf Otto’s ‘the numinous’) is not something added onto the phenomenal world in such mystical experiences but is an inherent characteristic of ‘my’ self-luminous mind, although realized only when its true nature is experienced.

Outward and Inward (Kathy Kundalini)

These terms “outward” and “inward” [as in ‘looking outward at the Universe’ and ‘looking inward into this body and mind’] have a way of revolving into one another, twisting and turning around like a möbius strip – on one side is written “mind” and the other side is written “world”. The world I see is contained in my mind, yet my body/mind are also contained in the world. The world appears “outside” of me as a fantastic and infinite field of events, yet all I perceive is the result of impacts upon my body, all I perceive is happening on me and in me, like I am a shining glow of perceptions, moving in and through the world. My body feels like a container within which is “me”, yet my body also feels exterior, like it is already in that world beyond my mind, and thus I see it “out there” like any other perception. I feel myself to be singular, a single being, yet I know I am made up of multitudes. I feel I am “this body” — because I can move, feel, see myself wrapped in this container of flesh, yet all that I am is immediately connected with energies, flows, and structures well beyond my physical container. I am this air, this earth, this electromagnetic energy, this gravity, this atmosphere, this sun, this galaxy… my body literally extends throughout all creation, as I am its expression, its mode of embodiment, a moment of its evolution. I live, breathe, walk, think, perceive, engage, and feel in an interplay of energies, life-forms, consciousnesses that are alive, communicating, intelligent, with rich vibrancy beyond my imagination. It all appears separate from me, yet is also who I am – the field and flow are my energy and form, my existence is dependent on the field, and it flows through me as my life-energy and my experience. I am my experience, yet also more than I can ever experience. I am a nexus of interdependent origination, which paradoxically makes me a kind of “nothing”, or rather a mere appearance, a momentary “something” that seems to singularly exist, yet this “nothing”, or appearing “something”, is also an overflowing “everything” – a cosmos expressing itself in time and space, in and through this body, and through this mind, this spirit. I am singular, multiple, dual, non-dual, finite, and infinite, all seemingly at the same time. What are my boundaries are only borderlines, or really, gateways, pathways, conduits of energies and waves which conspire to create this living, moving form. The Universe and I are one, yet also interpenetrating opposites, in a dialectical dance. The world is my body, my mind, everywhere I look, there I am. Yet like my body, it overflows with energies and events which I just cannot contain within this mind that knows itself as “I”. They are beyond me yet within me at the same time. This is a gift, a mystery, a puzzle, a source of suffering, as well as amazement, perplexity, and wonder. It invites both acceptance and transcendence…

“There is a memory of ocean,
the swelling of waves.
the movement of great things,
just beneath the surface.
My conscious mind staggers,
a part sleeping begins to waken.
What is this great thing
That has caught us up?”

Upon attaining Enlightenment, the Buddha was not only looking within, but he was also looking outward, into the world, into the universe. Looking out into the sky he saw the Morning Star. Here the seeing and the seen are not two, they are one. “I together with all beings and the Great Earth attain the Way.”

~ by Kathy Kundalini, 2014; the poetic excerpt is from “Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm” by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Advayavada Study Plan – week 41

Dear friends,

The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.

Our quest is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths suffice to start off on this Path at any time.

Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year.

The purpose of the autonomous ASP is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.

(As stated earlier, my personal specific objective this quarter is to further investigate and explain to my fellow Buddhists in my country and elsewhere what is meant by the ‘whole’ in the non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life we call Advayavada Buddhism – what’s yours?)

To continue this weekly series, in week 41 we shall again study the selflessness and finitude of all things as thoroughly as possible; in Dutch: de vergankelijkheid van alles (het tweede kenmerk van het bestaan)

This task is based on the Buddhist anatta (Pali) or anatmata (Sanskrit) doctrine. Anatta or anatman means that no self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. It is one of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being. Human beings currently live about 4,000 weeks.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the nisvabhava (Sanskrit) doctrine teaches further that in fact all things without exception are empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava), i.e. devoid of self-sufficient, independent existence or lasting substance. Everything, indeed, arises, abides, changes and extinguishes in accordance with the universal process of interdependent origination or pratityasamutpada, meaning that ‘all causes are effects and all effects are causes’. Svabhava-shunyata is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy.

Kind regards,
John Willemsens,
Advayavada Foundation.
@advayavada

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