Advayavada Buddhism

ON COURSE WITH NATURE.

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The Rise of the Cultural Creatives

Creative by Nature

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The following was written in 1997. It’s been almost 20 years since the idea of Cultural Creatives was introduced. With the rise of Internet social networks, Facebook, youtube and blogs are we now witnessing the dawning influence of this group, in the creation of a new world vision, and shifting of cultural paradigms?

A NEW PHENOMENON is emerging in American culture, according to the results of a recent social research survey. We are at a watershed in history, when the country is shifting away from the modern technocratic society toward what sociologist Paul H. Ray calls “Integral Culture,” concerned with spiritual transformation, ecological sustainability, and the worth of the feminine.

For those who espouse these values, Ray’s findings are likely to be very comforting. The standard bearers of Integral Culture, who Ray calls “Cultural Creatives,” now number 44 million. That’s one quarter of the United States population. At this moment in history, he say…

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Shifting Paradigms: Aligning with the Wisdom of Nature

Creative by Nature

“See simplicity in the complicated, Seek greatness in small things. In the Universe, the difficult things are done as if they were easy.” ~Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are as much extraordinary phenomena of Nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy…” ~Alan Watts

paradigm_shift

For decades now, the human species has been at a crucial turning point in our evolution upon this planet. Einstein saw this very clearly, and during the 1960’s a counter-culture arose in Western societies, a global generation that questioned the predatory and compartmentalized thinking of modern civilizations.

mandala del solMillions of people marched in the streets, calling for peace, equality, an end to racism, respect for indigenous people and protection of the natural world. Coinciding with the first photographs of our planet from space, young people celebrated with new forms of music, spirituality and creative expression.

07505e46-3c4e-4b55-bee5-2242f4106ab4-TheGlobe“When…

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More Questions and Answers

question I wonder what your support for this interpretation of humans experiencing Nature as progress might be. There’s abundant evidence in media of various sorts — good, bad, or indifferent in quality — of people who contrarily do not experience the overall course of Nature as progressive at all, but instead as destructive and teleologically negative, especially today in conditions of global warming, cyclones, tornados, earthquakes, oceans rising, meteorites, and so on.

answer If you look closely, all those unpleasantnesses you mention do not pertain to overall existence at all but are the result of mistaken views, immorality and mismanagement. When we say how man experiences the course of Nature we of course mean man unencumbered by these contingent shortcomings and mistakes that impair his vision, understanding and accomplishments – the reference standard is overall existence and not failing mankind.

question I would agree with you that the objective of the Middle Way is to reconcile us with existence. Or to be more precise, it helps to understand life as it is. This is a condition for being to go forwards. However we are influenced by many things like greed, hatred and ignorance. These can take us backwards. The way to go forwards then is to develop the Eightfold Path. Or rather the Eightfold Path develops when there are conditions for its development. These conditions are the intellectual understanding of the Eightfold Path.

answer You are asked to accept the preeminence of existence over mankind, and that existence cannot, by definition, be anything but just right as it is, and that the Eightfold Path is an ongoing reflexion at the level of our personal lives of existence as a whole becoming over time. We must not see the Buddha’s Middle Way devoid of extremes as an attitude or method that will enable us e.g. ‘to escape from the realities of life’ or ‘to make it somehow in spite of things’, but we must understand the Buddha’s most fundamental teaching correctly as the means to reconnect and reconcile us with wondrous overall existence as a whole as it truly is. We must, in fact, accept that to live the way existence as a whole is, and not some idealized form of humanity, is what is to be sought after by men.

question I am not familiar with the term Advayavada.

answer We gave the name Advayavada Buddhism to the radical non-dual standpoint of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism to which we specifically adhere. A sound explanation of the term ‘advayavada’ can be found in for instance professor T.R.V. Murti’s The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: “The sole concern of the Madhyamaka advaya-vada is the purification of the faculty of knowing. The primordial error consists in the intellect being infected by the inveterate tendency to view Reality as identity or difference, permanent or momentary, one or many etc. These views falsify reality, and the dialectic [of the Madhyamaka] administers a cathartic corrective. With the purification of the intellect, Intuition emerges; the Real is known as it is, as Tathata [advayata; non-dual suchness] or bhutakoti [reality-limit; the extreme limit beyond which there is nothing which can be known]. The emphasis is on the correct attitude of our knowing..” It is in this sense that we use the term ‘advayavada’.

question What you say seems to me to be an essential teaching of the Mahayana in its complete form. The Unborn Infinite Reality can never be less than Perfect and Whole, and is the True Essence of all Beings, and is ever present. All that is needed is that, in perfect simplicity, we turn to That, and realize that the human manifestation of life is just an imperfect reflexion of That. Simple! but not easy. That is the problem. If we realize what we are, how do we remember to continue to realize it moment by moment, rather than seeking to hold on to the vision of the past?

answer Everything is, indeed, as right as it can be, and the Middle Way devoid of extremes is a perfect reflexion of it at the human level. As for your question, our answer would be that you must see that ‘vision of the past’ for what it really is: a highly selective subjective recollection in the present of things no longer there – please understand that life only happens Now.

More Questions and Answers

question You speak of progress but make little mention of evolution. Is the Fourth Sign of Being you speak of not evolution?

answer Evolution is an ontological fact and progress is an epistemological concept. What we say is that human beings experience as progress that which accords with the overall course of Nature, which includes, of course, the underlying fact of evolution. Because we experience the Noble Eightfold Path as progress, we know that it coincides with the course of Nature; in a way, Advayavada Buddhism is a or maybe the Buddhist face of the global evolutionary movement.

question Is Advayavada Buddhism, then, a kind of cosmodicy?

answer The cosmodicy meant by Caroline Rhys Davids when she coined the term in the early 20th century would imply that existence as such is ‘good’. This is not what we say. What we believe and teach is that what we human beings experience as good and wholesome, indeed as progress, is that which agrees with the otherwise neutral overall nature of existence. Good and bad are exclusively human concepts which you cannot apply to existence as a whole – the wood is completely silent and only sentient beings hear the falling tree!

The Ethics of Fundamental Consciousness (Blackstone)

The Ethics of Fundamental Consciousness (from The Enlightenment Process, by Judith Blackstone, Rockport, Mass. 1997)

Our true relationship with the universe contains an inherent ethical perspective. As we realize that our own essential being is a dimension of consciousness that is also the esssential being of all other life, we feel an underlying kinship with everyone we meet. We can use the metaphor of a musical instrument. If we are all basically pianos, even if we meet a piano playing a tune quite different than our own, we can feel in our being the potential to play his tune also. When we know our self as the pervasive ground of life, we have learned the basic language of all beings, including animals and plants. In this shared field of fundamental consciousness, we do not need to adopt a static attitude of goodwill that obscures the richness of our feelings and the directness of our contact with our self and others. To actually experience the heart of a bird, or the subtle awareness of a tree, or the complex emotions in another person, evokes a spontaneous response of empathy and compassion.

There is also a more subtle manifestation of ethics in fundamental consciousness. This is expressed in the Sanskrit word dharma. In Buddhist tradition, this word has several connotations. It means the Buddhist metaphysical understanding of the universe and enlightenment, the teaching of this understanding, and the living of this understanding. The direct translation of ‘dharma’ is ‘justice’. To live dharmically is to practice the justice of enlightenment. But this practice is not a preconceived set of behaviours. It is the alignment of oneself with the metaphysical laws of the universe and the great benevolence inherent in those laws. To the extent that we have realized fundamental consciousness, we are unified with the wisdom and love of the whole, and with the spontaneous unwinding towards enlightenment of all forms in creation. In this dimension, our own choices of action are the choices of the universe, and all our actions serve the progression towards enlightenment of all life, including our own. We do not have to shame ourselves into doing good works. Our own truth will benefit the truth of the life around us.

The idea that we can be aligned with the will of God also exists in Western religion. In Judaism, there is the concept of the mitzvah, which has a range of meaning from a good deed to a general attitude of justness and benevolence towards others. Jewish scholar Abraham J. Heschel writes: “Every act done in agreement with the will of God is a mitzvah”. Hassidic writer Reb Zalman Schachter defines mitzvah as “the divine will doing itself through the vehicle of the now egoless devotee”. Christian interpreter Maurice Nicoll writes: “When Good comes first, a man acts from mercy and grace. Then he is made Whole. When he is Whole, he no longer misses the mark”. In this quote we have the idea that the individual becomes whole by being good. And we have the more subtle idea, very similar to the Buddhist idea of dharma, that he is now right on target, that he does not ‘miss the mark’. That mark is the action that benefits everyone involved.

The Whole of Things (De Dijn)

The Whole of Things (from Metaphysics as Ethics, by Herman De Dijn, in God and Nature: Spinoza’s Metaphysics, edited by Yirmiyahu Yovel, Leiden 1991) In Spinoza’s physics, the fundamental categories are the “common notions” and the general laws they imply concerning the nature and interrelations of parts. At most, one gets insight into the space-time continuum of all the parts and the law of the conservation of energy. In his metaphysics, however, the whole is identified as an infinite, sempiternal Whole, which is but an infinite mode of the divine substance. The whole, studied in physics by examining its parts, is interpreted in metaphysics as having not only a “surface” dimension (the whole constituted by the parts), but also a dimension of “depth”, the infinite substance which underlies each of the individual parts as well as the whole. As Natura naturata, the whole can thus be seen to depend radically on substance or Natura naturans, God or substance being at the same time immanent and transcendent.

What is affirmed of God in Spinoza’s rationalistic metaphysics is basically that only God or Nature deserves to be called substance, causa sui, free and eternal – all names which we undeservedly give to ourselves in our anthropocentric conceit. In applying these names to Nature as a substantive whole, Spinoza somehow “individualizes” the whole of things in which we live; this proves to be very important in the relationship between metaphysics and intuitive knowledge. In his metaphysical treatises, Spinoza shows – in the light of the objectifying insights of metaphysics and physics – how to reinterpret the old ethico-religious and metaphysical notions and problems such as God, Providence, mind and body, intellect and will, rationality, freedom, immortality. There interpretation should ensure that all traces of anthropocentrism disappear. Yet, Spinoza was well aware that metaphysics, though for him a strictly cognitive project using the one scientific method, mos geometricus, had to be relevant to the search for salvation. As the continuation and the explication of the anti-anthropocentrism already present in the scientific attitude, this cognitive project was of direct relevance to the problem of salvation. Spinoza was aware that a kind of pedagogical steering of the cognitive project was necessary to arrive at the ultimate aim – salvation through contemplation – as quickly as possible: “I pass now to explaining those things which must necessarily follow from the essence of God, or [sive] the infinite and eternal Being – not, indeed, all of them …, but only those that can lead us, by the hand, as it were, to the knowledge of the human Mind and its highest blessedness” (EIIpref). This guidance of the project leads to the development of a human science in which man objectively understands himself as truly a mode of substance, and to the elaboration of a scientific ethics.

More Questions and Answers

question Diana St. Ruth writes the following in Tricycle: When one follows what is right according to one’s heart and good sense, when wisdom and compassion become real, not contrived, the way of heaven manifests beneath one’s feet. That is the way of liberation from suffering and the realization of genuine happiness.

answer Yes, that’s right. This is what in Advayavada Buddhism we call ‘reconciliation with Buddha-nature’. In Buddhism to follow ‘what is right’ means to follow the Noble Eightfold Path. It is necessary for us to follow the Path to realize what Buddha-nature is, for the way of heaven to manifest, as St. Ruth says. The Path is an ongoing reflexion at the level of our personal lives of wondrous overall existence becoming over time. In Advayavada Buddhism the Path is moreover seen, not as a means to become something in the future, but as the way to become as something rightaway in the herenow. The Eightfold Path is seen as the way to become oneself herenow as existence becoming over time now in its overall right direction; it is by becoming herenow as the whole of existence as it is beyond our commonly limited and biased personal experience of it, that we free ourselves from suffering and realize genuine happiness. Nirvana is when we experience our own existence as being completely in harmony with existence as a whole becoming over time – Nirvana is the ultimate reconciliation with his or her Buddha-nature achievable by man.

question How do you know that existence becomes over time ‘in the right direction’, as you say?

answer Firstly, we must agree that wondrous overall existence cannot, by definition, but be just right as it is and, secondly, that the objective of the Middle Way devoid of extremes, propounded by the Buddha as the correct existential attitude, must be to reconnect and reconcile us with existence as a whole – we can safely assume that the Buddha did not teach that there were two sets of rules at play, one for existence and one for its ‘by-product’ people! Therefore, because, in other words, the dharma of the part is not different from the Dharma of the whole, the Buddha’s Middle Way, in its dynamic Eightfold Path form, must be understood as an ongoing reflexion at the level of our personal lives of wondrous overall existence becoming over time. Now, as the Eightfold Path leads us towards better and better, it follows, inductively if you will, that, expressed purely in human terms, existence as a whole progresses over time as well. By the same logic, it also becomes quite clear that, inversely, we experience as good, right or wholesome, indeed as progress, those events which are in agreement with the overall pattern and direction of existence, that it is for this reason that they are experienced thus.

question We also have meditated and taught on many of these subjects but use different terminology. As an example you use the term ‘ever better’ and we use the term ‘more beautiful’. We do this because each person has an innate sense of what is ‘more beautiful’. You do not think about beauty, it simply is known. ‘Better’ is a term that requires the intellectual body to analyze two things based on a reference standard. For what purpose or state of being is it better? What makes the time of the plague in Europe ever better than classical Greek civilization?

answer To understand Advayavada Buddhism it is necessary to accept in the first place the preeminence of wondrous overall existence over mankind and that existence cannot, by definition, be anything but just right as it is. Secondly, that the objective of the Middle Way, being the correct existential attitude expounded by the Buddha, is the abandonment of all fixed views and to reconnect and reconcile us with wondrous overall existence – indeed, that in its dynamic Eightfold Path form, the Middle Way is an ongoing reflexion at the level of our personal lives of wondrous overall existence becoming over time. Now, as the Eightfold Path leads us towards better and better, it follows, inductively if you will, that, in human terms, existence as a whole becomes over time towards better and better as well. Inversely, we experience as good, right or wholesome those events which are in agreement with the overall indifferent pattern and direction of existence – it is for this reason that they are experienced thus. The reference standard, you see, is wondrous overall existence. It is not mankind, with its various civilizations and plagues, let alone, however well intentioned, our subjective sense of relative beauty.

More Questions and Answers

question As a Christian moral philosopher, I find very obvious evidence of sin entering the subconscious minds of humans as habits of thoughts and actions which become psychologically conditioned over time with positive reinforcements causing humans to do destructive things which are not rational. Buddhists of course do not see any such problem. That nihilism is not credible, and it promotes the problem instead of overcoming it.

answer Advayavada Buddhism maintains that by following a Path such as the Middle Way as taught by us one is able to return to the fold of an overall existence which, expressed purely in terms of human perception and experience, is undeniably sequential and dynamic in the sense of ever becoming better than before. It is an extraordinary teaching, with enormous societal implications, because the Buddhist Path is, of course, applicable, not only to individuals as you and I, but to societies as well. As things stand now, however, humanity lacks the qualities required to govern itself properly, and this fact is at present very much aggravated by the prevailing dumbing-down tendency undermining the entire Western world.

question Is it not quite apparent that there is a sin problem which is not being solved – in Buddhism as well as every place else?

answer The shambles humanity is in is, indeed, the result of sin and ignorance. The recurrence of genocide is particularly sad and disappointing. But we must be careful not to become a carrier of sin and part of the problem ourselves by refusing to place our trust in the whole, by whatever name you wish to identify it, and in the resilient natural goodness of our Buddha-nature – the major religions and beliefs, which cynically cultivate and live off the failings of humanity, including their own, are unfortunately on the rise again. Our own clear and important message and invocation is instead one of reconciliation with the wonders of overall existence. Nirvana, which is there for all, is indeed when we experience our own existence in the present moment as being completely in tune with existence as a whole becoming over time now in its right direction – the total extinction of all suffering is a direct result of our full reconciliation with reality as it truly is beyond our commonly limited and biased, and all too often sadly deluded, personal experience of it.

question I’m curious to know how dependent origination, pratityasamutpada, fits in with your idea of progress as the fourth sign of being.

answer Interdependent origination is how wondrous overall existence becomes over time. “Dependent origination is the explicability and coherence of the universe. Its emptiness is the fact that there is no more to it than that” (Jay L. Garfield, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, New York 1995). Now karma, as we see it, is our share of interdependent origination at the sentient level, including personal choices and responsibility – karma is, so to say, our stake in incessant pratityasamutpada, and what we feel and experience as good, right, wholesome, and beneficial, indeed as progress, is that which accords with the overall, otherwise indifferent, direction of existence becoming over time. The Taoist sage follows the Tao by imitating Nature – the Advayavadin understands the Noble Eightfold Path as nothing less than an ongoing reflexion at the human level, and in human terms, of the whole of existence becoming over time: the Advayavadin sees the Buddha as the prophet of existence as it truly is, as it truly is beyond our own commonly limited and biased personal experience of it.

More Questions and Answers

question I am not familiar with the term Advayavada.

answer We gave the name Advayavada Buddhism to the radical non-dual standpoint of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism to which we specifically adhere. A sound explanation of the term ‘advayavada’ can be found in for instance professor T.R.V. Murti’s The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: “The sole concern of the Madhyamaka advaya-vada is the purification of the faculty of knowing. The primordial error consists in the intellect being infected by the inveterate tendency to view Reality as identity or difference, permanent or momentary, one or many etc. These views falsify reality, and the dialectic [of the Madhyamaka] administers a cathartic corrective. With the purification of the intellect, Intuition emerges; the Real is known as it is, as Tathata [advayata; non-dual suchness] or bhutakoti [reality-limit; the extreme limit beyond which there is nothing which can be known]. The emphasis is on the correct attitude of our knowing..” It is in this sense that we use the term ‘advayavada’.

question What you say seems to me to be an essential teaching of the Mahayana in its complete form. The Unborn Infinite Reality can never be less than Perfect and Whole, and is the True Essence of all Beings, and is ever present. All that is needed is that, in perfect simplicity, we turn to That, and realize that the human manifestation of life is just an imperfect reflexion of That. Simple! but not easy. That is the problem. If we realize what we are, how do we remember to continue to realize it moment by moment, rather than seeking to hold on to the vision of the past?

answer Everything is, indeed, as right as it can be, and the Middle Way devoid of extremes is a perfect reflexion of it at the human level. As for your question, our answer would be that you must see that ‘vision of the past’ for what it really is: a highly selective subjective recollection in the present of things no longer there – please understand that life only happens Now.

question Existence progresses towards better or worse only in a dualistic sense. Life goes towards better, towards worse, only when one has expectations. Current failings? Simply a state of mind brought on by expectations and judgements. That ‘infinite Reality’ (what other reality is there?) will continue to ‘become’ exactly as it must? No, it is, it is exactly as it is.

answer You and the writer obviously do not experience the passage of time, i.e. the duration, the sum duration of the successive phenomena, in the same way. Your ‘reality is exactly as it is’ as opposed to his ‘reality will continue to become exactly as it, by definition, must’ makes this important point very clear. As a result of his prolonged and deep meditation on the true nature of reality, the writer has come to share fully and wholeheartedly the Buddhist view that existence is a constant flux of ever-changing events with no known beginning or necessary end. As a serious student of the Madhyamaka theories of existence, particularly of the concepts of emptiness, interdependent origination and the two truths, he has come to understand the Noble Eightfold Path as an ongoing reflexion at the level of his own life of existence as a whole becoming over time. By learning to follow the Eightfold Path successfully, he hopes to live every time more and more in tune with wondrous overall existence. For the Advayavadin, Nirvana is when we experience our own existence as being completely in harmony with existence as a whole becoming over time. In Buddhism, there is no static being, only dynamic becoming: to live is to become. And in Advayavada Buddhism, the Eightfold Path is moreover seen, not as a means to become something else in the future, but as a way to become as something rightaway in the herenow. The Eightfold Path is seen as a proven method to achieve the abandonment of all fixed views and to become oneself in the here and now as existence, as wondrous overall existence becoming over time now in its right direction. It is by becoming herenow as wondrous overall existence becoming over time now that we free ourselves from suffering and realize happiness.

More Questions and Answers

question I am afraid that your discovery has already been heralded by the Buddha himself, although he does not call it a fourth sign or mark. The fourth mark is sometimes rendered as ashubha, or ugliness. The Buddha identified two modes of conditionality, one which is well known and is illustrated by the Wheel of Becoming, is the 12 nidanas moving from ignorance to old age and death. The other, which is not as well known but is in the Nidana Vagga of the Samyutta Nikaya, is positive and progressive. It moves from suffering through faith, delight, joy, calmness, bliss, concentration, knowledge and vision of things as they really are, disgust, dispassion, liberation, knowledge of the destruction of the biases. The importance of this dynamic sequence is that life can be made to flow towards better. However, life does not flow towards better automatically. It has to be cultivated and worked for, which is why we have to practice the four right efforts.

answer Each school will naturally interpret in its own way the many, often conflicting sayings attributed to the Buddha in the scriptures. It would however be going too far to maintain that the Buddha ever implied that ugliness was the Fourth Mark or Sign of Being. The “disgust for things as they are” of sutta 23 of the Nidana Vagga should be understood strictly within the very limited context of one’s own personal life. And our position is that not humanity, mankind, human beings, the human manifestation of life, let alone one’s own personal life, is the measure of things in space and time, but the overall all-embracing flow of existence itself, which, quite oblivious to our exertions or, for that matter, our disgust, goes on and on in its own one right direction. We take it for granted, as explained, that there is nothing wrong with existence and that the objective of the Buddha’s Middle Way devoid of extremes was and is the abandonment of all fixed views and to reconnect and reconcile us with its true nature as it is beyond our commonly limited and biased personal experience of it.

question I wonder what your support for this interpretation of humans experiencing Nature as progress might be. There’s abundant evidence in media of various sorts — good, bad, or indifferent in quality — of people who contrarily do not experience the overall course of Nature as progressive at all, but instead as destructive and teleologically negative, especially today in conditions of global warming, cyclones, tornados, earthquakes, oceans rising, meteorites, and so on.

answer If you look closely, all those unpleasantnesses you mention do not pertain to overall existence at all but are the result of mistaken views, immorality and mismanagement. When we say how man experiences the course of Nature we of course mean man unencumbered by these contingent shortcomings and mistakes that impair his vision, understanding and accomplishments – the reference standard is overall existence and not failing mankind.

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