Daniel M. Ingram:


Experiences that might be called "non-dual" vary between people, as some will call very unitive experiences "non-dual", some very peaceful experiences "non-dual", some formless experiences "non-dual", and the like. Thus, for those who are not very careful with their phenomenology, which most practitioners aren't, lots of things can get lumped into that category, many of which are find and good and useful experiences, but to call them "non-dual" might be stretching things a bit.

As to whether or not the Buddha said "non-dual", I do not find the phrase mentioned in any translation of the Pali Canon texts I have read, which is a lot of them. That might lead people to conclude that it was nothing he was talking about, which is a point worthy of careful discussion, as I think it depends on what you think the phrase means and whether that meaning is what the Buddha was pointing to regardless of whether or not he called it the same thing.

Non-dual, at its best, and IMNHO, points to to the following aspect of things:

Duality clearly is illusory, but seeing this directly in real-time is very difficult for most. Brief glimpses arise at the Conformity Knowledge level insight just before Fruitions, less than one-second experiences of the thing, which is obviously very captivating but not satisfying. Third Path as I see it gives people a sense of the thing when walking around, but it is incomplete. Finally, at whatever you wish to call it, which I generally use the term Fourth Path for (though plenty of others don't), we have the walking around experience where dualistic perception has fully untangled itself and finally, at some point, locks in and that is it.

Unitive experiences are also very problematic, as they basically always involve a sense of this side that is now unified with that side, or has a dissolution of boundaries. Such experiences are routinely described in all jhanas, during the A&P, during Equanimity, and in states such as the formed version of Boundless Space and Boundless Consciousness, things I tag as the Boundless Space and Boundless Consciousness sub-jhanas of Equanimity, aka 11.4.5 and 11.4.6 in my own personal shorthand. These generally are transient experiences. This transience is key and brings me to the next point.

Unitive experiences are too transient, too ephemeral, to causal to hold up. They are great, interesting, sometimes produce lots of insight, but are not the final answer, as they don't hold up, are not substantial, and thus are not a refuge or resting place or final answer. They are not fundamental enough, being created things, not something that has stopped.

Dualistic experiences are too illusory, too out of alignment with the way things are, and so they too do not provide some final answer.

Thus, with One and Two ruled out, we have Non-Duality.

In this way of experiencing things, we have something that aligns with things that the Buddha taught. We have from the Udana, "In the seeing, just the seen, in the hearing, just the heard, in the thinking, just the thought," etc. In short, there are just the sensations, the transient sensations, and nothing more, no self to be unified with them, no separate thing perceiving them, just transient causality as it is, where it is, just being itself.

There are those who argue that, as the Buddha didn't explicitly use the term Non-Duality to describe this, that he was pointing to something else. However, as the term didn't exist then, it being a much more modern product of philosophical development, you can't say that he either rejected it or accepted it. Thus, we are left trying to figure out of it applies to what he said. I believe I can argue that it does.

When you have phenomena that are just phenomena, sensations that are just sensations, and there is not Duality, a this and a that, a self to control or observe or whatever, and just things doing things on their own, that rejects the Two part, obviously. So far, so good.

And, given that the Unification of Mind that the jhanas produce was clearly found by the Buddha to not be a final answer, as he learned all 8 jhanas and found them very useful and helpful but not a sufficient final endpoint, we can clearly and easily show that the Buddha rejected solution number One, that of Unity.

Thus, how is it that people say that Non-Duality, that quality that rejects both as being some endpoint, doesn't apply?

What definition of Non-Duality are you using that causes you to compare it to the experience of the thing as well as the theory of the thing and reject it?

As to people who have seen through Dualistic answers and Unitive answers and perceive reality that way all the time, yes, it can be done and there are people who have done it and walk around that way today.


4 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Do you foresee yr future spiritual path? Does yr karmic tendencies more likely bring you to decide that one day to retreat into mountains to strive fully;or will you just settle for a normal married life, together with all the responsibilities that comes with it?

  2. Soh Says:

    My role model is Layman Pang and Vimalakirti.

  3. Soh Says:

    In terms of attainments or insights, I have already reached the fourth path of MCTB, the seventh stages of Thusness, the tenth stage of the ten oxherding pictures of Zen, etc. There is no more sense of meditator or object of meditation for me, nor a separation between equipoise and daily life, only effortless actualization of the natural state. Yet the path of actualization is endless and never separate from each encounter and activity in daily life. Without entry or exit, the path of practice becomes dynamic and conditions-based.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I still think to really progress much2 farther,"mountain life" is a necessity ...u may be much farther than most ppl,but still not reach the ultimate end of the path...