Showing posts with label David Loy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Loy. Show all posts

John tan commented on one of Adyashanti’s videos back in 2020, “ It is a good video but a bit long.  There is also genuine distinction between All as Self which is Non-dual but substantialist and no-self that is Non-dual and non-substantialist.  One does not need to take side but have to b objective and unbiased.  Hence clearly discerning the differences and implications r key to understanding how the mind reifies and how confusions arise.  Therefore on top of experiences which is quite difficult to differentiate clearly the two in experience (all as Self and No-Self) and authentication of pristine consciousness in real time, clearly seeing how the layers obscures is part and parcel of maturing our experiences and insights.”


"They point to different insights, and there are different insights even for nondual, substantialist and nonsubstantialist. David loy isnt clear about this point

His original nonduality book, he seems to confuse anatta with no mind state. Not clear about anatta as realization

He is conflating all is self with no self insight

The implications are huge [different view and realization]

(Soh: Read this article on the two different types of nondual insight, one of John Tan's 'must read' articles: 4) Realization and Experience and Non-Dual Experience from Different Perspectives )

His latest book seems to be clear about anatta realization i think

I wrote back in 2011 April,

Originally posted by An Eternal Now:

This is why I said most masters are still at the phase of substantial non-dual.

As for David Loy, he is a little unique. It could be that he has realized Anatta... but his insight is shadowed by his attempt to link up the religions (he was doing inter-religious comparison). Therefore he was unable to differentiate substantial non-dualism from anatta. In his book 'Non-duality', this is clearly the case.

However it is also likely that he is still in substantial non-dual phase.

Thusness replied:

Wow...If I am not wrong, David Loy is a qualified Zen Teacher and a Ph. D in Philosophy.  For you to make such a comment , you must be doubtless of your realization.

I am glad of your confidence and clarity of your realization.  This is the difference between having insights (clear seeing of the nature of experiential reality) and having mere experiences of no-mind and non-dual.

In my opinion, even though the insight is clear, to be like what Ted has remarked in the article Where There Is No Cold or Heat will still take some time.  Practice diligently and enter deeply into the 6 entires and exits "where there is no cold or heat".  This experience too can be as natural as breathing in our moment to moment of experience if we embrace the right view fully.  Have no doubt about it. :-)


But not everyone that realises anatta are clear about the different phases of insights, the impact of view experience realization etc.

The same for alan watts although his insights are clear

[12:16 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: U have to understand Alan Watts equates Taoism, Buddhism and Advaita as the same because he sees the beauty of unity.
[12:16 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Also, he sees a state of no-mind in all the teachings
[12:16 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Sounds like david loy
[12:16 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Yes
[12:17 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: This is not that they do not have the insights
[12:17 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: But they see the beauty
[12:18 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: However they may not differentiate insight from experience and view
[12:18 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: And may not see the importance of that...
[12:18 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: So it depends
[12:19 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: All have different conditions, how one penetrates the teaching differs.
[12:20 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: I find Alan Watts very insightful though his life doesn't reflect
[12:20 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: Lol
[12:21 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Actually I m still looking for texts that can differentiate them clearly
[12:21 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Or books
[12:22 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: On fact Malcolm is already very unique
[12:22 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Lol
[12:22 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Kyle also
[12:24 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Dzogchen however seems to equate DO from only the afflictive point of view unlike the gelug, they put lots of emphasis on DO not from afflictive perspective.
[12:25 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: DO is the king of reasoning, it is the middle path and the essence of Buddhism.
[12:26 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: texts that can differentiate advaita from emptiness/D.O.?
[12:26 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Emptiness cannot b understood apart from DO.
[12:27 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Texts or books that and differentiate experience from insight and present the view in relation to anatta experience.
[12:27 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: oic..
[12:28 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: The same experience when experienced from substantialist view will end up subsuming.
[12:30 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: But we see buddhism many spoke of a state of no mind but using DO and Emptiness not as the presentation of the right view but as a path of disassociation towards an ultimate awareness.
[12:30 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Teacher cheb seems to b that approach too.
[12:30 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: yeah..
[12:30 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: In fact Theravada teaching is more anatta
[12:30 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: ven. hui lu seems different in that regard
[12:31 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: in that video he criticised other religion eternalism and said "permanence" is simply the emptiness and dependent arising of impermanence
[12:31 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: However they r anatta in no-self but view isn't strong
[12:31 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Yes ven hui Lu is quite good
[12:31 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: oic..
[12:32 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: What I din see in hui Lu is it remains as wisdom teaching
[12:33 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Experience wise I prefer that 王洪亮?
[12:33 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: "What I din see in hui Lu is it remains as wisdom teaching" what do u mean
[12:34 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Although hui Lu comment is good and clear, anatta isn't clear.
[12:35 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: The experience no mind due to anatta insight then into DO and Emptiness is important.
[12:35 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: "

大 悟之人不见法。他没有任何东西,因为法法本空,法法不相到。也不见身。为什么?四大本空,五阴本来就没有“我”。所以,什么叫做照见五蕴皆空?色即是空, 受想行识即是空。为什么讲色即是空?色即是空,空就是佛性,色就是佛性的展现。所以,真正的悟道的人,他的心性流露在一切缘起法里面,即于生灭,即得不生 不灭的无为法,也没有所谓有为跟无为,刹那即见永恒,永恒就是刹那,平等不二。 因此我们要了解:不见法,也不见身。身,地水火风所构成的,四大本来就空,五蕴——色受想行识,本来就是不可得。一切法,智者了知一切法,本来就无我。这无我里面,当下就是佛性。所以,佛法讲否定的时候,凡所有相,皆是假相。讲肯定的时候,尘尘都是真心,每一个颗粒微尘都是真心的影现,一切法全部都是真。 当他破除无明烦恼、破除执着、破除分别的时候,完全都是真心展现的,尘尘尽是真,没有一法不是真心,这个是站在肯定的角度。站在否定的角度,是凡所有相不 可得。站在本体界的角度,凡所有相,都是本体界的展现,都是清净心的影现,没有一法不是真实。"

- ven hui lu
[12:36 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: this is still more like nondual, not anatta?
[12:36 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: I got to read
[12:36 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: What is that Zen teacher name?
[12:36 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: 洪文亮?
[12:36 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Yes
[12:37 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: U see hui Lu is speaking from highest form of teaching
[12:38 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Actually very good
[12:38 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: U should pass your mom
[12:39 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: ok
[12:40 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: I also like 洪文亮。 i think these two, hong wen liang and hui lu fa shi are the only chinese masters i really resonate lol
[12:41 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Yeah only two that is really clear
[12:41 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: But u cannot read it from ur understanding
[12:41 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: It is not suitable for many ppl
[12:41 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: What do u mean
[12:42 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: This text is very good. But not suitable for many ppl.
[12:43 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: It involves anatta insight, emptiness and DO, clarity from anatta perspective.
[12:44 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: oic..
[12:46 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: He should say 尘尘假相都是真心
[12:48 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: The text that I wrote for u to teacher Chen, paste it here
[12:52 AM, 5/19/2020] Soh Wei Yu: 深入观行, 婆酰迦经。
了悟经旨, 直指无心。
无执能所, 忘却身心。
方知见性, 只需明相。
明相见性, 见色明心。
真心空性, 随缘显相。
迷时幻相, 悟时真心。
山河大地, 原是法身。
色声香味, 尽是妙心。
[12:52 AM, 5/19/2020] John Tan: Lol


4. On Non-Dual Experience, Realization and Anatta

I have just casually gone through some of your forum discussions. Very enlightening discussions and well presentation of my 7-phases-of-insights but try not to over-emphasize it as a model; it should not be taken as a definite model of enlightenment nor should you use it as a framework to validate others' experiences and insights. Simply take it as a guide along your spiritual journey.

You are right to differentiate non-dual experience from non-dual realization and non-dual realization from the insight of anatta. We have discussed this umpteem times. Non-dual experience in the context we are using refers to the experience of no-subject-object division. The experience is much like putting two candle flames together where the boundary between the flames becomes indistinguishable. It is not a realization but simply a stage, an experience of unity between the observer and the observed where the conceptual layer that divides is temporarily suspended in a meditative state. This you have experienced.

Non-dual realization on the other hand is a deep understanding that comes from seeing through the illusionary nature of subject-object division. It is a natural non-dual state that resulted from an insight that arises after rigorous investigation, challenge and a prolonged period of practice that is specially focused on ‘No-Self’. Somehow focusing on “No-Self” will spark a sense of sacredness towards the transient and fleeting phenomena. The sense of sacredness that is once the monopoly of the Absolute is now also found in the Relative. The term ‘No-Self’ like Zen-Koan may appear cryptic, senseless or illogical but when realized, it is actually obviously clear, direct and simple. The realization is accompanied with the experience that everything is being dissolved into either:

1. An ultimate Subject or
2. As mere ‘flow of phenomenality’

In whatever the case, both spells the end of separateness; experientially there is no sense of two-ness and the experience of unity can be quite overwhelming initially but eventually it will lose its grandeur and things turn quite ordinary. Nevertheless, regardless of whether the sense of Oneness is derived from the experience of ‘All as Self’ or ‘as simply just manifestation’, it is the beginning insight of “No-Self”. The former is known as One-Mind and the later, No-Mind.

In Case 1 it is usual that practitioners will continue to personify, reify and extrapolate a metaphysical essence in a very subtle way, almost unknowingly. This is because despite the non-dual realization, understanding is still orientated from a view that is based on subject-object dichotomy. As such it is hard to detect this tendency and practitioners continue their journey of building their understanding of ‘No-Self based on Self’.

For Case 2 practitioners, they are in a better position to appreciate the doctrine of anatta. When insight of Anatta arises, all experiences become implicitly non-dual. But the insight is not simply about seeing through separateness; it is about the thorough ending of reification so that there is an instant recognition that the ‘agent’ is extra, in actual experience it does not exist. It is an immediate realization that experiential reality has always been so and the existence of a center, a base, a ground, a source has always been assumed.

To mature this realization, even direct experience of the absence of an agent will prove insufficient; there must also be a total new paradigm shift in terms of view; we must free ourselves from being bonded to the idea, the need, the urge and the tendency of analyzing, seeing and understanding our moment to moment of experiential reality from a source, an essence, a center, a location, an agent or a controller and rest entirely on anatta and Dependent Origination.

Therefore this phase of insight is not about singing eloquently the non-dual nature of an Ultimate Reality; contrary it is deeming this Ultimate Reality as irrelevant. Ultimate Reality appears relevant only to a mind that is bond to seeing things inherently, once this tendency dissolves, the idea of a source will be seen as flawed and erroneous. Therefore to fully experience the breadth and depth of no-self, practitioners must be prepared and willing to give up the entire subject-object framework and be open to eliminate the entire idea of a ‘source’. Rob expressed very skillfully this point in his talk:

One time the Buddha went to a group of monks and he basically told them not to see Awareness as The Source of all things. So this sense of there being a vast awareness and everything just appears out of that and disappears back into it, beautiful as that is, he told them that’s actually not a skillful way of viewing reality. And that is a very interesting sutta, because it’s one of the only suttas where at the end it doesn’t say the monks rejoiced in his words.

This group of monks didn’t want to hear that. They were quite happy with that level of insight, lovely as it was, and it said the monks did not rejoice in the Buddha’s words. (laughter) And similarly, one runs into this as a teacher, I have to say. This level is so attractive, it has so much of the flavor of something ultimate, that often times people are unbudgeable there.

What then is the view that Buddhism is talking about without resorting to a ‘source’? I think the post by Vajrahridaya in the thread ‘What makes Buddhism different’ of your forum succinctly and concisely expressed the view, it is well written. That said, do remember to infinitely regress back into this vivid present moment of manifestation – as this arising thought, as this passing scent – Emptiness is Form. :)

The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time
by David Loy

Philosophy East and West
Vol. 36, No. 1 (January, 1986)
pp. 13-23
Copyright 1986 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, US

p. 13
The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time

David Loy is currently engaged in research in Kamakura, Japan.

All beings are impermanent, which means that there is neither impermanence nor permanence.


One of the more interesting parallels between Eastern and Western philosophy is the same disagreement within each regarding the nature of time. More precisely, it is an ontological disagreement expressed in terms of how time is to be understood: is ceaseless change the "ultimate fact," or is there an immutable Reality behind or within such impermanence? The importance of this issue can hardly be exaggerated. In the former case, nothing escapes from the ravages of time, but with the latter time itself is in some sense illusory and unreal.
For both East and West, the answers given to this question have been fundamental to the subsequent development of philosophy, and hence of civilization itself. In ancient Greece, this disagreement found its sharpest expression in the pre-Socratic difference between Heraclitus and Parmenides.[2] Heraclitus claimed that the cosmos is in ceaseless flux, which he further identified as ever-living fire. Because of this, we cannot step into the same river twice -- a view amended by his disciple Cratylus, who argued that we cannot step into the same river once, since it is changing even as we dip our foot into it.[3] In contrast, and perhaps in response, Parmenides argued that "what is" is whole, immovable, unborn, and imperishable -- hence nontemporal -- in sharp distinction to "what is not," which is literally unthinkable.[4] This implied another distinction, between reason and the senses: one should not depend on the latter, which present the illusion of change, but should judge by the former.
Plato's "synthesis" was to combine these two alternatives into a hierarchical dualism favoring Parmenides. For example, the Timaeus distinguishes the visible world of changing and hence delusive appearances from the invisible and timeless world of mental forms which can be immediately apprehended by the purified intellect. His nod to Heraclitus is that the sensory world is granted a derivative reality -- things are the shifting shadows, as it were, of forms -- thus setting up a "two truths" doctrine which would have been anathema to Parmenides. How mystical Plato was -- what he meant by "the purified intellect" and its "immediate apprehension" -- is a controversy which will probably never be settled[5] but Western thought has yet to escape from the intellect-versus-senses duality that he reified. Few still accept the reality of such immaterial forms, but in a sense all the subsequent history of Western philosophy has been, until very recently, a search for the Being hidden within the world of Becoming.[6] Even science is a "footnote to Plato," for the same dualism can be observed in its enterprise of extracting atemporal (for example, mathematical) truths from

p. 14

changing phenomena. In many ways contemporary Western culture has reversed Plato's hierarchy, but we nonetheless remain largely determined by it.
The Eastern parallel to this is seen most clearly in the classical Indian opposition between the anitya (impermanence) of early Buddhism and the immutable Brahman of the Upaniṣads, as later systematized by the various Vedantic schools, most notably the Advaita Vedānta of Śaṅkara. T. R. V. Murti has summarized their contrasting standpoints:
There are two main currents of Indian philosophy -- one having its source in the ātma-doctrine of the Upaniṣads and the other in the anātma doctrine of Buddha. They conceive reality on two distinct and exclusive patterns. The Upaniṣads and the systems following the Brāhmanical tradition conceive reality on the pattern of an inner core or soul (ātman), immutable and identical amidst an outer region of impermanence and change, to which it is unrelated or but loosely related. This may be termed the Substance-view of reality (ātmavāda)....
The other tradition is represented by the Buddhist denial of substance (ātman)and all that it implies. There is no inner and immutable core in things; everything is in flux. Existence for the Buddhist is momentary (kṣaṇika), unique (svalakṣaṇa), and unitary (dharmamātra). The substance (the universal and the identical) was rejected as illusory; it was but a thought-construction made under the influence of wrong belief (avidyā). This may be taken as the Modal-view of reality....[7]

When we look for a resolution of these two extreme positions, however, we find a solution very different from Plato's: a "middle way" radically different because it denies not only the dualism of Plato's synthesis but also the two original alternatives. Rather than accepting the reality of both permanence and change, by combining them in a hierarchy, Mādhyamika criticizes and dismisses them both by revealing their interdependence. We are confronted with a paradox denying the very dualism that the problem takes for granted. One way to express this paradox is to say that, yes, there is nothing outside the flux, but, yes also, there is indeed that which does not change. Rather than being a contradiction, the first alternative implies the second as well, as we are able to understand once we realize the nonduality of time and "things."[8] The purpose of this article is to explain that paradox.


This article is the third in a series which analyzes the opposition between Advaita Vedānta and early Buddhism and concludes that their diametrically opposed positions are phenomenologically equivalent.[9] The contrast between the Brahmanical substance view and the Buddhist modal view has been approached through four sets of categories: self versus no-self, substance versus modes, no-causality versus all-conditionality, and now permanence versus impermanence. Both views are extreme positions, trying to resolve these problematic relations by conflating one set of terms into the other; so it is not surprising that the two turn out to be mirror images of each other.

p. 15
The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time

The anātman doctrine of Buddhism is often contrasted with the Upaniṣadic identification of ātman with Brahman (for example, tat tvam asi, "that thou art," in the Chāndogya[10]), but these two extremes turn out to be identical: the Buddhist "no-self" is indistinguishable from the "all-Self" of Vedānta, for to shrink to nothing is to become everything.[11] Later Dōgen expressed the point succinctly: "To learn the Buddhist way is to learn about yourself. To learn about yourself is to forget yourself. To forget yourself is to perceive yourself as all things."[12] This is consistent with the meditative practices of both traditions, in which students learn not to be attached to (identify with) any physical or mental phenomenon, but to "let go" of everything -- especially the dualistic sense of a subjective self (Jīva) confronting an external and objective world. Since the resulting experience is nondual, neither description is better or worse than the other.
Substance versus mode, the second set of categories, is also interdependent, with the consequence that both extremes -- the "only-Substance" of Advaita and the complete denial of svabhāva in Buddhism -- converge in precisely the same way. Śaṅkara is reduced to defining the substratum so narrowly that nothing can be predicated of Nirguṇa Brahman, which is approachable only through the via negativa of neti, neti. Brahman ends up as a completely empty ground, unchanging only because it is a Nothing from which all phenomena arise as ever-changing and hence deceptive appearances. From the perspective of Buddhism, this is śūnyatā reified into an attributeless substance which, since it has no characteristics of its own, cannot really be said to be at all. But from the perspective of Vedānta, Buddhism ignored the fact that such a ground is necessary, for, as Parmenides pointed out, nothing can arise from nothing and it is meaningless to deny all substance: something must be real. More important than the difference is that, for both, the emptiness of this "ground" -- however otherwise understood -- is also fullness and limitless richness, for it is the lack of any fixed characteristics that makes possible the infinite diversity of the phenomena which arise from "it."[13]
The third issue is a controversy over the nature of causality. The pratītyasamutpāda of early Buddhism might be labeled "all-conditionality" because it explains all phenomena by locating them within a cause-and-effect relationship: "when X exists, then Y arises." Conversely, Advaitic vivartavāda denies any real conditionality, since all effect-phenomena are merely illusory name-and-form superimpositions upon the immutable Brahman. In this case, however, the sharpest expression of the disagreement is found within Mādhyamika itself, which paradoxically both asserts and denies causality: pratītyasamutpāda is used to refute svabhāva and is identified with śūnyatā itself, yet the causal relation is also shown to be incomprehensible and is dismissed as māyā. The solution, again, is that complete conditionality is phenomenologically equivalent to a denial of all causal conditions. We use the category of causality to explain the relationships among "things," which means that the concepts of objects and causal relations

p. 16

are interdependent. Hence they stand or fall together. Once pratītyasamutpāda is used to "dissolve" svabhāva, then the lack of "thingness" in things implies a nondual way of experiencing in which there is no awareness of cause-and-effect because one is the cause/effect. Again, each pole "deconstructs" the other, and what remains is inexpressible in the dualistic categories of language.


The arguments above are dialectical; to absolutize either term by eliminating the other does not work, because each half of the duality is dependent upon the other. If one is negated, so must the other be. This shows the convergence of the Mahāyāna and Advaitic descriptions, which together provide us with the most detailed and satisfactory accounts of the nondual experience.[14] The question now is whether permanence and change are susceptible to the same approach. Are they also interdependent, so that neither is comprehensible without the other? And since the answer will obviously be yes, what does this imply about the possibility of another way of experiencing time?
Consider a solitary rock out in the middle of an ocean current, protruding above the surface of the sea. Whether one is on the rock or floating by it, it is the relation between the two that makes both movement and rest possible. Obviously, the current will be measured by the rate of movement past the rock, but the rock can be said to be at rest only if there is something else defined as moving in relation to it -- a point modern physics makes by emphasizing the relativity of perspective. Analogous to this, the concept of impermanence -- "time changing" -- also required some fixed standard against which time is measured, although such "temporal juxtaposition" is very different: I am able to determine that precisely one hour has passed only because, in looking at a clock, I compare the hand positions now with my memory of where they were before. Conversely, the concept of permanence is dependent upon impermanence because permanence implies that which persists unchanged through time -- that is, while other things change. But what is the phenomenological significance of this interdependence?
In Indian philosophy, the rock represents more than permanence and unchanging substance; it also symbolizes the self. For both Vedānta and Buddhism, the self is that which does not change, although they disagree about whether this concept corresponds to anything existent. What is most important of all is that they agree in denying any duality between rock and current, although of course they negate this duality in different ways. Buddhism denies that there is a rock, asserting that there is only a flux. The rock is a thought construction and the sense of self might be compared to a bubble which flows like the water because it is part of the water. In contrast, Advaita denies that there is anything flowing. Change cannot be ignored, but ultimately it is subrated as illusory in the realization of immutable Brahman. But neither Buddhism nor Vedānta affirms the rock in relation to the current: both deny the rock as jīva, an ego-self counterposed to

p. 17
The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time

something objective. Vedānta absolutizes the rock: it negates the flux by expanding to incorporate it -- phenomena are māyā because they are only transient name-and-form manifestations of Brahman -- but the rock can only do this by simultaneously emptying itself of all particular characteristics.
In terms of the analogy, then, Advaita and Buddhism end up with much the same thing. Whether the rock disappears or expands to encompass everything by becoming nothing, all that can be experienced in either case is the water flowing, although devalued to a greater (māyā) or lesser (śūnya) degree. But -- and here we reverse the dialectic -- if there is no rock (permanence), what awareness can there be of any current (change)? If everything is carried along together in the current, then in effect there is no current at all. This is the crucial point, to which we return in a moment.
Despite its claim of anitya, Buddhism does not merely accept time and change as we usually experience them. For all schools, saṁsāra is literally the temporal cycle of birth-and-death which is in some sense negated in nirvāṇa. For both Advaita and Buddhism, as in "illuminative" traditions everywhere, time is a problem: not an abstract problem, but a very personal and immediate one. In fact, the basic anxiety (duḥkha) of our lives can be expressed in terms of the contradiction between permanence and impermanence: on the other hand, we somehow feel that we are immortal and timeless, yet we are also all too aware of our inescapable temporality: illness, old age, death.
What is the genesis of this problem? It is the mind, or, more precisely, the ways in which our minds usually work: "... time is generated by the mind's restlessness, its stretching out to the future, its projects, and its negation of 'the present state.'"[15] But there is no future without a past; expectations and intentions are determined by previous experiences -- more precisely, by the seeds (vāsanās and saṁskāras) -- that remain from them. So Vedānta and Buddhism also emphasize the role of memory "wrongly interpreted": identifying with such memories provides the illusion of continuity -- a "life history" -- necessary to sustain a reified sense-of-self.[16] Thus past and future originate and work together to obscure the present, usually negating it so successfully that we can hardly be said to experience it -- which is extremely ironic, of course, since from another perspective all experience can only be in the present: my action may be determined by a saṁskāra, and I may anticipate some coming event, but both saṁskāra and expectation can only be experienced now. The ceaseless stream of intentionality devalues the present into simply one more moment in the sequence of causal relations, as an effect of past causes and a cause of future effects. For example, thinking usually consists of linking-thoughts-in-a-series, thus missing something about the origin and nature of this thought because it is understood only in logical (which in effect is also temporal) relation to other thoughts.[17]
The effect of this devaluation of the present is that time becomes objectified through a reversal taking place. Instead of past and future being understood as a function of present memories and expectations, the present becomes reduced to a

p. 18

moment within a "time-stream" which is understood to exist "out there" - a "container," as it were, like space, within which things exist and events occur. But in order for time to be a container, there must be a contained -- something that is "in" it -- which must be objects. And in order for objects to be "in" time, they must in themselves be atemporal -- that is, self-existing. In this way a delusive bifurcation occurs between time and "things" generally, as a result of which each gains a spurious "reality."[18] The first reified object, and the most important thing to be hypostatized as atemporal, is the "I," the sense of self as something permanent and unchanging. So the "objectification" of time is also the "objectification" of self, which discovers itself in the anxious position of being an (apparently) atemporal entity nonetheless inextricably "trapped" in time.
The best philosophical expression of this intuitive notion of "objective" time is found in Newton's conception of an absolute linear time which flows smoothly regardless of what events occur, and which is infinitely divisible.[19] This goes beyond the devaluation of the present and eliminates it completely: the present becomes a durationless instant -- or rather, a mere dividing line -- between the infinities of past and future, from which it is rescued (but only psychologically) by the "specious present" (an ironic term indeed) of E. R. Clay and William James.


If we are thus trapped in time, how can we escape? The paradoxical nondual solution is to eliminate the dichotomy dialectically by realizing that I am not in time because I am time, which therefore means that I am free from time.
Much of our difficulty in understanding time is due to the unwise use of spatial metaphors -- in fact, the objectification of time requires such spatial metaphors -- but in this case another spatial metaphor is helpful. We normally understand objects such as cups to be "in" space, which (as explained above in relation to time) implies that in themselves they must have a self-existence distinct from space. However, not much reflection is necessary to realize that the cup itself is irremediably spatial. All its parts must have a certain thickness, and without the various spatial relations among the bottom, sides, and handle, the cup could not be a cup. Perhaps one way to express this is to say that the cup is not "in" space but itself is space: the cup is "what space is doing in that place," so to speak. The same is true for the temporality of the cup. The cup is not an atemporal, self-existing object that just happens to be "in" time, for its being is irremediably temporal. The point of this is to destroy the thought-constructed dualism between things and time. When we wish to express this, we must describe one in terms of the other, by saying either that objects are temporal (in which case they are not "objects" as we usually conceive of them) or, conversely, that time is objects -- that is, that time expresses itself in the manifestations that we call objects. Probably the clearest expression of this way is given by Dōgen: "The time we call spring blossoms directly as an existence called flowers. The flowers, in turn, express the time called spring. This is not existence within time; existence

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The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time

itself is time."[20] This is the meaning of his "being-time" (uji):
"Being-time" means that time is being; that is, "Time is existence, existence is time." The shape of a Buddha-statue is time.... Every thing, every being in this entire world is time.... Do not think of time as merely flying by; do not only study the fleeting aspect of time. If time is really flying away, there would be a separation between time and ourselves. If you think that time is just a passing phenomenon, you will never understand being-time.[21]
Time "flies away" when we experience it dualistically, with the sense of a self that is outside and looking at it. Then time becomes something that I have (or do not have), objectified and quantified in a succession of "now-moments" that cannot be held but incessantly fall away. In contrast, the "being-times" that we usually reify into objects cannot be said to occur in time, for they are time. As Nāgārjuna would put it, that things (or rather "thingings") are time means that there is no second, external time that they are "within."
This brings us to the second prong of the dialectic. To use the interdependence of objects and time to deny only the reality (svabhāva) of objects is incomplete, because their relativity also implies the unreality of time. Just as with the other dualities analyzed earlier in section II, to say that there is only time turns out to be equivalent to saying that there is no time. Having used temporality to deconstruct things, we must reverse the analysis and use the lack of a thing "in" time to negate the objectivity of time also: when there is no "contained," there can be no "container." If there are no nouns, then there can be no temporal predicates because they have no referent. When there are no things which have an existence apart from time, then it makes no sense to speak of" them" as being young or old: "so the young man does not grow old nor does the old man grow old" (Nāgārjuna).[22] Dōgen expressed this in terms of firewood and ashes:
... we should not take the view that what is latterly ashes was formerly firewood. What we should understand is that, according to the doctrine of Buddhism, firewood stays at the position of firewood.... There are former and later stages, but these stages are clearly cut.[23]
Firewood does not become ashes; rather, there is the "being-time" of firewood, then the "being-time" of ashes. But how does such "being-time" free us from time?
Similarly, when human beings die, they cannot return to life; but in Buddhist teaching we never say life changes into death.... Likewise, death cannot change into life.... Life and death have absolute existence, like the relationship of winter and spring. But do not think of winter changing into spring or spring into summer.[24]
Because life and death, like spring and summer, are not in time, they are in themselves timeless. If there is nobody who lives and dies, then there is no life and death -- or, alternatively, we may say that there is life-and-death in every moment, with the arising and disappearance of each thought, perception, and act. Perhaps this is what Heraclitus meant when he said that "both life and

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death are in both our living and dying."[25] Certainly it is what Dōgen meant when he wrote that we must realize that nirvāṇa is nothing other than life-and-death, for only then can we escape from life and death.
In terms of time, this paradox can be expressed in either of two contradictory ways. We may say that there is only the present: not, of course, the present as usually understood -- a series of fleeting moments which incessantly fall away to become the past -- but a very different present which incorporates the past and the future because it always stays the same.
We cannot be separated from time. This means that because, in reality, there is no coming or going in time, when we cross the river or climb the mountain we exist in the eternal present of time; this time includes all past and present time.... Most people think time is passing and do not realize that there is an aspect that is not passing. (Dōgen)[26]
Dōgen's "eternal present of time" -- the "standing now" (nunc stans) of medieval Western philosophy -- is eternal because there is indeed something which does not change: it is always now. Alternatively, this nondual way of experiencing time may be described as living in eternity: of course, not eternity in the usually sense, an infinite persistence in time which presupposes the usual duality between things and time. There is an "eternity on this side of the grave" if the present is not devalued:
For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact of the world. If by eternity is understood not infinite temporal duration but non-temporality, then it can be said that a man lives eternally if he lives in the present.[27]


So the eternity we seek has always been "with" us -- closer to us than we are to ourselves, to paraphrase Eckhart -- for all we need to do is forget ourselves and realize that which we have always been. But because of the habitual restlessness of our minds, we are not able to experience the present -- to be the present -- and so we over look something about it. Due to anxious thought construction and thought projection, our kangaroo minds seize on one thing and then jump to another. In this state of attachment, we experience the true nature neither of that thing reified by our fixation, nor of the mind which fixates, nor of the "eternal now" within which all these fixations must occur -- for if we did experience their true nature we would realize these three to be the same "thing."
What would such a nondual experience be like? Not the static "block universe" which has been unfairly attributed to Parmenides, for there would still be transformation, although experienced differently since one is the transformation rather than an oberserver of it. In fact, such change would be a smoother, more continuous flux, since the mind would not be jumping, staccato-fashion, from one perch to another in order to fixate itself. In one way, nothing would be different: "I" still get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work, and so forth. But there

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The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time

would be something timeless about all these activities: "in changing it is at rest" (Heraclitus, fragment 84a). In place of the apparently solid "I" that does them, there would be an empty and immovably serene quality to them.[28] The experience would not be of a succession of events (spring does not turn into summer) but of just this one thing (tathatā) which effortlessly transforms itself into another just-this-one-thing.[29] To live (in) the Now-which-does-not-fall-away is freedom, for in the "eternal present" there is nothing to gain or lose. Gain and loss are the external projections of hope and fear, which "hindrances in the mind" (Heart sutra) depend on negating the Now.
So Heraclitus/Buddhism and Parmenides/Vedānta are both right: there is nothing outside the incessant flux, yet there is also something which does not change at all: the "standing now." That which transcends time turns out to be time itself. This breathes new life into Plato's definition (one of the oldest) in the Timaeus: time is indeed the moving image of eternity, provided that we do not read into this any duality between the moving image and the immovable eternity. In Buddhist terms, life-and-death are the "moving image" of nirvāṇa. This paradox is possible because, as with all other instances of subject-object nonduality, to forget oneself and become something is at the same time to realize its emptiness and "transcend" it.[30]
The problem with this conclusion, from a Mādhyamika point of view, is that it leaves us with something: "both ... and," however paradoxical and anti-hierarchical, is still a solution. And as long as we identify any view as correct, our attachment to such ideas keeps us from the nondual experience to which it points. Therefore it seems better to turn each half of the assertion against the other, in order to negate any attempt at a successful description: no, there is nothing permanent, for everything is in flux; and no, also, there can be no flux if there is nothing to be in it. Each alternative deconstructs the other, leaving no residue of "lower truth" to interfere with the inexpressible "higher truth." In classical Mādhyamika fashion, the analysis is parasitic upon the problematic duality and ends in a silence which reveals a different way of experiencing. In this way, the philosophical problem of time -- fundamentally, the relation between "things" and "time" -- is not answered, but it is ended.


1. Nāgārjuna, Śūnyatāsaptati, verse 58.
2. Such, at least, is the traditional interpretation of their views, which has recently been questioned -- notably by Heidegger, who claims there is no such disagreement. This article could be used to support such a reinterpretation, for it could be argued that its conclusions are compatible with the fragments that remain of both Heraclitus and Parmenides, and perhaps even offers a more consistent interpretation of their claims.
3. For the same reason, Cratylus also concluded that language can never describe reality, since words are an attempt to fix that which never stops changing. So at the end of his life he no longer spoke but just "wagged his finger."

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4. Aristotle's description of Parmenides is as accurate a summary Nāgārjuna:
Some earlier philosophers, e.g., Melissus and Parmenides, flatly denied generation and destruction, maintaining that nothing which is either comes into being or perishes; it only seems to us as if this happens. (De Caelo, 298 B14)
They say that no existing thing either comes into being or perishes because what comes into being must originate either from what exists or from what does not, and both are impossible: what is does not become (for it already is), and nothing could come to be from what is not. (Physics, 191 A27)

5. Thomas McEvilley makes a strong case for Plato as a Mādhyamika, in "Early Greek Philosophy and Mādhyamika," Philosophy East and West 31, no. 2 (April 1981): 149-152.
6. Nietzsche was the first to emphasize this, and even his own "Eternal Recurrence" may be seen as yet another, and more desperate, attempt to wrest a Being from the flux of Becoming.
7. T. R. V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London: Alien and Unwin, 1960), pp. 10-11.
8. That Śaṅkara's and other Vedantic systems were elaborated after Mādhyamika, and even utilized much of Nāgārjuna's dialectic, does not deny the fact that Mādhyamika is a synthesis of the two extremes, as Murti has shown. With regard to historical influence, the comparison with Plato is also apt: the Mahāyāna resolution did not prevail in India, but its influence elsewhere -- Tibet and environs, China, Mongolia. Korea, and Japan -- has been incalculable.
9. "Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta: Are Nirvāna and Moksha the Same?" International Philosophical Quarterly 22, no. I (March 1982); "The Paradox of Causality in Madhyamika," International Philosophical Quarterly 25, no. I (March 1985).
10. Chāndogya Upaniṣad, Vl.viii.7ff.
11. Of course this insight is not confined to the Indian tradition: "As long as I am this or that, or have this or that, I am not all things and I have not all things. Become pure till you neither are nor have either this or that; then you are omnipresent and, being neither this nor that, are all things" (Eckhart). "Here we see that solipsism coincides with pure realism, if it is strictly thought out. The I of solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and what remains is the reality coordinate with it...." "... [A]t last I see that I too belong with the rest of the world, and so on the one side nothing is left over, and on the other side, as unique, the world. In this way idealism leads to realism if it is strictly thought out" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1914-1916 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961), 2.9.16 and 15.10.16).
12. Dōgen Zenji, Shōbōgenzō, Vol. I, trans. Nishiyama and Stevens (Sendai, Japan: Daihok-kaikaku, 1975), p. 1.
13. Perhaps Heraclitus is making the same point in fragments 67 and 65: "God is ... fullness/emptiness." "Fullness and emptiness are the same thing."
14. They are so similar that some scholars perceive them as two moments in the evolution of the same nondual philosophy: "Buddhism and Vedānta should not be viewed as two opposed systems but only as different stages in the development of the same central thought" (Chandradhar Sharma, A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976), chap. 17, p. 318, defends this point of view). "I am led to think that Śaṅkara's philosophy is largely a compound of Vijñānavāda and Śūnyavāda Buddhism with the Upaniṣad notion of the permanence of the self superadded" (S. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975), Vol. I, pp. 493-494). Sharma is sympathetic to this nondualist tradition; Dasgupta is critical of it.
15. Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), vol. 1, p. 45. Arendt is describing Plotinus and Hegel, but the quotation also fits the nondualist Eastern traditions.
16. For example, the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra attributes saṁsāra to memory "wrongly interpreted," and Śaṅkara's definition of māyā in the Brahmasūtrabhāṣya makes the same point in terms of superimposition (adhyāsa).
17. "In the exercise of our thinking faculty, let the past be dead. If we allow our thoughts, past, present and future, to link up in a series, we put ourselves under restraint. On the other hand, if we never let our mind attach to anything, we shall gain deliberation" (Hui Neng, Platform Sutra, chap. 4). This is issue is discussed in detail in "Nondual Thinking," forthcoming in the Journal of Chinese Philosophy.
18. Heidegger finds the same duality at the origin of Greek philosophy:

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The Mahāyāna Deconstruction of Time

"... even the very relation between presencing and what is present remains unthought. From early on it seems as though presencing and what is present were each something for itself. Presencing itself unnoticeably becomes something present.... The essence of presencing, and with it the distinction between presencing and what is present, remains forgotten.
The oblivion of Being is the oblivion of the distinction between Being and beings." ("The Anaximander Fragment," in Early Greek Thinking, trans. Krell and Capuzzi (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), p. 50; Heidegger's emphasis)

So Heidegger sees the interdependence of presencing and what-is-present, but he does not further deconstruct the duality because he still wants to maintain an ontological distinction between Being and beings.
19. A possible objection here, that I am confusing "psychological time" with "objective (e.g., Newtonian) time," presupposes the very duality that this article challenges.
20. Masunaga Reiho, The Soto Approach to Zen (Tokyo: Layman Buddhist Society Press, 1958), pp. 68-69.
21. Shōbōgenzō, op. cit. pp. 68-69.
22. Mūlamadhyamikakārikā, XIII 5.
23. Dōgen, Shōbōgenzō, p. 2.
24. Ibid.
25. And perhaps not. The source is Sextus Empiricus (Pyrr. Hyp. Ill 230): "Heraclitus says that both life and death are in both our living and dying; for when we live our souls are dead and buried in us, but when we die our souls revive and live." The gloss makes the first statement much more pedestrian, but it may not be Heraclitus' own.
26. Dōgen, Shōbōgenzō, pp. 69, 70.
27. Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1914-1916, p. 75e, 8.7.16.
28. This is the wu-wei of Taoism, discussed further in "Wei-Wu-Wei: Nondual Action," Philosophy East and West 35, no. 1 (January 1985).
29. The argument of this article uses Mādhyamika dialectic, but the same points could be made in terms of Yogācāra's trisvabhāva doctrine. The imaginary world of parikalpita is our usual dualistic experience of a collection of discrete things causally interacting in space and time. The interdependent world of paratantra is experiencing a space/time continuum of causal interrelationships, distinguishable but no longer separable (Indra's web). The perfected world of parinispanna negates space/time and causality: there is just this one thing (each interstice-jewel contains the whole of Indra's web).
30. This suggests a "solution" to Zeno's paradoxes, which presuppose a realist -- that is, objectified -- conception of time. Quantification into a succession of finitely (atomism) or infinitely (continuum) divisible moments is inevitable if time is a "thing" and thus obviously composed of parts, but no collection of such units can ever add up to the flux of an event. As Nāgārjuna also pointed out, the basic problem is that continuity can never be established between such discrete moments, regardless of their duration. The error was to presuppose that the "now" is merely a unit of time, one of a sequence of moments successively falling away. Of course, this does not refute Zeno. His paradoxes prove just what he wanted: as his teacher Parmenides argued, time as something objective, that things are "in" is unreal.