Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

A place for anything that doesn't fit into the existing forums
Post Reply
User avatar
EnterZenFromThere
Posts: 854
Joined: Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:35 pm

Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by EnterZenFromThere » Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:44 am

Dear All,

I've been pondering over the differences between conceptual and experiential aspects of non-duality. By this I mean the abstract ideas of what non-duality is vs. the moment to moment life of someone emersed in this experience. It seems to me that this area is of ever increasing imoprtance as the number of teachers claiming (rightly or wrongly) to have reached a non-dual state come to light. I'm a big fan of Rick Archer's Batgap interviews and this topic comes up regularly in those. I thought it might be useful to talk about this here (apologies if this has been posted before ... it will no doubt get posted again!). I'll start with a little on my own thoughts on these two aspects of non-duality and then throw it open to the forum.

NB: My own personal reason for posting this is to practice debating a topic I feel passionately about while observing the ego - so feel free to go all out attack [if anyone wants to get personal, I wear glasses and am skinny yet with a podgy tummy]!

Conceptual: Conceptually I see the non-dual state as the permanent realisation that every object that makes up the totality of the material multiverse is simultaneously distinct and perfect AND whole and perfect. Every object within the totality is perfect in its own way and may be seen as independent from it's own perspective yet is ALSO an inseparate part of a perfect whole. This perfect whole includes all levels of consciousness from relative/gross (the level most people experience) through to the celestial layer (occupied by the impulses of intelligence who orchestrate the laws of nature and share the same space as us), the knowledge layer (I'm a little hazy no this particular aspect - input appreciated..!) and the absolute layer (beyond matter, time and space - yet all pervading in all things existing in matter, time and space). To consider any one perspective within any one layer as actually distinct from the others WITHOUT simultaneously being part of a perfect whole would still be duality. Non-duality requires the individual to understand and experience everything that arises within this totality as perfect from its own individual perspective and perfect as a part within the whole of consciousness - without favouring any particularly layer or aspect within that layer. [I'm by no means claiming to have a complete understanding of any of this - just putting across the way it appears from my perspective].

Experiential: Anyone can talk about what they believe non-duality is and then debate this against others. However, the degree to which someone has realised aspects of non-duality beyond abstract concepts can be seen in their day to day existance and interaction with others. I can talk about the celestial layer of consciousness as an idea, but if I can't describe to you what I am literally seeing at this moment then it is not my individual experiential reality (I could lie, but then my description would be lacking to someone who was having this experience). Also I can talk all day about how consciousness is whole and we are all one, but if I treat other people without compassion then non-duality is just a concept in my mind and not a lived reality. The way someone lives their life may be the best indicator as to their level of consciousness (not saying you need to be like Mother Teresa, but a loving attitude toward yourself and others when interactions arise in the moment sounds right to me).

My passion for this topic comes from seeing people talking about the absolute layer of consciousness as if it is all that is important. As it is the ground state and most fundamental it is favoured to other states - including the relative reality of our own individual existance. Free-will is ignored by some and the idea that all actions are pre-determined is sometimes used as an excuse to act selfishly [even without the knowledge of the doer]. When teaching people who have become identified only with the absolute layer of their own existance Adyashanti says they have not become fully awakened because they still perceive a duality - but now they perceive a simple and clear duality, absolute vs. everything else. The task then becomes linking the absolute and everything else into a seamless whole. There is a lyric by Maynard James Keenan (of the band Tool) which says "cold silence has a tendency to atrophy sense of compassion". My worry is that a number of people are being lost in the cold silence of an absolute duality where their sense of compassion is diminished in absolute apathy. Believing they are "there" they no longer have a desire to reach a more compete non-dual state and are "spiritual ship-wrecks". Perhaps this debate will act as something of a salvage operation...

With love,

Jack

peas
Posts: 389
Joined: Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:42 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by peas » Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:56 pm

This topic is conceptual in nature, so experientialists won't even write a reply.

User avatar
Rob X
Posts: 323
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:37 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Rob X » Wed Apr 30, 2014 3:46 pm

EnterZenFromThere wrote:Dear All,

I've been pondering over the differences between conceptual and experiential aspects of non-duality. By this I mean the abstract ideas of what non-duality is vs. the moment to moment life of someone emersed in this experience. It seems to me that this area is of ever increasing imoprtance as the number of teachers claiming (rightly or wrongly) to have reached a non-dual state come to light. I'm a big fan of Rick Archer's Batgap interviews and this topic comes up regularly in those. I thought it might be useful to talk about this here (apologies if this has been posted before ... it will no doubt get posted again!). I'll start with a little on my own thoughts on these two aspects of non-duality and then throw it open to the forum.

NB: My own personal reason for posting this is to practice debating a topic I feel passionately about while observing the ego - so feel free to go all out attack [if anyone wants to get personal, I wear glasses and am skinny yet with a podgy tummy]!

Conceptual: Conceptually I see the non-dual state as the permanent realisation that every object that makes up the totality of the material multiverse is simultaneously distinct and perfect AND whole and perfect. Every object within the totality is perfect in its own way and may be seen as independent from it's own perspective yet is ALSO an inseparate part of a perfect whole. This perfect whole includes all levels of consciousness from relative/gross (the level most people experience) through to the celestial layer (occupied by the impulses of intelligence who orchestrate the laws of nature and share the same space as us), the knowledge layer (I'm a little hazy no this particular aspect - input appreciated..!) and the absolute layer (beyond matter, time and space - yet all pervading in all things existing in matter, time and space). To consider any one perspective within any one layer as actually distinct from the others WITHOUT simultaneously being part of a perfect whole would still be duality. Non-duality requires the individual to understand and experience everything that arises within this totality as perfect from its own individual perspective and perfect as a part within the whole of consciousness - without favouring any particularly layer or aspect within that layer. [I'm by no means claiming to have a complete understanding of any of this - just putting across the way it appears from my perspective].

Experiential: Anyone can talk about what they believe non-duality is and then debate this against others. However, the degree to which someone has realised aspects of non-duality beyond abstract concepts can be seen in their day to day existance and interaction with others. I can talk about the celestial layer of consciousness as an idea, but if I can't describe to you what I am literally seeing at this moment then it is not my individual experiential reality (I could lie, but then my description would be lacking to someone who was having this experience). Also I can talk all day about how consciousness is whole and we are all one, but if I treat other people without compassion then non-duality is just a concept in my mind and not a lived reality. The way someone lives their life may be the best indicator as to their level of consciousness (not saying you need to be like Mother Teresa, but a loving attitude toward yourself and others when interactions arise in the moment sounds right to me).

My passion for this topic comes from seeing people talking about the absolute layer of consciousness as if it is all that is important. As it is the ground state and most fundamental it is favoured to other states - including the relative reality of our own individual existance. Free-will is ignored by some and the idea that all actions are pre-determined is sometimes used as an excuse to act selfishly [even without the knowledge of the doer]. When teaching people who have become identified only with the absolute layer of their own existance Adyashanti says they have not become fully awakened because they still perceive a duality - but now they perceive a simple and clear duality, absolute vs. everything else. The task then becomes linking the absolute and everything else into a seamless whole. There is a lyric by Maynard James Keenan (of the band Tool) which says "cold silence has a tendency to atrophy sense of compassion". My worry is that a number of people are being lost in the cold silence of an absolute duality where their sense of compassion is diminished in absolute apathy. Believing they are "there" they no longer have a desire to reach a more compete non-dual state and are "spiritual ship-wrecks". Perhaps this debate will act as something of a salvage operation...

With love,

Jack
Interesting article Jack, thanks.

There is some crossover here with my new topic about commitment/secondary identification.

Starseed
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:52 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Starseed » Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:08 pm

Conceptually, non-duality is easy to accept. Why ? Because the fabric of the universe is not made up of many separate pieces stitched together - it is one whole. And the objects that seem to appear on the fabric, based even on what scientists say, are just wave patterns and probable 'things' that require an observer to actualize them, so without the observer one wonders if there is anything happening at all.

Now, as far as experience goes, I don't believe for a moment anything that is said by people who claim to experience non-duality. Why ? Because these are the separate objects in the dream talking, and they want you to believe they are real and what they say is real. That is only part of the entire deceptive nature of the game of duality.

I am fine with the experience of duality, the so-called amusement park of Jed McKenna, and frankly I don't care to experience non-duality. Why ? Because if non-dual experience is so great, why did the fall into duality ever occur, and why is the return to non-duality such an impossible and unwanted task ? In fact, what passes as a path to non-dual experiencing is just another game of deception played in the amusement park, by those who are either bored with the other games (or disillusioned by the rewards that are not lasting) , or perhaps just don't know how to play well the other games (i.e. losers in some sense). Looking for eternal happiness and bliss, which is an impossibility in the world of duality is the most pointless task one can imagine.

Anyone who claims to have a non-dual experience is lying or deluded. I stand by this.

User avatar
Onceler
Posts: 2251
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:35 am
Location: My house

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Onceler » Thu May 01, 2014 2:28 am

" Life is too deep for words, so don't try to describe it, just live it." C.S. Lewis

(Take that, Peas!)
Be present, be pleasant.

User avatar
Onceler
Posts: 2251
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:35 am
Location: My house

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Onceler » Thu May 01, 2014 2:35 am

Starseed wrote:Conceptually, non-duality is easy to accept. Why ? Because the fabric of the universe is not made up of many separate pieces stitched together - it is one whole. And the objects that seem to appear on the fabric, based even on what scientists say, are just wave patterns and probable 'things' that require an observer to actualize them, so without the observer one wonders if there is anything happening at all.

Now, as far as experience goes, I don't believe for a moment anything that is said by people who claim to experience non-duality. Why ? Because these are the separate objects in the dream talking, and they want you to believe they are real and what they say is real. That is only part of the entire deceptive nature of the game of duality.

I am fine with the experience of duality, the so-called amusement park of Jed McKenna, and frankly I don't care to experience non-duality. Why ? Because if non-dual experience is so great, why did the fall into duality ever occur, and why is the return to non-duality such an impossible and unwanted task ? In fact, what passes as a path to non-dual experiencing is just another game of deception played in the amusement park, by those who are either bored with the other games (or disillusioned by the rewards that are not lasting) , or perhaps just don't know how to play well the other games (i.e. losers in some sense). Looking for eternal happiness and bliss, which is an impossibility in the world of duality is the most pointless task one can imagine.

Anyone who claims to have a non-dual experience is lying or deluded. I stand by this.
Interesting post, Starseed. I kinda agree.....I think.
Be present, be pleasant.

User avatar
TemporalDissonance
Posts: 406
Joined: Wed May 01, 2013 3:41 am

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by TemporalDissonance » Thu May 01, 2014 3:19 am

Starseed wrote:Because if non-dual experience is so great, why did the fall into duality ever occur, and why is the return to non-duality such an impossible and unwanted task ?
First: why not?

Second: why is it a "fall"?

User avatar
Psychoslice
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2014 3:47 am
Location: Australia

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Psychoslice » Thu May 01, 2014 4:25 am

Everything is one, it doesn't matter if you think its not, that's just the mind, and the mind needs duality to exist, it needs the illusion that makes the material word the way it is, after all we are an animal as the mind body organism. I think if one is happy, that is truly happy being in this illusion then why change, or believe there is non-duality, most who do become so called wakened, become that because of not being happy in their life, which is called suffering, they are the ones who need to awaken to be happy. We may dress this awakening up in all sorts of beautiful words, but it doesn't really matter, we are all one in consciousness, we cannot be anything else.

User avatar
KathleenBrugger
Posts: 604
Joined: Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:18 pm
Contact:

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by KathleenBrugger » Thu May 01, 2014 4:59 am

Interesting post Jack. I really like what (I think) you're saying. I'll restate what I heard and you can say if I'm getting it right:

First, in the conceptual, all "layers of reality" are an equally important part of the Whole. The "celestial" is not better than the "physical" or less than the "absolute." In some mysterious way each of these are distinct yet inseparably part of the seamless Whole. All are deserving of equal respect.

Second, in the experiential, when this equality is recognized, then your actions should reflect this understanding. The way you treat others shows whether you really grasp nonduality--if there is only One then the other is yourself. "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you" because they are you. Love and compassion should be a natural outflowing of the awakened experience.

This is my understanding of nonduality, so maybe I'm projecting. :D
We are ALL Innocent by Reason of Insanity
http://kathleenbrugger.blogspot.com/

Enlightened2B
Posts: 1904
Joined: Wed May 15, 2013 10:51 pm
Location: New York

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Enlightened2B » Thu May 01, 2014 6:47 am

Starseed wrote:
Anyone who claims to have a non-dual experience is lying or deluded. I stand by this.
There's no such thing as an actual 'non-dual experience'. Personally, I don't use the term non-duality anymore. Yet, many people experience clear states of no-thoughts (which is pure bliss if you ask me) which is the closest you can come to an actual 'experience' of 'non-duality'. However, it's not that you are experiencing an actual 'entity' or a 'mystical state'. All it really is, is an absence of thought which only leaves one thing left over....Pure Being/Presence/Isness/Awareness without all of the other bullshit that goes on in your mind on a daily basis. So, when you're free from thinking and merely resting in Presence/Being, life is peaceful and blissful. That's what people describe as non-dual experiences.

You've summed it up pretty well from the rest of your post.

Eternal Happiness on the other hand means that you accept life as it is right now, because it's perfect already....EVEN those moments of sadness/anger etc. that are experienced by the human mind. It's perfect because it is....what is. Of course you have the free will (within the boundaries of the laws of the universe) to make life better for yourself. But, happiness is the opposite of suffering. Suffering is when you want life to be different than it is. Happiness is when you accept life as it is....warts and all.

User avatar
Psychoslice
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2014 3:47 am
Location: Australia

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Psychoslice » Thu May 01, 2014 7:46 am

There is a so called experience beyond so called duality, its called enlightenment, if you haven't experienced it you wouldn't have a clue about it, or at least the taste of it.

peas
Posts: 389
Joined: Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:42 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by peas » Thu May 01, 2014 8:42 am

Onceler wrote:" Life is too deep for words, so don't try to describe it, just live it." C.S. Lewis

(Take that, Peas!)
Nice one!

p.s. next time try to write an original, Onceler inspired, pearl of wisdom ;-)

Phil2
Posts: 1379
Joined: Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:24 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Phil2 » Thu May 01, 2014 10:07 am

EnterZenFromThere wrote:
I've been pondering over the differences between conceptual and experiential aspects of non-duality. By this I mean the abstract ideas of what non-duality is vs. the moment to moment life of someone emersed in this experience.
Yes, there is a huge difference between 'intellectual' understanding and 'experiential' understanding.

One might 'know' intellectually that smoking is dangerous for health and still go on smoking ... but when one really understands the danger of it, he quits smoking ...

There is a saying: "the one who knows and does not act, does not know" ...
"What irritates us about others is an opportunity to learn on ourselves"
(Carl Jung)

User avatar
EnterZenFromThere
Posts: 854
Joined: Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:35 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by EnterZenFromThere » Thu May 01, 2014 12:03 pm

Peas:"This topic is conceptual in nature, so experientialists won't even write a reply."

Haha yes peas. But just because someone experiencing something do they then stop being able to understand and manipulate concepts? I'd hazard a guess that as the majority of the world are fully identified with their conceptual realities it might be helpful to be able to understand and use these concepts to point others to that which lies beyond into the experience.

Rob:"There is some crossover here with my new topic about commitment/secondary identification."

Thanks Rob I'll make sure to have a look through your posts. Does anything particularly relevant to this post stand out to you that you could share here?

Starseed:"Now, as far as experience goes, I don't believe for a moment anything that is said by people who claim to experience non-duality. Why ? Because these are the separate objects in the dream talking, and they want you to believe they are real and what they say is real. That is only part of the entire deceptive nature of the game of duality. "

Great to hear your side of things Starseed. When you say these are the separate object in the dream talking what do you take for the dream? And who is the dreamer? I'd say that every object within the dream as well as the dream as a whole and the dreamer are all valid, though limited by their own individual boundaries. Non-duality to me is not the choice of a concept or an experience or anything else being more or less true than another, just an acknowledgement of the relative boundaries of each position. As there is no denying that what is, is - then the isness within every aspect is a truth. That truth may be limited to its own perspective but that doesn't stop it from being true from its own perspective. By encompassing every object within the totality and the absolute in this way, perhaps we could be said to be being non-dual ... just my perspective - yours is perfectly valid from its own position.

Psycho:"Everything is one, it doesn't matter if you think its not, that's just the mind, and the mind needs duality to exist, it needs the illusion that makes the material word the way it is, after all we are an animal as the mind body organism. I think if one is happy, that is truly happy being in this illusion then why change, or believe there is non-duality, most who do become so called wakened, become that because of not being happy in their life, which is called suffering, they are the ones who need to awaken to be happy. We may dress this awakening up in all sorts of beautiful words, but it doesn't really matter, we are all one in consciousness, we cannot be anything else."

Hi Psycho - lovely to hear from you again. Hopefully I'm not repeating myself from last time we spoke but I was wondering whether you thought the illusion has any validity? I assume by illusion you mean the realm of form. Would you say the realm of formlessness is more valid than the realm of form? Or are you saying that if you are happy there is no need to even consider the distinction/no distinction?

Katie:"First, in the conceptual, all "layers of reality" are an equally important part of the Whole. The "celestial" is not better than the "physical" or less than the "absolute." In some mysterious way each of these are distinct yet inseparably part of the seamless Whole. All are deserving of equal respect.

Second, in the experiential, when this equality is recognized, then your actions should reflect this understanding. The way you treat others shows whether you really grasp nonduality--if there is only One then the other is yourself. "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you" because they are you. Love and compassion should be a natural outflowing of the awakened experience."


You've captured what I have tried to express beautifully here Katie :) a very simple and direct way of putting it! What you describe is how I feel about this non-duality thing at the moment. I see awakening as an evolving understanding/experience of the unbiased appreciation of what is.

Enlightened:There's no such thing as an actual 'non-dual experience'. Personally, I don't use the term non-duality anymore. Yet, many people experience clear states of no-thoughts (which is pure bliss if you ask me) which is the closest you can come to an actual 'experience' of 'non-duality'. However, it's not that you are experiencing an actual 'entity' or a 'mystical state'. All it really is, is an absence of thought which only leaves one thing left over....Pure Being/Presence/Isness/Awareness without all of the other bullshit that goes on in your mind on a daily basis. So, when you're free from thinking and merely resting in Presence/Being, life is peaceful and blissful. That's what people describe as non-dual experiences.

Eternal Happiness on the other hand means that you accept life as it is right now, because it's perfect already....EVEN those moments of sadness/anger etc. that are experienced by the human mind. It's perfect because it is....what is. Of course you have the free will (within the boundaries of the laws of the universe) to make life better for yourself. But, happiness is the opposite of suffering. Suffering is when you want life to be different than it is. Happiness is when you accept life as it is....warts and all.


Hey Enlightened. I'd agree that states of no-thought are definitely peaceful but I'm not sure this is the same thing as bliss. My understanding of it is a little limited but I know Ramana said the nature of the Self is existence-consciousness-bliss, meaning each of these three are actually one - so pure consciousness is bliss. But it is my growing understanding that to experience this directly seems to require more than just not having thoughts - immersion as the Self, abiding as pure awareness (or whatever you want to call it) is an experience where awareness of anything other than the pure self is not present. People report this in many different ways (I'm by no means trying to say I actually know what I'm talking about, or that others necessarily do either, or that you are somehow wrong and I am somehow right) but the accounts I find most believable point to something beyond no-thought states to a greater purity of awareness itself. Personally, I resonate strongly with your last paragraph and love it! Acceptance of what is includes the acceptance of thoughts that arise in you if they arise in you in the moment, and those that arise in others - it isn't about saying concepts are wrong, it's about knowing the limitations of what a concept is and about realising the depth of your true nature and how everything fits within/as this (for me anyway).

Psycho: "There is a so called experience beyond so called duality, its called enlightenment, if you haven't experienced it you wouldn't have a clue about it, or at least the taste of it."

What is your definition of enlightenment Psycho? (Aside from it being an experience beyond duality).
Phil2 wrote:There is a saying: "the one who knows and does not act, does not know" ...
This is great! Thanks Phil :) I guess you could say intellectual knowing is knowing without action and experiential knowing is knowing with action (a bit crude but I'm sure you get the gist).

Much love,

Jack

Starseed
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:52 pm

Re: Non-Duality: Conceptual vs Experiential

Post by Starseed » Thu May 01, 2014 5:47 pm

TemporalDissonance wrote:
Starseed wrote:Because if non-dual experience is so great, why did the fall into duality ever occur, and why is the return to non-duality such an impossible and unwanted task ?
First: why not?
Second: why is it a "fall"?
I don't claim to know the truth, nevertheless what I wrote assumes a certain understanding of the non-dual state, which of course is arguably impossible in our current state. So, my understanding is that the non-dual experience means not only the disappearance of the individual self (subject who perceives), but also the disappearance of the universe (objects in consciousness). The end of perceptions, of consciousness, of everything we know and perceive. When we speak of non-duality we mean there is only one, one, and only one. If there is only one, how can one experience or perceive anything else - not possible. What remains then ? Just being, aloneness, oneness. That sounds romantic for those of us who feel oppressed by our conditions. But try to imagine being in the state of oneness for aeons and aeons (if one were to quantify it in temporal terms). For us human beings, that sounds very very lonely, very very boring, and perhaps it did for the one too. Eventually, 'one' found a way to create the appearance of duality, multiplicity, and the world we know ... and the seduction (again putting it in human terms) of all that after aeons of aloneness must have been immeasurable ... so the one kept creating dream after dream and eventually became identified with the characters it created in the dream, so much so that it thinks that is all there is.

Now, this is just a story on which I based my assertions. But in reality, I don't know. I wrote my posts yesterday early morning on an impulse, like automatic writing ... perhaps the contents of my unconscious mind needed a dumping ground. I don't even believe what I wrote, because the absolute truth can simply not be encapsulated in a few words.

Post Reply