Here I summarised, and here I referenced, this little essay by Bhikkhu Bodhi: Dhamma and Non-duality (the first four paragraphs seem to be about Advaita Vedanta, the remainder about "Mahayana Buddhism").
The first time I referenced it was for a question about non-duality, and the second for a question asking whether "enlightenment" (which I took to include, "nearly enlightened behaviour") is the same for all schools of Buddhism -- because it seems to contrasting Mahayana with Theravada.
I guess it's likely that what Ven. Bodhi wrote is partly true, but written from a Theravada point of view.
I was wondering whether you could read and critique the essay (or if that's too much, especially the bits of it which I quote below); for example:
- Is it (or are bits of it) misleading or wrong?
- Are bits of it unclear, could be better expressed?
- Does it focus on (put undue emphasis on) the wrong thing, e.g. "non-duality")? Or does it concentrate on atypical examples, or on outliers that it's better to ignore, e.g. "crazy wisdom"?
At least one or two people here thought it was wrong:
Bhikhu Bodhi views on Mahayana are false and denigrate Mahayana. In fact, emptiness in Mahayana is empty itself. Therefore in Virtue it doesn't reject rules, but only shows their conditional (empty) nature. In Meditation, it doesn't refute that causes lead to effects, it only shows their conditional (empty) nature, which helps to abandon them, for example, instead of keeping attempts to battle them. So Mahayana doesn't refute the truths of Buddha, it only shows better ways to their realization. In Wisdom, true reality is NOT the One. "The One" is just an illusory idea. Be careful.
I'm not sure I understand all of this comment/explanation though; for example, does it suggest that the rules of virtue are empty (conditional)? Does it say that causes are empty, or that effects are empty, or is it that Pratītyasamutpāda itself is empty, and what exactly should be abandoned? Does "abandon that which is empty" suggest that the rules of virtue too should or can be abandoned, and if so isn't that partly (or even mainly) what Ven. Bodhi seems to be complaining or puzzled about?
Here's a quote from Wings to Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
The regularity of the Dhamma, here, denotes the causal principle that underlies all "fabricated" (saṅkhata) experience, i.e., experience made up of causal conditions and influences. Knowing this principle means mastering it: one can not only trace the course of causal processes but also escape from them by skillfully letting them disband. The knowledge of Unbinding is the realization of total freedom that comes when one has disbanded the causal processes of the realm of fabrication, leaving the freedom from causal influences that is termed the "Unfabricated."
I understand that to mean:
- Observe (fabricated) phenomena
- See the causal processes
- Make choices which lead toward cessation
To that extent I thought that Pratītyasamutpāda itself isn't empty nor abandoned -- instead it's used. And the whole doctrine is dualistic -- things are skilful or unskillful, wise or unwise, right or wrong, attentive or inattentive, leading to cessation or not, etc.
So, for example, this time from Dhamma and non-duality again:
When we investigate our experience exactly as it presents itself, we find that it is permeated by a number of critically important dualities with profound implications for the spiritual quest. The Buddha's teaching, as recorded in the Pali Suttas, fixes our attention unflinchingly upon these dualities and treats their acknowledgment as the indispensable basis for any honest search for liberating wisdom. It is precisely these antitheses — of good and evil, suffering and happiness, wisdom and ignorance — that make the quest for enlightenment and deliverance such a vitally crucial concern.
The bits of the essay where he seems to me especially critical of (or misunderstanding of) what he perceives as a non-dual doctrine of Mahayana are:
Such distinctions, it is said, are valid only at the conventional level, not at the level of final realization; they are binding on the trainee, not on the adept. Thus we find that in their historical forms (particularly in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra), philosophies of non-duality hold that the conduct of the enlightened sage cannot be circumscribed by moral rules. The sage has transcended all conventional distinctions of good and evil. He acts spontaneously from his intuition of the Ultimate and therefore is no longer bound by the rules of morality valid for those still struggling toward the light. His behavior is an elusive, incomprehensible outflow of what has been called "crazy wisdom."
Since, for the non-dual systems, distinctions are ultimately unreal, meditation practice is not explicitly oriented toward the removal of mental defilements and the cultivation of virtuous states of mind.
The meditative themes that ripple through the non-dual currents of thought declare: "no defilement and no purity"; "the defilements are in essence the same as transcendent wisdom"; "it is by passion that passion is removed."
In the non-dual systems the task of wisdom is to break through the diversified appearances (or the appearance of diversity) in order to discover the unifying reality that underlies them. [...] For such systems, liberation comes with the arrival at the fundamental unity in which opposites merge and distinctions evaporate like dew.
In the Ariyan Dhamma wisdom aims at seeing and knowing things as they really are (yathabhutananadassana). Hence, to know things as they are, wisdom must respect phenomena in their precise particularity. Wisdom leaves diversity and plurality untouched. It instead seeks to uncover the characteristics of phenomena, to gain insight into their qualities and structures. It moves, not in the direction of an all-embracing identification with the All, but toward disengagement and detachment, release from the All.