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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:

  • Virtue:

    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."

  • Meditation:

    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."

  • Wisdom:

    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.

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Ven. Bodhi:

This is the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara and Nirvana, defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment. For the Mahayana, the enlightenment which the Buddhist path is designed to awaken consists precisely in the realization of this non-dualistic perspective. The validity of conventional dualities is denied because the ultimate nature of all phenomena is emptiness, the lack of any substantial or intrinsic reality, and hence in their emptiness all the diverse, apparently opposed phenomena posited by mainstream Buddhist doctrine finally coincide: "All dharmas have one nature, which is no-nature."

There is no such claim in Mahayana, that is incorrect understanding of non-duality.

If person skips pieces of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā dealing with concepts of identity (ekatva) and difference (nanatva) in chapters MMK22 (tathagata) and MMK24 (four truths) where Nagarjuna prepares us for MM25 and specifically MMK25.19-20, then one gets opaque and incorrect understanding of Nagarjuna's treatise. There are also vast concerns and disputes raised by scholars on correctness of Stcherbatsky's analysis and K. K. Inada's translation, but it is a topic for a different discussion.

On Buddhist school differences. Everyone that wants to reconcile Theravada and Mahayana should read some of Third Turning of the Wheel sutras for their purpose was to reconcile the two schools. These sutras are a fundament of Yogacara school which is present in Mahayana for the most part.

For instance, Samdhinirmocana Sutra:

Character of compound realm of the ultimate is a character devoid fo sameness and difference. Those who impute sameness or difference are improperly oriented.

(...)

Suviśuddhamati, for instance, it is not easy to designate the whiteness of a conch as being a character that is different from the conch or as being a character that is not different from it. As it is with the whiteness of a conch, so it is with the yellowness of gold.

You cannot separate yellowness from gold, they are dependent on each other. So key point here is that, non-duality means that things are not one, but neither they are different - they are somehow composite. And this is the Middle way. Bad cannot exist on it's own, for the concept of Good has to exist, so they complement each other on the layer of dependency. Consciousness cannot exist on its own, for it to exist there must be all other Skandhas to form a sentient being; it cannot be ripped apart and exist on its own as consciousness. And so on.

If we watch World Cup and cheer for one team watching a game, it is easy to generate ill-will towards players and fans of other team, but in truth, without Team B there wouldn't be a game of football. It is humanity playing a game in which it doesn't have to be Us against Them, let the better team win in fair play and everyone be merry. Here, Team A and B are different, but same as well, they are all football players and human beings. Non-duality generates compassion, for it takes into account totality and complexities of dependent origination and cause and effect.

Now, on getting touch with the reality and non-conceptuality:

Suviśuddhamati, if the character of the compounded and the character of the ultimate were different, then the ultimate character within all characters of compounded things would not be their general character.

Here, non-dual way is to look deeply into Emptiness as the realm of ultimate is the common characteristic of all things. It is the origin of all things. So our conceptual visualisations are typically not different from the ultimate truth, but they are not the same either. And this is the Middle way. Insight into ultimate takes us to the middle way between the two where we experience realm of suchness. The realm where we see past delusions of inherently existent phenomena.

Let's spin the Wheel:

  1. One makes things into objects, so one can be a subject. I attach to signs. I see the mountains. First turning of the wheel.
  2. One then understands how things are not fully expressed by mere concepts. I detach from signs. I don't see the mountains. Second turning of the wheel.
  3. One understands that conceptual objects lack real representations of things and goes beyond them, reconciling ultimate with contextual. I see the mountains again. I attach to signs through lens of three natures: Signs have Imaginary nature. Signs have Dependent nature. Signs have Truly Existent nature. Third turning of the wheel.

Such non-conceptual (but conceptual also!) way is purest way of experiencing compassion by getting in touch with suchness. The ultimate of love, compassion and joy cannot be expressed with boxed and sliced compartments of signs and words. They need context and that is experienced by insight into Emptiness. There is essence beyond speech and thoughts and words and expressions cannot reach it. It is the things as they are.

If we understand, transcending limitations of fixed dual concepts and go can go forth through prejudices; we are neither same, nor different from each other. We are not different from the world. Example here: I need to be ecologist and take care of the planet because I consume nature's crops, resources, but also I am built of nature's elements; water and oxygen. Now everything depends upon me and my life has great purpose.

  • You say, “There is no such claim in Mahayana.” Yes, there is. Specifically Verses 19 and 20 of chapter 25 of Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way. Venerable Bodhi’s paraphrase saying they are not ultimately different is fine even if the language is a bit imprecise. Also, the Third Turning is not definitive teaching. Nagarjuna’s treatise is the definitive teaching on emptiness and needs no reconciliation. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 3 '18 at 21:00
  • No, there is a phrase but not the teaching itself. Therefore there isn’t such claim. These aren’t one and the same without distinction as this is simply nihilism and Buddha taught middle way. – user13383 Aug 3 '18 at 21:08
  • Every verse in the MMK has meaning and is important. I agree that samsara and nirvana aren’t the same without distinction. Nevertheless, ultimately speaking they are exactly the same without distinction. Why? Because they do not exist ultimately... that is neither can withstand ultimate analysis. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 3 '18 at 21:20
  • As for Third turning of the wheel is definite teaching for anyone that recognises Yogacara philosophy in any way. And it is pretty much omnipresent in Mahayana, though not some much in Vajrayana. – user13383 Aug 3 '18 at 21:21
  • But again you talk ultimately, yes ultimately pretty much so, but we have concepts we have to validate against ultimate, therefore we can only come in the middle to become disillusioned and beyond conceptual. – user13383 Aug 3 '18 at 21:23
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Modern Mahayana as practiced today has several sub-schools which are not always in agreement about various points of doctrine. Moreover, you can find practitioners of these various traditions on this forum. Venerable Bodhi to his great credit acknowledges this right up front in his essay. With this in mind I'll try and give the critique from my specific school of the Tibetan Gelug viewpoint as I understand it. Mind you, I'm just a Buddhist patzer so please take with a grain of salt.

I have great respect for Venerable Bodhi and so I want to couch any critique of his essay with this disclaimer as well as note that it was written quite a few years ago. I would be highly surprised if Venerable Bodhi's position hasn't changed quite a bit since 1998. I believe he acknowledged as much in helping to give the Theravada viewpoint in Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions.

Now, the first thing I would vehemently dispute is this:

The Mahayana schools, despite their great differences, concur in upholding a thesis that, from the Theravada point of view, borders on the outrageous. This is the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara and Nirvana, defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment. For the Mahayana, the enlightenment which the Buddhist path is designed to awaken consists precisely in the realization of this non-dualistic perspective. The validity of conventional dualities is denied because the ultimate nature of all phenomena is emptiness, the lack of any substantial or intrinsic reality, and hence in their emptiness all the diverse, apparently opposed phenomena posited by mainstream Buddhist doctrine finally coincide: "All dharmas have one nature, which is no-nature."

The keyword that deserves special emphasis in the above is, "there is no ultimate difference." This is undoubtedly taken from Nagarjuna's Fundamental Treatise and has been misunderstood. The point is that in terms of essence or inherent existence that Samsara and Nirvana are exactly the same: they both utterly lack essence. Nevertheless, Samsara and Nirvana are very, very, very different and Mahayana does not make the outrageous claim that they are exactly the same. To think otherwise is to have mishandled the snake of shunyata to disastrous effect. Furthermore, it is not at all true that Mahayana holds that the, "validity of conventional dualities is denied." Quite the opposite! Conventional dualities exist. They are important. Suffering and Happiness exist. To deny this is tantamount to denying refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha ie., it is a terrible fallacy. Nevertheless, conventional dualities are exactly that: conventional! They do not have any ultimate inherent existence. If they did, they would not be conventional dualities, but rather ultimate or inherent dualities.

Another big dispute I have with Venerable Bodhi's presentation is this:

The teaching of the Buddha as found in the Pali canon does not endorse a philosophy of non-dualism of any variety, nor, I would add, can a non-dualistic perspective be found lying implicit within the Buddha's discourses.

This is wrong. You can find in the pali canon teachings on the very same doctrine of emptiness that Nagarjuna expands upon in his Fundamental Treatise. Everything Nagarjuna asserts in the Mahayana has its core foundation in the suttas found in the pali canon.

Now, for something that I completely agree with from Venerable Bodhi's essay:

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.

Well said! This deserves extra emphasis and is entirely in keeping with the Mahayana perspective. Buddhism is the empirical practice of studying the problem of suffering and existence and finding an antidote. It is based upon reason and personal verification of truths that have been discovered. It is a path to be walked and finally completed. Denying the existence of these important dualities will lead to a dead end at best and the Avici hell at worst.

So if Buddhism is a practical empirical matter, then why does the Mahayana emphasize the doctrine of emptiness which seems to be an etherial metaphysical issue divorced from practical consequence? Precisely because the great Spiritual Heroes of the past have discovered through empirical practice and verification that the only way to uproot suffering is to directly realize the utter lack of inherent existence in all of those critically important conventional dualities mentioned above. Directly realizing the emptiness in all things is emphasized precisely because it is a practical necessity to completing the spiritual path for all of our soteriological aims.

Continuing on I would dispute this:

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."

This is wrong. What does it even mean to say that conventionally existent things are only binding on the trainee and not the adept?? This sounds again like someone has grasped the snake of emptiness incorrectly.

What is the foremost warning given repeatedly over and over and over in the Mahayana literature in the gravest possible language: that surmising emptiness to mean that conventional existents like karma, rebirth, virtuous conduct, etc are ultimately non-existent therefore it doesn't matter how you behave is completely wrong and indicates anyone surmising so has grasped the snake of shunyata incorrectly leading them directly to the Avici hell.

There is a reason this is emphasized and repeated over and over. It acts as a guidepost or a handrail against the very real danger of misunderstanding emptiness which sentient beings are prone to do. If you think emptiness means that those conventional existents are trivialities to be ignored by adepts, then you have reached an incorrect understanding friend and this way lies dragons. Turn back!!!

I'll leave it at that. I don't deny that there are practitioners of Mahayana who have - to profound sorrow and regret - mishandled the snake of emptiness just as Venerable Bodhi seems to be stating in his essay. What I'd dispute is that all Mahayana adherents who study emptiness arrive with this mistaken grasp on the snake of emptiness.

Moreover, I'd assert - contrary to the essay - that grasping the snake of emptiness correctly and directly realizing the lack of inherent existence in all phenomena is a matter of paramount practical necessity for entering into the complete and ultimate enlightenment.

Hope this helps!

  • Re. what you called your second "big dispute" -- the Pali canon does literally talk about "emptiness" more than once; but does it talk about "a non-dualistic perspective"? Does emptiness count as "a philosophy of non-dualism of any variety"? I'm confused, partly because you said that e.g. the fact that suffering and happiness are both empty doesn't make them the same (doesn't make them non-dual) ... which implies that emptiness and non-duality aren't the same thing? – ChrisW Aug 3 '18 at 23:08
  • I don’t use the phrase non-dual or dualistic, but the way Venerable Bodhi used them I assumed was analogous to what we refer to as ultimate existents vs conventional existents. Maybe he meant something else... – Yeshe Tenley Aug 3 '18 at 23:17
  • Thanks. Wikipedia suggests it's a term of broad meaning, different meanings in different religions. Perhaps I should assume that it's not only not used in the Pali canon, it's also not used in Mahayana (i.e. that there are only various other more specific terms used). But in comments like this you used "non-duality" as if it were an orthodox term ... maybe you meant to use a different word there. – ChrisW Aug 3 '18 at 23:27
  • Yeah, I meant emptiness sorry. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 4 '18 at 0:38
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I don't see any issue from Ven. Bodhi's "Dhamma and NonDuality" essay. He simply stated the obvious and any serious Mahayanist would have to agree. Why? because even in Mahayana, there's a famous case study designed specifically to caution their practitioners about the danger of the double-edged NonDuality sword. It's called "Pai-Chang's Fox". Five hundreds lifetimes as a wild fox just because of one wrong view is a strong enough lesson for a high-ranking venerable to finally realize the meaning of "Suffering is the same as Nibbana"...:-):

Every time Baizhang, Zen Master Dahui, gave a dharma talk, a certain old man would come to listen. He usually left after the talk, but one day he remained. Baizhang asked, "Who is there?"

The man said, "I am not actually a human being. I lived and taught on this mountain at the time of Kashyapa Buddha. One day a student asked me, 'Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?' I said to him, 'No, such a person doesn't.' Because I said this I was reborn as a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. Reverend master, please say a turning word for me and free me from this wild fox body." Then he asked Baizhang, "Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?"

Baizhang said, "Don't ignore cause and effect."

Immediately the man had great realization. Bowing, he said, "I am now liberated from the body of a wild fox. I will stay in the mountain behind the monastery. Master, could you perform the usual services for a deceased monk for me?"

Baizhang asked the head of the monks' hall to inform the assembly that funeral services for a monk would be held after the midday meal. The monks asked one another, "What's going on? Everyone is well; there is no one sick in the Nirvana Hall." After their meal, Baizhang led the assembly to a large rock behind the monastery and showed them a dead fox at the rock's base. Following the customary procedure, they cremated the body.

  • Hmm, I'd say Venerable Bodhi has correctly diagnosed how some Mahayana practitioners misunderstand non-duality to disastrous effect. The issue I take is that Venerable Bodhi does not acknowledge in his essay that it is possible to understand non-duality correctly. Indeed, that it is necessary to do so in order to attain enlightenment. See my answer. Do you agree? – Yeshe Tenley Aug 3 '18 at 13:55
  • I think the Pai-Chang's case study pretty much spoke for itself. If a high ranking Buddhist master still paid a dear price for misunderstanding Nonduality, how much more careful should us common folks be toward the concept. It's certainly not the teaching for novices and so I wouldn't even bother wrestling with it for now. Ven. Bodhi was right, we should stick to the tried-and-true 4NT, 8FNP and when the time is right, Nonduality will take care of itself automatically. – santa100 Aug 3 '18 at 14:03
  • @YesheTenley - I feel your comment is spot on. I may add an answer later but for now my comment would be that I agree with your comment. The essay embodies some serious misunderstandings. To be honest I'm surprised at the extent of the misunderstanding, . – PeterJ Feb 5 at 10:25
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I believe that non-duality exists in the Pali Canon based on the various not-self teachings. For example, the Pañcavaggi Sutta elaborates on how the self cannot be found in various phenomenon.

"Form, monks, is not self. If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.' But precisely because form is not self, form lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.'

...

"What do you think, monks — Is form constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?" "Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

I admit that is not explicitly stated in this sutra, but I believe that this is where non-duality naturally arises. Because duality requires a frame of reference on the world that generates such distinctions. This "frame of reference" is a type of misapprehended self. For example, declaring some form as mine or yours is the most obvious. But this is true of the claim that something is pure of defiled. One that identifies as disliking ketchup would consider French fries with ketchup as defiled, another would consider them "purified" by ketchup (please forgive the overextended metaphor).

Once one removes themselves from such fixed views, then one opens the door to dispassion and the end of grasping. For grasping can also only occur when one infers a self that either posses something or lacks something, and the resulting feelings lead to passion.

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

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[EDIT: I won't change much of this answer but I see in hindsight it is too blunt and argumentative. The substantive points seem correct but the language is all wrong for the venue. I've deleted the first line for being inflammatory. Apologies.]

I started to copy extracts in order to discuss them but quickly gave up. Almost every paragraph exhibits a failure to understand non-dualism. I find the article unrigorous, partisan and almost willfully ill-informed. Such a shame these misleading essays are published.

I'll comment on some extracts.

My second remark would be to point out simply that non-dualistic spiritual traditions are far from consistent with each other, but comprise, rather, a wide variety of views profoundly different and inevitably colored by the broader conceptual contours of the philosophies which encompass them.

This is demonstrable nonsense. Non-dualism requires a neutral metaphysical theory for which all positive metaphysical positions are rejected. Once we adopt this neutral position serious disagreements are out of the question. Thus non-dualists are able to endorse Philosophical Taoism, Sufism, Middle Way Buddhism, Christian mysticism, advaita, Modern Druidism, Patanjali's Yoga, the teaching so Sri Ramana Maharshi and more. This is possible because non-dualism forces us to normalise on the same doctrine with very little room for argument.

The 'philosophies that encompass them' is non-dualism and because it encompasses them they do not disagree with each other. I read this paragraph as saying 'I have not studied this topic'.

The teaching of the Buddha as found in the Pali canon does not endorse a philosophy of non-dualism of any variety, nor, I would add, can a non-dualistic perspective be found lying implicit within the Buddha's discourses.

This is tosh. The Buddha's teachings depend utterly on the non-dual nature of Reality. If we know what to look for we find nothing in the sutras but an endorsement of the non-dual philosophy. Not everyone does, of course, but those who do not must be content to have no philosophical grounding at all. Then Buddhism ends up in the same boat as Whitehead's commonplace Christianity. 'a religion is search of a metaphysic'. The fact is that Buddhism is either grounded on the only philosophy that survives logical analysis, which is non-dualism, or is logically indefensible. This is what Nagarjuna proves and it has been well-proven by Western philosophy. The reason Western philosophers cannot comprehend philosophy is that they reject non-dualism. If we wish to render Buddhist doctrine incomprehensible then all we need do is reject it.

At the same time, however, I would not maintain that the Pali Suttas propose dualism, the positing of duality as a metaphysical hypothesis aimed at intellectual assent. I would characterize the Buddha's intent in the Canon as primarily pragmatic rather than speculative, though I would also qualify this by saying that this pragmatism does not operate in a philosophical void but finds its grounding in the nature of actuality as the Buddha penetrated it in his enlightenment.

Of course the Pali suttas do not endorse dualism. Rather, they endorse non-dualism. There is no reasonable third option.

It is surely obvious that Buddha's intent was pragmatic rather than speculative and that this pragmatism is informed by knowledge, viz. the knowledge that the true and Ultimate nature of Reality is non-dual. If it is otherwise then Buddhism must be taught in a philosophical vacuum just as if the Buddha did not understand metaphysics and as if nobody has done so since. This idea is profoundly absurd and demonstrably incorrect. I cannot grasp how anyone could so badly misunderstand philosophy or Buddhism.

In contrast to the non-dualistic systems, the Buddha's approach does not aim at the discovery of a unifying principle behind or beneath our experience of the world.

I can hardly believe I'm hearing a supposed Buddhist say this. Has he read the sutras? I suppose one could argue that the Buddha's approach does not aim at anything except the discovery of truth, but it is clear that what is discovered is the non-dual nature of Reality.

It would be precisely because of the non-dual nature of Reality that the Buddha was so reluctant to speak about metaphysics. To do so requires a language of paradox and contradiction that would merely confuse many of his listeners. The only other possibility would be that he did not understand metaphysics and this is not plausible.

Instead it takes the concrete fact of living experience, with all its buzzing confusion of contrasts and tensions, as its starting point and framework, within which it attempts to diagnose the central problem at the core of human existence and to offer a way to its solution. Hence the polestar of the Buddhist path is not a final unity but the extinction of suffering, which brings the resolution of the existential dilemma at its most fundamental level.

It is only because Reality is non-dual that all dilemmas may be resolved and suffering may be ended. If Reality is not non-dual then the Four Noble Truths could not be true. The 'polestar' of the path is the union with Reality made possible by its ultimate unity.

Does not the Buddha advise us to abandon all our extreme views? How much more clearly could he endorse the non-dual philosophy? If we abandon extreme views we arrive at non-dual Reality for which all extreme or positive views are false. This is a neutral metaphysical position as proved and endorsed by Nagarjuna. Even Kant could work out that all extreme views are logically unworkable, and even Russell and Carnap. So can we all with some work. This is basic philosophy.

These extracts appear early in article. I have no inclination to read further. I see no understanding of the non-dual doctrine in this article and am embarrassed for its author. If I knew so little about non-dualism I'd not dare say a word about it in public. Even a scholastic philosopher with no meditative experience should be able to understand it better than this.

I would want to delete the target article from the internet for doing serious damage to Buddhist teachings and to mysticism in general.

If this seems arrogant, as it will to some, then this is a misperception. Non-dualism is provable in philosophy by the use of logic and reason with no appeal to scripture or conjecture, as Nagarjuna demonstrates. It simply 'stands to reason', where no other doctrine does. No speculative opinions are necessary if we 'shut up and calculate' as would a mathematician, We cannot actually get to Heaven by this method but at least we can make a decent map.

In short, Chris, my answer would be yes, and very easily.

  • Three questions, if I may, about non-duality as you describe it here and what that means. # 1 "Skillful versus unskillful", "dukkha versus sukha", "right view versus wrong view" -- these feature prominently in the suttas as doctrine. Are these not what you'd call "dualities"? Are they compatible (not inconsistent) with your describing both Reality and the Dhamma as "non-dual"? How do these relate to "non-dual Reality"? # 2 What's the connection between "non-duality" and the "four noble truths" -- how are they related, how is reality's being non-dual essential to the truth of the 4NT? – ChrisW Feb 5 at 14:26
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    @ChrisW - 1 - All views are wrong in the end since truth cannot be captured or known as a view and Reality would be beyond conceptual fabrication. 2.If there is cessation of suffering then suffering must be unreal (in some sense). The trick of grasping this doctrine is (imho) understanding the distinction between Conventional and Ultimate truth, and thus the need for a contradictory language that confuses almost everyone. I cannot say much about it here but have written much elsewhere, including a dissertation. .I'd be honoured if you wanted to read some of my efforts. – PeterJ Feb 5 at 15:06
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    @Murathan1 - You may be right about this. if so I'd be depressed. But I wonder if it is just that extremism today makes an open expression of the Sufi view too dangerous. It's always been dangerous but nowadays it might be suicidal. Where monotheism rules it's always been dangerous to talk about Truth and Knowledge. I'll do a bit of research on this to see where Sufism is nowadays. . . – PeterJ Feb 6 at 10:49
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    @BrianDíazFlores - Andrei is right to point out that my approach is rather brutal. This is deliberate but sometimes inappropriate. As he notes, the 'illusory' would be an aspect of the Real and derive its own reality from that source. The absolute would encompass the relative rather than negate it. It's just that for a fundamental analysis the relative would have to seen as contingent and having only a dependent existence. The words 'illusory' and 'unreal' cause a lot of problems for this view, but they are used in a very particular sense. – PeterJ Feb 7 at 9:56
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    @Mishu米殊 - It is a terrible article but I regret the language I used in this answer and deserve to be told off for it. Mine is an answer from a philosopher rather than a Buddhist. Philosophically speaking the article is all over the place. I read it as a hatchet-job on Mahayana designed to mislead. It makes no difference to me what titles piople use. Regardless, I should speak less argumentatively and I'll be more careful in future ( I hope). I may add an edit. . – PeterJ Feb 11 at 10:29

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