I know that Zen-Buddhism knows a form of practise to achieve full harmony between the individual, his/her action and the animate or inanimate environment, often translated as «Oneness».

  • Does anybody know the roots of this practise?

  • Does it go back to Gautama Buddha or to an other known Buddhist teacher?

(Background: Around the year 800 CE (1300-1400 BE), Sufi Islam, and, shortly later, Christian and Jewish Mysticism have developed a concept of «Oneness» to reach by Dikr or meditation, meaning to reach a full compliance with the God; God meaning the Whole that is in relation to us. This concept does not have direct roots in either the Quran or the Bible. Although it might have been an independent parallel to Buddhism, I rather suppose that this concept is inspired by the Buddhist religion, above all because at the same time, even the concept of rebirth has been taken over by Jewish Kabbala and Alewite Islam although it is incompatible with traditional concepts of the three religions (which, in contrast to the aforementioned Sufi/Mystic practises have not entered into the main stream of either religion). It is part of the question whether we Muslim could or should recognise Gautama Buddha or possibly a Buddhist after him as a Prophet or as a valuable source of wisdom of Islam; I will have to discuss this question in Islam rather than here.)

  • Unfortunately I can't contribute about the source of an "oneness"-idea in Zen; at least I can say I didn't find this topic as philosophical goal in any of the parts of the pali-canon that I've read so far. To me it seems that this topic has always been popped up when a religious movement had grown up to some mature and culturally "metabolized" status. I was looking for an answer of a question very near to yours some years ago and didn't succeed - thus I like your question much and am curious about some interesting and qualified answers/comments! (...) – Gottfried Helms Oct 12 '20 at 19:15
  • (...) perhaps it is worth to mention, that in the indian mysticism under the name "Upanishad"s at the time of or shortly after the Buddha this idea of "unification" or "immersion" with a god/with the universe has been cultivated, perhaps even as a more explicite answer to the Buddha's teachings. Maybe after a more serious search one can find some sources there? – Gottfried Helms Oct 12 '20 at 19:20
  • interesting question, some of the unclarity in recent writings is from misleading/ mistranslations of terms into English; and concepts from Buddhism and Taoism have been presented together: maybe try going through 道德經/Tao Te Ching/Dao De Jing(c.500B.C.) in original readily readable characters(c.200B.C.) could be helpful for further refining apects of the question – M H Oct 22 '20 at 11:22
  • (writings of Dogen DaiSho maybe are available more in original language, & writings of Hakuin Daisho) – M H Oct 22 '20 at 11:30

Samadhi... is the correct term. Adding the concept of "Oneness" is trying to translate something that should be practiced instead of preached... such a thing only muddies the waters and gives rise to more grasping than: Sweep sweep sweep sweep sweep until the broom jumps off the ten thousand foot pole.

  • Thank you; indeed Samadhi in Wikipedia describes well what I read about under the translation of oneness. – Jeschu Oct 15 '20 at 19:39
  • In sitting and action is the quicker path... in Theravada everything is in breath Bud out breath dho until interrupted. As A lot of "people" play house builder/master of the house when it isn't even their house to do so... such a thing inevitably becomes a monkey minded tar trap ensnared in five ways. Buddho is meant to counter that and yet also keep things out of Shunyata at the same time. Someone sees "broom" they'll pick it up and broom that has had nothing but sweep on it? Will put it to work from that mindfulness left on it. – มนต์ดำ Oct 15 '20 at 21:02

Oneness of the Universe was the original thesis of the (Kuru-Pancala) Vedic Religion (Brahmanism, as opposed to the later religion, the multi-deity Hinduism) - centuries before Buddhism appeared on scene. But it was never fully understood and the actual practitioners were rather corrupted, showing all kinds of real-life behaviors that went contrary to their own ideal.

Buddha had effectively cleaned it up and re-interpreted from the perspective of his own experience-centric framework.

Basically, Buddha said, the All of our lives can be summarized to our sensory and mental experience. Since experience is All, having painful and conflicted experience is the essence of suffering while having peaceful and harmonious experience is the essence of happiness.

The highest happiness or bliss, is Nirvana, the complete cessation of all limits, divisions, and conflicts that would have induced suffering. This cessation of limits includes (among other things) complete and utter cessation of any and all I-making or self-identification. So once the individual mind stops identifying anything as "self", not even the universe, the true realization of that which the concept of oneness meant to represent is achieved.

Note how this is different from the Vedic experience of All Universe as Self. In Buddha's own words, that could be liked to a dog claiming freedom from the pole it was tied to, while still running around that pole a leash-length away.

In Buddhism the authenticity of the attainment is verified in practice as absence of any longing, grasping, attachment, identification, juxtaposing, and reification. Any kind of conflicted unsatisfied mind betrays still having some limits. The liberated mind has no limits, no position, no identity, no fixed form. It is beyond even the concept of oneness and off to the Unbounded - which is what the notion of oneness meant to mean anyway. This emphasis on direct experience and personal behavior that must be in line with the transcendental realization is the trademark of the Buddha's method.

The essence of this teaching was carried along the trade routes from the original birthplace of Buddhism to Kashmir and from there to China, where it grew into Ch'an Buddhism, and then to Japan where it got known as Zen. The essential practice of Zen is direct non-verbal transmission of the first-hand experience of this formlessness and limitlessness, beyond scripture and conceptual interpretation.

Part of Chan's inspiration for making the emphasis on harmony with the natural environment comes from the ancient Chinese tradition of Taoism which teaches a similar end-state but without tying it to the social, ethical, and psychological implications the way Buddha did.

Coming back to the original Buddha's teaching, the suttas often describe Buddhist path as progression of steps taking the student from confusion to the experience of oneness and beyond. For example in MN137:

"There is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity; and there is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness.

"And what is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity? There is equanimity with regard to forms, equanimity with regard to sounds...smells...tastes...tactile sensations [& ideas: this word appears in one of the recensions]. This is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity.

"And what is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness? There is equanimity dependent on the dimension of the infinitude of space, equanimity dependent on the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... dependent on the dimension of nothingness... dependent on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness.

"By depending & relying on equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, abandon & transcend equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity.

"By depending & relying on non-fashioning, abandon & transcend the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness. Such is its abandoning, such its transcending."

In other words, the Buddha repurposed naive oneness of Brahmins as a stepping stone to "emptiness" - the true state of shapelessness and limitlessness which is the end of suffering.

Just like the Buddhist social ethics of non-violence, truthfulness, non-intoxication etc. lead away from the objective causes of suffering, Buddhist practice of oneness (Brahmaviharas, Formless Jhanas) leads away from the subjective causes of suffering, and all this is culminated by the teaching and practice of transcending the limits of conceptual mind - Emptiness - which removes the very ground the suffering stood on.


Case 15 of the Blue Cliff Record Preaching on Not-Oneness

A monk asked Ummon, “What is it when no thought is stirring and nothing presents itself?”

Unman said, “No preaching on Oneness.”

What makes you think that Zen preaches oneness? There are no practices that create or engender oneness. There is only emptiness and insight. Sometimes emptiness show us oneness, but sometimes it reveals two-ness. Sometimes we have to face down twoness to see oneness. The opposite is also true. You’re better off finding the place where oneness and two-ness are of single essence. Anything less is attachment to oneness. Anything more and you are lost in multiplicity.

Oneness is dead air. Twoness is a storm. Zen is both without compromising either.


Gautama Buddha did not teach "oneness" ("ekatta") as the goal of his teachings or path. The sutta MN 1 clearly distinguishes between "oneness" ("ekatta") and the Buddha's goal of Nibbana.

Similarly, the sutta MN 121 rejects the various delusions of "oneness" ("ekatta") born of various samadhi states as being the supreme emptiness (sunnata) or Nibbana.

"Oneness" is found in Taoism, which would have probably influenced Chinese Buddhism, which is the source of Zen. For example:

Primal Virtue is deep and far. It leads all things back toward the great oneness.

Tao Te Ching 65

The Way is perfect like great space, Without lack, without excess. Because of grasping and rejecting, You cannot attain it. Do not pursue conditioned existence; Do not abide in acceptance of emptiness. In oneness and equality, Confusion vanishes of itself. Stop activity and return to stillness, And that stillness will be even more active. Merely stagnating in duality, How can you recognize oneness?

The Hsin Hsin Ming Verses on the Faith Mind by Chien-chih Seng-ts'an Third Zen Patriarch [606AD]

"Oneness" or "Advaita" is also found in Hinduism, which would have influenced the Mahayana.

As for Christian, Jewish Kabbala, Alewite and Sufi Mysticism, these are the practices and doctrines of heretics.

Jewish Kabbala probably has its roots in the Old Testament, particularity in the later teachings such as the nihilistic Ecclesiastes, which appears to normalize evil, such as in Chapter 3.

Sufism was probably Buddhism in disguise, since Buddhism did appear to continue to exist in Persia & Afghanistan for around 300 to 500 years after the rise of Islam; until the Turks & then the Mongols took control of Islam in Persia.

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in the 1960s ordered a fatwa issued to declare Alawite as legitimate Islam because, previously, it was generally not considered to be true Islam. Since the Alawite believe in the Trinity and other aspects of Christianity, they are obviously heretics.

In summary, "Oneness" is evil Satanism because it negates 'good' & 'evil'. 'Oneness' is 'nihilism'. Gautama Buddha would never teach such evil & madness.

For example, when Muslims experience a terrible misfortune done by the evil violence of others, they declare: "It is the will of Allah". The Buddha utterly opposed this type of thinking in AN 3.61.

Also, Buddhists have often rejected monotheism, including in the Theravada scriptures (somewhere). This rejection is based on the logical argument that if there is one god, this god creates both good & evil. If this one god creates evil, it, itself, must be evil.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Oct 12 '20 at 22:04
  • Hmm, I gave +1 when I read the leading information part, but removed it when I arrived at the opinion/damning part. – Gottfried Helms Oct 13 '20 at 0:39
  • it doesn't matter what you think when you are wrong – Dhammadhatu Oct 13 '20 at 5:14
  • Oneness in the context of practice that I read about, was in fact translated from German "Eins-sein", used in Christian Mystics; it is referring to Samadhi (see มนต์ดำ above). I read MN121 teaching oneness like a step on the path, the goal bein Nirvana. Do you know whether oneness in MN121 refers to Samadhi ? – Jeschu Oct 15 '20 at 19:36
  • You appear to be misrepresenting Islam and its notion of a monotheistic god. It appears the oneness of god in Islam is not about what you are posting about. – Dhammadhatu Oct 15 '20 at 19:43

Personally-speaking, I found the term on an older version of Ram Dass' website a few years ago. I don't think it was from his own words though. Also that website and him don't tout Buddhism, despite that he described solo retreats by himself, facing his internal self and attachments in numerous situations, and found a spiritual teacher to follow, things very much done in a variety of Buddhist practices. I believe on that website it originated from some Hindu teachings. This matches what other users described as a Vedic concept.

I found it a useful concept, personally. I also draw upon my Catholic background, Tao concepts as well.

To me it was a reshaping of my understanding of God. This is also not Buddhist. Buddhism does not describe the indescribable really, finds this foolish, innacurate, likely to be detrimental.

I know very little history, but perhaps I gave you another place to look if tracing it.

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