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Languaging Non-Duality: Common Errors

   by Peter Holleran

   “A Hindu sage advised the Brahmin to let go of his scholarship first, then of his meditativeness, and finally of his non-meditativeness; then only would enlightenment come.” - Paul Brunton

   This essay is highly intellectual and conceptual. It is a consideration of polarities and their (inadvertently or unavoidably) misleading use in the articulation of non-dual teachings. It is not to be construed as a complete practice, an alternative to practice, or a statement of 'the way things are.' But it may be useful, especially for those with an active mind, to investigate and ponder some the common preconceived notions of non-duality and non-dual realization to better serve our contemplation in random moments. The purpose of this essay, then, can be considered two-fold: to clarify and better articulate our languaging of such spiritual matters, and to stimulate the intuitive mind. For this some semantic analysis is needed, for how do we even know we are talking about the same thing if we do not define our terms?

   It is said that truth is neither contrary or contradictory; further

   “We cannot understand a man’s words unless we know both what he means and what he does not mean...."No intuition can ever do what only analysis of meaning can do.” - V.S. Iyer

   Please bare with us, this is a rough draft and still in the editing stages. We begin with a little exercise. You can skip it now and come back to it later if you wish.

   A dialectic on self and emptiness

   The concept 'no-self' is widely employed in non-dual teachings. To speak of 'no-self', we suggest, is as valid as speaking of 'self', inasmuch as the two terms are mutually conditioning. More useful may to speak of 'no-separate-self', but as the Dalai Lama has said, "we do exist in some way, it is just unlike anything we can conceive of," therefore perhaps better to simply find out what the self is rather than just assume it is not there. Similarly, both self and selflessness are opposites and relative to each other. A truer way to speak might be to say ’no-no-self', but, since even ’no-no-self' is still somewhat conditioned by the complementary nature of the previously negated opposites, we must posit a final 'no [no no-self]’ as the affirmation of a true transcendental reality. That is how Chuang Tzu handled it, although after much effort he lamented that he had doubt if his process of dialectic was of much value (as discussed further in "Maya Is 'Maya' " on this website). But it might be useful, even if only at a later date when one is perched on the verge of realization, so we try anyway, planting seeds within the mind. When truly meditated on, it might bring one to his knees, or even take ones head off.

   We then do the same with 'emptiness'. If we first posit form, and then negate that as not being the reality, we posit emptiness. But then, since 'emptiness - considered as 'no-thing' - is only emptiness relative to form - or 'some-thing' - we must negate that and posit no-emptiness. Finally, since even no-emptiness bears the conditioning of the previous two negations, we must make a final negation, affirming the reality, as no [no-emptiness]!  

   The Jewish saint of India, Sarmad, expressed this by way of four 'renunciations'. [ see Sarmad’s Renunciations] He said,

   ”First renounce this world;
   then renounce the other world;
   then renounce God;
   then renounce renunciation.”

   This, in practice, brought him to non-dualism. However, as this is still a dependent form of ultimate renunciation (dependent on prior negations), to be consistent with our prior formulations we might add renounce [renounce-renunciation] ! This more accurately leads to the non-conceptual and perhaps the farthest one can go with words as a pointer.

   We can also do the same thing with the notion of subject-object. First we start with naive realism that posits an object 'out there'. But since that is never seen without a subject or perceiver to perceive it we then posit a subject by and in which the object is seen. We don't remain stuck in subjective idealism like Bishop Berkeley, however, and realize that since even this 'subject' is an subtle object or arising to consciousness or awareness, we must posit no subject-object. Some say this is non-duality and the transcendence of distinctions. Lest one think this is the final negation, however, since this no subject-object is still conditioned by the prior negation of subject-object, we must then posit no [no subject-object]. In other words, the consciousness we felt to be the very ground of reality is also seen to be a concept and 'empty', and it gradually ceases to hold our interest and falls away. This final negation gives us 'rivers are rivers, and mountains are mountains again', as the Zen saying goes. Not in logic, not as before, but in reality. Fear of 'contamination' - by ‘the world’ - is gone. The Sun is shining.

   The sage Atmananda similarly spoke:

   “The positive always has a taint of the mind in it. When the world is negated as unreal, it does not mean that the Truth is positive. Positive is also a relative term, within the realm of the mind. Truth is beyond both positive and negative, and is the background of both. But the term ‘positive’ is first utilized as a means to eliminate from you all that is negative..When everything negative is thus disposed of, what remains over as the ‘positive’ no longer appears positive. Its relativity being lost, it stands in its own glory as the ultimate Truth. Therefore, the Ultimate is pointed to in a negative manner, as non-duality.” (Notes on Spiritual Discourses, #1166)

   He lets the cat out of the bag, however, in my opinion, when he explains how the use of argumentation ultimately works:

   “Of course the Guru makes use of certain arguments to extricate the attention of the disciple from the obstacles, and to direct it to the Truth behind. Here the arguments do not work by themselves. They are supported by a mysterious something which emanates from the Guru and thus accompanies them. That is love. That is light. In its presence the arguments penetrate so deep that they do not leave a trace of the obstacles left behind...When one is thus established in the Truth, arguments are of no more service. Still you may see a Sage, well-established in the Truth, sometimes expiating upon such arguments. It is a sweet recreation and a delight for him.” (Ibid, #1177)


   “The head and the heart are not water-tight compartments. They complement each other. It may be said that ‘It is a harmonious blending of the head and the heart in the ultimate Truth that is called realization.’ It may generally be said that one gets enlightened through the head, and gets established in the Truth through the heart. A thought, when deep, becomes feeling or in other words descends into the heart.” (Ibid, #1179)

   So true enquiry to be effective has always been more than just a verbal exercise.....

   Polarities within Relativity

   I was listening to a tape of Mooji sent to me by a friend. In it he spoke of the inquiry as a means to take one from "time to the timeless.” This is okay language as a pointer, but it can also be seen as an example of choosing one half of a polarity to be reality. Many sages have done this, as is shown by an interchange between Paul Brunton and Ramana Maharshi:

   "I said to Maharshi that a certain appointment I had was a waste of time. He smiled: "There is no time, How can you waste it?” (Talks with Ramana Maharshi, source misplaced)

   There is no time? Such is certainly an experience, and it can be argued only a construct of the mind, and therefore unreal, but it does not necessarily mean there is some thing called 'timelessness' - unless we allow this to serve as a pointer to what IS when 'time' is seen through. And such technique of superimposition and recession is a chief method in vedanta. We might also contrast the remarks by Ramana with the words of other masters who have stressed the need to 'make the best use of time' while in the precious man-body! What is time? We seem to know what that means, but how about what is eternity? If it is not 'endless time' (which is how the mind usually interprets it), then what does it mean? Upon inquiry it can be seen that it in fact has no meaning for us except in relationship to the concept of time. (But maybe it points to something true, however; that will be discussed shortly). Time and timeless, time and eternity, then, may be seen as conceptual polarities or ideas within relativity - as also are emptiness and form, temporary and permanent, conscious-at-rest and consciousness-in-motion, and many others that may be projected on or color our perception of Truth. Some of these are:

   Absolute/Relative (!), Nirguna-Saguna, Truth-Untruth (Sat-Asat), Real-Unreal, Consciousness-Unconsciousness, 'Beyond Consciousness'/Unconsciousness-Consciousness, Self-Not Self, Emptiness (not Buddhist emptiness)-Fullness, Unmanifest-Manifest, Brahman-Isvara, Silence-Sound, Stillness-Movement, Womb-Born, Unborn-Born, Being-Becoming, Being-NonBeing, Good-Bad, Spirit-Matter, Universal-Particular, Male-Female, Oneness-Multiplicity/Separation, Nonduality-Duality, Infinite-Finite, Eternal-Temporal, Unconditioned-Conditioned, Disidentification (pos.)-Identification (neg.), Identification (pos.)-Disidentification (neg.), Desirelessness (pos.)-Desire (neg.), Desire (pos.)-Desirelessness (neg.), Non Attachment (pos.)-Attachment (neg.), Attachment (pos.)-Non Attachment (neg.), Subjective-Objective, Self-Five Skandhas, Buddha Nature-Christ Consciousness, Self-Soul, Absolute-Divine, Perfect-Imperfect, God/Creator-Creation, Ajatavada-Vivartavada/Parinamavada, Impersonal-Personal, Potential-Actual, Source-Projection, Truth-Illusion, Vidya-Avidya, Dharma-Non Dharma, Transcendence-Immanence, Timeless-Time, Understanding-Not Understanding, Jnana-ajnana, Nirvana-Samsara, Spaciousness-Contraction/Focus, Presence-Mindfulness, Essence-Human Nature, Now-Beginning/End, Source/Cause-Effect, Egolessness-Ego, Independent-dependent, Karma-Neh Karma, Reality-Maya, Turiya-the Three States, Ground-Foundation-Emergence/Expression, I Am-Witness, Witness Consciousness-Observer/Self Conscious Center of Personality, Space Element-Form Elements, Presence-Absence, Effortlessness-Effort, 'No Mind'-Mind, Determinism-Free Will, Enquiry-Meditation, Meditation-Not Meditating, Entering-Leaving, Sudden-Gradual, Realization-No Realization, Without Limits-Limits, Wisdom/Prajna-Method/Technique, and undoubtedly many more. Placing emphasis on one or the other of these polarities will condition how we intuitively envision and understand realization, and many spiritual traditions and teachings are guilty of doing so, either as an expedient, as in some sense it can't be helped, or simply because of a partial vision. Yet all polarities are 'empty' and 'not It'.

   This is a list of distinctions that are often made where the term on the left is used to describe or name the transcendent Reality (absolute, nondual) and the term on the right a term or characterization of relativity. [A few of them have alternative orderings, such as Desire (for God and understanding) being considered positive, while Desire (for self-aggrandizement) considered negative. Similarly, Identification (with reality) is on the positive side, while Identification (with ignorance) is negative. Also, Disidentification (with ignorance) is positive, while Disidentification (with reality) is negative. All polarities are within relativity. This list is basically meant to indicate distinctions of this sort that in a pure nondual view would be considered problematic. They are instances of projecting attributes onto the nondual that in a radical nondual view would be considered part of relativity. In many instances they would be considered part of a subtle, often enlightened part of relativity, but not truly representative of the nondual 'itself', as that would imply that the nondual lacked the complimentary characteristic. Nondualism, it is suggested, is best understood as that 'truer' or 'deeper' nature of reality that transcends these distinctions, and the list represents especially those views held by many that continue to project various dualistic notions and experiences on top of a more pristine nondual realization.

   The Gist

   Summarily stated, any of these concepts or polarities represent thoughts or ideas, and as such are not the reality. In vedanta, it is understood that for teaching purposes only one may use 'one thorn to remove another thorn.' Thus, non-duality is a thorn to remove the thorn of duality; non-causality is a thorn to remove the thorn of causality; 'absolute' is a thorn to remove the thorn of the 'relative'; timelessness is a thorn to remove the thorn of time; Unborn' is a thorn to remove the thorn - that is, the wrong concept - of being born; etc.. Unborn has no meaning apart from the concept of born. Non-Being has no meaning apart from being. Eternity has no meaning apart from time. Therefore by itself these terms are meaningless, except in their use as thorns to remove other wrong views or thorns of ignorance. Truth, however, is beyond all these polarities. Brahman is opposed to nothing, to no 'second thing.'

   Sat-chit-ananda is another example of something placed in contrast to relativity, or relative modes of being, thinking and feeling. It has been used, says vedantist V.S. Iyer, to teach minds that are still at the stage of running after something pleasing or satisfying. The human mind, always craving for something, is promised ananda or bliss. But is our personal satisfaction the criterion of truth? Not really. This is why ecstasies are universally recognized as occuring at a lower stage of practice. So ananda is used as a goad to practice or pursue truth. The higher truth is not 'greater and greater' ecstasy as we conceive it, it is something else entirely, according to the sages. But until a certain stage is reached the mind has a problem accepting this, because it feels that what is being proposed as something higher is a lesser thing than its bliss!

   A Possible Solution

   As a CONCEPTUAL exercise, it is suggested that one try placing 'Absolute', 'Nirguna', or ‘Truth'' at the top of a pyramid and the other polarities on the two bottom corners to symbolically represent a vision of reality for us. But aren't, for instance, Nirguna and Saguna ('without attributes" and ‘with attributes') just two more of the relative polarities, one might ask? That was how we listed them. So can we even place the Absolute at the top of the triangle? In a sense, maybe we can. The final or fundamental polarity is the basic polarity between Absolute and Relative, Nirguna and Saguna, Truth and Untruth. But in this case it is different - it is a 'vertical' distinction, whereas, in a certain sense, the other polarities are 'horizontal', both sides making reference to some quality or attribute or principle within relativity, even while it appears that the left-hand quality is of the Absolute. Whereas the Nirguna/Saguna distinction, although clumsy from a pure nondual perspective, paradoxically seeks to indicate the difference between two modes of experience - one in which we make such distinctions and one in which we do not! Part of the crazy paradox of life is that we don't seem to be able to realize the significance of nondual realization, and to awaken to it, without making this distinction. Then, when we have transcended dualism and reintegrated this realization with relative experience, we can acknowledge the appearance and relative meaning of the distinction without buying back into it. This might be called a final ‘purna’ (‘full’ or ‘complete’) non-duality, the paradoxical actualization of enlightenment, the absolute, within relativity. 

   Further Considerations

   A not uncommon example of this tendency to project onto reality one or the other of the relative polarities is found in Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine) where there is the notion that emptiness or Brahman is a kind of Womb of unmanifest potential, and that the relative universes, worlds and planes emerges or are 'born' out of the primordial womb. The nondual is the Source, Womb, First Cause, etc., out of which everything/being emerges, and back into which they return. This is sometimes the view of the nondual as the Great Mother, that gives birth to the Relative, a view similar to the vivartavada or parinamavada schools of Vedanta, or even Sankara's higher and lower Brahman (considered to be a concession he made in some of his writings for those of lower intelligence who could not grasp advaita or ajatavada). A very tempting image, but still a problem. All kinds of problems. Not for you and me, perhaps, but definitely for a would-be sage. By it profound nondual realization, for instance, may be confused with deep absorptions on a mystic path where one enters 'realms' where the dualisms of time, cause and effect, birth and death, are transformed into higher perspectives where simple creation cosmologies like these are apparently transcended.

   In Dzogchen they cut right to the quick and say that to distinguish between the Self or the Reality and the 'Five Skandhas' as the sutra schools (Hinayana and Mahayana) do is a deviation or, at best, a provisional teaching, for in truth the Reality is the Five Skandhas - and even the 'five passions', and the 'three defilements' ! Nothing is excluded in the position of pure non-duality, in which all phenomena when seen correctly are 'self-liberating', therefore all methods to 'do something' about them are ultimately false - from the purely absolute 'view', which is not really a view but just the way things are. This is similar to Sankara's final position that the Self and the World are not two. [Of course, as we shall see, this position can easily be misconstrued or taken up prematurely with disastrous or unfruitful results. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu prefaces the 'non-practice' of ultimate abiding with the following words, "For fortunate practitioners of the supreme yoga who have appropriate karma, there are no view, no commitment, no level, no path, no sadhana”. (The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde, Kunjed Gyalpo (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1999), p. 152). Nevertheless, it is worth considering the highest vision at any stage of practice to grease the wheels for the eventual stabilization of clear seeing. (And notice the paradox [karma- no karma], found wherever one looks in the wisdom traditions: the teaching which affirms that in reality there is “no such thing as karma”, only comes to those with favorable karma!!)

    Ultimately, if one sticks to the principle of emptiness, as contrasted with the concept, he may be forced to hold that the doctrines of ajatavada (non-causality, non-creation) and vivartavada/parinamavada (apparent and modified creation and causality) are ‘polarities’ within Vedanta. Strictly holding one or the other may be considered a form of linear thinking. Another way of saying this is that ajatavada, considered as the ultimate non-dual doctrine, may not be a radical enough example of non-dualism, precisely because it holds to one relative polarity only, that of non-causality! And some vedantists actually agree with this. They say things like, “it is not that we assert that non-causality is true, but rather that causality has never been proven (although we accept it as true for practical purposes in the empirical everyday world).” There is a difference. The latter is content to demolish a concept, while the other would assert the truth of another concept.

   Many theologians and pundits have been clever and came up with combination words like ‘First-Cause,’ ’Causeless-Cause,' or 'Groundless-Ground', but are these, then, really a 'Cause' or a ‘Ground' at all? Are not these terms contradictions, and only pointing to (or diverting us from) something more mysterious or more complete than that? What our little exercise has been saying is that the reality is beyond both cause and causeless, ground and groundless, and any other of the listed polarities, inasmuch as they are concepts and categories of the mind.

   Another commonly used example is “Permanent/impermanent.” The student classically is taught to detach himself from the impermanent to get closer to the “permanent”. But ultimately there is no such thing as a ”permanent” reality to be found outside of the seeker. This, too, is only ‘a thorn to be used to get rid of another thorn’- of objective reality falsely seen as permanent. But regarding Atman no names are appropriate, even permanence. The student is asked sooner or later to rise to the level of non-duality.

   One more example is jnana/ajana. Ramana Maharshi said:

   "There is no jnana as it is commonly understood. The ordinary jnana and ajnana are only relative and false. They are not real and therefore not abiding. The true state is the non dual Self. it is eternal and abides whether one is aware or not. The Self is often mistaken for the knower. Is there not the Self in deep sleep, i.e., nescience? Therefore, the Self is beyond knower and knowledge."

   In other words, the term 'jnana' is conditioned by that of 'ajnana,' and vice versa. When one is realized the term jnana looses its previous meaning in samsara. It, too, serves as a pointer to the real condition.

   These types of distinctions are not just hyper-philosophical nitpicking, but necessary to have a clearer picturing of true non-duality. If someone's intuitive and philosophical 'bodies' have these notions in them, even though their inner state of presence becomes liberated from these 'bodies' (in sahaja or jivanmukti), the ways in which the state of nondual presence is not yet fully integrated into the various bodies will put a spin on how their realization is actualized in relativity.

    This relates to the very nature of nondual realization and the questions of selfhood. Better perhaps to simply say, as Jack Kornfield and some other teachers are now saying, that we go beyond all notions of a 'separate-self', rather than 'beyond all notions of self', as some advaitins tend to say. Just because we feel an impersonal realization doesn't mean there is no 'self' there; it may be too subtle for us to perceive, or, again, our experience is colored by our expectation. And there is certainly the One, Unique Self. But even assuming that that is “One’ may be jumping the gun in our investigation. By simply using 'no-separate self’, therefore, we are not needing to assume anything about 'self' other than its ever deepening mystery. Because in a nondual world self and other are intertwined and inseparable. And 'who' realizes non-duality? Some kind of self or individuality, perhaps? Nondual realization excludes nothing. Non-dual realization or Nirvana, as well as samsara, are both in relativity and known to some kind of self. That self becomes ever more interconnected and non-separate, but it still is there, otherwise who could become liberated? Saying it is the Infinite, the Self, emptiness, enlightenment that realizes these same things is not much help, and can lead to misunderstanding of the scope and nature of Relativity.

   Samsara and Relativity are not the same.

   Samsara is bondage in Relativity. Nondual realization, occuring within Relativity, is the realization that Samsara and Nirvana are not separate, and it includes both a realization or perception of the existence of the Nondual Ground (which can not be said to be either realized or not realized, it is beyond all such concepts), but also of the implications of that nondual realization for us within Relativity, and this latter could go on almost indefinitely - including the post-enlightenment increasing of relative 'merit and wisdom' (understanding of impermanence, dukkha, increase of compassion, power, skillfulness, etc.) that began long before one realized non-duality, according to certain teachings.. And I think this is what many sages point to when they talk about this thing taking a long time to actualize, even though it is simple and direct in essence. We can find nondual realization to varying degrees while we are still increasing in relative 'merit and wisdom', as the Tibetans say, and even after more complete, direct realization of non-duality, the relative wisdom is now seen as interpenetrating and mutually influencing the absolute wisdom. Relative wisdom generally does emerge first and forms the foundation of spiritual development which eventually prepares one for direct nondual insight, but at a deeper level they come to be seen as fundamentally inseparable, two aspects of one primordial wisdom.

   In this understanding we posit indescribable Brahman, as the absolute or ultimate, and in which there are relative (Saguna) polarities: consciousness/phenomena (maya), emptiness/manifestation, impersonal/personal, etc.. Thus, the realization of emptiness and its inseparability from phenomena is a form of non-duality - but still a 'Saguna' or relative form, with attributes like 'Sat-Chit-Ananda. Nirguna non-duality transcends these characterizations. It is both empty and full, and neither empty nor full. Nirguna has no attributes. Some teachers superimpose 'unmanifest' on Nirguna Brahman. This is one of the most common errors that many nondual philosophers fall into. Nondual 'experiences' can come in all kinds of flavors, being conditioned by the relative aspects of a person's nature. For it is their relative 'self' which focalizes this realization within relativity as a 'nondual awakening' or realization or whatever. So that relative self, in its many layers, will necessarily condition how the nondual is experienced. So sometimes it will feel full, sometimes void-like, sometimes blissful, sometimes sublimely cool, sometimes transcendent, sometimes immanent. And all of these are 'true' and facets of a realization that includes and transcends them all. So it is not unmanifest.  That would be more dualism.

   Nirguna is simply not describable in human terms and has no attributes. This would be true emptiness or Shunyata, the Tao, and only experienced (a relative and inadequate word) in glimpses until a high degree of relative actualization of the non-dual vision is achieved. By this is meant becoming more and more refined and integrative of the non-dual vision with subtler and subtler states of the body-mind - either within or without the body - with more and more universal spiritual qualities like love, compassion, discrimination, and the like becoming part of one's character. This is to begin to live a form of 'enlightened duality' as a bridge to non-duality. In Sufism it is being available to the grace of a master or other liberating presence, and inculcating the virtues, each of which form a 'spiritual station', which is a permanent advance of the soul. It is also what is meant by embodying the Christ Consciousness, which exists in both individual and cosmic forms, as both one's inner conscience and guide (the higher personality) and as a universal enlightening presence within relativity.

   What we are taking about is basically that aspect of the soul, personal and universal, which seeks enlightenment or liberation, to be of service, etc.. At the highest levels of relative existence one's soul becomes in touch with what in many traditions is called Spirit (i.e., Atman) and becomes even more impersonal and universal and, being less veiled, imbibes the essence of the non-dual more directly. All spiritual traditions have this intermediate phase, means, and methods, bridging the relative and the absolute. All of the planes and bodies of manifestation are illusion from the standpoint of Maya, but reality from the side of the Absolute. The process is, in relativity, of actualizing the Absolute or non-dual. For most, it is a gradual process. There are relative laws which must be respected and also embraced within non-dual understanding. 

   Another point. Some schools maintain that non-duality has to be united, merged, fused, or integrated with duality. This can cause problems. Various stages of spiritual awakening, beyond the stage of awakening to even a little degree to the reality of the nondual, are really just, stage to stage, unfolding realization of the 'true' nature of the nondual. It does not require integrating or uniting nonduality with anything, as some schools suggest. That is just another explanation of what nonduality already means. Nonduality inherently integrates every conceivable polarity, including our own belief or experience that it is somehow different from anything else. So, for instance, if we have an internal nirvikalpa realization, then that is a type of nondual realization, but if our experience of it includes a sense that it is away from the physical world, or requires negating or transcending Relativity to experience, or that it makes us special, or that it is on another plane, and so on and so forth, then it is a limited version of nondual realization. Then, as we gradually ripen the realization, nondual realization 'integrates' with everything, not because it in itself needs to be integrated, united, brought down, or infused. But because our realization of the true nature of nonduality grows, it is experienced as doing all these things. But it is not. That is our story of how we are understanding what we think is happening based on our current level of realization of what nonduality is. But it is all just unfoldment of nondual realization. Imo, any belief or experience otherwise is a misunderstanding of nondualism. For instance, there is no need to unite nonduality with anything. The nondual is already nondual and not separate from 'duality'. The perception of nonduality as needing to be balanced with duality is a misunderstanding of the nature of the nondual. This is potentially a huge problem, and has a domino effect that can cause flaws in the rest of any such system.

   Much more could be said on this, as it is fundamental to an integral vision of spirituality.

   This may seem like a lot of intellectual effort, but it can have value in the long run - if one has an inclination for it, at any rate. It is certainly not required! We have so many unconscious cognitive preconceptions that cloud our vision, however (and which can influence not only our thoughts, but in turn our feelings and actions as well), it may be worthwhile to spend a little time in such an exercise to undermine them.

   To summarize, all sides of polarity, such as “timeless”, “spaceless”, ”causeless,” “immaterial/spirit,” are pointers to break one away from naive identification with the opposite concepts such as "time," "space," "causality," and "matter." The reality, however, is not a concept, no matter how exalted or esoteric. And this, of course, could gave been said in the beginning, saving the reader much time and effort! But the process of working out these ideas and clearing all doubts has the supreme merit of exhausting the mind and turning it back on itself. Sometimes, as has been said, the way out of an impasse is through.

   Some practical polarities expressed

   Here we unavoidably find ourselves faced with such queries as: "Is enlightenment sudden - or gradual?" and "Is it a matter of grace - or self-effort?" Similarly it is said, "those who seek shall find," but also, "those who do not seek shall find." Or "God helps those who help themselves," but also "God helps those who do not help themselves" ! Self-power/Other power, self-reliance/self-surrender, goal/way, path/no-path, lower/higher, self-improvement/self-acceptance, evolution/involution, light/dark, within/without, Long Path/Short (or Direct) Path, are other polarities we must come to terms to, and for which there are no simplistic 'black/white' answers. However, it might be said that they are stage specific truths, as well as expedients to be supplanted as realization proceeds. For example, the notion that 'I am the body' is supplanted with the idea that 'I am not the body'. And this can be experienced in forms of meditation. However, the ultimate truth is neither, being beyond opposites and concepts. 'I am not the body' suggests that we are a soul or spirit as opposed to a material form. But this itself, being based on the notion that 'bodies' are real,' is therefore, as Chuang Tzu might say, contaminated by and not completely free from that identification. Sri Atmananda puts it this way:

   "Divest yourself of the idea that you are the body with the help of the contrary idea that you are not the body. It is also an idea, no doubt. Treat it like something to be abandoned when its work is done. The idea that I am not the body, when in fact, there is no such thing as body, it is but a state of mind."

   Indeed, Brunton suggests that, situated in Relativity as we are, for an enduring realization to be actualized there needs to be a balance achieved between these seemingly polarized categories in order for two different kinds of actual results to appear in us in a kind of alternating rhythm, in character, behavior, consciousness, and understanding. There are glimpses of realization, but also a gradual process of actualization.

   Atmananda further said, again echoing Chuang Tau:

   "Changelessness only means the absence of change. They are opposites. A taint of the change lingers in the very conception of changelessness. So I must transcend changelessness also in order to be in my real nature....Liberation is complete only when you are liberated from liberation as well. Liberation is only the end of bondage, or its opposite. As such, liberation carries the taint of bondage in itself and is relative. So you have to transcend the opposites, bondage and liberation, in order to reach the Absolute. Till then, liberation is not complete." (Notes on Spiritual Discourses (Non-Duality Press and Stillness Speaks, 2009), #692, 717)

   But this of course refers not just to an intellectual process. In brief, "the Tao proceeds by contraries," says Lao Tzu. And so, "the path is as beautiful at times as it is terrible at other times," says PB, and, "some people have to get better and some people have to get worse," as an acquaintance of mine once remarked.

   “When do you talk of non-duality? Only when you have the idea of duality. When you see everything as Brahman, however, then the idea and all thoughts of non-duality disappears. The latter is merely an idea which you use as a thorn to extract the other thorn of duality.” - V.S. Iyer

   “When body is still and ego-mind is at rest, there is peace, sometimes even ecstasy. But when both are active but I am not, when there is neither questing nor non-questing, there is unchanging stability. That is realization.” - Paul Brunton

   "Then we taste, then we are fed, then we become one with the truth. We no longer see the truth as an object outside of ourselves. The truth becomes us, and we experience it as intimately as the soul experiences itself." - Fenelon