A Response to the Failure of Eastern Philosophy Blog and My Response to Her

First, the response.

hmmmm….you may need to look at how most of these teachings are taught. There is always a BEGINNING – neti neti – which means – not this – not this – to assist someone sifting themselves out as the unchanging stable from the fleeting and changing… when Jesus said “build your house on rock not sand” this is what he meant. Align with what is permanent then you will not be afraid – fear is based in impermanence/death.

Once you gain a sense of BEING then its naturally – not only this – not only this – you then see clearly that you indeed are ALLl that there IS! How could ANYTHING NOT be you? Every fool knows that ice and rain and steam and waterfall is water. Teachings are for the unenlightened not the enlightened. Once someone has been pointed to that which IS, the rest need not be taught it becomes self evident.

The beautiful maalaa used in those teachings illustrates – the beads are different in appearance but are held together by one string – Oneness.

My response:

I am not trying to “throw the baby out with the bath water” – but I am referring to very direct teachings of a sophisticated nature – including Ramana, Nisargadatta, etc. This is not a simple discussion. As you put it, the “fleeting and changing” nature of life, is life, as well as the still. It is, both, one and separate. It’s ineffable.

My blog post rails against those elements of EST (and there are many – let’s face it) that seek to allay normative fears with faith. In this way, they are no different from any other form of institutionalized religion that promises “la-la” answers to authentic concerns. I was told that if I mixed dairy with meat that I would be violating my jewishness. That is so true. So much for my jewishness. But on the other hand, I’m proud of my jewish heritage and there is so much of beauty and sadness there and that’s what I love and that is, in part, who I am.

So the hell with empty philosophy. Live life and do what you love, stand up for what you believe in, and seek to be free from everything that is false … only then does what that is “right” shine forth. Ultimately, it’s all about dealing with our fears. The choice is ours’. Do we retreat to empty homilies or do we investigate what is true and live our lives in accord with what we have seen as false? The true is, ultimately, mysterious in any general sense, but what is false tends to be consistently false. This is all the philosophy I need in this life. But that is the journey we are all on.

Another response:
You wrote: “Our thoughts and feelings change, but, as these philosophies point out, there is a part of us that doesn’t change.”

In Advaita, what is not changing is not seen as “part of us”.

You wrote: “Within this array of change, we can detect patterns of thought and feeling. These patterns suggest an individuality that is, in fact, real.”

I think they just suggest that there are patterns that are changing on a slower pace than others.

I think you need to clarify how you use the term “real”. You seem to use it in a relative way. So when something changes slow enough, it becomes real – like what you refer to as rather consistent individual traits – and when it changes fast, it becomes an illusion? That is a bit problematic, because you would have to define the boundary between them.
My response to him:
Rene – I can always trust that you will make me think! I am suggesting that “what is not changing” (aka – presence/consciousness) is like the old and highly respected theory of “the ether” that was thought to be essential in holding the universe together. Even Einstein briefly supported the theory until he disproved it (I’m NOT saying that I’m Einstein). Many Advaitists present the belief that our real identity is this consciousness that is neither born or dies (Salior Bob, Nisargadatta, and many others). But is this consciousness real? By real I mean, does it exist? I am suggesting that it is not real, that it does not exist. However, the mind, by its very nature reflects on the thoughts that pass through it. One of the distinguishing characterisitc of a sociopath is the absence of such reflection (autism as well). This concept of the unborn consciousness is like the ether. It appears to explain a complex situation, but it doesn’t. It’s not necessary to understand perception and thought or so I’m suggesting. Moreover, it appeals to fears that are not unreasonable, such as the death of the body/mindm by promising a kind of eternal existence as presence. Is this true?
Regarding rates of change – it’s just an observation. There are thoughts and feelings that are fleeting, but there are long standing patterns of thought and feeling that appear much more solid. True – they may be the consequence of conditioning, culture, and genes, but for whatever reason, they would appear to define the person that I have TENDED to be. There is no perfect consistentcy – thank goodness for that. Everything changes – even these deeply embedded personality characteristics, but those characterisitics that survive the longest would appear to be those characteristics that make a thing comprehendable and identifiable. It’s far from a perfect construct. It just appears to be “real”.


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  1. #1 by Anne on May 26, 2009 - 12:40 am

    Hi Eric,
    Subject: Flaw of Eastern Philosophy
    You stated, “But is this consciousness real? By real I mean, does it exist? I am suggesting that it is not real, that it does not exist. However, the mind, by its very nature reflects on the thoughts that pass through it.”

    Perhaps I have not read enough of your writing, but what is your definition of mind? Most teachers of eastern paths say that the mind is really nothing but thoughts. Even the concept of “I” is just a thought. That which illumines the thoughts, feelings, sense objects, is pure awareness, consciousness. It seems to me that there must be an unchanging awareness to register all the changing thoughts, etc. If you are making the mind into that which “reflects on the thoughts that pass through it,” then please define the mind. Are you saying that consciousness is limited to the mind or brain?

    Ultimately, there is no division as you presume. As Pure Awareness, I am that empty fullness out of which everything arises, including the mind/body, sense objects, etc. How could it be nonduality, if appearances were anything other than Pure Awareness itself? Pure Awareness creates everything out of Itself. That’s why it is often referred to as “the play of consciousness.”

    What you are saying in reference to Eastern philosophy runs counter to all the teachers you have listed on your blogroll, e.g., Annette Nibley (and her teacher John Wheeler), Adyashanti, Echart Tolle, etc. Perhaps you should run your post by one of them for a response from someone who lives in the awakened state, rather than a wanna be like me. You seem to be claiming that you have evolved beyond the Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, etc. Very well done!

    • #2 by Eric on May 26, 2009 - 8:55 am

      First thank you for your wonderful comment.
      Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. I am not claiming anything about “my” evolution. I am not more evolved than Adyashanti, the Buddha or Dick Cheney.
      I am, also, entirely uninterested in how John Wheeler would respond to this post. I admire his work, but it is “his” work.
      Your comment reflects a belief in the standard Asian Indian philosophy rooted in the Vedas and now called neo-advaita. All I’m asking is: is it true? Also, does it matter? Should it be the goal of life to negate perceived existence? I see this computer. My experience suggests that it is not two but one. I cannot divide this experience into two, but I know that my engagement in life will move past this comment to new activities. These are not thought references but actions that arise in life. They are, as it is said in Buddhism, mutual arisings.
      Notice this: Life is hard. Life is challenging. If you have had children, your challenges are even greater. Because life is hard, the social world of human beings have resulted in two great themes of response. The Advaita response is to negate the world and refer to it as illusionary or “mere appearance”. Christianity and Islam also reject the world by promising to reward the obedient believer with an eternity in heaven. If you embrace Jesus life will be bearable, etc.
      There are called transcendent belief systems. They emerged into human culture with the advent of civilization (intensive agriculture). They are attempts to, literally, transcend the pain and challenge of everyday life, through negation – it isn’t real, it doesn’t matter, it is just an artifact of the mind, etc. etc.. Transcendent belief systems are not found in hunting and gathering people.
      The second great stream is that of personal psychology. Civilization requires us to invalidate very young children. This is a complex story and I can’t give you the details here. If you’re curious about the theory of invalidation (and it sounds like you might be), then read my book. It will change how you view this problem. But the experience of invalidation provides the basis for a life of struggle. Civilization could not exist without struggle. So, by establishing the painful life, religion comes marching in with ways to transcend this painful life and among the responses you get nonduality, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
      The question I raised in my post was whether the seeing consciousness described in nonduality teachings is real or something we take on faith. If you are seeking to transcend the world then you will WANT them to be real. But, if you’re up to the challenge of living, then the distinction will appear trivial to you. Anything that possesses the quality of psychological want is rooted in invalidation. The ego craves enlightenment because it loves the role of savior. Only the ego can save you from this painful life (it says). For you its means are seeking enlightenment.
      I can’t say exactly what mind is. I’m not all that concerned with the inquiry. But I do know that life calls me to action, whether it is to walk my dog or wash the dishes or march for peace, I hear its call. I also have observed that when we close our heart against pain and the challenge of everyday life, we have psychologically shoved life away. Nearly all of us, to some extent, do just this. We have falsely transcended what is real. This is the false life based wholly in fear.
      Religions and despotism of all kinds thrive on fear. Without fear, who would need religion or philosophy or war?
      I pursued enlightenment for many years. I was assessed as awakened within the Zen Buddhist tradition by a highly respect roshi. This happened quite a few years ago. I know where you’re coming from. It’s just another form of seeking to allay fear and make the messiness of life manageable.
      Until we discover the deep roots of invalidation in ourselves, we will never see the light. I’m still learning, for the journey never ends.

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