Questioning Advaita a Brilliant Facebook Dialogue


This is a long post, but I think it’s worth reading it through. I would love to know your thoughts on this subject.

I begin this post with a question I sent to the Advaita teacher Francis Lucille – I then attach the dialogue that follows on a very similar theme.

Dialogue about Consciousness – Francis, Nathan, Eric, and Bryan

Initial question posed to Francis:
This question concerns the objects and situations perceived by the body/mind.
I see my daughter. She is an object of consciousness. As a human being she is known as a continuous entity. This the toddler becomes a girl who becomes a woman. I know her. She knows me. We have a relationship.
From the perspective of nonduality, am I experiencing “my” consciousness appearing as her? Or does she possess distinct attributes that are, by necessity, separate from my own consciousness? Like all intimate and long term relationships, this one seems to possess unique and predictable qualities. I am asking you about the nature of perceived “reality”.

Thank you so much for your time.
Eric

Dear Eric,

Who is your daughter? Is she the human body that underwent changes from toddler to girl, from girl to woman? Or is she rather the consciousness that perceives and acts through that changing body? And is that consciousness that perceives the ever changing perceptions itself subject to change? Look within yourself at your own consciousness to answer these questions. By “consciousness” I mean that which is perceiving these words right now. What is true of your own consciousness is likely to be true of her’s. Does your own consciousness have attributes that you can perceive such as color, shape, limits, beginning, end, etc? Does it change? Does it go on and off? Where does your consciousness end and hers begin?

When you say “I know her” you mean in fact two different modes of knowing, two values attached to the pronoun “her”:
1. Her=her body, her habits, memories, her past history, etc -all perceived objects, attributes. In that case you and she are different. But even “you” are different from yourself from moment to moment, since this “you” is ever changing.
2. Her= the consciousness, that which perceives, knows, understands, loves, lives. In that case, is there a difference you can perceive between her consciousness and yours? And if there is no difference you can perceive, what leads you to believe they are different?

To answer your question in a nutshell: the attributes in each of you are different and not real, the consciousness, beingness, reality, love and eternity is the same in both of you. Your daughter and you are one in this Love, as this Love.

Below is the Facebook dialogue

Bryan: Penetrate this insight untill there is no doubt at all. This will pull any lingering belief out of the contrary notions that surface out of past momentum. The radical point is that you are already free. You are only awareness and othing else. Everything else is a concept appearing in this that you are.-John Wheeler (an eminent Advaita/nonduality teacher)

Me: no, I don’t agree. Awareness is void without objects and I’m just not convinced that voidness is the purpose of existence. Although, It’s a powerful pointer to the starting point of freedom. Yet, awareness without a brain is something that I, for one, cannot conceive – with all due respect to John Wheeler.

Bryan: Eric, keep clinging to your search of what this is then. Good luck at finding it. You will never be convinced of this as there is no convincing needed. You see Advaita or non-duality as a concept and I’m not sure or not if you are aware of this. Trying to “understand” advaita is like using a hammer on a screw. It will not work and if it is used then it will cause a lot of damage. Follow your intuition and hunch and try not to looked to be convinced. “Convincing” is the a tool of the mind. I am witnessing a lifetime of suffering effortlessly drop away and a stable and unshakable confidence in what I am take its place. That is all the evidence I need to know that the mind is not real.
Love, Bryan

Nathan: Yep Siree!

Eric: Bryan: I’m not trying to convince myself of anything. I know that reality is never “caught” by the mind, thus nothing can be defined or independently described. Even if I were to say I “understand” this, I would just be fooling myself. This is both seen and known. I appreciate your comments, but our dialogue is weakened by the nature of this medium.

Nathan: “Yet, awareness without a brain is something that I, for one, cannot conceive” – who is the I that you speak of Eric? Who is the I that cannot conceive of this?
Can it be conceived? More importantly who is the I?

Me: Great question Nathan – you stumped me, which is wonderful. Blowhards are not stumped all that often. The answer is consciousness itself – BUT – I know you would never agree with this … BUT – since we have brains – we cannot conceive of anything without them. This is a statement that cannot be disproven, since the condition that it is pointing to cannot be explored. We assume that consciousness is entirely separate from a brain, but how can we know that unless we were to test the proposition with “something” that does not have a brain?

Nathan: To me awareness and consciousness are quite different. Consciousness is the manifest. Awareness is ground out of which all things spring. Consciousness exists within awareness…perception relies on the body/brain/mind continuum yes….but that which watches…the mind – that is of a wholly different order…it is completely impersonal…it is not of time…it is not of the physical. It reads the mind. When the mind is quiet – it is active. When the mind takes on the role of an identity ie ego – then it is missed…this that does not change is what the “I” is. It is beyond all conception. It is the ground of all being. It is all that is substantial and it encompasses all that is insubstantial. read “that which watches…the mind” as “that which watches the mind/body/world is of a wholly different order” – I can see that the “….” could confuse!

Me: Yes Nathan – it could be, but it is something we can never know, because it cannot be tested, it is, therefore a belief. A person could ask, “why can’t the nervous system be self aware?” That same person could say that based on the principles of biology and evolution that self awareness is essential to a species survival. Thus this quality of seeingness without thought is just a function of the mind. I’m not taking a position on this. I just don’t know – but the state of being without thought, does not, necessarily, cancel out its source as the nervous system – in fact, it might affirm it.

Nathan: “Thus this quality of … seeingness without thought is just a function of the mind. “

I am sorry but I disagree with you -that which watches is not the mind…it is something entirely different.

When the idea that you are a body-mind is dropped…then that which you are IS – ie awareness witnessing the manifest but not bound up in it as an identity. This is seen or not seen. It cannot be debated – it has nothing to do with the nervous system – it is of a wholly different order.

Me: OK – that is the official line and I would like to believe it as well, but as someone heavily trained in research, I know that it is a contention that cannot best tested. It’s, literally!, no different from the statement, “God is real.” It also cannot be tested – similarly with the statement that “God is unreal.” The principle of Occam’s razor posits that this awareness is a function of the nervous system. For me: I just don’t know.
But Nathan people who believe in God make EXACTLY the same statements – that their experience of God is utterly real and when questioned with the tone of implying that it is only a belief, will respond defensively that the person asking the question hasn’t experienced God, so is in no position to question H”is”/”er” veracity. So it is with nonduality, as well.

Bryan: Eric- To me, and I could be wrong, but the brain question to me is evidence that you still are finding the “you” in the brain. Such questions keep us lingering in the world of the separate self however subtle.

Your direct experience will tell you where this is at. If there is a notion of a self it will lead to conceptual suffering and a further look is required.

Nathan: well I can’t see how belief comes into this…it’s the dropping of all belief as I see it…but yes there is no way to prove or disprove what is being said…when ideation ends this IS…it is “always” (always in the sense – free of time) there…but until realized – it is but an idea or an ideal to be reached – and hence further mind miasma

Bryan: As far as I see it this not a religious doctrine. Whenever I see nonduality as a doctrine in itself it loses all what it is about. Again, beliefs are creeping back. This is not about argument or belief. It is a direct investigation of your true nature.

Me: No Bryan – did you read my last comment to Nathan? What I am saying cannot be shown to be wrong. It’s as simple as that. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with seeking, belief, spirituality, love, experience, or anything we can imagine. It’s simple, incontrovertible fact. A belief in an awareness that is separate from the nervous system is a contention that cannot be evaluated. No different from the belief in God or heaven or Coke is Life. You may experience it as separate, I would never begrudge you of that, but it is something taken of faith. The fervency of your tone underscores that contention.
Bryan and Nathan – I am not disagreeing with you. I am merely applying principles of science to a subject that is not open to scientific inquiry. Perhaps the mind is a consequence of consciousness. Perhaps consciousness is a consequence of the mind. I don’t know and I will never know. BUT!!!!! I experience what you experience!
How do I KNOW that?
Because the self-awarenessness of our individual body/minds is one – identical and mirror-like.
Nathan – Note how I am extracting the quality of belief from my own experience of nonduality.

Nathan: well science is based on the I don’t know mind – which is wonderful…but it is limited to the phenomenal…and is a reality tunnel of it’s own – ie one of enquiry into the content – not of enquiry into that which perceives the content

Bryan: What does contention mean?

Me: contention: to contend – question
This has been a fantastic dialogue – it shows the power of FB.

Bryan: Awareness includes science and the nervous system.

These are not separate.

However, awareness does not need a nervous system or a science to exist. It is self verified.

This cannot be understood by any amount of reasearch as it is often the researchers the most often have such trouble with this.
If you see awareness as separate from something then you have turned awareness into a concept. Therefore you are missing what is being pointed too.
If you see awareness as separate from something then you have turned awareness into a concept. Therefore you are missing what is being pointed too.

Me: No Bryan, I am not missing it. You are so invested in what you have read and heard from well respected Advaita teachers that you are just repeating the company line and I’m not saying it’s wrong (although I’m getting a little annoyed having to repeat myself so often).
Like ALL true believers, you have shown a somewhat smug quality to anyone who might raise legitimate questions and that is, exactly, the problem with all rock-solid beliefs. They will always present intolerance to the external questioner. This discussion is fast becoming the most compelling argument against “official” Advaita I have ever experienced. And EVERYTHING I say will play into the “inner” circle that Nathan and you are expressing.
For one second forget EVERYTHING you have read from teachers and ask yourself this question:
How do I KNOW that self awareness is separate from the mind/body? Not what you believe!!! How do I know that?
All religious belief is frightened by knowing. Whether its orthodox Judaism, or Vedanta. This is exactly where the split occurs. Because if you’re rigorously honest with yourself, you must say only this: “I don’t know”. End of story.
You might add, that it feels separate, but now you have edged over into the realm of belief.
It is no different from saying, “I know there is a God.” It MIGHT be true, but it cannot be proven. It might make you feel better about yourself and your life, but it is still a belief. And here’s where the problem creeps in. Vedanta is the self-proclaimed, voider of all belief, yet it is seen as just another belief. It might be more refined than other beliefs, but it’s still a belief.
Here is my final word on this:
It’s a mystery. It cannot be known. It is what it is. I need no beliefs to exist. Life needs no beliefs to exist. It is. This is my last word on this subject in this dialogue.
I am so very grateful to you and Nathan. This has been truly wonderful.

Bryan: You are still storying about it. Let’s call it “hot dog” then. I honestly hate vedenta and awareness too. Your peristant with mind games is astonishing to me and very sophisticated. Its trickery is only debunked by direct experience as I have no words against it. You win.

Me: no no no no no no no no – I didn’t win. I just raised a simple question. Once we can transcend winning and losing – we are FREE.
What I’m doing Nathan and Bryan is Vedanta. I am observing without the slightest quality of ego. I am utterly unconcerned with right or wrong. I am devoid of belief. I don’t need or want belief. And I love this but not for the “intellectual” stimulation. That’s nice, but it’s just a passing state. It’s for the truth that I love this. I am very grateful to you.


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  1. #1 by alan on June 20, 2009 - 3:10 pm

    THis confirms again the non duality game as just another belief system that so many are now getting sucked into. If they could just see that their new beliefs are just new beliefs. Here its the belief that I am awareness. Amazing !

    • #2 by Eric on June 21, 2009 - 8:51 am

      Dear Alan,
      Not necessarily. My post was merely raising this as a possibility. There is no need to take it for “fact”. The mind loves to believe, because that’s what it it accustomed to do. When we believe, we’re part of a group and that might feel empowering at first. But the question, is, is that belief true? This is all part of the exploration in what is false. It’s a life-long journey and it doesn’t need to be a serious struggle. We can also just stop and enjoy the roses.
      Thanks for your comment.
      truly,
      Eric

  2. #3 by Charlie M on June 21, 2009 - 11:13 pm

    Wow. Bryan’s last response was really aggressive.

  3. #4 by chris hebard on June 28, 2009 - 7:21 pm

    Gents-

    Congratulations. I have enjoyed the deep discussion on consciousness. May I suggest that you might find more helpful material by circling back around to Francis Lucille. Go to his swebsite: http://www.francislucille.com and visit his ask francis live section here:

    http://francislucille.com/guru_spiritual_teacher_self_realization.html

    Post your detailed questions there and he will honor your questions with very helpful, and logical asnwers designed to help you directly explore the truth of your experience, not inhrriting another set of beliefs.

    If we can help, please contact us at oncechris@stillnessspeaks.com

    • #5 by Eric on June 28, 2009 - 8:07 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Francis Lucille, although I have never met him, is the teacher with whom I most clearly relate. I love is approach to nonduality and find him to be a great inspiration.

      Thank you so much for checking out my blog. If you would like a copy of my book, please just let me know.

      Eric

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