29 July 2014

Advaita, Vedanta, Non-Dualism and Transcendence


Advaita, Advaita-Vedanta, Non-Dualism and Transcendence

To put it in language as normal as I can, a strange thing happened to me a dozen or so years ago.

I have seldom referred to the experience directly, and when I do, I haven’t called it “enlightenment”, “transcendence” or “God-consciousness”.
I have called it my “weirdness”, I sometimes say “since my normal life ended”. I call it a “big satori”, which in the language of this school means an experience-affecting insight that happens to be lasting unusually long, but could end at any moment. Sometimes, just to help those around me to not take it (and therefore me) too seriously, I call it my “brain tumour”.

The most direct I have been in talks and my writing is saying that I have reached a point of my tantra at which I am no longer driven by eroticism.

The most direct telling of my experience is in The Rocky Horror Tantra Book, chapter 9. 

It has now been a dozen years that I have had the constant tingle of satori, and that nothing I have done to end it (and I have tried) seems to have reduced it appreciably. Certainly fever, persistent pain, lack of food and shortage of sleep affect the mechanics, the functioning of my body and mind, but the change that occurred in me is, if anything, strengthened at such times.

When this strange thing happened, I was glad of the preparation I had, little though it was. 

Although, to my very bones, I could feel the completeness of it and suspected its irreversibility, strong spiritual/meditational experiences and insights had been an almost daily occurrence for over a year, so it was awesome and shattering, but not entirely unfamiliar.

My own learning had often been from people who had had the strong insight of satori – they had glimpsed an aspect of truth. Communicating that insight was the whole of their true and useful teaching. When they interpolated from their understanding, the usefulness of their teaching declined dramatically. Not knowing how long my satori would last, I did not explode into expression of it. I kept it very much to myself, and went into the world as what I had been: Swami Advait-Rahasya, a sannyasin (disciple) of my last Master, and the only one I actually submitted to in any worthwhile sense of the word, Osho, previously called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Osho was a truly remarkable teacher. His discourses pointed to valuable spiritual practices and knowledge. He opened areas of enquiry and exploration – he did not provide “answers”. He questioned answers rather than answering questions. 

Some of his discourses revealed the territory beyond enlightenment. The Indian world is old enough that enlightenment is not as strange a phenomena there as elsewhere. It has been studied much, and some guidelines around mature spiritual expression exist. Fortunately, I had been listening. 

So, I knew that even if this experience had some duration, even permanence, that the common wisdom was that it could easily take 10 years just to get used to the new way of being and its implications.

I also knew that, even though I now had an unusual capability or two, showing these off to interest people in the path is generally counter-productive (because those who are enthralled by such tricks make truly terrible students).

I resolved to simply get on with living, meeting what life presents me with …

And life presented me with students. The students learned and came into their expression as teachers in their own right – and not just any teachers. They matured into Dakinis. Dakinis are women in the fullness of their spiritual and sexual powers who can and do use their capabilities to guide and teach others the lessons of Tantra. They are extremely rare and are generally very hard to find indeed. Before these, I had just once met just one, in India. She was retired from teaching and had no idea whatsoever about where or how to find another.

Strictly speaking, the disciplines, practices and approaches of Tantra with a big “T” can only be taught to those thoroughly prepared through the Yogas (study and practice) of the body, the mind and of higher (as in ultimately true, not just useful) philosophy.

These Dakinis appreciated the historic tendency to secrecy – they had experienced the judgements of culture and family – but altogether were of the attitude that this teaching can be more available and less secret.

Since then, they and I have been involved in the chaotic melee of tantra as practiced and taught in the world. 

A Dakini wrote a book which was described by another Dakini as “The first four years with Rahasya”, I wrote The Rocky Horror Tantra Book, to fill in the things other tantra books don’t mention and to make it clear that this is a tough path for seekers of intent, not a gentle, friendly path for happy bliss-bunnies.

We have poked fun at the more indulgent and silly teachers, we have participated in several international conferences …

… and, above all we have taught – in the formats of individual sessions, groups, workshops and residential retreats.

Over time, we have taken on the biggest challenge of such teaching: “How far down the mountain can you go?”

Many teachers, particularly those in the non-dual/advaita territory, make no attempt to reach people where they are. They sit atop their highest understanding and basically tell you that, if you could think as they do you would experience what they experience. They are useful to those who are truly ready for pinnacle-understandings and are not much use to those who need learning and preparation.

Likewise, at the beginning, I was only available to teach those few who had already developed the capacity, capability and will for the meditations of tantra and the rigours of philosophy.

They, likewise, were at first only available to students of good development. We sent people to other teachers when it looked like they needed particular lessons of physicality, mind-training or philosophical development as preparation for their tantra.

Step by step, we took on the challenge. One major step was developing and teaching our touch-work. One Dakini volunteered to be the headmistress (yes, she does not like me calling her that) of our touch school. 

Not an easy step, that. On the one hand, because a few aspects of touch work are pretty much all that is called “tantra” out there, we had been reflexively referring anyone looking for such work to other practitioners. We had to loose the snooty “That is not the work of a Dakini” attitude, even though, yes, it is not the work of a Dakini.

The decision to “go down the mountain” to the territory of touch work was, for me motivated by what it can teach the practitioner (Yogini-adept). Sure, it is useful, even healing, work, and I do care for those who need that … but I care much more for the women I work with, and, for them, doing touch-work is a rapid learning/discovery of their mastery of masculine energy (a vital part of their journey).

The next step was into the tricky territory of erotic work, which is about getting over the tendency of the mind to overlay (particularly sexual) experiences with fantasy. Most people use the lover as a prop to enhance, confirm or develop a fantasy … not optimal for making your sexuality your meditation.

It is time now for another step, this into the territory of mind-training, which, when it comes to Tantra, means the study of the highest of philosophies: Advaita. 

Advaita means “not two” in literal translation. Synonyms are: undivided, indivisible, non-dual.

It starts, like all philosophies, with its axioms – that which it takes to be true, from which careful interpolation is hoped to remain true. To minimise the axioms and keep things really clear, Advaita has just one axiom:

All which appears as opposites are polar expressions of an indivisible thing.

Let’s break that down to terms and get accurate.
“All which appears as …”

Pat Grove, a generally unacknowledged pioneer in the motivational/personal growth/coaching arena was my first teacher in these things. He told me:

"What is, is and what isn’t, isn’t."

We do not need to discuss that which does not appear, “appear” meaning that which we perceive and that which we theoretically could perceive – everything that affects or could ever affect us or anything we observe in even the slightest way.

Hence, in Advaita, we do not, cannot and won’t discuss that which isn’t … because it isn’t. 

In mathematical language, this means that we completely discard the notion of zero as an actual (worth putting in a calculation) number instead of what it originally was created to be – a marker of a blank space in numbers that exceed the base used. (More about this and other implications of Advaita for mathematics will be linked here when written.)

So, the statement of Advaita only applies to “what is”, in other words, absolutely everything.

Absolutely everything? … Well … almost absolutely. The one thing that Advaita cannot shine any light on is itself – why it should be so, and what the nature of the “one” from which all arises actually is.

On to the next term:
" … opposites are polar expressions …"

Our senses report, for example warmth and coolness. They feel different, we have different names for them and less of one generally seems to be equivalent to more of the other. A measure, a quantity of one thing (in this case energy) is what is being experienced. In other words, heat and cold are actually one thing, which we call, for now, "temperature", but which is, more accurately, speed. One phenomenon, two experiences/expressions/polarities that we classify as opposite.

A corollary which traditional (and again, except for really, really traditional) teaching tends to miss is that a thing, once expressed, can never become or be experienced entirely as one of those expressions alone. There will always, in mathematical language, be a minima of one polar expression within a maxima of the other. Absolute cold and absolute heat will always be unattainable. There will always be a minima of heat within a Maxima of cold – and – a minima of cold within even Maximal heat.

This is hopefully clarified by the end of the statement we are examining:
"… of an indivisible thing."

An indivisible thing, expressed/experienced as two things can never be completely expressed as either. If it could do so, it would no longer be what it originally was. It would have become entirely one end of itself, just one end of a polarity.

What is, is and what is persists. Once expressed as a polarity, a (the) thing cannot express as either polarity exclusively or entirely.

This is similar to the ideas Science has around the persistence/conservation of matter, energy and more recently, information (persistence of the potentially knowable/measurable/discoverable). It also echoes the old magical rule of that which has been created being impossible to un-create.

The Philosopher's TOEs

All philosophies are “Theories Of Everything”. Ideas describing just a “something” are not philosophies, they are theories or notions.

Advaita is perhaps the ultimate Theory of Everything. More correctly, it is a Theory of (Everything-1). The one thing it cannot describe is itself, the indivisible and undivided oneness.  No theory could explain absolutely everything and no cockamamie notion is absolutely incorrect in absolutely every situation. 

All explanations of the world need a miraculous starting point. The Abrahamic religions require an anthropomorphic God in the sky, managing every little thing personally and getting grumpy with people who don’t proclaim their adoration for Him regularly. Modern physics requires an undefinable singularity, operating by laws we see paralleled nowhere in nature, giving us all the complex features of existence in what, at its time was mockingly called a “big bang”.  (More about this and other implications of Advaita for big and small physics will be linked here when written.)

The irreducible mystery that Advaita cannot describe, what we have to take for granted, is as minimal as possible. The mystery is that there is anything at all in the first place. The fact that we experience, and that there is something to be experienced – that there is indeed an “is” – is all that Advaita requires us to take, so to speak, on faith.

The proof of Advaita is the same as the proof for any philosophy or TOE – how well it describes our actual experience, experimentation, and knowledge that we are pretty certain of. Proof is of course not absolute, though the ongoing process of revelation/testing over time refines it.

So, I find myself in an unusual situation. On account of my weirdness (or brain tumour) Advaita, for me does not require proof.

Because it is the core of my experience, it is self-evident in my every moment. I find it filling in the gaps which appear between the currently fragmented parts of what was once called Natural Philosophy.  I find it applicable to any area of life I care to examine, from the fine structure of the universe to the mathematics of banking and the mystery of death. This does not require effort, just the willingness on my part to let “it” do the explaining.

I don’t like duplicating the work of others. When someone teaches something to my satisfaction in a particular area, I far prefer to refer to their teaching than to reinvent wheels. That said, I am not very satisfied with some of the current expressions of Advaita in the world, nor do I find the old-school “Advaita Vedanta” styles of teaching very applicable or useful in the way they are currently taught.

So this is not going to be “connect to my essence in silence while I immerse myself in my intrinsic blissfulness and occasionally mutter profundities about how profound my experience is”. For that, I recommend John de Ruiter.

Neither is it going to be “think as I think, accept these ideas and be freed from your worldly pains and concerns”. For that, see Tolle.

I am also not going to be exploring the philosophy in the mode of: “Your happiness and unhappiness are one phenomena. The difference is the choice you make, so you can choose to rather be happy, doesn’t that make you happy now?” For that, with awesome cool and a great Jamaican accent, see Mooji.

Finally, I am not going to recommend repeated inquiry into the question “Who or what am I?”. I can’t recommend a teacher for that approach. The last great one I know of died recently. 

Don’t get me wrong. I do not dislike these expressions and teachings. Silence is the ultimate honesty, right-thinking is very useful, Mooji’s expression of Advaita is gorgeous and the quest for our true nature is the very essence of the path. Just … this is not going to be an exercise in duplication or reframing those teachings.

My silence is for those who choose to be close enough to share it. My expression of Advaita is going to be in a non-traditional (unless you count really, really old tradition) mode of applying the philosophy to questions and puzzles of the “world of phenomena” – in regular language, the world that lies behind our individual experiences of it.

I have been writing and researching mightily for the last couple of months. It looks like humanity has a pretty near complete understanding of the components of existence. Just, like a jigsaw, some pieces of knowledge need a little wiggling to make them fit and, like making a patchwork quilt, some areas of understanding need stitching together. 

For the next few months, I will be using Advaita and related understandings to explore several aspects of existence on this blog. Pencilled are: Advaita and perception; Advaita, the quantum and relativity; Advaita and information theory; Advaita as a personal philosophy, Advaita and emotional experience …

I have (thanks, like everything I have, to the generosity of a beloved student) an awesome laptop with camera. I also have, thanks to having pioneered the field, some skills with illustration. I will be doing drawings and shooting video clips as I go along. Whatever gets too deep for blog articles (and some of it is far too deep) I will assemble into an online course for those who want to approach the madness that has always been associated with (effective) studies of the ultimate.

For some of you, this is going to be weird because it is going to involve much science, some informative (and not necessarily pretty) graphics, some mathematics and references to technology (which is the actually proven to work end of science). For others, and especially for those who might find their way here on account of the maths and physics, it is going to be weird because I will be referring to some very ancient ideas, quoting sainted philosophers and may even use pretty images of sacred geometry. I can promise you all though, that there will be no unicorns. Rainbows … maybe.

I think it is going to be fun, and do feel free to suggest topics you would like to see Advaita applied to – in comments here or at the school Facebook group.

Love, as always, however it looks.
R

4 comments:

  1. Looking forward to it.

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  3. just happen to stumble upon this post and couldn't be happier. Steady as she weirds, I might say ... never said thanks like I am right now with a bow. rj

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