H. (… if I may, I shall just add a few follow-on remarks in connection with your particular, numbered points:)
- I originally said:“in my opinion there is always the risk of leaning too much on concepts that are not within our own sphere of experience and hence are alien as regards to any intimate knowing.”In my experience, then the seeker is best advised, at some point in their development, to reinterpret their experience [i.e. in wise reflection/Pali: ‘Yoniso manasikara’] using their own terms, which are perfectly understood by themselves, and to desist in couching everything within others’ linguistic paradigms. Inevitably, when one is introduced to terms from the Great Teachings, then shadings of interpretation form and develop as to what those terms may mean in direct experience. Accordingly, we may find ourselves reaching for, or most notably expecting, particular kinds of experience, ones which fit our (mis)conceptions, our (mis)interpretations. So we get stuck, thinking that we must pass through certain states, or insights, as conceived by ourselves but as quite wrongly imagined in so doing. With Buddhist concepts like ‘dissolution’ (of phenomena), ‘transience’, ‘non-self’, ‘emptiness’, ‘consciousness’, ‘un-satisfactoriness’ and even ‘mindfulness’ and ‘concentration’, we can and do attempt to match experience to self-created images of what these things mean. I might venture to suggest that far too many colourful and exotic expressions are clung to in bids to convey to ourselves our imagined goal, this perhaps being a byproduct of the point you make about non-translatable terms. ‘Dukkha’ (Pali), or ‘un-satisfactoriness’ as it is translated from the Pali term, being a great case in point, and the reason why so many think of Buddhism as a doctrine of pessimism. ‘Nibbana/Nirvana’ is another – and ‘extinction’ is sometimes thought of as the disappearance of, say, the physical and phenomenal world. It is absurd.
- You quote Dennis Waite who states one cannot mix levels of ‘reality’ (again, a word I assiduously avoid using). Nonetheless, the process of spiritual seeking is largely conducted within, and organised by, the mind, that is, within consciousness, which itself has sole referents of psychical objects/ mentation. Those mentatative objects are largely percepts, which in turn tend to conform to a consensus ‘reality’ – the world as is commonly apprehended. So, I would, for what it is worth to readers, just both confirm yet also qualify Dennis’ quote in that the seeker must guard against abandoning the working within consensus ‘reality’ – doing so is necessary in order to unravel their misunderstandings i.e. using the mind to overcome the mind. It is no use thinking that everything is an illusion. It is no use thinking that the physical person does not exist. Thereisa physical world populated by discrete objects! ‘All is consciousness’ – reductio ad absurdum? Patently so. ‘All experience is consciousness’, then yes again, patently so – but now perfectly true.
A very important point: To state that there are physically discrete objects is not to reject that they are identical with any apprehending of them. It is not one or the other; it is both, yet ultimately as awareness, or unicity. The world exists; apprehending exists; yet both are identical. This is my way of describing non-duality outside of handed-down jargon. In jargonistic terms, I would perhaps suggest ND is a form of Radical Externalism – although ‘internal’ and ‘external’ are only ever conceptual constructs within the actualised experience of it. No subject stands outside the tree being apprehended, and which itself is not an object standing outside of any subject. ‘Subject’ and ‘object’ are mind creations alone, but the tree is not a mind creation. The paradox of non-duality is that given apparently (to the mind) only the possibility of it being either subject as a oneness, object as a oneness, or both together as a oneness, it is none of those three.
- I previously said:“If there is any supranatural entity-state then it cannot be apprehended and actualised in nature, and so clearly no (wo)man can speak meaningfully about it.”Here, it is perhaps simpler and more helpful to ground things, to escape the false notion that somehow the mind is able to acquire something beyond nature, or absorb into something beyond nature, or to hold the notion that non-duality is actualised as if it had previously existed outside of nature and is now (magically) within nature. It is actualised, yet only in the sense that what previously was not apparent (in nature) now becomes apparent (in nature). No (wo)man can speak meaningfully about anything beyond nature [i.e. supranatural] coming into nature, because that is not a possibility – there is nothing beyond nature [Spinoza] – only things that are obscured from our knowledge of nature. Non-duality obviously does not stand outside of nature waiting to be brought into it. It is merely occluded by mind-created phenomena, beliefs, conditioning, and so forth.
On your point about ‘higher faculties’ and ‘intuition’, then these are fair enough terms, but just for my own writing purposes I call those things, or rather what you are suggesting they access, ‘awareness knowing itself as itself’. I have no firm idea if anyone takes anything from that expression, but it at least has the merit of circumventing the idea that some exalted state of mind is what actualises non-duality, or that consciousness accesses it as a phenomenal object. Also, it has an intimacy to it that reflects well the actualisation (whilst it persists), as the sense is very much of awareness having complete intimacy with itself in and as a totality.
- Okay, we agree. Non-duality is not a state that comes in and out of existence as a mind-state, nor as a mindless-state. The mind will do as it will; non-duality remains unmoved by its movements and non-movements.
- To be clear as to my own use of the following two terms:
Consciousness: I use this term to denote the stream of mentation, all of which is known, meaning apprehended. ‘Con science’ means ‘with knowledge’, and so there is always a ‘knowing of’ some psychical object within the mentative stream – either that, or a knowing of the stream itself as a flux-continuum of perceptual objects. It is the mind’s representations, meaning it is brain and nervous system dependent.
Awareness: I use this term to denote the illumination of consciousness, though there is no ontological distinction between it and consciousness itself. Awareness ‘knows’ nothing other than itself, as itself, and hence can be objectless. It does not know itself as an object within itself. It does not require the use of memory or perceptual activity and is not instantiated as psychical representations. The question is, is it brain dependent? Actualised non-duality reveals that awareness is non-local, not spatially referenced of itself, and not dependent upon the brain’s capacity to represent.
As to your reference to ‘self-realised persons’, then I respectfully suggest that is irrelevant to the discussion. The notion of realised and unrealised persons is a construct of unknowing mind. Such terms are used within spiritual teachings because seekers necessarily think within the subject/object dichotomy, and can only be led doctrinally out of such thinking by using their own terms of reference. The seeker is stuck in the thinking and false belief that tells them that they are an unrealised person and that their teacher, or the Buddha, or whoever, is a realised person. To the seeker, the realised person (as they see them) is still a subject having absorbed into an object, or a subject having acquired an object (of knowledge).
As to your ‘second possibility’ that mind doesn’t function anymore as individual mind in so-called ‘realisation’, then I would reject this on the basis that the individual mind is merely the brain and nervous system doing as it must and only ever as it can. As a product of evolution the individual mind cannot be usurped as such, though its inhabitation by illusory self-constructs is abandoned. The brain and sensory system function as they always did and evolved to do. Now, the idea of ‘mind’ itself ought not to be taken to connote any autonomous and integrated substantiation of consciousness, as it commonly is. It is a collective term for Hume’s bundle of perceptions, along with dispositions, memories and so forth – all physically-bound stuff, but with no autonomy, and integrated only insofar as each phenomenon arises dependently upon other phenomena which themselves exist largely outside the putative mind. None of that can ever form part of any fanciful ‘Universal Consciousness’. Consciousness, by its nature (according to my own definitions as above), is always particularised to the individual. When you write of“consciousness only ‘aware-ing’ and responding to consciousness in a self-reflecting way”, then that makes complete sense to me, although only in my stepping outside of my own definitions and into yours, which I am happy to do.