Is duality real?

Subject-object – Advaita Vision comment

Anon.: ‘No matter who says what, it is your job to look directly at your own experience/mind without the images of models, teachers, books, and like minded people, and to recognize how the subject-object dichotomy comes about. It is not about looking for moksha or any kind of release from the present state. Self Realization and the rest of the goals that are promulgated have nothing to do with it. They are only images that get regurgitated by thinking. There is no substance there.

My reply today (7.10.18):

‘How the subject-object dichotomy comes about.’

Any Advaitin worth his/her salt knows that the dichotomy subject-object is not transcended by the unsupported mind, which in itself is inert. Empirical experience seems to be undeniable, and with it that polarity, but one knows from Shankara – and only from Shankara – that it is based on ignorance, that is, failing to distinguish between the Self and the intellect or mind, which leads to the superimposition of either one on the other. Thus, the non-dual and undifferentiated Self – alone real – appears to be an agent and a knower, whereas in reality It is a ‘witness’ (a witness tat is none other than pure Consciousness); and It is so by Its mere presence, not actively. The dichotomy referred to does not exist – in reality.


About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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8 Responses to Is duality real?

  1. Jasso says:

    Well, I’ll not try to define “real” and “reality” right now. I just want to say that non-dual Vedanta can’t solve the intuitive *fact* of the duality between arisings and arisen things. It is quite clear that acts like seeing, hearing, thinking, talking or writing are not the same that the *things that arise* in these acts. There is a radical difference between the act of seeing and the thing seen.

  2. First, I mean by ‘reality’ that which is unsublatable, i.e.the pure experience of the unique Subject (call it consciousness, which is universal, transcendent), which is not in duality. This, along with all of metaphysics, is counterintuitive, so agree with your remark. The Eastern experience in this realm is almost opposite to the Western one, except for a few figures (Plato, Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysios, Meister Eckhart, Nicolas of Cusa, the Victorines…). This tradition is shot through with mysticism as well as with reason. I append here some comments from a recent post in Quora:

    Truth as reality – Plato (Cushman)
    (David Moore’s answer & my comment

    I agree the notion of truth is (primarily) metaphysical, having to do with reality – what is. When truth/epistemology relates to the phenomena of the empirical realm, then it is involved with language, duality. The higher, metaphysical realm is non-dual in itself, and here I would have ‘truth’, and ‘knowledge’ as symbols of reality, not as the tuth/knowledge of propositions. Thus, ‘reality’, which is indivisible, is not a symbol or a mere concept, since it signifies, points at, represents or stands for ‘what is’ or the wholeness of existence or being.

    As Robert E. Cushman wrote (Therapeia, xviii): ‘… Plato’s conception of Wisdom is governed by his conviction that truth relating to ultímate reality resists propositional status and cannot be corralled and contained. Truth about reality is subordinated to truth as reality… truth and reality are inseparable, for reality is embraced in immediate apprehension.’
    Thus, agree that good philosophy is an ‘apophatic architecture for reality’ which reveals relationships, but not substance. It is like a map for our guidance. Could we say then that ‘truth as reality’ is the terrain itself (and we are part of that terrain?

    • Jasso says:

      That’s fine. I’ll not discuss what we could, philosophically speakig, understand as “real” or “reality”. I think spanish “nails it ” when it uses words like reality or real (realidad o real). For instance, when one says “este vino es real”, what one is saying is that the wine is “realy like a wine”. But as I said, I’ll put this problem in brackets.

      In any case, for a philosophy that presumes to point towards a non-dual reality, I still don’t know how AV solves the duality between acts and things that arise in acts… Seeing is not the seen!

      • I already said that ‘the non-dual and undifferentiated Self – alone real – appears to be an agent and a knower (knower/known duality, seer or seeing/seen, etc.), whereas in reality It is a mere witness’ and that metaphysics in general is counterintuitive, that is, not according to common sense – so, any objection to its tenets are understandable. Advaita Vedanta is a very subtle and complex philosophy-rationality-mysticism, and/but, finally, it is based on and validated by experience; it takes many years to grok it, and there must be a serious interest in pursuing it. There is an excellent, full article on it in Wikipedia..

      • Jasso says:

        “It is based on and validated by experience; it takes many years to grok it,”

        And my objection is based on inmediate experience. I’ve read most of Shankara’s corpus in its very own language, so I think I know a couple of things about his pseudo-philosophy.

        I invite you to refute objection with reason, not with dogmatism.

      • You should know that A. Vedanta is not a dogmatism, but that it is based on universal intuition and experience (anubhava), as illustrated in the account of the three states in Mandukya Up. and the rest of the Upanishadic corpus. Can you have an ‘immediate experience’ without previous conditioning (readings, conversations, etc.) having any influence – positive or negative? Of course, one can have an attitude of rejection for one reason or another, but if you deem Shankara’s philosophy – the greatest philosopher India has given, by common accord – a pseudo-philosophy, then you must be a genius, may be a new Ramanuja or Nagarjuna. But then you will have to show the results of your investigations or conclusions so the rest of us can learn. I am open to arguments, wherever they may take us. I have written a great deal on or about AV (you may visit Quora). Regards.

      • Jasso says:

        The point that I’m making is very simple, and yet remains unaswered… How an advaitin can solve the duality given in the most direct and radical aprehension bewteen seeing and the seen?

        It is not that hard, is it? This is how Vedanta is supposed to work: avidya should be hammered with the light of atma-jñana, so please help me to get rid of my ignorance! ,

  3. The answer is neither hard nor not hard, but usually needs hard and prolonged, persistent work to get at it, or for ‘it’ to get to you. I already gave you some pointers, but if you want to have the final truth, no one can spell it out for you. Finally, it is up to you to find it, for the truth is not transferable – it is not yours or anybody’s; it is itself and chooses whom it will as a vehicle or target.

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