The following is from Judith Blackstone's book The Empathic Ground.

Nondual Realization and Intersubjectivity Theory (pdf)

 

 

 

Two views of Nonduality

 

“Over the centuries, different contemplative traditions have developed a variety of ways to describe the underlying oneness referred to as “nonduality.” But all of these views of oneness can be seen as belonging to two different perspectives.

 

  1. One group of traditions claims that the universe is a single field of Consciousness (or God) a unified Self that is being, awareness, and bliss. Within this vast field, the multitude of phenomena, including ourselves, arise and subside like waves in the ocean. This is the original insight of the Hindu seers, enshrined in the pre-Buddhist Upanishads. It is also found, expressed in different terms, in many of the Western metaphysical writings. An extreme version of this view is that claim that only pure consciousness, devoid of any content of experience, is real. All phenomena, all forms in nature, are unreal and mere illusions.

 

  1. The second group views nonduality as the interdependence of phenomena; all things are connected through each other through causes and effects. Nothing has an unchanging essence, including ourselves. This view is found in the early schools of Buddhism and in the so-called “self-emptiness” doctrines. It is also the basis of scientific materialism.

 

These two camps, which can be called the absolutists and the relativists, respectively, have been at odds with each other for centuries. A more integrative view, currently advocated by the Dalai Lama, is based on the understanding of interdependence, while maintaining that there is a continuum of pure awareness that is not dependent on the physical body.

 

Our View of Nonduality

 

     In our view, nondual realization is the lived experience of ourselves as pervaded by a very subtle dimension of consciousness. It is the clear-thorough openness of our whole body. At the same time, everything outside of ourselves also is experienced as pervaded by this same consciousness. As this all-pervasive, nondual consciousness, there is no boundary between ourselves and our environment, no boundary (no duality) between our internal and external experience. This does not mean that there is no internal experience, and it does not mean there is no external experience. It means that internal and external events register in the one unified space of nondual consciousness.

    

     When we reach this most subtle dimension of ourselves, everything appears to be transparent, made of empty, luminous stillness. This is a distinctive, unmistakable shift in the way life appears to us. For example, if we look at a table, we will see the table with all its weight, color, and texture, and at the same time, we will be aware that the table is “transparent.” It appears to be pervaded by—or made of—luminous space.

 

This ground of being is not something we have to create or imagine. It arisese spontaneously when we reach a degree of openness to life. We can employ many techniques to achieve the openness that unveils this aspect of our being, but nondual consciousness itself is not a volition experience. It is not something that we do; it is who we are. That is why it feels completely authentic, as if we finally found reality.

 

The more fully we come to know ourselves as the stillness and spaciousness of this dimension, the more effortless, deeply, and vividly the movement of life occurs and flows. This means that nondual experience is not a particular state of being or a way of paying attention. For example, nondual realization does not eradicate the capacity for reflection. Nondual consciousness encompasses and surpasses reflective consciousness but does not eradicate it.

 

This fully-body openness to the flow of life gives us a sense of being present to each moment. All of the sensual stimuli, such as the sights and sounds in our environment, seem to emerge out of the vast open space of nondual consciousness without any effort on our part. In other words, we don’t need to listen in order to hear, or to look in order to see. We simply receive the moment (including our own response to it) just as it is.

 

It is important to understand that nondual consciousness, as the primary level of our being, is not something separate from the “content” of experience flowing through it. It is not a detached transcendence, not merely an impersonal witness, for it is right in our experience. As this subtle consciousness we are both the witness and the experiencer at the same time. We are disentangled from the content of our experience only in the sense that we do not grab onto it; we do not clamp down on it; we do not deny or distort it. We allow it to flow. For this reason, as nondual consciousness, we gain—at the same time—both more ability to witness and more capacity to experience. We become more disentangled from life and more directly, potentially immersed in life.”

 

                                   --Judith Blackstone, Ph. D and Zoran Josipovic, Ph. D.

                                     From Spirituality & Health magazine May/June

 

 

Judith Blackstone, Ph. D is a psychotherapist and creator of Realization Process. She is on the faculty of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and SUNY Empire State College and gives workshops regularily at Esalen.

Judith Blackstone's website is www.judithblackstone.com

 

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"We are all familiar with the sterotype of feigned piety in Western religious traditions. Often this sactimonious, falsely smiling character has simply been convinced that nothing less than perfect goodness is acceptable to the Lord. In similar fashion, when spiritual students are taught that enlightenment is nonexistence, the result is too often a strangely vacant, diffuse, or emotionally flattened, unreal human being. The tragedy of this situation is that to limit our human reality is to limit our spiritual reality, for they are actually one and the same. Enlightenment is our humaness, fully realized.

In the Western psyche, the teaching of selflessness tends to evoke images of the self-denial and self-sacrifice of Christian saints. Most of us were taught as children not to be selfish. When we hear what sounds like the same message from authority figures such as spiritual teachers, it touches our distant memory of these early admonitions, and the fear of parental punishment. It may also touch a more subtle injunction that many of us received as children against being fully oneself-a separate person with volition, feelings, desires, and cognitions of one's own.

The residual shame and guilt of our childhood are compounded by our failures and our sense of inadequacy as adults. For many people, hearing or reading that they don't actually exist, or should not exist if thy want to be spiritual, causes them to work harder at self-effacement and at suppressing their personal qualities. It further diminishes their apppreciation of themselves. The self-contact required for enlightenment, however, is based on self-acceptance. In order to free ourselves from the constrictions that obscure our true nature, we need to see through our self-loathing to our original innocence. We need to regard ourselves--even our anger, pretensions, and fears--with compassion and clear understanding rather than seeking the oblivion of nonexistence.

Nonexistence is a concept. We can understand it philosophically, but we cannot experience that we do not exist-that which is suppposedly experiencing nonexistence is always still there, existing. We can experience ourselves as empty space, but that fundamental subjectivity is still there as empty space. To imagine that we do not exist may help us let go of our grip on ourselves, but it should not, in my view, be considered enlightenment itself. Enlightenment is the lived experience of the luminous transparency of our own being."

-The Enlightenment Process
Which teachers/teachings advocate that enlightenment is nonexistence? What does nonexistence mean here (apart from enlightenment, that is)?

rltruthseeker said:
"We are all familiar with the sterotype of feigned piety in Western religious traditions. Often this sactimonious, falsely smiling character has simply been convinced that nothing less than perfect goodness is acceptable to the Lord. In similar fashion, when spiritual students are taught that enlightenment is nonexistence, the result is too often a strangely vacant, diffuse, or emotionally flattened, unreal human being. The tragedy of this situation is that to limit our human reality is to limit our spiritual reality, for they are actually one and the same. Enlightenment is our humaness, fully realized.

In the Western psyche, the teaching of selflessness tends to evoke images of the self-denial and self-sacrifice of Christian saints. Most of us were taught as children not to be selfish. When we hear what sounds like the same message from authority figures such as spiritual teachers, it touches our distant memory of these early admonitions, and the fear of parental punishment. It may also touch a more subtle injunction that many of us received as children against being fully oneself-a separate person with volition, feelings, desires, and cognitions of one's own.

The residual shame and guilt of our childhood are compounded by our failures and our sense of inadequacy as adults. For many people, hearing or reading that they don't actually exist, or should not exist if thy want to be spiritual, causes them to work harder at self-effacement and at suppressing their personal qualities. It further diminishes their apppreciation of themselves. The self-contact required for enlightenment, however, is based on self-acceptance. In order to free ourselves from the constrictions that obscure our true nature, we need to see through our self-loathing to our original innocence. We need to regard ourselves--even our anger, pretensions, and fears--with compassion and clear understanding rather than seeking the oblivion of nonexistence.

Nonexistence is a concept. We can understand it philosophically, but we cannot experience that we do not exist-that which is suppposedly experiencing nonexistence is always still there, existing. We can experience ourselves as empty space, but that fundamental subjectivity is still there as empty space. To imagine that we do not exist may help us let go of our grip on ourselves, but it should not, in my view, be considered enlightenment itself. Enlightenment is the lived experience of the luminous transparency of our own being."

-The Enlightenment Process
I'm wondering if the author is referring to nirvikalpa samadhi? Recall in the Batchelor thread Wilber defined the nondual as the union of emptiness (nirvikalpa) and form, which is typical in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition(s) from which he draws. Granted "emptiness" has several meanings, one being empty of inherent self-existence and its corrolary in dependent arising. And as we've explored in numerous threads before, the different schools of Buddhism interpret this differently. But all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, while having differences on fine points, nonetheless emphasize that there is a completely formless, nonconceptual and egoless apprehension of reality as such (aka nirvikalpa). This might or might not be what the author is getting at?
On the relation between Vedanta and Vajrayana (that the prime kennilingusoro always references) see “Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta” by Paul Boaz. An excerpt:

“Yet, from the innermost secret nondual view of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta there is no contradiction in the Atman-Self doctrine and the Buddhist doctrine of anatman or no-self, for when the neti, neti (not this, not this) vichara consideration (p.209) is carried to its ultimate conclusion, the ostensibly permanent and eternal incarnating Atman-Self that is Brahman of the Upanishads, is ontologically identical to the 'emptiness of self' (anatman) of the Madhyamaka Prasangika (Rangtong), the great centrist view of Mahayana Buddhism. That is, the Atman-Self is not, at its nondual root, an absolute, eternal, permanently existent substrate or self-entity at all, for it is identical to Nirguna Brahman which is 'empty of all qualities and attributes,' including the attribute of self-existence. The Self that is Atman-Brahman is rather, the timeless, spaceless nondual Absolute or Ultimate Reality” (188-9).

You can also view this prior discussion at Lightmind Forum where kela explains the differences and similarities between various Hindu and Buddhist conceptions of the nondual. The thread started with the following that used to be in Wilber’s Wikipedia entry but after just checking this formerly existing section has been wiped clean by someone. Cant’ imagine why. Excerpt:

“Others, including Georg Feuerstein, argue that Wilber’s Neo-perennial Philosophy is a confusion between concepts of differentiated nondualist doctrines (such as Plotinus’s neo-Platonism and Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita Vedanta) and truly unitary monism of Zen and Advaita Vedanta: the former philosophies distinguish between emanated or manifest reality and the unchangeable source, while for Zen or Advaita the Source and reality are essentially one and the same. This is expressed in a famous Zen saying of which Wilber is quite fond: 'Nirvana is Samsara fully realized; Samsara is Nirvana rightly understood.'

“Wilber’s response to criticisms like this is typified in this quotation from the extended audio interview Speaking of Everything: '…when I lay out the stages of development, I am giving what I explicitly called in SES a rational reconstruction of the trans-rational. Thus, differentiated non-dual doctrines and truly unitary monist doctrines are describing (or coming from) different levels of consciousness, the former from a causal perspective that differentiates between emptiness and form (and hence must see form as emanationary), and the latter from a nondual perspective that equates emptiness and form (and hence renders emanation a redundant concept).'”
Lol, I think that when she is talking about "Emptiness," she is refering to teachings that teach that only Emptiness is "real..." or how teachings on "no-self" can be misinterpreted.

This is what she says,
"Fundamental consciousness is experienced as the insubstantial transparency of empty space, and, at the same time, as the tangible quality of being, or presence…Some writers have described enlightenment as becoming nobody. There is a popular phrase that we must become "somebody before we can become nobody," that we must build up an ego and dismantle it. But in my understanding, we become somebody and nobody at the same time. This is not a somebody in the abstract sense, such as an 'important' person or a 'good' person, nor is it an energetic inflation of oneself. It is the actual (uncreated) presence of being. Emptiness and qualitative being are simultaneous attributes of the realization of fundamental consciousness."


As a psychotherapist, she is aware of what happens when people deny their own subjectivity or try to deny or repress it. Her approach to enlightenment differs from others in that she emphasizes the body in the enlightenment process. Her techniques that she talks about in the book are similar to the TSK exercises, in which internal space of the body is visualized and the area "outside" the body are unified as one continuous consciousness.


Theurj, I’m pretty sure she is talking about nonduality. She doesn’t mention the term nirvikalpa samadhi (This is one of those ‘finer’ points you mentioned, but I thought the term Nirvikalpa Samadhi was the causal state, and Turiyatita was the nondual?) Anyway, regardless, she is not talking academically, but from her own lived experience, and from teaching the Realization process to her students. Her husband Zoran Jaspanovic, Ph.D. has also had a mystical ‘experience’ prior to meeting her. He teaches and conducts functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research on meditation.

She also mentions this in her book:

“the last misconceptions about enlightenment that I will mention is that we do not know when we are enlightened—since there is no duality in the experience, we cannot experience it. This may be satisfying logically, but it is not the case. As I have said, fundamental consciousness is self-reflecting. When we become enlightened, we experience ourselves as empty space pervading both our individual form and everything outside of our individual form, as a unity. We experience both the stillness of pervasive space, and the movement of our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and sensations, at the same time. We can say that fundamental consciousness is doing the experiencing, but fundamental consciousness is our own nature, our own being. Even though we experience ourselves as consciousness itself, we are still there, experiencing. Enlightenment is the most intimate contact we can have with our own experience.”

I’m not sure how far into enlightenment she is though…because she says this,

“The Zen master Maezumi Roshi once told me, “Enlightenment is easy to achieve. But to realize it completely can take many lifetimes.” In this way it is something like being pregnant. We can be a little bit pregnant and no one would say you are not “really” pregnant, but you have not come to full term. There is a tremendous range between the advanced enlightenment of the masters and the bit of enlightenment that can be easily achieved. When we first become enlightened, we have begun a phase of maturity that potentially stretches far ahead of us. But the beginning of enlightenment, as well as its progressive deepening, is accessible to anyone who is interested in it.”

It is important that we do not make an object of fundamental consciousness, that we do not reify it into a thing in itself. Enlightenment is not a fixed focus on either the emptiness of pervasive space, or on the constantly changing “content” of the space. It is an opening up to the experience of both. In our ongoing experience of life, we are not holding an enlightened ‘state’ but rather experiencing life in a spontaneous and vivid way. Any fixation on a particular focus or idea impedes the openness of enlightenment. But the shift from a fragmented self/object experience to the oneness of enlightenment is unmistakable. If this shift were not discernable, we would not know about enlightenment, yet the Asian spiritual literature is full of references to it.”


I’m not sure how “pregnant” she is… so I can’t say if there is a total cessation of perception, thought, or sense impressions at a later ‘ripened’ stage of enlightenment (?)

I’m still reading her book, …but I like the way she writes, and I’m going to order some of her other books. :)


P.S. Sorry about the late reply, but I am having computer technicality issues.
No, a good Buddhist won't frame this absolute in terms of nirvikalpa (except perhaps the kennilingusoro). Nevertheless many scholars, practitioners and scholar-practitioners see the connection. One might also check out this from B. Alan Wallace, “Is Buddhism really nontheistic?” From the introduction:

“Buddhism is commonly distinguished on doctrinal grounds from monotheistic and polytheistic religions by the fact that it refutes the existence of a divine Creator, and indeed there is ample textual evidence in early Buddhist, Mahayana, and Vajrayana treatises to support this claim. However, a careful analysis of Vajrayana Buddhist cosmogony, specifically as presented in the Atiyoga tradition of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, which presents itself as the culmination of all Buddhist teachings, reveals a theory of a transcendent ground of being and a process of creation that bear remarkable similarities with views presented in Vedanta and Neoplatonic Western Christian theories of creation. In the following paper I shall present this Vajrayana Buddhist theory in terms of its images of space and light in the creation of the universe, and I shall conclude with a reappraisal of the non-theistic status of Buddhism as a whole.”
Also note the relation to Neo-Platonism, since Plotinus is for Kennilingusoro a representative of Western nondualism. As a former scholar-practitioner of a neo-Platonic Order I can vouch for the similarities Wallace notes between it and Vajrayana, although I only apprehend the latter as a scholar.
This is of course reflective of the discussion I've been having with myself in the Batchelor thread. Note how Blackstone describes this Buddhist, as opposed to Hindu, nonduality: And how it sounds very much like Vedanta, per the discussions above (and in Batchelor):

"a continuum of pure awareness that is not dependent on the physical body."

"When we reach this most subtle dimension of ourselves, everything appears to be transparent, made of empty, luminous stillness.... It appears to be pervaded by—or made of—luminous space."

"All of the sensual stimuli...seem to emerge out of the vast open space of nondual consciousnes."
Compare with Batchelor:

“''Emptiness is….not something we 'realize' in a moment of mystical insight that 'breaks through' to a transcendent reality concealed behind yet mysteriously underpinning the empirical world. Nor do things 'arise' from emptiness and 'dissolve' back into it as though it were some kind of formless, cosmic stuff…. From here it is only a hop, skip, and a jump to equating emptiness with such metaphysical notions as 'the Absolute,' 'the Truth,' or even 'God.' The notion of emptiness falls prey to the very habit of mind it was intended to undermine."
Coming across this thread I'm delighted.

Memories of Judith and Zoran, the many retreats we did together, their colorful stories of travels in India, a sense of who and how they are as persons, brings their writing alive with the echoes of felt sense. Rich!
You might also check out the following article, which shows how various schools and individuals interpret this ancient debate. Here’s an excerpt from “Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta” by David Paul Boaz:

“Yet, from the innermost secret nondual view of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta there is no contradiction in the Atman-Self doctrine and the Buddhist doctrine of anatman or no-self, for when the neti, neti (not this, not this) vichara consideration (p.209) is carried to its ultimate conclusion, the ostensibly permanent and eternal incarnating Atman-Self that is Brahman of the Upanishads, is ontologically identical to the 'emptiness of self' (anatman) of the Madhyamaka Prasangika (Rangtong), the great centrist view of Mahayana Buddhism” (188).
Sorry for the long delay...but my computer kept on crashing. I just bought a new one. :) I should be good for awhile.

Thank you kerry and theurj for your comments :)
I like this quote from the first link you sent me theurj.

If the essential nature of each sentient being and the universe as a whole is that of infinite, luminous space, endowed with all the qualities of perfect enlightenment, why is this not realized? Samantabhadra explains that the reality of all phenomena arising as displays of the all-pervasive, ground-awareness is obscured by ignorance. Consequently, the tathagatagarbha, which utterly transcends all words and concepts—including the very notions of existence and nonexistence, one and many, and subject and object—appears to be a blank, unthinking void, which is known as the universal ground (alaya) (p. 120). The experience of this void is comparable to becoming comatose or falling into contentless, dreamless sleep. From that state arises limpid, clear consciousness as the basis from which all phenomena appear; and that is the universal ground consciousness (alayavijñana). No objects are established apart from its own luminosity, and while it produces all types of appearances, it does not enter into any object. Just as reflections of the planets and stars appear in limpid, clear water, and the entire animate and inanimate world appears in limpid, clear space, so do all appearances emerge in the empty, clear, universal ground consciousness.

From that state arises the consciousness of the mere appearance of the self. The self, or I, is apprehended as being over here, so the objective world appears to be over there, thus establishing the appearance of immaterial space. To relate this evolution of the universe to the obscuration of the previously mentioned five types of primordial wisdom, it is said that ignorance initially obscures the inner glow of one's innate, primordial wisdom of the absolute space of reality (p. 122), which causes an external transference of its radiance.


I like the notion of a field of "luminous space" of consciousness. I don't think Buddhism is decidedly non-theistic, but I think the Buddha defered metaphysical questions because they upstructed from the experiental nature of enlightenment... I like how Vajrayana states that this primordial awareness is ever clear...yet we don't realize it with the thoughts that obscure it... but that it' s inherently pure.

"Emptiness" can refer to the emptiness of boundariess...but it can paradoxically be described as a "fullness" as Self...and that is the basis of Hindu and Christian mystics notions, which you said. I like both.

;“Yet, from the innermost secret nondual view of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta there is no contradiction in the Atman-Self doctrine and the Buddhist doctrine of anatman or no-self, for when the neti, neti (not this, not this) vichara consideration (p.209) is carried to its ultimate conclusion, the ostensibly permanent and eternal incarnating Atman-Self that is Brahman of the Upanishads, is ontologically identical to the 'emptiness of self' (anatman


I am more a practitioner more than a scholar ...but I'm interested in the ideas of Buddhist scholars. I really appreciate the pdf on Shankara that you sent me theurj. :)

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