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Buddhists/non-duality of no subject "I"


Dear Joe,

Recently I am immersed with non-duality. I review your past answers to me and read the topic on internet and youtube. I came across with Tony Parson, who has radical view of non-duality by claiming that no one exist. I have learned that separation from ones result in suffering. For my true experience, when I am obsess with my so-called self I feel suffer. I want you explain me about that separation from oneness result such suffering.  I feel I have some glimpse on non-duality. One more question of mine, if I used to feel or think in term of subjectivity, How can I refrain my self for not thinking in term of subject myself"I" and the world as object.

hope you understand my question. Please theach me more
CHIM socheat

best regards

Hello Socheat,
  I am sorry for the long delay in answering this but I’ve been working a lot.  So if Tony Parson says we just don’t exist then who is he to say so?  It’s not so simple.

The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism begin with “Life is dukkha”.  Dukkha is often translated as suffering.  I heard a Theravada priest from Ceylon say that this is not a very good translation.  He said the root of the word is ‘duk’ which means anxiety and ‘kha’ means without foundation or no apparent cause.  So life is anxiety but we don’t know what causes it.  It is easy to see how this can be called suffering without a known cause.  The second Noble truth says, “There is a cause which is Avidya” and avidya means ignorance, that we don’t see reality.  The third truth says there is a cessation of the cause and the forth, there is a path (margo yoga).   I think more accurately it might be stated that ‘human’ life is suffering as opposed to animal life.  From the Buddhist perspective this is due to the dualistic nature of human’s consciousness, meaning that we know that we are but we don’t know who we are.  So we know everything we are not but not who it is that makes that judgement.  In not knowing who we are we create all kinds of theories about who we are and how to overcome this problem from the religious to the philosophical, but this self alienation, this separation from the source of our being, is at the root of it all.  Often one of the main causes of suffering is explained as attachment.  This does not mean an attachment to physical things though it is often misunderstood as this.  You can give up everything and live in a monastery but you are still attached to your idea of the world and who you are.  We are attached to our worldview, to how we think things should be or how we want them to be but we don’t see what ‘is’ in the moment.  So even when giving up all apparent physical attachments there is still a concept of self that we are attached to.  This self sees itself as an individual and apart from the world, in the world yet separated from the world, alienated from itself and other.   We only know that we are in contradistinction to what we are not; that is that we only know by separation.  This is a state of perpetual conflict for we only know a self in opposition to other.  No matter how we distract ourselves with pleasure there is still this alienation at the root of our being.  Even if you were to have every pleasure imaginable there is still the self that only does not know itself but in knowing that it is, knows it will die.  An animal does not live in this dichotomy.  There is no dualism in an animals mind between self and other, they are unbroken from nature.  Further more, since we live in this dualistic view of reality we also live in time while nature does not.  This self reflective self, that is, a self that knows that it is and is separate, cannot live in the present.  The mind flits between past and future but cannot exist in the present.  This is so because to live purely in the present does not allow time for self-reflection or time to separate.  There are moments in our lives where we do lose ourselves in some state of ecstasis in the moment with physical or artistic activity but we always return to the dualistic mind.      
     We only know ourselves by this dualistic process so to overcome it is to die to who we think we are.  This overcoming of self to become awakened to the foundation of the true self is called the Great Death in Buddhism.  We are not a self that has a problem, we are the problem, we are not a person with an ego, we are, in fact the ego.  The ego, in Buddhism, is the act of separation to become a self.  It is when we become this self-reflective self that suffering arises.  Now we have the knowledge that we are born and going to die and all the other biases that come with being a ‘self’.  This self is broken from nature and at its root, longs to find nature but has no idea how to do it.  It is its own self-creating dilemma.  So suffering/basic anxiety/dukkha is a result of the self, that in being a self is separate from itself to know that it is a self and therefore a problem from the start.   I know this is confusing but try to understand it.  There is no other without  self and no self with out another.
All forms of human suffering come from us not seeing true reality.  We say that we are Joe or Socheat but what does that really mean?  We say we have a life but from what perspective do we say that?  If I say I have a life there is this thing that stands apart to say my life.  Like saying I have a bicycle there has to be me and the thing I have, a duality.  But it is not our life, we observe life in the form of our body and say ‘this is me’ but it’s wrong.  If we realize our self as the foundation of life then the individual is seen as a momentary expression.  Though there might be suffering for the individual its source is untouched.

You can only refrain from the subjective viewpoint by practicing it.  This is the point of zazen, meditation, mindfulness, koan practice and self-inquiry.  Learning to ignore the musings of the brain is a start.  Stop paying attention to your opinion on everything. Treat every thought like a barking dog and ignore it.  Just pay attention to the moment. Don’t look at the tree and think tree, just look without the concept.  Eventually the mind will quiet and the conditions will happen to break through the matrix of the human mind.  Practice without expectation and don’t worry about it.
I hope this helps you.  Take care,


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Joe McSorley


I can answer questions dealing with Taoist philosophy and Zen and not the historicity and religion of Buddhism and its different schools. I studied under Dr. Richard DeMartino and Masao Abe of the Kyoto School of Zen.

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