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Buddhists/Dualistic thinking create suffering


i have read your answers to me again and again on dualistic thinking or seperation create suffering. I want you explain me about dualistic thinking create suffèring by giving examples.
Best regard

ANSWER: Hello Chim,
  It is not any particular thought that creates the problem but the entire process that is the problem.  We don’t have a problem, we are the problem, we are that which creates the problem.  No matter how many examples I give you it will not reveal the source of the problem.  The source is our minds.  The first Noble Truth says life is suffering and the second says the cause is ignorance.  What does that mean?  What are we ignorant of?  It is not any particular thing that we are ignorant of it is our entire thought process is problematic and ignorant.  Not of any particular thing but of all things. As a result of this we don’t know who we really are and therefore we suffer under the illusion of who we think we are.  Our self identity is based on the illusion of dualistic thought.

We say “I have a body”.  To create this dualism we have a difference between that which says “I” and the body.  There is something that stands apart or separates.  If you say “I have a book” there is you, Chim, and the book apart from you, there is a dualism between Chim and the book, the separation between Chim and the book.  But when you say “I have arms” who is separating to say “I”?  Is the “I” separate from the arms?  There is always this dualism between the perceived self, the “I”, and everything else.  As a result we never really know anything as it is but how we separate from it.  There is something that says “I am Chim” but who is that?  What makes you Chim?  There are qualities about yourself that you identify as Chim but when you take them away when are you no longer Chim?

There is that which observes, the “I”, and that which is observed, everything else. So the “I” is the subject and everything else is the object  that stands outside the subject.  This is subject/object duality.  To observe something you must stand apart from it.  There must be a distinction to make such a judgment.  So to observe something you must be separate from it.  There must be a dualism, me here and that there, the observer and the observed.  From this fundamental standpoint we say we know something, we know it by observing it. We stand apart from it to observe it.  This very process of separation to know, this dualism between self and other, creates the problem of actually not knowing it.  Why? How can you know something when you have to stand apart from it to know it?  This is a fundamental problem with our consciousness.  We know a tree because it is not a rock or a bush or our self but we don’t know a tree as it is in itself.  We must differentiate to know it.  We must see the difference in it to know it as apart from other things.  We do not it for what it is but by what it is not.

More importantly, we have to stand apart from ourselves to know who we are.  We know who we are because we are not the other person or the tree or rock but in doing so do we actually know who we are?  No, we know our self as only relative to those other things. For us to know something we have to have it as an object of our consciousness, it must stand apart from us to perceive it. We objectify ourselves, the dualism between mind and body.  So we have a perception of our self, that which stands apart and perceives and that which is perceived.  But here’s the problem, if we perceive it, it exists outside of our self to be perceived and is therefore not the self.  If we perceive it, it cannot be us.  We cannot be that which we perceive.  Since perception is the only way we know things then we cannot know ours self, we will always stand apart from it with this from of consciousness.  This is the fundamental dualistic problem of human thinking. As a result of this all of our suffering arises from it.  We always stand apart from reality even while immersed in it.  Our self identity is based on this dualism; we know that we are but we don’t know who we are.

What makes you Chim?  When did you as Chim arise?  When did you say “I am” which made you stand apart from that which you are not?  What makes you, you?  When are you no longer you? If you say, “I am alive” who or what is it that is alive?

Chim I realize these concepts are very difficult to grasp so don’t give up.  It might take time to seep into your consciousness but eventually it will bear fruit.  When trying to deal with a problem this large I am always drawn to the Indian expression, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, “One bite at a time’.
 I hope this helps you.  Take care,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Sorry, I come to u again.
Regarding perceiving self, I read sth of N. Moharaj, it is said that  you are if u dont know, and you are not if you know.
More, if I see tree, there is only seeing tree, there is no subject I and obj tree.
Pls comment about this.

Hello Chim,
   My favorite Nisargardatta quote is, “ you cannot be that which you perceive”.  I think I wrote you about this already.  It means that when you perceive something you have to be separate from it to perceive it.  By being separate from it there is a duality between that which perceives, the mind, and that which is perceived, the self.  So you can’t be that which you are perceiving because you stand outside of it.  Seeing the self is not knowing because it is a false seeing.  Being the self is knowing, there is no perception here, there is just suchness.  The eye does not see itself.  When I perceive the tree it is outside of me.  When I realize the tree is is myself I am realizing.  

If you were to look into a mirror would you say ‘that is me there”?  That which is seeing is the thing that is seen.  To say, ‘that is me there’ would be entirely wrong because you are ‘here’ not there.  In the mind that has broken through duality it sees the tree ‘now and here’ not apart and over there.  Consciousness is immediate and all present.  The Zen master Foyan said ,”when you look at tree you think bush, rock, sky, anything that is not tree to see a tree. See the tree!’.

You cannot understand or solve by thinking that which thinking cannot solve.  No matter how much someone explains to you what a mango tastes like you cannot know it till you taste it.  You must use your understanding to overcome understanding and come to actualization.

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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