I went to talk by a nonduality teacher this week. He was pretty good as nonduality teachers go (I have heard many teachers of the nonduality persuasion talk and ply their trade). I have studied the teachers of old who started the modern nonduality movement, I even meditated on Ramana’s bed in the ‘cave’ in India that he gained his enlightenment. [Ramana is founder of the modern movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramana_Maharshi.] I know the verbiage or dogma of this philosophical tradition.
As I sat there and listened, particularly to the questions of the audience, I could not help but feel sad as I realized how primitive this method was of dealing with the challenges that people have in their lives.
Obviously, people go to spiritual teachers looking for something, something they do not feel they have. This sense of lack or the emotional pain they feel is a negative in their life and they are looking for a release from that negativity. Spiritual teachings and teachers are there to help people find that release from the negativity.
Eastern traditions talk a lot about the end of suffering with the goal being equanimity or inner peace. Yet, equanimity or inner peace is not what we want, it is only the half way point in our journey.
I can hear it now as the those who see themselves as nondualists read that paragraph above they will ask, “Who is it that seeks this goal, who is it that is on the journey?” But this is all part of their method, to question the idea that we are the doer of anything. A nondualist questions their assumptions as to their own identity, which traditionally people think of as something that is separate from something else. For the nondualist there is no separation, they think of the self as infinite and eternal, without form or substance.
The value of this nondualist way of thinking is that when thoughts come up that produce negativity, like the idea that we are going to die, they quickly replace that thought with a thought of non-attachment to the form that dies or incurs some form of loss. Thus diminishing the pain of the contraction of fear and negativity that is the conditioned habitual response most humans have. The nondualist is not trapped in a negative thought form of concern about what happens to them in the future, after death or so one.
This is all good as far as it goes. Nonduality is replacing one way of thinking, one philosophy (or theology) with another philosophy (or theology). It is true that the nonduality way of thinking is an improvement over the traditional dualist way of thinking, but it is still very archaic system for dealing with negativity. I can see better ways of getting human where they want to go.
Through conditioning the human instrument has learned to react to these thoughts with either contraction/tension or expansion/relaxation. The eastern tradition tries to introduce a different reaction, or should I say LACK of reaction to thoughts that we have habitually reacted to with contraction. They try to get us to stop reacting and just be still. Of course this is very hard, for the very effort to try and stop creates or comes from contractions itself.
What I have seen and what I now do is that I recognize that all this is just thoughts, electro-chemical impulses traveling along the neurons of the brain. When we recognize that a thought is just a thought and cannot hurt us, it is only our reaction to the thought that causes us harm, then we can directly address the problem of our reaction. A reaction of contraction (fear based), if held, is experienced as negative. Holding on to any idea is just holding our contracted state and that creates a sense of being trapped in a negative state.
We can address this ‘problem’ directly by just practicing relaxing around all thoughts, thus releasing the sense of being trapped in a negative state.
Here is where the eastern traditions are handicapped in their effort to help people release, for they are ONLY seeking to release people from the sense of being trapped in the negative state.
The reality is that we do not want to just be released from negativity, we want to have positive experiences and by practicing positive responses to thoughts we excel PAST equanimity, PAST inner peace, toward a richer, more positive life experience.
We do this by practicing appreciation, joy and love at any and all thoughts we experience. We stay constantly aware that they are JUST thoughts, electro-chemical impulses traveling along the neurons of the brain and nothing more. We stay aware that we have a choice about how we react to those thoughts and that we can enjoy the process of thinking, thus creating a positive experience from all thoughts.
This is not a new idea, I am only articulating it in a new way. I see this idea expressed in many tradition like those that say there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. Also in the traditions that teach people to love God or to love one another and to even love our enemies. All of these traditions are encouraging people to PRACTICE a positive response to thoughts. It does not matter what you are thinking about, whether it be God or some person or some future or whatever, if you respond to that thought with love or some other positive emotion then you will experience life as positive.
When a person has the capacity or skill to UNCONDITIONALLY love all that life has to offer then they will experience this world as heaven or nirvana and it can be said that they are ‘enlightened’, for they can lighten up and be light-hearted about thoughts of everything that life offers.
From my experience I do not want to ALWAYS practice this. I actually find value in the negative experiences of contraction to thoughts. It is those negative or painful reactions that motivate this stupid piece of meat that I call Jim Freedom to get up off his lazy and/or cowardly ass and do something. But when Jim is tired or sees no way to do anything constructive then he can just sit back and practice his joy and love in heaven or nirvana.
There is value in the equanimity or inner peace, for with equanimity and inner peace we gain clarity that enables us to see the truth that permanently sets us free to fully enjoy and love all that life has to offer. So I am not saying that we NEVER should allow equanimity only that we do not need to seek equanimity through philosophies or beliefs.
In summary, why go to all the trouble of all these philosophies and theologies? We really do not need them to get us where we want to go, we can go directly to the positive by just recognizing the thoughts for what they are and recondition ourselves to have positive experiences by practicing positive emotions.