Duality, Unity and Realisation

This post sheds light on from the extracts from the Philokalia posted earlier concerning prayer as practiced by Christian contemplatives – https://theworldknot.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/evagrios-the-solitary-and-the-philokalia/

Here we find the reason for the approach to prayer taken by the monk Evagrios and his community.  Plotinus speaks of the transcendence of duality and why words and concepts must fail to describe it, and Zen master Hongzhi explains that this is the path to Buddhahood.

In our self-seeing There, the self is seen as belonging to that order, or rather we are merged into that self in us which has the quality of that order. It is a knowing of the self restored to purity. No doubt we should not speak of seeing; but we cannot help talking in dualities, seen and seer, instead of, boldly, the achievement of unity. In this seeing, we neither hold an object nor trace distinction; there is no two. The man is changed, no longer himself nor self-belonging; he is merged with the Supreme, sunken into it, one with it: centre coincides with centre, for centres of circles, even here below, are one when they unite, and two when they separate; and it is in this sense that we now (after the vision) speak of the Supreme as separate. This is why the vision baffles telling; we cannot detach the Supreme to state it; if we have seen something thus detached we have failed of the Supreme which is to be known only as one with ourselves.”

This is the purport of that rule of our Mysteries: ‘Nothing Divulged to the Uninitiate’: the Supreme is not to be made a common story, the holy things may not be uncovered to the stranger, to any that has not himself attained to see. There were not two; beholder was one with beheld; it was not a vision compassed but a unity apprehended. The man formed by this mingling with the Supreme must – if only he remember – carry its image impressed upon him: he is become the Unity, nothing within him or without inducing any diversity; no movement now, no passion, no outlooking desire, once this ascent is achieved; reasoning is in abeyance and all Intellection and even, to dare the word, the very self: caught away, filled with God, he has in perfect stillness attained isolation; all the being calmed, he turns neither to this side nor to that, not even inwards to himself; utterly resting he has become very rest. He belongs no longer to the order of the beautiful; he has risen beyond beauty; he has overpassed even the choir of the virtues; he is like one who, having penetrated the inner sanctuary, leaves the temple images behind him – though these become once more first object of regard when he leaves the holies; for There his converse was not with image, not with trace, but with the very Truth in the view of which all the rest is but of secondary concern.

There, indeed, it was scarcely a vision, unless of a mode unknown; it was a going forth from the self, a simplifying, a renunciation, a reach towards contact and at the same time a repose, a meditation towards adjustment. This is the only seeing of what lies within the holies: to look otherwise is to fail.

Plotinus, Enneads, VI. 9, On the Good, or the One, 10-11

Contemplating your own authentic form is how to contemplate Buddha. If you can experience yourself without distractions, simply surpass partiality and go beyond conceptualising. All Buddhas and all minds reach the essential without duality.

Zen Master Hongzhi. Cultivating the Empty Field.

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8 Responses to Duality, Unity and Realisation

  1. Pingback: Evagrios the Solitary and the Philokalia | The World Knot

  2. johsh says:

    that snippet from Plotinus was beautiful, thanks for sharing. Its surprisingly close to Buddhist nirvana. I see how Evagrios incorporates this into his prayer.

    I do see one difference though – for buddhism its not just a payer, its about “becoming” the ultimate. It’s practical solution for one’s dukkha, not just a mystical , god in the sky, or the one/ultimate. In the end, its all just one , so i guess it doesn’t matter. But, for all practical purposes, this is a society-benefiting kind of difference. In fact, this was the main difference between non-buddhist (hindu) and buddhism. 4 noble truths, and 8 fold path seemed like a practical thing everybody could see and apply. one of the main reasons why buddhism took off, other reasons ofcourse the marketing by adherants. indoctrination indeed.

    I see the ultimate as a state of being. Like a character/personality, any human can develop/become “it” – not just pray or contemplate or see it…but really “be” it.

    Prayer approach will slowly transform a person, and eventually they will become (merge) it. But I think prayer-approach takes a lot of faith in the beginning , to establish that foundation.

    • PeterJ says:

      Thanks. Yes, Plotinus is always on the mark. I’ll bet Evagrios would have seen little difference between Plotinus’ method, Zen practice and his own style of prayer. They would all lead to the same place. Prayer may take faith but so does the study of anything. When learning a skill we have to have faith that we can learn it or we will not bother. .

      • johsh says:

        how does one get a sustainable faith ? This is where my OCD with ‘indoctrination’ comes in. It’s either ‘indoctrination’ or a more logical/analytical approach. For a faith so strong a human is willing to loose his self/identity.

        A normal human mind has no clue, with out the society and the culture it grew-up in. Just look at the zombies in mideast.

        This is why buddha claims he is a different kind of buddha, as he had to abandon everything he learned, and walk the path on his own (not even with a shred of faith), use logical/analytical/empirical approach, and eventually reach the ultimate.

        Culture is a form of indoctrination. And indoctrination is a form Upaya or skill-full means, in buddhist terminology.

        In case of Plotinus there were indications he and his guru were influenced by indian philosophies, at that time. Based on that snippet from Plotinus, i have no doubt.

        In the end, it doesn’t matter how one gets there. Its what it is. What matters is for human societies to see this.

  3. PeterJ says:

    How does one get a sustainable faith? I would say that there is no such thing. At any rate, it could not be by relying on faith. Much better to actually find out what is true. This is the message of Plotinus, the Buddha and the whole of Indian philosophy. Faith is an absence of knowledge. Nothing wrong with it, but it is very prone to mistakes when uninformed by knowledge.

    This business of who influenced who is impossible to disentangle. If someone in 18th China had discovered F=MA we would not leap to the conclusion that he had been influenced by Newton. Plotinus and his kind speak from experience, not from the influences of other thinkers. It would be impossible to explain the global and pan-historical appearance of Plotinus’ doctrine as a movement of ideas between different thinkers and societies. It would be just what we all discover when we look. We’d just have to walk the path.

    • johsh says:

      I agree 100% on influence/Plotinus. I have zero doubt Plotinus talks from his own experience, and doesn’t take anybody’s (even buddha’s) word for it. Buddha wants that, probably even Plotinus too : one needs to walk the path not just hear or “think”/learn it.

      Regarding faith, unfortunately, if you look at 80% of humans around the world the way they develop their faith is by indoctrination (the bad kind) – incomplete knowledge abound. Very few DARE to completely let go their indoctrinations (concepts,bias) – even among buddhists! Other religions have little hope.

      You say prayer will solve this problem, but I have no such hope for prayer in 21st century or future. The humans are getting bolder, shall we say arrogant. Particularly the last 100 years, with science, computers, and now “information age”.

      • PeterJ says:

        It may not be that people simply do not dare. To give up our programming takes years of work, and some would say lifetimes.

  4. johsh says:

    “It may not be that people simply do not dare”

    most dont even realize, so i guess there is nothing to “dare”. But , in theraveda buddhism they often talk about being a “true warrior” on the path, ruthlessly letting go (of bias/concepts). So, even for people who realize there is something to “dare” for, most of them (even buddhists), weak/not-courageous/afraid (to let go).

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