Pathway to Nonduality, installments 1-6
Raphael's Pathway to Nonduality serves as a textbook on
nonduality. There is Western as well as Eastern philosophy
I'm sending the first installment only of this series to
HarshaSatsangh, as well. The rest will appear on the
Nonduality Salon. To join, please go to
I've acquired a book entitled The Pathway of Nonduality:
Advaitavada, by Raphael (published by Motilal Banarsidass).
It's about 88 pages, and I'll copy about 2 pages per day
five or six days per week. I am editing it so that it flows
It accords with Greg Goode's philosophical work and
balances the Salon with a different kind of brain food. I
hope you'll find pleasure in dipping into this philosophy.
On the cover it says, "Raphael, the founder of the Asram
Vidya Order, is a practicing Asparsin and at present, after
over thirty five years of oral and written teaching, lives
at the Hermitage, devoting himself completely to retirement
The most difficult problem discussed by philosophers down
through the ages is that of Being and non-being, of One and
many and, as a consequence, the question of generation.
Is the Absolute Being Unity, Duality or Non-duality?
Is the world of names and forms created ex-nihilo, is it
manifested or emanated? And again is it real or unreal or,
paradoxically, both, the one and the other? ..
What has Advaita philosophy, presented by Guadapada and
Samkaracarya and re-proposed here by Raphael, got to say
with regard to these matters?
We may say that this doctrine .. not only gives an answer
that is new to the West but it also points out the pathway
(Asparsavada) by which to achieve Identity of the being
Raphael ... helps us to understand the 'vision' of
Gaudapada and Samkaracarya who, solidly extablished in
metaphysics, show how the Supreme Being is pure actuation
which excludes not only multiplicity, duality and
ontological unity, but also all passages from potentiality
To speak of the ever-present and infinite Being in terms of
even theoretical phases is impossible. The Ever-Present has
no history, no actuation, no motion because It has no
Pure Being is what It is. It is not what was nor what will
be. And if at times one speaks of 'three levels' of Being,
this is done only to help the minds of men ... and only
with a view to free them from the illusion of 'two' and
'Multiplicity', 'two', and 'one', that is, pluralism,
dualism, and the mathematical one, exasperate and
disappoint us because unconsciously we tend towards the
Non-duality (Pure Being) or the Absolute which is ever
present and makes thought and phenomenal appearance
If the Absolute is 'that which is free from relations, that
is, exists and is what It is, without any need to be in
relationship with anything else, or what is fully
sufficient, self-sufficient independently of any other
thing or reality', then Gaudapada, Samkaracarya and Raphael
indicate the true metaphysical pathway leading to the
realization of the unqualified Absolute Being. Asparsa
means, in fact, 'free from relations', from connections
with other things; it means self-sufficiency, this is,
Measuring oneself with the Absolute, with the Whole (as
Plato says), with Being rather than becoming, implies a
precise subsequent change of all the usual points of view,
of the meaning of life itself and a new hierarchy of
The knowledge of the Whole, according to Plato, requires
'breaking chains', requires 'ascesis', demands 'dedicating
one's whole self', a change of life and, as Raphael says,
'a transformation of consciousness'.
Chapter One Non-dualism, Dualism and Monism
Every philosophical or cosmological vision which affirms
two opposing and irreducible principles to explain Reality
is a dualistic vision.
Philosophical dualism is an answer to the problem of Being,
which is considered double, being made of matter and
spirit, of ego and non-ego, eternally in opposition and
independent of one another.
Religious dualism, on the other hand, opposes two
priniciples in eternal conflict and 'antinomia'. It
explains the presence of evil in the world and existence of
the world itself as the outcome of the constant struggle
between two eternal philosophies, the one called Good, the
other Evil. These two opposing principles are often
personified as God and Satan... .
Every dualistic concept -- whether philosophical or
religious -- recognizes, in other words, two distinct
causes, or two independent 'substances', to use the words
of Aristotle, which due to their very nature can never
meet, never relate or resolve themselves. This implies that
-- at the manifest level -- all contradictions, all
antinomies, which arise and exist, can never be resolved.
Two parallel lines, however much they are drawn out, can
Evil, being an absolute Reality, just like Good, can never
be overcome gy Good, and vice-versa.
Dualism presents from the onset contradictions that cannot
be solved or supported.
Philosophical, religious or cosmological monism conceives
the multiplicity of manifestations as the effect of a sole
'substance'. It is obviously opposed to both dualism and
pluralism. For pluralism Reality is made not of two but of
Monism can be compared to the mathematical one from which
all numbers derive. The multiplicity of numbers is simply
the multiplication of the one.
There is the materialistic monism for which only one
'substance' exists; matter, and all other categories,
including spirit and even consciousness, are the
epiphenomena of the one material 'substance'. And there is
-- in total opposition to the former theory --
spiritualistic monism, for which all can be traced back to
a single 'substance' which is the Spirit.
For monism every existing element - of any type and at any
level whatsoever -- is real, because it represents the
emanation from or multiplication of the one sole Reality.
From this standpoint we might say that monism is
pantheistic. Thus, within the field of monism we have to
include Spinoza's pantheism which states the oneness of
'substance' and the identity of God and nature.
In realistic pantheism all antinomies, like good and evil
for example, although they go back to the original unity,
must be considered real and therefore they cannot -- on the
plane of manifestation -- dissolve or transcend. Evil,
ignorance, unhappiness, limit, etc., are universal
realities about which nothing can be done by man, because
they are consubstantial with the One. We can say the the
One contains within Itself the dialectics of opposites. All
manifested effects, polar or dual as they may be, are
contained in the First Cause. This means, naturally,
attributing the good-evil principle itself to the
Q: What is monotheism?
Monotheism -- typical of religion -- affirms the existence
of a sole Divinity. It is the opposite of polytheism and
Some religions admit of a number of gods to control the
laws of the universe as second principles. However, as they
are made to derive from a sole supreme God who includes
them all, these religions may be considered to be
Here too emerges the impossibility of overcoming
consciential, psychological and formal dualism because this
is emanated, or created, by the One God.
If the world is Real, then it is not possible to change,
transform or redeem it. It will never be possible to
rectify or redeem what really is.
Pathway of Nonduality
Chapter One: Nondualism, Dualism, and Monism (continued)
Q. What is Nondualism then?
Nondualism is neither monism nor monotheism and, of course,
it is not dualism.
Since monism might be compared to the mathematical one and
the latter to multiplicity, in order to avoid
misunderstandings the term 'nondual' is used. In other
words, the unity that is not multipliable, which does not
generate or is not mathematical is called nondual. This
nondual unity may be considered as belonging to the
From the mathematical one, which is the generating
principle of the total series of numbers, we arrive at the
metaphysical One which is beyond all possible numerical
If for monism and dualism the universe-object is created by
or emanates from the First Cause, for nondualism the
universe-object is neither creation nor emanation, but a
simple maya-phenomenon shown upon the screen of the
universe or of the individual by the projecting power of
what we call 'mind'. Thus, for example, our dreams or
imagination -- whether sleeping or waking -- are simply
mayika projections that have no absolute reality and
therefore may dissolve at any moment. The universe is a
continuum-discontinuum that can be resolved and
transcended. It is not, therefore, a creation -- in the
sense generally given to this term -- because the Supreme
Reality, being complete in itself, does not need to create.
Nor is it an emanation because the Supreme Reality does not
exhaust itself in the manifest, nor does it transform
itself to become other than what it is.
An individual, planetary or cosmic body-form is the effect
of a movement which, were it to cease, would cause the form
The universe is a 'dream' (but this term must not be taken
literally). We have a body and we are moving, because we
are dreaming. If we wish to emerge from all consciential,
psychological and formal dualism, we must wake up and stop
the movement. It is not Reality in itself that causes
dualism, but it is the 'movement' of the jiva (the living
soul) which in turn is a projection of the Absolute Self.
Likewise, when we are in a train it is not the landscape
outside that moves but the train and we, and because of
maya we attribute the movement to trees and the fields.
From this point of view, the mathematical one and dualism
are not absolute realities for nondualism. They are not
'substances' but 'appearances' and as such they can be
transcended and solved. 'Evil', but also 'good'. is not a
reality in itself, it is not 'substance' but 'appearance',
a particular movement, but it can be solved and
transcended. The universe of names and forms is not
something in itself, it is not a reality that lives by its
own life, it is not Being, it is simply movement (apparent
if seen from the point of view of the Absolute Reality)
which causes non-substantial event-things. Our nightly
dreams are not absolute realities, are not eternal, are not
'substantial', have no origin and nowhere to go. They are
only phenomena projected by the mind upon the immobile
screen of our being. To say that a dream Is the individual
himself or that the individual exhausts himself in the
dream, or again, that the dream is eternal and immortal
means pushing things too far. What cause the vital
'appearance', these worlds -- apparently solid and immortal
- is maya.
Between the Real and non-real (which appears real) stands
maya. It is sufficient to eliminate maya to discover a sole
'substance', that is, the Supreme Reality always identical
Pathway of Nonduality
Chapter One: Nondualism, Dualism, and Monism (concluded)
Q. But can maya be studied empirically and consciously?
When we want to study our dreams consciously an unexpected
event occurs: we awaken and wakefulness dispels our dream
as if by magic. The ego and the non-ego of the dream
When we wish to examine empirically the snake we have seen
insted of a rope, the snake disappears and we are left with
When we try to examine maya consciously, this disappears
taking with it all dualism and antinomia, and in its place
we find Being, Reality and the Absolute Constant.
Maya cannot be observed or analyzed empirically because it
is not reality.
Wanting to 'see' or 'trace' maya is like looking in the air
for the trace left by a passing bird, says Samkara. Though
not seen, it can be resolved and transcended by means of
vidya, metaphysical knowledge.
We ascribe reality and truth to things because we believe
them to be real and true, capable of granting satisfaction
and fulfillment. In doing so we become alienated as our
completeness and happiness are dependent on something other
than ourselves. But the 'other' is a mere fancy, a
non-substance unable, for its particular nature, to grant
pax profunda. For nonduality the basic error is believing
in things that, all considered, are not. In order to
eliminate this error, due to avidya or invalid knowledge,
we need vidya or noetic knowledge.
Q. We might say that the world of names and form can be
transcended and solved by the power of Knowledge (vidya),
might we not?
As long as the 'snake' is seen and perpetuated by the
projective power of the mind, it is considered as existing,
real and substantial. Only when we awaken and recognize the
true 'rope-being', the 'snake' disappears without leaving a
trace. Thus, for nondualism the world of names and forms is
real and non-real, depending upon the point of view from
which it is observed and considered.
Q. Has the metaphysical One been seen and pointed out only
by the Vedic Tradition?
The Vedic Tradition is only a branch of the One Tradition.
The Tradition of the Sacred Mysteries of ancient Greece --
above all the Orphic Tradition -- recognized the
metaphysical One, even though this truth was revealed only
at the very last levels of the Great Mysteries.
It is sufficient to go back to Plotinus, who took up and
gave new life to the ancient Mysteric Tradition. He says:
"...the One must be without form. But if it is without form
it is not a substance, for a substance must be something
particular, something, that is, defined and limited; but it
is impossible to apprehend the One as a particular thing,
for then it would not be a principle, but only that
particular thing which you said it was. But if all things
are in that which is generated [from the One], which of the
things in it are you going to say that the One is? Since it
is none of them, it can only be said to be beyond them. But
these things are beings, and being: so it is 'beyond
being'. This phrase 'beyond being' does not mean that it is
a particular thing -- for it makes no positive statement
about it -- and it does not say its name, but all it
implies is that it is 'not this'. But if this is what the
phrase does, it in no way comprehends the One. It would be
absurd to seek to comprehend that boundless nature, for
anyone who wants to do this has to put himself out of the
way of following at all, even the least distance, in its
traces; but just as he who wishes to see the intelligible
nature will contemplate what is beyond the the perceptible
if he has no mental image of the perceptible, so he who
wishes to contemplate what is beyond the intelligible will
contemplate it when he has let all the intelligible go. He
will learn that it is by means of the intelligible, but
what it is like by letting the intelligible go. But this
'what it is like' must indicate that it is 'not like', for
there is no 'being like' in what is not a 'something'. But
we in our travail do not know what we ought to say, and are
speaking of what cannot be spoken, and give it a name
because we want to indicate it to ourselves as best we
"...but that has no shape, not even intelligible shape...
It is not therefore something or qualified or quantitative
or intellect or soul; it is not in movement or at rest, not
in place, not in time, but 'itself by itself of single
form', or rather formless, being before all form, before
movement and before rest, for these pertain to being and
are what make it many . ...'One' must be understood in a
larger sense than that in which a unity and point are
unified....And it must be understood as infinite not
because its size and number cannot be measured or counted
but because its power cannot be comprehended. For when you
think of it as Intellect or God, it is more." (Enneads: V,
5, vi; VI, 9,iii-vi
The Pathway of Nonduality
Real and Non-Real
Q. What is meant by real and non-real in Samkara's Advaita
and Gaudapada's Asparsavada?
A. The problem of real and non-real, of Being and non-being
is very complex, therefore one gets different answers
depending upon the point of view from which one looks at
the question. ...
Let us take a body-form, a cloud in the sky, for example.
Is it real or non-real? Is a dream real or non-real? Some
hold that it is real, others hold that it is not, and still
others that it is both real and non-real. It all depends
upon one's point of view, on one's own position of
consciousness or the particular system of coordinates which
one is using to analyze things.
Those who hold that a cloud in the sky ... is real, trust
in a knowledge of an empirical, perceptive-sensory kind, in
knowledge by means of the five senses. If an object can be
seen, touched, tasted they say then it cannot be held to be
unreal or an illusion. What can be touched and seen is
there, it occupies a place, it lasts in time and can be
observed and experienced by all.
Those who hold that things do not exist conceive reality as
non-sensory, non-material and non-substantial. For them ...
ontological reality is exclusively ideal. Things enjoy no
reality of their own and the Spirit-Being cannot be the
object of sensorial knowledge, because it is beyond the
senses. There pure Being exists while all that is not Being
Those who maintain that things are real and unreal --
synthesizing the other two points of view -- have a
particular conception of reality which must be examined
because it is not as superficial and reductive as the first
...If our senses see, touch and perceive we cannot
obviously say that they touch and see 'nothing'. Nothing --
like the horns of a hare or a barren's woman child --
cannot be perceived, touched or seen by any of the senses,
however perfect they may be. Therefore we cannot support
the theory of those who hold that the senses perceive
'nothing' or that things do not exist. However, at this
stage we must get into the matter more and make a number of
To think that nothing exists beyond objectivity because the
senses or figurative thinking cannot perceive it means
either being absolutist or onesided or else it mean
refusing to investigate and find a solution to the problem.
Things -- a cloud in the sky -- appear and disappear, they
are and they are not, they come and go, they are born and
they die. In other words, they change continually. The
senses themselves that see and touch soon cease to touch
and see because the objects disappear.
On the other hand, it is legitimate to ask: what do our
eyes really see? What our retina perceives as an image is a
series of luminous vibrations which come from things
outside us. When our senses see or touch things, they are
not seeing-touching the things in themselves but rather
their images given to the retina or to the tactile organs
by their vibrations. The mind -- as the sixth sense --
translates and interprets the images obtained by the retina
but not the thing in itself. Our truth springs from the
interpretation or translation of a sensorial image.
Besides -- as we have already mentioned -- the vibrations
caused by things are not constant, are not absolute,
because they are subject to endless, vibratory
modifications and the image we perceive, as a result, is
altered too. Matter undergoes continuous change, it is a
force-field and therefore it is impossible to grasp the
From this point of view then, a cloud in the sky certainly
is perceived, but a moment later one must admit that it is
no longer perceived. This is a matter fact, this is
evident. It is an empirical fact of experience. Therefore,
how can we say that things are real and absolute? A true
and genuine reality must always be seen, perceived and
found, within and outside of time, and in every place. If
the said reality appears to our senses and then disappears
like a flash or a mirage, to what extent can we say that it
To consider absolute-real what appears and disappears
inevitably means wanting to force matters. On the other
hand, the empiricists do not accept dreams as real, and yet
dreams are perceived by the senses just like any other
We err when we say we know things because ... we only know
the image we have of things. And we even know that this
image is subject to alteration and change in time and
Reality, fragmented into indefinable and fleeting
phenomena, does not guarantee the stability and certainty
of knowledge, but leaves it a prey to gnawing relativism,
incapable of determination. Thought dies in anguish, losing
itself in frustrating aporias and contradictions.
We must also say that the empiricists recognize all this,
but as they do not wish to arrive at the point reached by
the pure idealists, and as they are attached to their own
point of view, they are obliged to make the following
paradoxical statement: Reality is appearance, relativity
and change. But this statement does not seem to be
reasonable for the simple reason that if everything is
relative and changing then even the statement 'all is
relative' is relative.
If an entity is relative and not constant, how can it state
an absolute reality or a reality of any other order and
dimension? In other words, a relative entity can only state
relative truths. Thus, what the empiricist sees and touches
sensorially is not Reality with a capital R, but a simple
phenomenon that appears and disappears. However, a
phenomenon is not pure nothing, it is the effect of a
particular movement which determines the apparition of a
body-form, of an event that is not 'substance'. This
movement, in turn, is an effect because its existence is
the outcome of relation.
If the empiricist is obliged to consider all as relative
and non-permanent, then his idea coincides, in part, with
the Advaita point of view, that is, with a point of view
which is apparently the very opposite of his own. Opposites
meet when one tries to really understand them.
(to be continued)
And so we continue with this book. Hopefully, Dan will
continue to provide comments. Gene has pitched in. And of
course others are welcome. Dan pointed out that Raphael
used the word pantheism, when panentheism was the proper
word in the context. Gene supported that. I checked the
spelling, and the word used is 'pantheism'. Maybe the
publisher made a mistake.
The present excerpt uses words like 'abaleity' and 'aseity',
whose meaning I honestly don't understand. Maybe someone
can enlighten us. I tried to find the meanings, using one
of Greg's excellent references on the Nondualism and Western
I also stumbled upon this web page from the Oxford English
Dictionary, which gives a heck of a definition for the word
'telephone'. We could have a project in which we use such a
definition as a model for defining 'nonduality'. Last time
I checked the OED, nonduality was not included, and if it
were, I have a feeling it would need updating. But I
digress... (as philosophers always say)
The Pathway of Non-duality
Chapter Two: Real and Non-real (concluded)
At this point, let us examine the point of view mentioned
before which states that only Being exists and not becoming.
When examining the empiricists' view, we stated that it is
impossible to reject things altogether. However, we
concluded that what we know is not reality but
phenomenon-becoming or the mental and individual
interpretation of the said phenomenon. And if all we see
and touch is phenomenon-movement, there must be a factor
upon which such phenomenon-movement depends. It is not
possible to see phenomenon-effects that do not depend upon
causes-principles. Becoming, being abaliety, cannot depend
upon that very same becoming.
How can we know the Being that lies behind the phenomenon
and behind mental-sensory interpretation? That Being which
the empiricists would like to touch and see as if it were a
If a phenomenal object can be seen and touched with equally
relative, phenomenal and objective tools, Being as pure
Subject can only be known through Being, through
consciousness of self as Subject-Being, in so far as Being
is not an 'object'.
When we eliminate or transcend phenomenon-becoming, Being
reveals Itself in Its absolute reality and aseity.
If one can know the relative by putting oneself upon the
plane of relativity and upon that of simple interpretation,
then one also can know the Being by putting oneself upon the
plane of identity. Western philosopy, in general, has not
solved the problem of the knowledge of Being, because it has
always put itself upon a dual plane, even when believing to
state the Oneness of reality.
Q. Can being be expressed?
A. Being can be experienced only upon a plane of identity.
Thus traditional or realizative Philosophy proposes the
knowledge of Being through the realization of Being.
Q. So, Advaita has something in common with both the
Philosophy of Being and that of becoming?
A. Yes, because it includes three levels or stages of
Reality (satya) in its vision:
paramarthika = pure or absolute reality
vyavaharika = empirical or phenomenal reality
pratibhasika = illusory existence
Asat, non-being in the strictest sense, is the non-existent,
the non-real, like the hare's horns.... But compared with
paramarthika Reality, one may say that even vyavaharika
truth, the empirical truth, is illusory because it is
Thus the ultimate conclusion of Advaita is that Being and
becoming are both dialectical 'moments' of the Absolute or
non-qualified supreme Reality (nirguna).