Advaita Is Not A Fixed PositionIsn't irritation an expression of Grace? How could it not be?
You said, “If ones sees Grace as the totality, then being cut off by someone in traffic would be seen, along with everything else, as a gift of Grace. It would not trigger suffering. We would simply say ‘thank you God’ in our heart, which is the proper response to Grace. If we find ourselves irritated or suffering as a result of such an occurrence it is precisely because we do not see it as a gift of Grace.If we then come back and say, “Oh well, my irritation is also an expression of Grace,” then…..yes, you guessed….. pseudo advaita!”
This confuses me. I understand that the natural response of awakening is to see all as Grace, but if awakening has not yet become apparent and irritation does arise, and the best you can do is pseudo advaita, is that “wrong”?
On the “path” to awakening we are taught that acceptance of everything that arises is key to living with more peace, and that all things arise via Grace. If the best you can do at the time is a mental process, shouldn’t you go ahead and do it?
Isn’t irritation an expression of Grace? How could it not be?
Claudia: “I understand that the natural response of awakening is to
see all as Grace, but if awakening has not yet become apparent and irritation does arise, and the best you can do is pseudo advaita, is that “wrong”?”
Rupert: I have certainly not suggested anywhere that ‘pseudo advaita’ is ‘wrong.’ However, perhaps I should clarify what I mean by ‘pseudo advaita’:
One way of defining advaita is to say that it is the experiential understanding that there are no separate entities or objects to be found anywhere in experience.
If we think and feel that we are a separate entity and think at the same time that there are no separate entities in experience, we are contradicting ourselves.
The deeper of these two thoughts is the thought that we are a separate entity (because this thought has a strong feeling attached to it) and, for this reason, I suggest that the subsequent thought that there are no entities, is simply a belief, that is is not actually true of our experience. One cannot stand as impersonal, unlimited Awareness and, at the same time, as a separate, limited entity. To take this position is disingenuous and hence the term ‘pseudo advaita.’
To say ‘I accept my suffering as an expression of Grace’ is one form of this contradiction. The ‘I’ that is suffering and the ‘I’ that is accepting is made out of the belief that ‘some-things-are-Grace-and-others-are-not.’
Such a one is the very denial of the understanding that all things are Grace, that is, it is a denial of the non-dual understanding that everything is equally an expression of Awareness. Of course, ultimately that very denial is made out of nothing but Awareness, hence, as I have often said in our correspondence, there is no real ignorance.
However, once Awareness has taken the shape of the mind which says ‘I, Awareness, am this little entity and I am therefore not everything else,’ its reality as the substance of all things, seems to be veiled. This veiling is known to us as the experience of suffering.
The position of suffering and the position in which we understand that Awareness is the substance of all things are therefore mutually exclusive. In this case non-duality is simply a belief superimposed on our dualistic feelings.
Such a position is one in which we It is think that everything is equally an expression of Awareness, whilst feeling that in fact everything is not. And then, in order to accommodate this contradiction, we add another thought which says that I completely accept my suffering as an expression of Awareness, that is, I accept my rejection of the current situation. However, suffering is synonymous with searching. If we completely accept the current situation (our suffering) why are we simultaneously rejecting it and searching for a better one?
To accept suffering is, by definition, to have no motivation to change it, but suffering is, by definition, the desire to change the current situation. So which is true, the acceptance of the current situation or the desire to change it? They cannot both be true.
This contradiction is at the heart of ‘pseudo advaita.’ Perhaps the term ‘pseudo advaita’ has a judgemental connotation to it, which is certainly not intended. It is meant to be factual. Maybe ‘intellectual advaita’ would be a better term. It is meant to indicate a situation where we have appropriated the belief in advaita and adopted it as yet one more strategy to avoid honestly facing our suffering. It is a pretence. This belief downgrades advaita from a living experiential understanding to a religion. Of course, if we are happy with this superficial understanding of life, then that is fine - there is no judgement of that. (I am not not suggesting that this is so in your case, Claudia)
Claudia: “On the “path” to awakening we are taught that acceptance of everything that arises is key to living with more peace…...”
Rupert: You must ask those who say such things to explain their teaching - it is certainly not what is being suggested here.
If we are suffering, we are, by definition searching, trying to change the current situation. If ‘acceptance’ is our new strategy to avoid suffering, it is just a slightly more healthy alternative to going to the fridge or whatever….It is in fact nothing to do with acceptance. Accepting something in order to get rid of it is not acceptance. It is rejection pretending to be acceptance.
Claudia: “If the best you can do at the time is a mental process, shouldn’t you go ahead and do it?”
Rupert: Yes, certainly, but believing that everything is an expression of Grace whilst feeling that it is not, is not a ‘mental process.’ It is the opposite of a ‘mental process.’ It is a fixed position.
Advaita is not a fixed position or a dogma, always meeting a variety of situations or questions with the same ‘Awareness is all, Awareness is all, Awareness is all’ answer. It is true that Awareness is all, but this understanding can be refracted into as many different forms as there are situations or questions. As soon as ‘Awareness is all’ becomes a belief, it is dead. It is, as such, the opposite of advaita.
If one is suffering, I suggest that she or he has the courage and the honesty to face their suffering without any attempt to get rid of it. Just to look at it and see the facts of the situation: one, our psychological suffering involves a rejection of the current situation and two, there is a presumed separate entity at the heart of this rejection. That is the first step of the ‘mental process.’
The second is to enquire into the nature of this apparent entity. After all, if our suffering revolves around it, any understanding of suffering must involve an understanding of this apparent entity. Please note, the suggestion here is to understand suffering, not to get rid of it.
As we look towards this apparent limited entity, to our surprise we do not find it. We just find a belief and a few bodily sensations appearing in and, ultimately, made out of our own intimate Knowing Presence or Awareness. At this point the ‘mental process’ comes to an end and we simply take our stand knowingly as that which we always already are.
If the belief or feeling of separation arises again, we gently resume our investigation and exploration until we find ourselves again knowingly established as Awareness. As time goes on there is less and less investigation and more and more abidance.
Claudia: “Isn’t irritation an expression of Grace? How could it not be?”
Rupert: I think I have answered this now, but at the risk of being repetitive and for the sake of thoroughness, this is tantamount to saying, “Isn’t suffering an expression of Grace?” Whilst in theory and from the absolute point of view, it is, in practise and at a relative level, it is not. If we are feeling irritated we are standing as a person, not as the absolute.
If we truly feel that our suffering is a gift of Grace (not in retrospect but while it is actually taking place) then we would be happy with our suffering; we would be glad to be suffering. In which case our suffering would be an experience of happiness, and would not therefore be experienced as suffering.
So, again, suffering is, by definition, a rejection of the current situation. Can we legitimately and honestly say, “I dislike the current situation and am therefore suffering and also enjoy it as a gift of grace?” No, these two positions are mutually exclusive. We cannot be both happy and unhappy with the current situation. It is only possible to have one feeling at a time. In such a case we are feeling one thing and thinking another.
I would suggest that such a situation is intolerable for one who is deeply interested in the nature of reality. In time, either suffering or intelligence will compel the search for a resolution.