Must I Give up Duality?

Copyright © 2009, Glenn Story

“When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised.” From Finding the Still Point by John Daido Loori.

The above quote is from a book on Buddhism. Of all the religions I have come in contact with Buddhism intrigues me the most. It intrigues me because it is the least doctrinaire.

I have begun practicing meditation. The method I use is a Buddhist method. (There is more than one.) The method I practice came from the book Mindfulness in Plain English by the Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahathera.

Some people practice meditation in order to reduce stress or achieve more calmness in their lives. Studies have shown that it is effective for that. But relaxation is not the true purpose of meditation.

I want to practice meditation in order to increase my mindfulness. That’s why the book title, Mindfulness in Plain English, caught my attention. But increasing mindfulness is not the true purpose of meditation either.

The purpose of meditation is to achieve spiritual enlightenment (the Buddhists call it “nirvana” or “satori.”)

I don’t know what those are. They are words; concepts. I have not experienced them. I have, however, experienced (at times) mindfulness.

I could attempt to describe mindfulness to you, but I won’t. That too would be words and concepts. And words and concepts are the antithesis of mindfulness, which is direct experience without conceptualization or thought. (You see, I just described it in spite of myself. Whether it means anything to you depends on whether you have experienced it.)

According to the teachings of Buddhism, one must give up duality in order to achieve enlightenment. Pleasure/pain; good/evil; love;hate. All these dualistic categorizations come from the mind. As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

So I must give up pleasure in order to give up pain. I understand that there must be both.I understand that I cannot give up one without giving up the other. I choose to have pain that I might also have pleasure.

But it was when I read the text first quoted at the beginning of this essay that the choice became clear to me. I am not ready to give up love. Therefore I must be willing to be in a world with hate.

I do not doubt the truth of the words of that quotation. Rather I am not ready to accept the consequences of those words.

So I will continue to seek love and happiness and pleasure, even if it means also accepting pain, and sorrow, and even hate.

Nevertheless, I will continue to meditate. Perhaps through that practice I will arrive at a state where I am willing or even eager to give up those dualities. Honestly, I hope not. But hope is a form of desire, and the Buddha taught that desire is the source of all suffering.

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