Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Problematic Nonduality

"Real wisdom is never achieved in isolation or by objectifying the other. Wisdom is the by-product of the mystery of human communion with the nonobjectified other, met with humility and vulnerability in the sacred space that appears when one is asked to dance."

I'm still waiting for the aforementioned-book to arrive. I can't help but keep thinking about the nature of the self/other dichotomy, and how it might be understood in a nondual way that prompts something good in the way in which the 'self' responds to the 'other'.

I can imagine plenty of ways in which the 'other' might be perceived as a reflection of the 'self'. I can even imagine a concept of the 'self' that is largely a product of the 'other'. What I can't imagine is how either of these leads to a conception of the 'other' in a way that promotes respectful and compassionate feelings and actions towards the 'other'. If anything, what I find in attempts to unify 'self' and 'other' is a resulting unhealthy imbalance in priorities when it comes to determining actions.

Perhaps I should take a moment to clarify that the 'other' I'm referring to is an 'other' person, rather than the general 'otherness' of anything that is not me. Presumably it's better to value a person more highly than one values an inanimate object, yet both are not the 'self' in any standard definition of 'self'. And if I can see how an 'other' object is related to or the product of my thoughts, then why shouldn't I view an 'other' person in the same way? For the purposes of this argument though, we'll accept that the 'otherness' of a person is of a significantly different nature than the 'otherness' of an inanimate object.

"Practicing Buddhists know that when they perceive their own interdependence with the world, they are filled with an irresistible compassion toward every living being..." This sounds very noble. Sometimes I even think that I understand the way of perceiving reality that gives rise to such compassion. But it leaves questions that I don't pretend to have conclusive answers for...

With regards to my relationship to the 'other'... What degree of autonomy do I have in determining my actions if I am inseparable from the 'other'? If I perceive that I have no autonomy (as is the case if I am merely a creation of the 'other'), then what is my motive to try to be good and do good? If I perceive that I have full autonomy, and the 'other' has no ability to affect me save what I allow it to have, then what is my motivation to sacrifice for it or behave compassionately towards it? Does it then become to me as my creation, which surely devalues it in relation to me?

How am I inseparable from the 'other', yet neither superior nor inferior to it?

(Great, now I have the desire to get mathematical... Pardon the incoherent rambling.)

To arrive at this particular concept of 'self' that is inseparable from the 'other', the 'self' must be less than the sum total of all that is 'other'. Such a condition would preclude the 'self' from correctly identifying itself as a complex interaction/product of all that is 'other'. What is inherently less than cannot contain all the complexity of what is greater than. This would help explain the 'self's' illusion of separateness from the 'other', but it does not shed light on the actual relationship of 'self' to 'other'...

Yet how does reconciling oneself to inseparability from the 'other' foster anything other than surrender to the forces of the 'other'? What is the degree and nature of this inseparability that it would prompt me to respond with compassion for the 'other' rather than surrender to the 'other'?

1 comment:

  1. It is not only inseparability...it is that it is not two. It is like two sides of the same coin....self (heads) and other (tails). Because of lack of awareness, understanding, feeling, etc...the head does not know the what it sees is the tail...and like the ouraborous eats its own tail not knowing it is eating itself.

    To realize self and other is not two...there is compassion for what is "other" because it is realized it is really self. No motivation is needed to help other...because you need no motivation to help yourself.