Understanding Duality

A recent post found Pingu quote from the Hua Hu Ching (supposedly an unknown work of the Lao Tzu) and Parvati present her views on it. For those who find it tiring to look through the comments, here is the quote:

How can the divine Oneness be seen? In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe- inspiring miracles? The Tao is not obliged to present itself this way. It is always present and always available. [When speech is exhausted and mind dissolved, it presents itself. When clarity and purity are cultivated, it reveals itself. When sincerity is unconditional, it unveils itself.] If you are willing to be lived by it, you will see it everywhere, even in the most ordinary things.

Portions within […] were not quoted in the comment though they form part of the original text. Lao Tzu is by far the only historic individual whom I shall ever consider to be a true teacher. There might be others but I don’t know of them.
Writings on the Tao tend to stick a knife in their selves. By claiming that knowing the Tao cannot be described or constructed, they have made themselves open to ridicule, but Chunag Tzu would proclaim that state of being ridiculed to be a Taoist state. Let’s not complicate things.
Parvati-ji responded as follows:
If I may intrude with a response to what you have said, here, Pingu,which essentially proclaims that all is the Divine, there is another quote from the Gita where the Supreme declares that the Divine on Earth is what is perfect. Perfection here, as clearly stated in all the verses starting from the 20th to the 40th verse of Chapter 10. Do read all of them starting from this link to later ones.
To give just a glimpse,
” Of the Vedas, I am the Sama Veda, of the senses, I am the mind, of the commanders I am Kartikeya, of the reservoirs of water I am the ocean, of all the divine sages, I am Narad Muni, of lordly elephants, I am Airavatha, of humans the King, of all the animals I am the lion, of the birds, I am Garuda, of the swift I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons, I am Rama, of the flowing rivers, I am Ganga, of the poetic metres I am Gayathri, of the seasons I am spring, of the Pandavas I am Arjuna, of the sages I am Vyasadeva etc etc.
” Certainly wherever and whatever is majestic, beautiful or magnificent, you must certainly know that all these manifestations arise from but a fraction of My Glory.”
# I suspect that there are two fundamental truths of spirituality,
one is what you have quoted from Lao Tzu as all is the one Divine Consciousness, and the other is that on Earth and in manifestation this Divine Consciousness is a constantly evolving perfection in time and in space, whereby a present state of ‘imperfection’ can be criticised or if not criticised or condemned, its inferior qualities as exhibited by its errors and ill consequences in rightness and fairness can be discarded and fairer means that lead to a better harmony, but in truth and rightness can be expounded.
1. All is the Divine. This is an essential fundamental truth and an absolute
2. All becomes the Divine in the most outward and external manifestation too. This is in time as a growth from a lesser way of being to a more enlightened way. God too becomes in matter and material life.
The second fact justifies every single thought, discussion, debate that elucidates more and more, better and better ways to actually enable the Divine that is everything to actually be seen thus in matter too.
If mentally I understand that all is the Divine, and hence keep silence or kill my soul when I see ugliness or unfairness, assuming that evil too is the divine, then I disable a chance for me and my context to be redeemed in a greater light.
# Maybe the fact that I see unfairness and want it to be mitigated or annulled is also the divine and hence justified…
# Sorry, Eroteme, about this too long a response, maybe repetitive too, in your space. But Pingu’s comment evoked such a comment from me. Do bear with me…
No apology required, Parvati-ji.
To summarise, there is one perspective where everything is the Divine and another where somethings are the Divine (or tending to the Divine) and some not of the Divine. The latter notion is also the source of the God-Devil duality. In the grand scheme of things, perfection and imperfection are both necessary parts of the whole. What Pingu quoted states just that; what Parvati-ji clarifies is a response to “Ok! So what do I do with that idea that all is the Divine?” Her words are a response to an often reached conclusion “Since everything is ok, let me do anything and everything and then simply call it the Divine and get away with it.”
The Tao resonates with me and hence the notion of good and evil seem illusory to me at times. But there are so many moments when I see the vile clearly and am repulsed and propelled into action, thought or reflection. The Tao is not against action. The Tao is not against anything. To be one with the Tao (a state which seems so impossibly near to be true) implies a clarity and a freedom from conflict. The Tao guides the sword as it does the wind.
The problem arises when the ignorant mind clings to the notion of “All is the Divine” and then suffers the daily travails of facing the “bad” things. We want to believe that everything is the Divine but what do we do with this wretched liar who just robbed me of all my life’s savings? What do we do when the immoral politician has taken over my piece of land? What do we do when someone jumps the queue? How can all of that still be the Divine?
Here we need to visit our notion of the Divine (which Pingu has quoted and Paravati-ji has elaborated on). We still believe that the Divine is beautiful and only the beautiful can be the Divine. Perfection is considered to be the Divine while imperfection isn’t (though the Zen notion of wabi-sabi looks at things differently). We seem to view that all things imperfect are not-yet-Divine and in the movement from imperfection to perfection there is a move towards Divinity. Even the Gita says so!
Who then created the imperfection that seems to be more abundant than perfection? Why? Then is there a creative force on par with the Divine force? And questions keep pouring forth once we go down that track eventually ending in a conclusion that the Divine “itself” has been incapable of creating a perfect world and has created a world full of imperfect entities which need to continuously move towards perfection, or the Divine! Many souls are comfortable with that notion because the “worldly” acts of tests, challenges, missions etc. resonate with that idea of separating an entity (at the outset) from its perfect state of being and then making it difficult for that entity to become perfect.
But notions are just that: convenient beliefs to provide solace or security. They are convenient because one needn’t dig deep to understand the duality of the Divine and the non-Divine. One needn’t have to face Truth, least of all, deal with it. Who has the time, especially when one is busy trying to get that promotion, or that apartment or something equally important? Who has the time or energy when juggling a million tasks and responsibilities?
So we often tend to take one of two sides: The Divine is beautiful and all things ugly aren’t (yet) the Divine (and the common Japanese view of individuals born with physical disabilities is one such example) OR all is the Divine (like the various new age gurus and cults say though they essentially end up creating a following which believes that their guru or their God is the true Divine and the rest is all humbug). The first category face lesser questions (not because there are fewer question but because there are fewer people willing to think deep enough to ask questions) and the second category face the questions like the ones Parvati-ji hinted at: If everything is the Divine, then is raping someone also a Divine act? Hell! no.
Confusion arises in actions and events (that seem to be related to an action). People see something happen and aren’t able to explain it. Be it rape or thievery or the IPL cricket matches, we aren’t able to explain how someone can do something like this to another person. Hence, we either call them all evil or smile over clenched teeth and repeat endlessly that “All is the Divine”.
Action which stems from clarity is different from action which stems from ignorance. In the latter case it is one’s own pettiness which drives action. When there is clarity then the action to protect a child from a murderer is as effortless as breathing. Once in that state, action and thought are not different nor motive forces for the other. In that state, the Divine is not a goal but the Divine simply is. In that state, when one is one with the Tao, Pingu’s quote is obvious and clear.
Since most of us are not in that state, we seek ideals and goals which we can work towards. Krishna’s words jar in my head more than they create resonance. Such a tone is the root of all misunderstanding and ill-formed thought and action. A lay man will shun all assuming that only that which Krishna said He is, is worth looking at or possessing or coveting. In the hands of fools, threads of gold will either be sold for a view of the Sun or they will be futile ropes to tether cows. Krishna is talking to a rather confused person who in the middle of the battlefield is busy raising queries which takes people a life time to understand. Krishna is immensely crafty and knows exactly how he needs to deal with a gentleman like Mr. Arjuna Pandu. After having told him so much and clearly that there is nothing in this entire universe which doesn’t stem from Him and doesn’t return to Him, Arjuna still asks Him for the “glories” of Krishna. To me, Krishna’s bit after that sounds like pure pep-talk. He eventually ends it with saying “Amongst the Pandavas I am Arjuna” which hopefully did the bit! At the end He still wonders (perhaps with frustration): What necessity is there for you, O Arjuna, of such detailed knowledge and so many examples? (When I have been telling you that) I support this entire universal manifestation situated in but a fraction of Myself.
To miss verses 2-5, 7 -11 (yup, all prime numbers) and only focus on verses 21-38 (though I love what He says about feminine graces in 34. I really wish I could ever meet a girl who had those!!) is presenting oneself in a manner no better than Mr. A P. To invoke the Divine grace for a pep-talk is rather shabby. Had Krishna told Arjuna that “Well, I am the Divine and am the cause for everything. I am you and Duryodhana. I am the cause of your birth and of this war” then I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Arjuna ran back to Kunti telling Krishna to fight it himself and end it also by himself. Arjuna needed to know that he had the Divine on his side and that he was part of a worthy cause. Neither did Arjuna know nor did Krishna care to tell that to fight was being one with the Tao, because the war was meant to happen. Krishna with all his claims also died an anonymous death at the hands of a hunter who mistook his heel to be a deer’s face! Krishna didn’t simply vanish into thin air (like Master Ugway did). He died the way he was supposed to. Krishna wasn’t without conflict (he actually charged Bheeshma when Arjuna let loose excuses for arrows, only to be calmed by Arjuna who was a few days earlier calmed by Krishna). He was surely one with the Tao for most of his life on Earth. So one cannot and should not take Krishna’s words out of context, the context being
If we leave Krishna and Arjuna alone, we need to still come to terms with the following questions:
  • Is it possible to stay without an awareness of what happens around us?
  • Once we are aware, is it possible to be without recognising it as good or bad?
  • Once we recognise something as good or bad, is it possible to not react?
  • If we react, is it possible to figure out whether it was meant to be or not?
I will leave the reader with these questions, because it is sometimes best to live with questions than have answers.

How else could I know?


4 thoughts on “Understanding Duality

  1. All spiritual endeavour is only to harmonise two irreconcilable experiences –
    1. The primary experience of my soul that all is the Divine, the experience of a oneness.
    2. The irrefutable experience of the rest of me -my body, my mind and my life – that nothing at all is the Divine.

    .A sliver of me 'knows' that all is the Divine, without the material or mental proofs that are demanded by the rest of me to accept this knowledge as a truth.

    .And hence, there is this rest of me, another I which sees that all is NOT the Divine.

    And given these two realities, I can do nothing but keep still and stare.

    And, in such moments of singularities and impossibilities as these, Satori strikes, like a quiet, nonviolent lightning.

    Frankly there is nothing to say thereafter.

    # Your tirade against Krishna is baseless; all the contradictions that you cite from the Gita are easily reconciled – All is the Divine, only the best in manifestation is the Divine in His glory, while the worst in the incipient stages of the emerging of the Divine through evolution of consciousness. Even the great Darwin will give proofs therefor.

  2. …and then some –

    # Always when our mind's brilliance and indefinite and endless tittle-tattle, howsoever logical and 'right' in terms of the mind's paradigms, overwhelms us and takes us nowhere, then the only way left for us is to consciously step back from this beloved mind and realise that the mind does not know, and strangely enough for all its claim to being everything to do with 'knowledge', it cannot know either, of the intricacies of matters of the spirit and the spirit's truths.

    And as the Zen proponents have wisely chalked it out, to contemplate in the stillness of the spirit's light, on the irresolvable contradictions that beat the mind to an enervation, is the best way.

    I suspect that it is not best to live with questions, but we and our glorious or boring minds have to accept the ineluctable truth that all answers to the fundamental bases, sustaining truths and immortal facts of existence, love, life, soul and spirit cannot be arrived at with the mind's light, and most often cannot even be apprehended, comprehended nor expressed by the said mind's peeve structures such as words, thoughts and logic.

    The only way when faced with irreconcilable opposite truths, is to step back from the mind's hewed structured paths deliberately and be like a babe left blindfolded in a virgin forest.

    After all, it seems that contemplating for even as long as six to seven years, on just one little koan that spelt out the contradictions that mind's lights always clearly exhibited, is what led the followers of zen reach enlightenment.

  3. The questions you have mentioned at the end of the post –

    #Is it possible to stay without an awareness of what happens around us?
    #Once we are aware, is it possible to be without recognising it as good or bad?
    #Once we recognise something as good or bad, is it possible to not react?
    #If we react, is it possible to figure out whether it was meant to be or not?

    The fallacies in the very nature of the questions is
    1. that awareness is only of the mental consciousness that is our quotidian way of seeing and being congnisant of.

    Whatever in us is aware of of the surrounding world and even our other parts of being, determines by its own darknesses and brightnesses, by its own textures, what we see of the said world and the said stimuli, and how we see it.

    So when my space of awareness is not the mind, but a higher and deeper faculty, these questions do not arise.

    And if it is the mind, it will never be able to get out of its neverending circles of inconclusive analyses.

    # Again, good and bad are only labels that all of us very well know are the consequences of a limited space, in limited time and accorded to only limited narrow consciousnesses. A loss of a high paying job that is bad to my finances, is very good to my necessity to take it easy in a zen life maybe.

    # '…if it was meant to be or not' is moot, because it already is.

    Frankly, I repeat myself once more, now looking at your questions, that I cannot deny all that my PRESENT level of consciousness shows me of myself, of the outer life and the world and the subtle surrealities or the intangibles even.

    So there is not question of lying to myself as my self is now.

    This congnisance changes and changes all the time, when my awareness is only of the emotions, or of the mind, or of instintual forces of anger, desires etc.

    Always there is this my central way of being, but there are too these faint lights or forces trickling into my present central texture of awareness and moulding it and allowing for it to see a different aura in the many mundane and non mundane things and people.

    To be always sincere to what I am aware of, knowing that there is always a possibility for an entirely different way of being aware available for me, way of being adopted and breathed forever by the sages and enlightened masters and men of yore or even now.

    Always being open to what is not yet 'me' while simultaneously being sincere to what is me now, howsoever ignorant or filled with dualities, or of the mind's or instincts'lacunae or light, my present may be –

    this is the only way that is available for me to adopt; and eventually founder and fumble or walk in certitude on whatever road that I see is mine…

    # How you make me jabber jabber jabber away! Hope all of it is not Jabberwocky, nor I the incorrigible Jabberwock!

  4. Sometimes, conquering(being aware of) the mundane can help see us the larger picture.. like the village belle who knows to appreciate the beauty of the ripples on the water, while filling up her pot at the same time.. the mundaneness of her chore enhances the perception of “higher” ( if I may ) things around her..
    Perhaps what we need is a melange of chaos theory and “peripheral” vision…

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