I call myself an Advaitin, but lack the rigor of scriptural or linguistic (Sanskrit) study attained by other writers on this site. When I feel “left out”, I call myself a mystic or perhaps a Zen Buddhist. I am reminded of a recently told joke of a cowboy who sits down in a bar next to an attractive lady and is asked what he is.
“I am a cowboy. I rope and brand cows, fix fences, and break horses. Who are you? What do you do?”
“I am a lesbian. I dream of women, of running my hands all over them, of having ecstatic sex.”
The cowboy is amazed. The lady soon leaves and another patron sits down. The new companion asks the cowboy the same question, what is he?
The cowboy replies, “Well, I thought I was a cowboy, but now I think I am a lesbian.”
The effort and attention given to classifying oneself often seems more important than the basic understanding of non-duality.
Isn’t discovering or clarifying reality a continuous exercise of neti, neti? Isn’t it, in a sense, all there is? These critiques and observations found on this website are not without merit, and I cannot argue about method, for I have none to which to compare. However, the recommendation of adherence to the teaching of a “true” teacher as one who knows scripture and tradition must necessarily be problematic. After all, a claim to precedent (scripture and tradition) or lineage is always interpretation and filters. To imply legitimacy is circular: This teacher is a true teacher because he/she teaches from the true source(s) of Advaita or other true teachers.
Of course, I will say the opposite as well: Advaita holds advantages in its articulated presentation of the Truth (hereafter synonymic to Reality, Source, One, Being, etc.)
In the end, there is harmonic recognition of the Truth. Does it matter who said it, or it can also be found in a book of words? It is known immediately, and all attempts at explication are conceptual and intellectual, always less than the experiencing.
If someone were to come to me with the how-question, I have no answer that guarantees partial or complete revelation of Being, or more importantly, the peace of this understanding. I do not know of a method. We are stuck with the struggle of understanding using the intellect (mind), or there is a serendipitous intuition that has no confirmation except itself. Aren’t we looking for certitude without a secondary source, as thorny as that certainty must remain? If so, why do we encourage others to participate in a quest with an Advaitin “teacher”?
Yes, there seems to be too many people with this interest in non-duality who objectify the noumenal and are willing to discuss it authoritatively, or teach it. This is not my concern. It can’t be. I would encourage anyone to listen to these people with an unremitting caution, knowing full well the method and the messenger are not the Truth.
But the above comments point to another problem related to “teaching”. In an effort to explain or point to experiencing (thisness?) without a separate self, one must resort to apparent semantemes, often capitalized. Consciousness, Self and even “object” are very large concepts to digest. The teacher may be very cognizant of this, but even in one-on-one presentations, “Consciousness” remains reified and more often than not, an unsuccessful intent without the jump of immediate experience.
One often reads there is no knowing the thing-in-itself. The words used to arrive at “knowing” (or Knowing) are no more than descriptions, just pointers. There is an intended distinction between noumenal and phenomenal, Consciousness and consciousness, etc. This is the truth, but after saying this, if we consider the profusion of writing and teachers, there is a return to definitions and conceptual reduction that simply turn out to be variations of the Container Metaphor.
In short, neti neti, silence, fleeting Presence or “look within, end that which isn’t the Truth” are methods as well, just not ones that elicit further explanation if we realize all language is a perpetuation of subject-object construction.
Patrick Dunroven lives a very quiet life in a remote area of Eastern Oregon with his wife and cats. He is a retired school teacher with an Advaita and Zen avocation. A serendipitous exposure to J. Krisnamurti lead him away from typical Western philosophy. As that trend continues, Patrick names an eclectic group of writers and sages as distilling his thoughts about non-duality: Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi, Atmananda Krishna Menon, Greg Goode, Dennis Waite, Rupert Spira and many others.