Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bheda-abheda - Duality and Unity

Posted 26th of May, 2008 @ Vraja Journal.


One of my gripes for a good while, even while amidst the official Gaudiya Vaishnava ranks, was with the extent to which the advaita-aspect was underexposed. Of course, in an environment where any sense of ultimate non-duality is regarded as an offense unto the personal deity, and where even acceptable non-dual concepts are relegated to the lowest rung of god-relationship, there is little to do in the way of balancing the presentation.

For all practical purposes, Gaudiya Vaishnavism subscribes to dvaita-vada — regardless of doctrinal nuances hidden away in the dusty pages of books unread by most practitioners, obscure references a scholar might point to. It goes without saying that thorough, systematic and sensible explanations of acintya bheda-abheda-tattva are hard to come by. The possibilities of advaitic realization hidden in the more esoteric practices of this hybrid vedanto-tantric tradition, in the attainment of unity of nature and awareness with the shakti-aspect of the universal duo, go either overlooked or wholly unobserved.

Dvaita generates bhakti, owing to the fundamental emphasis of the lasting separation between the servant and the served. Advaita generates mukti, owing to the integrated experience of unity it generates, dissolving the triputi of the seer, the sight and the seen, eliminating any sense of fundamental reality that could be attributed to either the objects or the enjoyer-self.

In absence of self-integration and dissolution of barriers between the individual and the universe, the dvaita-solution to craving, and very pointedly so in the raganuga-tradition, is the imposition of a greater craving, indeed an all-consuming craving, that overshadows non-deity-centered sensual and mental cravings. With this, however, the problem of craving has never actually been properly dealt with and dissolved. It has merely been suppressed.

Gaudiya Vaisnavas could benefit a great deal from integrating wisdom-contemplation into their routine practice. On the Buddhist side of generating wisdom there are numerous vipassana-techniques of meditation, and on the Advaita-side the classical tripartite jnana-yoga-sadhana of sravana-manana-nididhyasana, which seem to me to carry the same essential impact when put into practice.

Dhammam ehipassikam — the laws of liberation and the principles of practice exhort you to personally observe their reality through experiment and experience. Observe the short-term and long-term results of your devotional practices on one hand, and knowledge-wisdom-rooted contemplations on the other hand, and mold your ongoing practice on the basis of your direct experience of the utility of the diverse methods, rather than clinging to a certain set of practices on the mere merit of their supposed orthodoxy.

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